Amsterdam shouldn't really exist. The city was dragged out of marshy bogs, dried and carved into the place we know today. It was an unconventional start which seems to have set the tone for things to come.
Today, despite something of a conservative Dutch backlash, Amsterdam remains Europe's most nonconformist city. Locals shun the car and prefer bicycles. Prostitution is legal and public, and it's the only city in the world where you can smoke cannabis in a coffeeshop.The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage.
But it's also the city of some of Europe's greatest traditions, with the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum holding two of the world's finest art collections. You can see local history at the Joods Historisch Museum and Begijnhof. It's city best explored on foot (if not by bike), to explore The Canal Ring and discovering tucked away streets and canals.
It's a relatively compact city, but one packed with contradictions and compelling culture.