Amsterdam Travel, Netherlands (Holland)

Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe may

Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam. Photo by zak mc.

Visit Amsterdam

This mesmerizing, characterful and tolerant city latticed with 17th century canals, humming with bicycles and studded with towering medieval buildings and wonderful museums, Amsterdam walks a narrow line between sublimely straight and ridiculously bent, catering admirably to both culture vultures and Potman Pat party people.

Downsides

• There’s considerable raucous and disruptive stag night carousing in some areas.
• The Dutch are mainly honest but drug tourists or East Europeans may have sticky fingers.
• The weather changes in an instant; beware the chill wind and grey skies!

Amsterdam weather

Best season: April-October (April-May for Bulb fields, April for National Museum Week, 30th of April for the wildly OTT Orange Festival)
Avoid: December- February
But. . . although winter is cold, days are short and often damp and grey, there’s wonderful canal skating if it’s cold enough, and if not Amsterdam is loaded with indoor attractions like museums and coffee shops.

Things to Do

amsterdam bicycles en masse, holland

This is a superb strolling or biking city, with endless scenic canal views. Or you can veg out on a canal boat when the cobbles have worn your shoes through. The bargain price ‘Museumboot’ (boat) stops at about 40 museums.

• Oude Kerk, a 14th century church, the oldest building in the city, plain but with fine detailing.

• The Royal Palace, a grand place to wander in wonder.

• Visit some of the city’s outstanding museums, including the Rijksmuseum National Museum and Van Gogh’s.

• Fascinating Anne Frank Huis where the young heroine hid out for years along with refugees from the Nazis in WW II. . . and wrote a diary telling all.

• FREE Concertgebouw’s free Wednesday concerts.

• FREE Visit the bohemian Jordaan district to experience one version of the traditional Dutch life of narrow alleys, old houses and lush canals, good restaurants and cafés, quirky little shops and an excellent flea market.

• FREE Begijnhof, a square of beautiful 14th century buildings hidden behind a modest wooden door.

• FREE The bizarre red light district and coffee shops which can be desperately tacky but provide a unique and fascinating experience in Europe, now a thriving business in Colorado USA thanks to legalisation.

• FREE Check Bloemenmarkt flowers on the Singel canal if you’d like an explosion of colour, which, if you’ve just come out of a coffee shop, may be just the ticket!

• FREE Openbare Bibliotheek, the Central Library. Not a sight but a very useful space with café, restaurants, terrific views, free internet workstations and international newspapers, just 10 minutes from Centraal Station. Open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm.

• FREE NDSM wharf, a bizarre, avante-garde arts community occupying a derelict shipyard. Get there via a free ferry from behind Centraal Station.

• FREE Albert Cuypmarkt, a massive and colourful street market featuring many exotic goodies from fabrics to food.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

The world famous Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s most popular museum. Photo by Ahsmann.

Short Trips out of town

Netherlands is a very small, packed country with very efficient public transport so there are a lot of Amsterdam short trip possibilities (less than one hour) including. . .

Zaans Schans, gorgeous old wooden houses 20mins from the ‘Dam; Delft (a well preserved ancient town of famous blue & white pottery); Bloemenveiling (flower auction); the Barrier Dam; Edam (a medieval town); The Hague (a smart, interesting business and political centre with a decent beach); Rotterdam (a funky port); Keukenhof Gardens, March- May (a superb flower park – take the train to Leiden, then a bus).

The Delfshaven district of Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Delfshaven district of Rotterdam.

Dutch Festivals

Koningsdag, aka Orange Day on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Netherlands

Koningsdag, aka Orange Day (the end of April), on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, a typically difficult street name for English speakers. Photo by Remi Mathis

January, if canals are frozen, ‘Eleven Cities Journey’ skating marathon.
mid March, Blues Festival, 2 days.
*April 30, Orange (Queens) Day, is the city’s biggest, widlest street party.
May, 2nd Sat, Windmill day
end of May, Drum Rhythm Festival (indoors)
*June, Holland Festival (varied arts)
mid July, North Sea Jazz Festival (weekend only)
Sept, 1st Sat, Flower Parades
Nov, 2nd or 3rd Sat, Sinterklaas Parade
Nov, Cannabis Cup competition

For some precise dates or more information see: European Festivals or Arts Festivals.

Food

There is a huge range of restaurants and cafes for every taste and budget in Amsterdam travel. Indonesian is particularly good due to the ex-Dutch colonies in SE Asia.
The best weird experience is the Indonesian ‘Rijsttafel’ (rice table) speciality.
It’s also worth visiting traditional pubs (‘Brown Cafe’) such as De Dokter.

Trivia: New York, USA, was called New Amsterdam until the Great Britain took control; similarly the Australian continent used to be known as New Holland.

Arts/Culture

Royal Palace Main Hall, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

The Royal Palace central hall, Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam. Photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist.

Museums and Galleries
Amsterdam Travel offers a fantastic choice for all tastes including the superb Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Rembrandt House, Sex Museum, Cannabis Museum and Anne Frank’s House among many others.
Note the bargain price ‘Museumboot‘ (boat) stops at about 40 museums.

Classical Music, Dance, Opera and Theatre
Amsterdam is home to fine orchestras e. g. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, superb opera e. g. at Muziektheater and stunning, varied theatre e. g. at the Carré Theatre.
For English information on (and tickets to) most entertainment and cultural activities in the city go to the AUB (Amsterdam Uitburo/council culture office) in Stadsschouwburg theatre on Leidseplein.
Alternatively visit the VVV (tourist information) office.
Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (churches) hold magnificent organ music concerts and Vondelpark open-air theater is excellent in summertime.

Live Music and Clubs
Amsterdam hosts an everchanging mix of great clubs featuring every kind of music imaginable, from rave to jazz to world music.

Check ‘Time Out Amsterdam’, ‘What’s On’ or ‘Arena’ – in English – for event information and listings.

Safety

Amsterdam travel is generally safe, but the extremely liberal attitude of the Dutch has attracted some undesirables so stay away from dodgy non-tourist areas and take the usual precautions.
Bag snatching (by East Europeans) happens on trains, especially those from Amsterdam to/from Schipol Airport, is quite common.