Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops, red light district, houseboats, historic architecture, and famous canals. Many travellers tend to frequent the coffee shops or wander the red light district but there is more to Amsterdam than its infamous dark side: there are dozens of art museums, beautiful parks, wonderful outdoor cafes, and lots of history.
There is much to do in this Capital, and, a long weekend is the perfect time frame to fit all that you want to into your itinerary. If you have longer than a few days then you would benefit from taking a trip to the tulip fields and windmill sightseeing.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
ℹ️ Travel: Amsterdam Schipol is the main airport in The Netherlands. Like all airports there is always a line of taxis waiting to escort you to the hotel. The train from Schipol to Amsterdam-Centraal train station costs €5.40 (GB£4.60).
ℹ️ Currency: The Euro € . The Netherlands is a member of the European Union (EU)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Accommodation:There is no shortage of accommodation in Amsterdam from hotels, to Guesthouses to self contained apartments. I stayed at the 4* DoubleTree by Hilton at Amsterdam Centraal Station. My main reason it was literally next door to the train station, and, the main part of the city was only a hop over the canal.
ℹ️ Weather: Like the majority of Northern Europe the Winter months are damp, grey and very cold. The Continent sheds its Winter cold around March and days become long and warm during the Summer months until around early October.
WHAT CAN AMSTERDAM OFFER?
Amsterdam, like so many other major cities, is not a cheap place to hang out but do your research correctly and avoiding the usual tourist traps, you can dine at reasonable prices, plus, sample the Dutch laid-back, way of life.
Most people begin their trip with a canal cruise that lasts about an hour and meanders its way through the vast avenues of canals in an open, or glass roofed boat. It’s great way to see the city and essential for finding those bearings. Amsterdam is not a huge city so finding your way around is not a particularly hard job. There are an abundance of cruise terminals and all offer the same trip so any one you decide on choosing will give you the same results.
ANNE FRANK’S HOUSE
is also a big attraction. The House is a Biographical museum dedicated to the war time writer Anne Frank. During World War 2, Anne Frank hid from German Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the 17th Century canal house, known as the Secret Annex.
A word of advice. The queues for this tour are lengthy in the mornings and afternoons. I waited until 1900 (7pm) in the evening and found the queue was far more agreeable. The doors close at 2100 (9pm) sharp. If you are still waiting you will be turned away, even if your are next to go through!
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The red light district offers scores of glass fronted doors with beautiful woman aiming to entice men into their boudoir. All this is in good taste but the girls do not take kindly to photographs taken!
Why not discover discover what lies behind the doors of the former Heineken brewery and learn everything there is to know about the world’s favourite beer. The Heineken museum offers tours for around
€21 that lasts roughly 1 hour 30 mins. There are various touts walking the streets that can offer competitive prices.
AMSTERDAM ICE BAR
The Ice Bar is a colourfully lit bar where temperatures are a constant -10c (50f) and everything from the walls to the drinks glasses are made out of ice. If you can book a ticket in advance will reward you with 3 free drinks inside the bar.
If you find yourself lost in Amsterdam then make your way to Dam Square and you’ll be fine. Dam Square lies in the centre of Amsterdam and a straight walk to Centraal train station. Often there are market stalls or street acts performing to entertain the crowds of tourists.
BRIDGES OF AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam has the largest number of bridges in the world! Amsterdam counts some 2500 bridges. In the city centre there are around 500 bridges, more than any other city in the world. Venice in Italy is considered the ‘City of the Canals’ or ‘City of the Bridges’ and Amsterdam is sometimes called the Venice of the North, nonetheless, Venice has only 400 bridges!
In August 2010, the canal ring area of Amsterdam, with its concentric arc shaped waterways and numerous historic bridges dating back to the Dutch Golden Age of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was added to the official list of World Heritage monuments by UNESCO.
PLACES TO RELAX
There are so many places to while away the time that its impossible to name everyone of them. I have to decided to list my favourites:
Cafe Belgique: Pull up a stool at the carved wooden bar and make your pick from the glinting brass taps. It’s all about Belgian beers here, as you may have surmised. Eight flow from the spouts, and 30 or so are available in bottles. The ambience is quintessential gezellig (convivial, cosy) and draws lots of chilled-out locals. There’s live music and DJs some nights.
The Bull Dog: Amsterdam’s most famous coffee shop chain has evolved into its own empire, with multiple locations, a hotel, bike rental and even its own energy drink. The brawny, brassy Leidesplein flagship has two sides for its brand-name debauchery: one for smoking, one for drinking.
‘T Smalle: Dating back to 1786 as a Gin distillery and tasting house, and restored during the 1970s with antique porcelain beer pumps and lead framed windows, locals’ favourite ‘T Smalle is one of Amsterdam’s charming bruin cafes.