Amsterdam is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. This is a city of canals, bicycles and beer, perfect for long strolls and afternoons spent people-watching and chatting away into the wee hours of the morning. Pretty by day and by night, the unique buildings with their furniture lifting hooks, friendly Dutch residents and beautiful surroundings make this a varied location which lulls you into its enjoyable pace of life.
Getting around the city is fairly easy with a choice of buses and trams to help you travel about. The buses run as often as every 10 minutes on busier routes and you’ll often find that a range of tickets can be purchased from your Hotel/Hostel reception. Getting from the airport to the city centre is a half an hour train journey and at about 6 euros a ticket, is the cheapest way to get to the heart of the city.
As with most places, I like to walk around if I can and Amsterdam is a great place for this with many attractions, shops, bars, restaurants and other amusements laid out in a fairly close area. If it is your first time to Amsterdam I would recommend picking up a street map. While the layout of the streets are easy to navigate once you know them, a distracted turn down a side road or two can be a little disorienting.
There are so many attractions that it can be difficult to pick a direction. Here are just a few to consider visiting:
Anne Frank House Museum – You will need to get here early to avoid the queues. The sight of Anne Frank’s diary provokes an emotional reaction from many visitors and it’s not difficult to see why. This well-displayed Museum provides a fascinating and saddening look into the lives of the Frank family with those that helped them in the days they spent hidden away.
Bols Cocktail Experience – A fun, interactive look at the Bols company and the techniques used to develop and produce the drinks range we enjoy today. A free cocktail is included in the entry price. Why not try one with the most popular Yoghurt flavour liqueur sold by Bols, they are delicious!
The Heineken Experience – Another of the city’s alcohol themed attractions. This experience is a lot of fun with tulip cycle videos to be made, beer to be won and a tour of the Heineken brewery to top it off, plus two free drinks at the end.
Canal trips – With drinks, dinner or sightseeing cruises available, it is well worth booking a trip through the main canals of Amsterdam to see the city from this unique viewpoint. Night time cruises are particularly fun with the streets lit up brightly and the happy atmosphere, you will soon be drawn in. Follow the journey with an evening supping beer in one of the cozy corner pubs.
Cheese and clogs – On my very first trip to Amsterdam I visited one of the last remaining clog makers in Amsterdam and it was so much fun, I have never forgotten it. The host was the maker itself, an extraordinarily happy man who prided himself on the quality of the products he makes and sells with the help of his family. Cheese is another product made by the group and we were treated to samples before heading into the shop where personalised money box clogs were picked up as souvenirs. I understand that there are less than 10 such makers left in Amsterdam, so seek them out for a visit if you can.
Red Light District – The neon lights down the side streets will signal your entry into the infamous red light district. While you may be very aware of the windows you are walking past, the atmosphere in this part of town is not intrusive. The relaxed attitude coupled with the fairly well-lit streets and steady stream of tourists walking through mean there is no backstreet feeling to this area.
Het Scheepvaartmuseum – The Amsterdam Maritime History Museum gives an insight into the vast seafaring history of the Netherlands along with the founding and expansion of the Dutch East India Company. Board the East Indiaman, one of the few remaining ships from the company to learn about life below deck.
A day of sightseeing will have certainly built up appetites and you will not be short of feasting places. The many bars and cafes will at least offer a light menu, there are various fast food outlets, (be sure to stop for a look at Febo if you see one) and a large assortment of restaurants for a variety of culinary tastes. Go for a traditional Dutch meal at least once on your trip and try Bitterballen, (breadcrumb balls of mustardy beef mash) or a Stampot, (a delicious stew served with chicken, beef or a giant meatball). The Dim Sum restaurants in ChinaTown are also excellent.
The modern style hotels and hostels in Amsterdam offer a comfy bed for the night in stylish surroundings. The three different hotels I have stayed at so far have all been spacious and well-furnished with a daily cleaning service. That said, Amsterdam is a city that does not truly sleep. The chances are that once you see how special this city is, you will want to be out there exploring it too.
A couple of extra Adult options….
The Museum of Prostitution – An honest insight into the life of an Amsterdam window girl. Follow as she talks about the rewards and challenges of everyday life in the Red Light windows. Find out what it’s like to stand in front of a window and don’t leave without taking a look at The Wall of Confession. It’s a real eye-opener!
The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum – This educational museum takes a look at the history of hemp cultivation and the uses of all three crops in many cultures around the world including clothes, paper, ropes, car parts and furniture. The section on old and modern medicine displays some interesting scientific facts and is definitely worth a look.
Till next time Amsterdam!