The Rijksmuseum is one of the most renown museums in the World and is a…
Although the seat of the Netherlands government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the nominal capital. It is also the country’s largest city, with a population of more than 851,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.
People from all over the world travel to Amsterdam for its liberal culture and quirky sights. One of Europe’s most open-minded cities, Amsterdam offers an array of LGBT-friendly accommodations, bars, and festivals, as well as a thriving cannabis culture with over 200 coffee shops in the city centre.
With half of the Netherlands sitting a metre (3 feet) above sea level, and Amsterdam itself built on clay, the foundation of the city is a major feat of engineering. As you’d learn in the Amsterdam Museum, 11 million wooden poles support the buildings from sinking. Wooden piles are even put in place to stop trees in Vondelpark from slipping into the naturally marshy ground. So, if I were living in Amsterdam I think a houseboat might be the best option!
Circling the city centre is the Canal Ring, which has over 165 canals and a whopping 1,281 bridges. These canals are best explored by bicycle, so double-check left and right before crossing streets, as some cyclists are extremely fast. It’s possible to travel 100 kilometres (60 miles) on the water in the city limits.
We had two full days to spend in Amsterdam, so this is how we spent our time … plus quite a lot of just walking around.
- Canal tour
- Red light district (de Wallen)
- Van Gogh Museum
- Anne Frank House
- Walking the streets of Amsterdam
1. THE RIJKSMUSEUM
The Rijksmuseum, which in English means – The State Museum, has been around for more than two hundred years and in that time it has risen to be one of the most renowned and breathtaking museums in the world.
The Rijksmuseum is large – well sort of huge – and you could easily spend a day or more fully exploring its galleries. The museum houses 8,000 artistic and historical objects that tell the story of 800 years of Dutch history, from the year 1200 right up to the present. Unfortunately, we are not quite that committed to the study of art so we decided that we’d focus on the highlights.
|Address:||Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam|
|Telephone:||+31 (0) 20 6747 000|
|Opening hours:||9:00 to 17:00 daily (including holidays such as Christmas and New Years Day)|
|Admission fees:||Adults: € 20.00. Children under the age of 18 are free|
2. AMSTERDAM CANAL TOUR
One of the best ways (by bike is even better) to explore central Amsterdam is aboard a boat. When I sat down to plan our trip to Amsterdam I thought about what I would want from a boat tour the most important thing was to be on a small boat and have a more personal experience. After a bit of research, I came across a tour company that seemed to fit the bill. Those Dam Boat Guys – the name tickled me alone – operate a number of small boats and looking at their website (which is a hoot) and reviews I decided to go with them.
The tours meet at the Wester Cafe, which is across the canal from the Anne Frank house, so it is easy to find. This is a lively cafe and it is a great place to hang out for a coffee or beet before or after the tour.
3. DE WALLEN – AMSTERDAM’S RED LIGHT AREA
De Wallen – worldwide known as Amsterdam Red Light District – is a residential and entertainment area in the historical centre of Amsterdam, the city’s oldest part.
The area is almost completely made up out of old historical buildings. Some of them dating back to the 16th or 17th century. The oldest building in the city – the Oude Kerk – even dates back to the year 1300. De Wallen is located next to the Central Station and is considered to be the entrance of Amsterdam.
People from all parts of society live here. All surrounded by window brothels, sex shops, coffeeshops (cannabis stores), erotic theatres, historical and religious buildings and much more.
De Wallen represents the open-mindedness of the Dutch. Only here one can find an active church encircled by many window brothels.
1. THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM
The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the life and works of the celebrated impressionist Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890). Van Gogh tried his hand at a few different professions; junior clerk at an art firm, teacher, bookseller, student and preacher: Vincent van Gogh was all of these before he decided at the age of 27 to become an artist. He struggled with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life, spending time in a sanatorium. Eventually, everything got too much and on July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh went out to paint in the morning carrying a loaded pistol and shot himself in the chest, but the bullet did not kill him. He was found bleeding in his room, yet lived for a couple more days before dying in the arms of his brother. He was aged 27.
|Address:||Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam|
|Hours:||9 am to 6 pm, Fridays 9 am to 9 pm. Open on public holidays (check the hours)|
|Admission fees:||Adults: € 19.00. Children under the age of 18 are free|
2. ANNE FRANK HOUSE
Anne Frank is one of Amsterdam’s most well known former residents. For more than two years Anne Frank and her family lived in the annex of the building at Prinsengracht 263 where Anne’s father, Otto Frank, also had his business.
On August 4th, 1944, the hiding place was betrayed. The hidden people were deported to various concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived the war
Today, you can visit the rooms at the Anne Frank House. In the house and the attached museum, you can see quotations from the diary, historical documents, photographs, film images, and original artefacts.
The Anne Frank House is often sold out months in advance.
3. WALKING THE STREETS OF AMSTERDAM
The best way to orient your way around a city is to walk its streets, and Amsterdam is relatively compact making it ideal for exploring on foot. You can simply wander at your own pace or join a walking tour.
Located a mere five minutes’ walk from the busy Canal Belt in the city center, the Vondelpark is the epitome of an Amsterdam urban oasis. Perfectly flat and suited for a scenic stroll, a walk in the Vondelpark can be all types of walks to all types of people. Whether you stick to the tranquil leafy side paths to count romantic bridges or stay on the main walkways surrounded by barbecues and friendly stick-chasing dogs, a walk through the Vondelpark offers an insight into the real Amsterdam.
In summary …
- Amsterdam is very easy to navigate whether it be on foot, by bicycle or using public transport
- It can be wet here, even in the summer, so remember to pack a rain jacket or an umbrella
- Explore the city on its famous canal system. We recommend a small boat tour for a more intimate experience
- If you want to visit some of the museums there may be timed or limited entry so check ahead of time and book tickets online if needed
Planning your visit to Amsterdam
Getting to Amsterdam
Schiphol International Airport is one of the busiest in the world and is situated 15 kilometres south-west of the main city. It is well-connected to various cities in the world by regular flights. While the national carrier for the Netherlands is KLM, some other flights which operate from here are Air France, British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and US Airways. You can easily board a public bus or hire a cab to reach your hotel from the airport.
Amsterdam enjoys excellent rail connectivity with most other cities in Europe. High speed trains to Amsterdam operate from London, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin. A train journey to the Dutch capital has its benefits as it brings you face to face with the scenic countryside. It is recommended that you take the Eurostar from London (and change at Brussels) which can make you reach Amsterdam in less than 7 hours.
If you arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol by air, you can board the direct train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal Station to get to the city.
Though the Netherlands has a well-maintained and state-of-the-art highway network, driving in to Amsterdam might not be the best way to enter the city courtesy the many one-way roads and poor parking facilities
Vegan friendly dining in Amsterdam
1. VEGAN JUNK FOOD BAR
The Vegan Junk Food Bar is a small chain of restaurants, with four locations in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam. During our couple of days stay in Amsterdam we tried two locations, one on Staringplein and the other on Marie Heinekenplein. Both were excellent and very busy, with mainly young people – which is great to see and makes me hopeful for the future.
2. MR BLOU I LOVE YOU
‘Mr. Blou’ started his street food stall in October 2017, at the kiosk on the other side of the police station at Marnixstraat. He started cooking twelve years ago and worked in several restaurants in Paris, and Michelin star restaurants Bridges and at The Okura in Amsterdam. After developing burnout and quitting his job, he did a fair bit of travelling. It was in Singapore where he discovered a street food stall so good, it actually had a Michelin star!
Back in Amsterdam he voluntarily cooked for a while for Syrian refugees. From all the things he made, they loved his falafel the most. That’s how the idea for the street food stall got shape, and in the tradition of French chefs, he named it after himself. And the falafel became his signature dish.
Best time to visit Amsterdam
The Dutch capital is fascinating and full of energy all year long, but if you are set on sightseeing as much as possible, spring and early fall are the best times to visit Amsterdam. The weather is mild, you’re more likely to see sun than rain, and the crowds are down to manageable sizes. This is the best time to score deals outside of winter, and even if you have to wait in line to enter or board your favourite attraction, at least the weather outside is likely to be nice.
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
1. HOTEL NOT HOTEL
In my exploration of unusual places to stay, I was delighted to find, when scouring the hospitality websites, the Hotel Not Hotel. This is a very unique place with just a few rooms but they are all somewhat quirky, ranging from rooms hidden behind bookcases to a VW camper and tramcar
2. SWEETS HOTEL
Having spent two nights in a tramcar at the Hotel Not Hotel in Amsterdam I decided to switch to somewhere else for a night. Truth be known I could only get two nights at the Hotel Not Hotel, so the change was pretty much enforced – but I was glad to try a different place. I had been thinking about stopping on a houseboat – a must-do thing when staying in Amsterdam, but it was really, really expensive. Yet I found the next best thing, which sounded really cool – a bridge house on the canal.