By the normal standards of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a dirty, crowded city with far too much traffic. It's cursed by being best known for its seedy side, yet once you get away from these areas, there's something about the place that makes you want to come back again and again.
Most visitors arrive at the magnificent Centraal station and head off down Damrak into the city, totally unaware that behind the station is the unexpectedly huge River Ij. If you take a boat trip round the canals, you'll see the Ij very close up and realise just how much water there is.
The first-time visitor to Amsterdam will probably be surprised at the lack of windmills; they're so associated with the Netherlands, it seems strange that there's only one left in the whole city (this windmill is now home to the excellent 't Ij brewery).
While the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum are the best-known of the city's museums, don't miss the smaller Amsterdam Historical Museum in Kalverstraat, for a view of how the city developed.
Amsterdam Historical Museum
A small museum showing the history of the city. One particularly interesting exhibit is an interactive map which show how the city grew from the original settlement around what's now Dam Square. It's surprising how recent most of the city is.
This is the brewery-tap of the excellent 't Ij brewery. Spit & sawdust would probably be a step up for the place, but the beers brewed on the premises make it well worth a visit. I particularly recommend trying the Columbus and the Struis, both of which score 5/5 on my personal beer scale. Unfortunately opening hours are restricted - it's only open Wednesday to Sunday, 1500-2000.
Glide.cc offers tours through Amsterdam on Segways - those futuristic, two-wheeled, self-balancing vehicles. You ride through the city for a couple of hours, see the interesting sites with a narrated tour, and are hardly tired at all at the end! Plus, people often want to take your picture when they see what you are gliding around on! A great way to see a lot of Amsterdam with little effort.