Tag Archives: Amsterdam

What to do in Amsterdam and the best Amsterdam attractions.

10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Here are our travel tips for ten things to do in Amsterdam that will ensure you have a great experience.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

A classic Amsterdam experience is to cruise the canals. From boat level you get a fascinating view of the city.

things to do Amsterdam

View of canal-side houses by Amanda Kendle

Van Gogh Museum

Art lovers will marvel at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has the largest collection anywhere of Van Gogh works – and apparently it’s the most visited museum in the entire Netherlands.

things to do Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum by Minke Wagenaar

Rijksmuseum

Next door to the Van Gogh Museum is another popular Amsterdam sight, the Rijksmuseum. It’s a national museum of art and history and includes a large collection of works by Rembrandt.

Anne Frank House

Amsterdam is home to one of my all-time favourite museums, the Anne Frank House. For anyone who has read The Diary of Anne Frank, it’s fascinating to see the very building where it all took place and to see one of Anne’s actual diaries.

things to do Amsterdam

Anne Frank House entrance by Amanda Kendle

If you require transport when visiting the city, either to or from the airport, or to get between the sites, book a taxi in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Bos

To get into nature in Amsterdam, head to the Amsterdam Bos a forest area within reach of the city and a great place for cycling.

things to do Amsterdam

Amsterdam Bos by webgrrl12

Red Light District

Out of pure curiosity, a stroll through the famous Red Light District of Amsterdam (especially during the day) is interesting and harmless.

things to do Amsterdam

Street sculpture in Red Light District by Amanda Kendle

Cafe Americain

Amsterdam’s cafes have a certain reputation but if you’re looking for somewhere simply for a great cup of coffee and excellent atmosphere Cafe Americain is the place to go.

things to do Amsterdam

Cafe Americain by zenra

Bloemenmarkt

Of course you’ll want to see some tulips while in Amsterdam – head for the floating Bloemenmarkt in the southern canals – and can buy some seeds to grow your own too.

things to do Amsterdam

For sale at Bloemenmarkt by Amanda Kendle

Heineken Experience

Beer lovers will find the Heineken Experience, incorporating the brewery and exhibition, a must do tour on a visit to Amsterdam. A couple of beers are included in the entry price.

Heineken Experience by elsamu

Vondelpark

The Amsterdam equivalent of New York’s Central Park, Vondelpark is a great place to head when the sun comes out. The park includes an outdoor cinema and a film museum.

things to do Amsterdam

Locals in Vondelpark by vitamindave

 

Best New Year’s Fireworks in Europe?

I’m sure everyone will have their vote for the best New Year’s fireworks in Europe.  Some may vote Edinburgh, with their huge Hogmanay festival (complete with excessive drinking and also-excessive cold temperatures).  Others might say London, who’s fireworks display is a big and impressive as the city’s skyline.

But my vote has to go for Amsterdam.  Here’s why.

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities, in general.  During New Year’s, many locals host fantastic parties in their home, complete with endless buffets and a bar that looks like it is an entire aisle of the liquor store.  (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but just slightly.)

The food and drink starts mid-afternoon, but during the day you’ll notice a boom, a whizz, and a bang now and then.  The uninitiated might assume it’s just all some fun and games before a bigger celebration happens in the evening.

The thing is, though, Amsterdam doesn’t really have one big massive fireworks display.  People run amok in the streets lighting their own fireworks.  As you can see from the photo above, I’m not talking about sparklers or a small firecracker.  I’m talking about a hot flame that goes screaming by your face as you dive to the ground, since not everyone has very good aim.

Things turn in to pandemonium come midnight, as fireworks are launched from nearly every direction, and the sound competes for the dazzling lights display that seems to show up the next direction.

It is crazy.  It is perhaps slightly scary.  But it is Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve, and it has to be the best new year’s eve in Europe.  Ever.

The Next Morning

It’s worth battling a hangover to go for a wee stroll on January 1st, early in the AM.  That’s because you can see the aftermath – the city is silent, and covered from one end to the other with leftover firework.  It’s interesting.

Also very interesting – look at the cars.  You’ll notice all the fogged up windows – people are sleeping in them!  I’ve been in Amsterdam for several New Year’s, and every time this was the same, and I can’t say I explain it – it’s mostly French and Germans looking to save money on a hotel for the night.  But I can’t explain why there are so many – they’re everywhere.  Must be a rough drive home the next day.

What’s your favourite New Year’s event in Europe?

Photo Credit: jayembee

Amsterdam’s Street Performers

Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, the world. There’s much to see and do in the city, but between all the landmarks you’ll find another city attraction – the street performers. Local talents gathers on the squares and corners in the tourist quarter and put on quite a show.

The town’s main spots – Dam, Leidseplein, Vondelpark, Rembrandtplein in particular – are always abuzz with activity.  And there’s always a variety on display, from human statues, jugglers, musicians, fire-eaters, dancers and many more. Dam square in particular is very active during the day. As tourists make their way to and from the Royal Palace, many stop to pose with the human statues.

Half the fun is in watching the various social interactions: cops and performers; performers and paying viewers; performers and non-paying photographers; performers and children. Each interaction brings about a different reaction. And then there are the small gaps in time when the performers take a break or wind up for the day, when they drop the act and pull off their masks for a sip of drink and a chat, or when they pack up their gear and ride away.

What do you think of the street performers in Amsterdam? Did you find them entertaining or tiresome?

Child Friendly Amsterdam Attractions: The Van Gogh Museum

Like many parents, we’re constantly dragging our children along to art museums. And like many parents, we are accustomed to groans of  “Oh no, not another museum!”

Museums are starting to realize the importance of courting their future visitors and, as parents, it’s nice to see how many art museums have started to put together age-appropriate information and activity guides for children.

The Van Gogh Museum (on the left), with the Rijksmuseum in the background

One small museum that gets it right is the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Chances are, Van Gogh admirers would take their kids along on a visit  to this excellent museum anyway, but it’s even nicer to know that parents can request the activity guide to make their visit more enjoyable for young children.

Wheatfield with crows, 1890

The activity guide was filled with interesting information and asked children to record their observations about certain artworks and about Van Gogh’s shifting techniques, his use of thick brush strokes and his preference for vibrant colours during his years in southern France.

The bookshop sells an excellent publication for children, Vincent & Theo: Brothers in Art. It is geared towards elementary school and middle-grade readers and chronicles Van Gogh’s struggle as an artist and the special relationship with his brother, Theo.

So on your family visit to Amsterdam, my European travel tip would be to take your kids along to the Van Gogh Museum as it’s a very child friendly Amsterdam attraction.  They will be certain to enjoy it as much as you do.

The Vincent Van Gogh Museum is open daily from 10:00 to 18:00. Fridays it has extended hours, 10:00-22:00. Adults are 14 euro, children and teenagers under 18 are free.

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.

Getting around Amsterdam

One of the surprising things for the first-time visitor that separates Amsterdam from other European cities is the fact that the central areas see very little in the way of traffic congestion simply because cars are not very practical in a city that is criss crossed by numerous canals.  Because of this many visitors find it more practical to walk around the relatively small tourist areas of this city.

Amsterdam square complete with flying cows

Walking in Amsterdam is a very pleasant experience allowing you to take in all of the sights and sounds from the Museum District across to Central Station, which are about two furthest points as far as tourists are concerned, and only take 30 or 40 minutes to walk between,. You can also opt for walking tours of the city with an English-speaking guide who will show you many of the cities hidden gems.   Walking around Amsterdam is my Europe travel tip for Amsterdam, free and healthy and Amsterdam isn’t big enough to get seriously lost.  Even if you do lose your way the Dutch are very helpful and approachable and almost all speak good English.  As a pedestrian you have to be very aware of cyclists, I almost got knocked over a couple of time when taking photos and not paying enough attention.  The main disadvantage of walking is exposure to the elements, I recall one very cold, wet and windy Easter Amsterdam city break

.

by stefg74

Another very convenient and very Dutch mode of transport is the bicycle, as there is little doubt that Amsterdam is the bicycling capital of Europe it is very easy to hire a bicycle from companies such as Bike City and Rent a Bike and then follow the crowds of fellow bicycle users around the city on dedicated bicycle paths. This is a safe and very efficient way of getting around the town and seeing all that it has to offer without getting blisters on your feet.  There also many guided bike tours.

Amsterdam has a good public transport network with an underground system covering a large part of the centre of the city as well as a large number of buses.  Another Amsterdam tradition is there extensive tram network, which can whisk you quickly from one area to another in just a few minutes for a relatively low cost.  If you buy a  Amsterdam card this includes a public transport ticket in addition to entry to many museums.

by joefutrelle

Yet another very traditional Dutch way to get around is via the numerous canals, making use of water buses and taxis or by joining one of the many guided canal tours found by the side of all the main canals.  In this water borne city making use of the canals for transportation is a very effective and quick way of getting around, as well as enjoying the unique atmosphere of seeing the city slide by as you sit back and enjoy the view.

Although water and land public transport as well as walking and bicycling are the most popular ways of getting around there are of course a large number of regular taxis plying their trade along the streets. The big problem with taxis is getting one to stop, as most areas across the city centre do not allow traffic to stop even for a moment. As such taxis are generally only available at certain points such as Dam Square, Leidseplein and Central Station. Your hotel can also arrange for you to be picked up outside the door.  However there’s always the slower, more eco-friendly option of a Wielertaxi electrically assisted bicycle taxi.

by MdenHoedt

Find Great Deals on Amsterdam Hotels

Click here to find the best deals on Amsterdam hotels using the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Amsterdam day trip: Haarlem

When my family and I are back in America, we spend a lot of time in Harlem, New York City, so on a recent trip to Amsterdam, we were curious to take a fifteen minute train ride to see Haarlem, the New York neighborhood’s namesake from back in the distant days when Dutch was the lingua franca of the Big Apple.

Haarlem,  just 20 kilometers west of Amsterdam, is extremely easy to reach and a great Europe destination. Trains depart approximately every 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station (round-trip tickets are 7.50 euro adults/ 3 euro children). Although Haarlem is the Netherlands’ eighth largest city, it’s a European city with small town charm that makes for a pleasant Amsterdam day trip from the busy capital.

Grote Markt is the picturesque main town square. We were unfortunate not to have been here on a Saturday, when the entire square is the site of a large and colourful outdoor market. My Europe travel tip would be to try to make it here for the market, which must be lovely in this dramatic town square.

One of the draws of Haarlem is the Gothic cathedral, Sint-Bavokerk. The cathedral is also famous for its flamboyant, 18th century  pipe organ, said to be among the best organs in the world. Famous musicians and composers who have performed here, including Händel and the then-10-year-old Mozart,  have confirmed this claim, expressing their enthusiasm for the organ’s superb quality.

Haarlem was also home to the Golden Age Dutch artist Frans Hals (1580 -1666) and the excellent Hals Museum (open daily 11:00– 17:00, Adults 7.50 euro ) contains the largest collection of his paintings in the world.

It’s pleasant to walk around this small city and to wander around the banks of the Spaarne River.

Find Great Deals on Hotels in Haarlem

You could also use the city as a short break base, you can find low prices on Haarlem hotels using the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Modern Art Continues to Reach out into Amsterdam

I wrote earlier in the year about the 2009 outreach programme Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum had for modern art in Amsterdam.  Soon the Stedelijk will return to its home back in the city’s main Museum Square (Museumplein), but they continue the Modern Art in the City programme.  Right now they have the ‘construction cabin’ which is sort of a travelling cafe-cum-art-exhibit roaming the suburbs.

What really caught my eye though was the recent paper ladders exhibit.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.  How fun!

stedelijk amsterdam

stedelijk amsterdam

stedelijk amsterdam

stedelijk amsterdam

There is something about the simplicity and fragile nature of these ladders, perhaps at odds with their environment.

If you’re in Amsterdam, don’t miss out on the Stedelijk experience – in whatever shape or form it might be at the time.  I hear they serve good coffee.  :)

Photos by violarenate

Visiting Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

Heather’s recent post mentioning the Anne Frank Museum in Berlin reminded me of what’s probably the most interesting museum I’ve ever visited: the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank House

This collection of exhibits is actually located in the very place where Anne Frank and her family hid, although the museum has spilled into the next door building now. It’s exceptionally well curated with a mix of media and the advantage of an inherently interesting subject – an innocent girl who loved writing in her diary but got caught up in the anti-semitism of World War II and tragically ended up dying in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shortly before the war ended.

You can see video of Anne’s father, the lists of “Jew transports” showing her family members after their hiding place was discovered and they were sent to concentration camps, photographs and most amazing to me, you can actually see Anne’s diary. I was moved to tears several times during my visit to the Anne Frank House.

I’ve heard that there are sometimes long queues for entry to this (understandably popular) museum. When I went, I arrived quite late in the day in summer, when the museum is open until 10.00pm, and I didn’t have to wait long, so that might be a good strategy. Anne Frank House opens every day at 9am, and the closing time depends on the month; check exact opening hours here. The cost is €8.50 for adults, which will seem very reasonable once you’ve seen what a great place it is.

Image – Nallstar via CC

Video tour of my favourite hot spots in Europe

Just to change things up a bit here at Europe a La Carte, I thought I’d share with you some videos of some of my favourite European hot spots. Lonely Planet has done some very professional overviews of some fantastic spots and they’re a great tease – once you’ve watched you’ll definitely want to get a booking in order!

How about Copenhagen, the Danish link between Western Europe and Scandinavian:

Then wing your way over to Amsterdam, Venice of the North:

Then finish up in Krakow, the city of art:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this whirlwind video tour of Europe. What are your favourites hot spots in Europe?

Modern Art in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s premier modern art museum, the Stedelijk, has been closed for a number of years for refurbishment. The museum was operating at an alternate location – the edgy, half-constructed Post CS building near Centraal Station. Unfortunately, the CS site has closed and the main Stedelijk building on the Museumplein is not open until 2010. However, fret not – the city has a plan to bring modern art into the city.

modern-art-in-amsterdam

The new programme is called ‘Stedelijk in de Stad’ (Stedlijk in the City).  Their official website (in Dutch only, unfortunately) lists the ongoing exhibitions.  Currently there is an amazing exhibit about religion and art in the stately Nieuwekerk on Dam Square.  I visited it myself last week and was very impressed – while several purpose built rooms host the majority of the exhibit, there are several quite well done sculptures and videos playing in various parts of the church that really juxtapose the old world feel of the architecture with more modern sensibilities.

The other main exhibition is at the Van Gogh museum, where in addition to the Van Gogh classics, visitors are treated to the Stedelijk’s wide range of impressionist art.  

My recommendation, as this is a rotating exhibit schedule, is to check in with your hotel or the tourist bureau for more information about where Stedlijk is currently presenting.  Although the website is in Dutch, all exhibitions (that I am aware of) offer materials and explanatory text in multiple languages, including English.

If you were thinking about another visit to Amsterdam soon, why not?  This is yet another reason why the city is one of Europe’s most visited capitals.