VISITING AMSTERDAM  

Which is about the good life, windmills, cheese, clogs, sitting by canals & absorbing the vibe.

Hello: Hallo    Bye: doo-ie    Please: aus-tu-blieft   Thank you: Dank-u veld

Exit: uitgang      Cheers:  proost!

GETTING AROUND

Trams, buses & metro run until 12:30 am, then night buses take over. Ten out of seventeen trams return to central station.  Chose from 1 hour ticket, 24 hour ticket or night bus. You have to pay an extra euro for the chip card itself.  For a good look around, go to the back of central station and upstairs. Here you can pick up a rural area day pass and hop on and off.

Trams

Enter tram via middle door to find the ticket booth.

Here you can either validate as you enter, or buy from person in booth.

Once on board, hold your card up to the reader as you enter, until a green light appears.

A bleep sound will indicate that your card has been read.

If you change to another bus/tram/metro, you have to check out (by scanning your card at the machine again), and check in again at your next stop.

If you forget to check out, the card will no longer be valid and you may risk a fine.

When your stop is coming up on the digital sign board, press the stop request button.

A one hour ticket starts as soon as you first validate it. It is good for one hour from that moment, even if you scan out and in again to change trams.

Boats

Canal company hop on/off boat  4 dif routes with 20 stops/ near Central Station.

Runs 10am-7pm ish depending on route. You can pick up different tickets including a 24 hour pass. There are also a selection of evening cruises with food or just drinks available.

One hour site seeing cruises with commentary: from the Leidseplein, the docks near Grasshopper bridge or the docks near the central station.

Bike Rental

I often get asked where to rent a bike in Amsterdam. Unless you are a really proficient and confident cyclist, then I recommend you either go on an escorted bike tour, or stick to rides outside of the centre.  The Dutch on bikes are very fast, very aggressive and have little patience for wobbly cyclists.  You also have traffic, trams, pedestrians and tram tracks to maneuver.  If you do decide to try it, make sure you aren’t under the influence of anything, as I’ve seen some nasty spills.  There are several bike hire places to be found on line.

 

OMG. THIS IS MADNESS!

When you come out of Central Station, which is the heart of Amsterdam, don’t let the madness around you put you off. Damrak is the busiest, craziest street in the city. With Central station behind you, Damrak is the hub, the red light area is to the left and the shopping area and long walking mall is one street over on your right.  Shops are not open late and are mainly all shut on Sundays and Monday mornings.  If there is rubbish on the streets, be assured it will be gone by morning, and the streets washed down and ready for another day.

You have to be a bit of a meercat in Amsterdam, looking in all directions as the traffic comes out of nowhere.  The most regular comment I hear on arrival to Damrak, is ‘You weren’t exaggerating.’  You have to pretend the bikes are cars, and the bike paths are motorways. Try to imagine if they were all cars, and where would they park them all??  Watch out for cars, trams, bikes, motorcycles, buses and stunned tourists.

Do not be afraid of the red light district.  It is a main hub of pubs, restaurants, schools, homes, and shops, mixed in with police, prostitutes in windows with security buzzers, cameras and coffee shops.  Be security aware as always, but go in and have a good look around with the other hundreds of tourists.

After you’ve had a good look around the touristy areas, try to find some time to get off the beaten path, and check out the canal side cafes and parks.  Watch the boats go by, sip a cup of mint tea or a beer, and relax with the locals.

 

DAMRAK

A good place to start is DAMRAK, the main street with Central station at the top & Dam Square at the bottom.

The Grasshopper a local landmark lounge & terrace, steakhouse & a sports bar. It is a good all rounder for first timers in Amsterdam.  Look for the green striped canopies on the window and is lit up green at night. It sits on the bridge which leads into the red light district.  If you are stuck for a place to go, before heading home on public transportation, there is a manned public toilet upstairs for a small fee.

Tours & tickets across from Grasshopper bridge, and dotted about. It is highly recommended you pre buy tickets for Van Gogh, Rijks Museum & Heineken.  You skip the queues and they are normally cheaper too. There are other offices dotted around the city.

Mannequin Piss: famous chip shop right across from Bridge.  Queue to order chips in a paper cone and sauce.  Three sizes of chips: small, medium, and share with friends size.  All kinds of sauces from the Dutch favourite: mayonnaise, to ketchup, spicy sate, curry and more.  Stand in next queue to pick up your chips.

Quality burgers & Wok-to-wok: go through alley beside Mannequin Piss & straight on, to Kolksteeg side street.

Red light area: from Grasshopper, go left down Wormestraat to find a variety of restaurants.  Go right to find Hotel Munchen, where Quentin Tarantino lived on second floor (2 windows left hand side) and wrote Pulp Fiction. Keep going to La Condomerie Buy something for that special someone, or at least take a photo of their window display.   Open 11am-6pm Mon-Sat  Warmoesstraat 141

De Oude Kerk (‘The Old Church’) is located in the middle of the Red Light district. It is the oldest building in the city. Open Mon-Sat 11.00-17.00. Sun 13.00-17.00. The tower is open for visiting from April to September, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Tours up the tower start every half hour and can only be visited with a guide).

Ons’ lieve heer op solder (Our Lord in the attic) is a secret chapel in the attic of 1600’s canal house, back when Catholics has to worship in secret.  See how the people lived, how steep the stairs are, furniture & the décor.       Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 /  10am-5pm    Easy to walk past, so keep an eye out for the sign.  Do try to fit this one in!

The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Open every day in 2013 from 10:00 to 23:00.  From Dam Square, Turn left past the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky and along the Damstraat. At the second canal, turn left immediately (do not cross the bridge). The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum is about 15 metres further down the canal.   It hasn’t been a favourite of many people, due to the fact it is pricey to get in, and it’s mainly pictures, articles and artefacts, with an impressive set of plants in a grow room.

The EroticMuseum in the red light area, and Venus Temple on Damrak, are both open late night.  They are a bit of fun, and filled with erotic art, scenes of an erotic nature acted out with mannequins or statues, film clips, sex toys, etc.  Good to kill half an hour, but don’t expect to learn too much.  It’s more giggles than oohs and awws.

Prostitution museum This new museum focuses on the daily life of a window girl since the year 2000.  Set in a real former brothel, you can learn about the running of the business, from the girls, to the people who clean the rooms or bring the girls coffee and food during long shifts.     #60 Oudezijds Achterburgwal open 12-12

 

DAM SQUARE   

 The Royal Palace in Dam Square. Opening dates must be checked on website as closed for Royal Events and generally most of the time. Closed most Mondays. Closed all June, first half of May and last half of September. When open, hours are 11.00-17.00 (11.00-17.00 in Jul and Aug). *Interesting to visit if you are Dutch, really like local Palaces or will never have the chance to visit one.

Nieuwekerk. This is the church beside the Royal Palace in Dam Square. Free to go in for a look if it’s open.  Open daily 10.00-17.00, Thu 10.00-22.00. Special exhibitions change regularly and are charged for.

Madame Tussaud’s. In Dam Square. Open Daily 10.00-17.30 (last admission).  Jul 2-Sep 4, last admission is 20.30. It costs a fair bit to go in, so if you are going to London, maybe give it a miss.  There are some A list stars you will recognise, as well as a Dungeon, but predominately Dutch historical figures, royalty and Dutch sports personalities.

 

NEAR DAM SQUARE

Anne Frank is off to the right on Prinsengratcht 263-267.  (Tram 13, 14 or 17 to Westermarkt) or if waking from Dam Square: face the palace, and walk behind it to the left hand side (trying not to get run over by trams or bikes).  Follow the road right behind the palace, and turn left on Raadhuisstratte.  Follow it for 10-15 minutes until you come to the Westerkerk on your right.  The street just past it is Prinsengratcht.  Look for the long line of people and that is the Anne Frank House. Open Nov 1-Mar 31:  9.00-19.00 (Sat till 21.00). April 1-Oct 31: 9.00-21.00 (Saturdays until 22.00). July-Aug Daily 9.00-22.00. Prebook tickets online at least 24 hours before your visit if you can. Most people book up to 2 months in advance. This is the most visited site in Amsterdam, and they only allow on line bookings until May 2018, but check their website for current details.

Westerkerk.  Open for tourists 11am – 3pm, everyday but Sunday. Free admission to church. WesterkerkTower is open to visitors from April to October. Tickets for tours to climb the tower are available.  Sunday services in Dutch 10.30. Getting there: Westerkerk is located at the Prinsengracht canal, with Anne Frank House from one side and the Westermarkt from the other.

Magna Plaza is one of the few department stores in Amsterdam.  It’s right behind the Royal Palace and has an elegant 19c facade and pretty interior.  There are mainly high end shops inside, but I used to go to the top level and have a drink overlooking the atrium.  Open Sun noon – 7pm/ Mon 11am-7pm/ Thurs 10am-9pm and all other days 10am-7pm.

Fruiteria Juice Bar  If you were to face the Royal Palace and walk around it to the right and go right at the corner of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 141, there is a tiny juice bar if you need recharging.  They are open Sundays.

Canal Bikes These are 4 person pedal boats. Take them in a circular route or go from Anne Franks to the Rijks museum.  Bring wine, cheese & crackers. Great fun, but watch out for the big boats; they are the semis and you are in the smart-car.   Rent by the hour. Main docks near Anne Franks House and just behind the RijksMuseum.

 

MUSEUMPLEIN (park & fountains/ good for picnics)

RijksMuseum:  17c golden age of Dutch painters and art.  The who’s who of Dutch painters. Vermeer, Hals, Steen, Rembrandt (Nightwatch)   The building has undergone a massive renovation.  I would try to buy tickets before hand.  They do sell them at the canal boat booth just outside the Museum on Stadehouderskade.    Tram 2 or 5 to Hobbema Straat       9am-6pm

Van GoghMuseum: His works in chronological order. Tram 2 or 5 to Hobbema Straat.  Open 10.00-18.00, Friday 10.00-22.00.

Heineken Experience  From Rijksmuseum, walk 10 mins along Stadhouderskade.   Want to get brewed, meet the Heineken robot, star in a music video, bottle your own Heineken & get free samples?  Fun even if you don’t like beer. Tram 16, 24, or 25 to Heinekenplein /11am-7:30pm(last entry 5:30pm) Jun-Aug 10:30am-9pm (last entry 7pm)

Taart Van M’N Tante/ (Tart of my Aunt) Quirky café famous for chocolate slut pie & Dutch apple pie with amaretto.   Beside Heineken on Ferdinand Bolstraat 10.  Tram 16, 24 or 25.   10am-6pm

Chocolate Slut pie

Chocolate Slut pie

 

OTHER SITES

Het Scheep Vaart (MaritimeMuseum) After a 5 year renovation, it’s open again.  Facing Central Station, go to the right along big canal for about 10 minutes and walk towards the replica Galleon. Covers all things nautical & entry to the Galleon.   9am-5pm

Floating Flower Market on Signel Canal & pedestrian mall.  Sell all types of flora & grow kits.  Big Christmas shop, cafes & post cards.   Cheap souvenirs/ not the best quality, but okay for casual gifts.

Rembrandt House   Artwork and reproductions of original furniture in the home where he lived his last days.  He went into bankruptcy and all his things were sold at auction. Because they kept good records of things that went through the sales, they have been able to do a good job with restoration.  The house part is really good, and then there is his etching room, and a display of his pupil’s and other artist’s work.  Don’t expect to see walls of Rembrandt paintings, but there are his other types of works, and his studio.      Jodenbreestraat 4 (near Waterlooplein)  / 10am-6pm

Nemo Museum.  Largest science centre in the Netherlands, with five floors full of touchy-feely science and technology. Can be filled with Dutch school kids.  Unique building looks like a sinking ship, and the roof offers free sunbathing in the summer time.  Tues-Sun 10.00-17.00. Closed Mondays, except Jun-Aug.