The best way to discover Amsterdam is on foot. The first tour takes you to the essential cultural and architectural sights along the city's 17th-century Golden Age canals. Tours 2, 3, and 4 focus, respectively, on the Old Center, the Jordaan district, and the city's fast developing Waterfront along the channel known as Het IJ.

Our fifth tour is no leisurely stroll, but a taste of that quintessential Amsterdam experience: Cycling. Bicycles are a key part of the mechanism that makes Holland tick, and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without some time in the saddle. This tour pedals you out from the Center, along the Amstel River, to breathe fresh country air at the old riverside village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.

Part of Amsterdam's enchantment comes from making your own discoveries. On each of my proposed itineraries, you'll come across points of interest I haven't written up for lack of space. It could be an unusually shaped gable, an offbeat boutique, a gaily painted bike, a sunken canal boat, whatever. And here's something to keep your eyes open for: Before house numbers were introduced on canal houses during Napoleon's occupation, engraved gable stones indicating the resident's trade or profession served for identification purposes; you'll still see many of these today.

In Search of gezelligheid

When in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch do: Look for someplace gezellig, and treasure it if you find it.

So what is gezellig, or gezelligheid (the state of being gezellig)?

Ah . . . it's a simple idea, yet one that underlines everyday life. Indeed, it's one of those imprecise, enigmatic, and finally untranslatable-in-a-single-word concepts for a mood and attitude that you'll recognize right away when you find it, and then you'll say with quiet satisfaction, "This looks gezellig."

So what is it then?

The special something that makes a place comfortable, congenial, cozy, familiar, friendly, intimate, memorable, tolerant, warm, and welcoming. Dutch, in short. You find it in abundance in brown cafes, in candlelit restaurants where the atmosphere is unforced and there's a view of a softly illuminated canal, in a Dutch home where you're made to feel like one of the family, even on a packed-to-bursting tram where everyone is in good humor and sees the funny side of the situation.

The great thing about gezelligheid is that it's free. Box some up and take it home with you.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.