Amsterdam is the city outside of England I have visited the most in the world. The two main reasons for that are:
a) it’s a cheap overnight ferry ride from where I live.
b) it’s a pretty awesome city with a lot to do and see which appeals to people with many different tastes.
I have actually lost count of the number of times I’ve visited The Netherlands and Amsterdam in particularly. I think it’s around 10 (although it could possibly be 9 or even 11). Everyone I know from my hometown of Hull, England has been to Amsterdam and that’s primarily because we have an extremely handy (and super enjoyable) ferry crossing daily to Europoort. From the first day of October to the last day of March every year P&O offer the trip on a 2 for 1 offer. This means return ferry, comfortable cabin both ways with en suite shower room, choice of restaurants and bars with entertainment and return coach transfers from the port to the city, for the grand total of approximately £40 each!
Of course getting a bargain is great but sometimes once is enough. Not with Amsterdam. It’s such a vibrant, multicultural city which offers something for (almost) everyone. It’s a pleasure to return year after year. I’ve visited Amsterdam both with Mr ESLT and friends. Last month I visited with friends and even though I’ve been so many times, we still found a square in the city I’d never visited before. Amsterdam is also a city I have never used a map in. It’s a place which is great to get lost in. Just wander along a canal and see where you end up. So over the years I have stumbled upon a number of great areas and attractions. Here’s a few of them:
Dam Square – this is the biggest and most famous square in Amsterdam. If you have visited Amsterdam I can 99.9% guarantee you have stood here and if you are planning on visiting Amsterdam this should be up there on one of the first things you do. You would think it got its name simply because it is the last three letters of the city’s name but no it actually got its name from its original function, being a dam over the river Amstel. Within the square you will find some beautiful architecture including the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the National Monument which is a tall white column which was erected in 1956 to honor the victims of World War II. If you are in the market for a bit of lighthearted fun you will also find the Madam Tussaud’s museum.
Heineken Experience – I love a good brewery tour and this is a good brewery tour. A little bit of a walk (2km) from the main area of Amsterdam (Dam Square) but, in my opinion, totally worth it. Mr ESLT and I love to take a brewery tour wherever we find one and this one is up there as one of the best. Open between 10.30am and 7.30pm Monday to Thursday and 10.30am until 9.00pm Friday to Sunday (and all July and August) with tickets priced at €18 on the door, €16 advance online and free if you have a Holland Pass. The unguided tour allows you to wander through the factory learning about the process involved in brewing Heineken, visit the amazing giftshop where we bought souvenir glasses from and try the good stuff at the end. Great way to spend half a day or so if trying local beer is your thing.
Anne Frank House – If history is more your thing then I highly recommend visiting the Anne Frank House (Museum) which was originally the place where Jewish girl, Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazis during the Second World War. I’m sure you all learnt about her and her family’s plight during history lessons in school, I know I did. It was therefore here that she wrote her world famous diary and since 2010 the original manuscripts have been on display here. Located in central Amsterdam is easily reached on foot. Tickets cost €9 for adults and in the winter months the museum is open between 9.00am and 9.00pm (10.00pm on Saturdays) and between 9.00am and 7.00pm (9.00pm on Saturdays) in winter. On-line ticket only trials are being conducted at the moment to try to restrict the waiting times as many days you will see long queues of locals, tourists and school children alike waiting to get inside.
Red Light District – Go on, take a gander, you know you want to. De Wallen is the largest and most well known red light district in the city. Here you will find a reported 300 prostitutes offering their services behind glass windows usually lit by red lights. Usually scantily clad and many beautiful, these women are just doing their job without anyone batting an eyelid, that’s because prostitution in The Netherlands is legal and regulated. You will also find a sex museum, peep shows, sex shows and sex shops. Whether you attend any of these for ‘pleasure’ or just to see what the fuss is about you must visit this area. Obviously, if this sort of thing offends you then stay away, do not put yourself in a situation that could leave you embarrassed/angry. If visiting in the summer months be warned that this area is stag party central.
Van Gough Museum – if art and culture are your thing then you must visit the Van Gough Museum which is a 30 minute walk from Dam Square. The museum is a national museum and is primarily dedicated to Van Gough’s work however you will also find collections from his friends and contemporaries. The museum opened on 3 June 1973 and has always been a popular attraction in Amsterdam. Opening times vary drastically throughout the year to I advise that you check out the museum’s website before you visit. In 2013 the Van Gough museum was handed the second most visited museum in The Netherlands. Therefore, here you can expect to see long queues daily especially over lunch which is why I advise you to purchase your tickets in advance, adults tickets cost €17.
Canal boat tour – a great way to explore this city from another view point. Mr ESLT and I took a canal tour a few years ago because it was raining and the boat had a roof on which meant we could continue our adventure without getting soaked to the skin. As Amsterdam has so many canals I believe we saw more of the city than we would have done on foot. We paid €14 each which I think is great value for money. There are a number of companies offering the canal cruises most of which operate daily between 10.00am and 6.00pm. There are also a number of starting points, dependant on company used. We joined ours right opposite the Heineken Experience. I imagine in the summer months the roof is retracted and you can enjoy the sunshine while cruising the canals, something I would love to do if I every visit Amsterdam in the summer.
Rembrandt Square – another famous square in central Amsterdam named after the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn. In the centre of the Square stands a cast iron statue of Rembrandt which was made in 1852 by sculptor Louis Royer. In 20o6 it was joined by further statues which represent his most famous painting The Night Watch. Since then they have been on tour to both America and Russia however they are now back in Rembrandt Square. When my friends and I visited in December we found a small Christmas market here. There was quite a mishmash of different country’s goodies available. We found traditional stroopwafels (two thin layers of dough with a caramel filling) from The Netherlands, Churros from Spain and (my favourite) the beirhaus which served German Glühwein. Not the biggest market in Amsterdam but nice to have a short stroll around.
Have you been to Amsterdam? Can you recommend things I could see/do next time I visit, which is likely to be early December 2016?