Amsterdam for tourists
My English language guide for visitors to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is really a nice city. Perhaps the city on the most human scale in the world. And that, despite the fact that the main artery Damrak-Rokin-Vijzelstraat is one big building site due to construction of a new metro line north-south under the city.
Everybody speaks English (or thinks he/she can), so no need to learn Dutch. Which is a shame, as it is not a difficult language and 24 million people on the world speak it. We have some great writers (still no Nobelprizewinner) and a few good scientists, including some Nobelprizewinners.
… is very changeable, to say the least.
Winters are wet (and stormy) not much snow, temperatures around 0º C. but is feels colder in the wind.
Spring is cool (with a northern wind), but mainly dry.
Summers are changeable. Temperatures of more than 30º C are exceptional, but it can be sticky. Summer usually lasts not more than 5 days.
Autumn can be very nice but then also not.
Just walk, along the canals, through the narrow streets left and right and in general try to get away from the main tourist attractions (Dam, Damrak and Kalverstraat) because that is not the real Amsterdam.
By plane: You will arrive at Schiphol Airport. Take the train (6/7 per hour, 15 min ride) to Central Station. Trains run even in the wee hours of the night (once per hour).
By train: You arrive at Central station by TGV from Paris, ICE from Cologne or express from Berlin
By car: don’t. The city centre is 17th century and not laid out for car driving. And certainly not for car parking (costs: around 40 Euro for a day)
The city has a good public transport system, with trams, some busses (mostly to the western and northern suburbs and a metro line to the south-east. As a tourist you will mostly use the trams.
Always pay for the ride. On most tramlines there is a ticket controller seated in a little cabin in the rear.
Standard electronic tickets (OV-chipcard) cost 2,70 € (2012) and are valid one hour after check-in. Better buy a day ticket (7,50 € for 24 hours or 12 € for 48 hours. Valid in all trams and buses in the city.
Are expensive. Drivers can be rather rude and at least half of them don’t have a clue about Amsterdam. TCA taxis tend to be the best.
Is a good way to enjoy the city. You can rent a bike at Central Station, and other places. Be careful, don’t think that everything is allowed: it is NOT, despite what the locals do. Not respecting the rules is outright dangerous and very bad for your health.
There are plenty of hotels in Amsterdam and quite a few good Tourist Guides with list of hotels. The red Michelin-guide (for the Benelux) is the best. It contains also a good selection of restaurants. Or perhaps you have friends with a spare bedroom.
Lunch in Amsterdam is a simple affair: a sandwich “broodje” eaten while standing. Numerous broodjeszaken usually just of the main shopping streets.
Dinner is taken early, between 7 and nine. Only a few restaurants will serve late dinner (after 11 o'clock). Restaurants are concentrated in a few groups of streets:
Tickets for a lot (but not all) the performances are available at AUB-Uitbureau on Leidseplein (on the corner of the old Playhouse (Stadsschouwburg) or via the Ticket service of the Tourist office (across Central Station)
We have the Concertgebouw and a good Opera house (ballet and opera). Both are usually sold out weeks before a performance. Try one hour before starting time: there are always “seekingplaces” available: no reserved seat, but you must seek a free seat yourself. Can be nerve wrecking, but the big thing is: you are in (and they are cheaper). Prices for a normal ticket: between 30 and 135 Euro.
Plays are given in Dutch. There is no English playhouse in Amsterdam.
Films are shown in their original language with Dutch undertitles. First nights are on Thursday. For information look here.
The most beautiful movie theatre is Tuschinsky. Marvellous theatre, dating from 1921, showing the big Hollywood movies
Megaplexes: Pathe Muntplein, Citytheatre Leidseplein.
Arthouses: Movies Haarlemmerdijk, Uitkijk Prinsengracht, and Filmmusuem Eye.
I have no first hand knowledge. So you are on your own here.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands as long as the woman (or boy) is 18 years or older. The red-light district, with women in the window, is situated around the Oude Kerk. (Old Church) in the oldest part of the city.
We are a one-sport nation: football (a.k.a. soccer). All other sports take second place to that.
Football: go to Ajax, playing (Sunday afternoons) in their Arena. Tickets are difficult to get, not because the Arena is sold out (which it is sometimes) but because of hooligan-controls. Try the concierge of your hotel for information.
Other sports? I wouldn’t know.
Shops generally open from 9.30 till 18, Thursdays till 21 hr.
On Sundays open from 12 till 17 or 18 hr.
Main Shopping streets:
Essential viewing when you visit Amsterdam. For my mother, a day trip to the city was not complete without a visit to the Bijenkorf. Nice (trendy/modern) design clothing, furniture. Also open on Friday evenings till 21 hrs. Dam Square.
English books: most bookshops have a fair selection of English books available. But there are two English bookshops: Waterstone (corner of Kalverstaat/Spui) and American Book Centre (corner of Spui/ Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal).
German books: Die Weisse Rose (Rozengracht)
French and Spanish books are available at Atheneum Bookshop on Spui.
Gay books: Vrolijk Paleisstraat 135, just behind the palace on Dam square
Food: Daily market at Albert Cuypstraat, behind the Heineken Brewery. On Saturdays there is a very good market on Lindengracht - Noordermarkt.
Books: Daily at Oudemanhuispoort. Fridays on the Spui, behind the Esprit shop on Kalverstraat (English boooks are available.)
Flee market: daily at Waterlooplein (rear side of the Town hall/Opera)
Flowers: daily (also Sundays) at Singel (near Munt)
Go the a Museum, we have a few.
From May 2 2013, for the first time in almost 10 years, all 3 museums will be open again. An end to the drought.
After being closed for renovation for 10 years, the "new" museum opened on april, 14, 2013 to .
The Rijksmuseum is famous for its collection of 17th century Dutch paintings (upstairs Honor Gallery). But there is much more. An impressive display of objects from the Middle Ages (downstairs level), a marvelous collection paintings from the 19th century and a small but beautiful exposition dedicated to the 20th century.
The Honor Gallery can be very busy; the rest of the museum is much more quiet.
No need to introduce that one. Closed for renovation till may 2.
The outpost of the Hermitage in Petersburg, housed in an old hospital-complex on the Amstel. Some spectecular exhibitions of art you seldom see outside Russia.
Small museum, located in a 17th century house on Herengracht, near Rembrandtplein. Gives a good impression of how people lived in former centuries.
Built between 1648 and 1655 as the townhall for the rich and mighty city of Amsterdam, King Louis Napoleon made it his living quarters in 1808. And it was never returned to its original purpose. Open for visitors (most of the time). Here is a virtual tour.
Situated in the northern district, just a short 4 minutes ferry-ride from Central Station. A stunning building, well worth the trip.
Or take a Rondvaart (a roundtrip by boat), very touristy, but it is undeniable a good way to see the old city in all its beauty. Departures at Central Station, Rokin, Stadhouderskade/Leidseplein.
In Haarlem, dating from 1784, marvellous print collection among other things. To be reached by train from Central Station (15 minutes, 6 times per hour)
Amsterdam has not many parks. But this nice, 19th century park is the most accessible park from the city centre, just south of Leidseplein. Can be very busy in the weekends.
The zoo here is called Artis, dating from 1838, 10 minutes by tram (lines 9 & 14) from Rembrandtplein, inside the 17th century city.
In case you get really adventurous. To be reached by train from Central Station every 30 minutes. The train takes 30 minutes, plus 5 minutes walking from the station to the beach.
Go later in the afternoon: it will be (somewhat) quieter and sundown’s can be marvellous. Mid-summer sundown is around 10 o'clock.