We recently visited Amsterdam for a long weekend travelling by ferry from Hull to Rotterdam to enjoy an Amsterdam city break. This is an overnight service taking around about 12 hours for the crossing. Once you arrive in Rotterdam you are quickly shown to your coach which takes you by road to Amsterdam, a Journey of around 1 hour 15 minutes. The coach will then drop you at Amsterdam Central Station where you are then able to make your way to your hotel, which in our case was located in the museum quarter of Amsterdam. The public transport network in Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general is excellent and provides good value for money; buses, trams and taxis leave from Amsterdam Central Station which is the hub of Amsterdam’s public transport. By the way, it is also possible to take a ferry from Newcastle which goes directly to the port of Amsterdam at Ijmuiden, again this is an overnight service.
So what will you do when you visit Amsterdam? If this is your first time in Amsterdam I would recommend getting to know the city and a great way to do this is to use the hop on hop off bus which you may have seen in other cities. But in Amsterdam there is a special twist, as well as having the bus you can also use the hop on hop off canal cruise which you can purchase as a combined ticket. This combination allows you to get your bearings in Amsterdam as well as providing circular tours of the whole city. The stops are located conveniently at all of the major attractions and travel hubs, and tickets are competitively priced.
Often referred to as the Venice of the North, Amsterdam revels in this deserved tribute. This is a compact and easy City to navigate, wether on foot or by bicycle. You will see many bicycles parked all over the city as you are allowed to park your bicycle anywhere that there is no restriction on display, you’ll even come across floating bicycle parks which have been added by Amsterdam Council. But if you do rent a bicycle remember where you have parked it and, make sure it is parked legally as bicycles will be removed and a fine imposed upon collection. You should also be aware that over 60,000 bicycles are stolen in Amsterdam every year, making it the city’s major petty crime.
The heart of Amsterdam is in the area around Dam Square which is round about a five minute walk down Damrak from Central Station. Here you will find the Royal Palace which is the official residence of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, but in reality it is only used for entertaining and official functions.
Amsterdam’s western canals, Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Keizersgracht provide some of the city’s most elegant residences many of which date back to the seventeenth century, and as you explore the area you will notice that many homeowners leave their curtains open so that you can see into their properties. Similarly, if you choose to ride on the canals you will notice that the residential houseboats also leave their curtains wide open. This custom apparently dates back to the Netherlands calvinistic past where people led less opulent lifestyles, and left their curtains drawn back to demonstrate they have nothing to hide.
Further to the West of the canal District you will find the Jordaan. This is one of the loveliest parts of Amsterdam filled with small art galleries, quirky little shops and traditional brown Cafes.
To the south of the canal belt lies the museum quarter. The most famous of these museums is the Rijksmuseum which is filled with many priceless masterpieces including Rembrandt’s Nightwatch. Close by you will find The Stedelijk Museum and The Van Gogh Museum. Not so far away is Hermitage Amsterdam which came about as a result of St. Petersburg’s collection outgrowing it’s Russian base, the Hermitage Museum in that city.
Perhaps Amsterdam’s most famous visitor attraction is Anne Frank’s house. Situated on Prinsengracht it is where Anne wote her famous diaries hiding from the Nazis during the second World War. It attracts around 1 million visitors each year and it will only permit visitors who have pre-booked online open till 3:30pm daily. After this time it is possible to queue to get in but you may be there for some time.
This brief introduction to Amsterdam picks out the key attractions, but Amsterdam has so much more to offer and you are certain to find something here for everybody.