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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in amsterdam
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Corner of Prinsengracht and Bloemgracht, near Jordaan
Amsterdam is a beautiful city in the Netherlands with impressive architecture, lovely canals that criss-cross the city, great shopping, and friendly people. There is something for every traveller's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.
The 'Amsterdam' that most people know is the city centre, the semicircle with Central Station at its centre. It corresponds to the old city, as it was around 1850: its boundary is the Singelgracht canal, the old city moat. Three other major canals ring the old city; the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, and the Prinsengracht, the latter of which runs alongside the roads Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade, and Mauritskade. These form the outer ring road around the old city canal system. Almost everything outside this line was built after 1870. The semicircle is on the south side of the IJ, which is called a river, but is more exactly an estuary. Going east from central station, the railway passes the artificial islands of the redeveloped Eastern Docklands. North of the IJ is mainly housing, although a major dockland redevelopment has started there too.
The river Amstel flows into the city from the south. Originally, it flowed along the line Rokin-Damrak. The dam in the Amstel, which gives the city its name, was located under the present Bijenkorf department store. The original settlement was on the right bank of the Amstel, on the present Warmoesstraat: it is therefore the oldest street in the city. The city has expanded in all directions, except to the north of the ring motorway. The region there, Waterland, is a heavily protected rural landscape.
The radius of the semicircle is 2 km. All major tourist destinations, and most hotels, are located inside it or just outside it. As a result, much of Amsterdam is never visited by tourists: at least 90% of the population lives outside this area. Most economic activity in Amsterdam -- the offices of the service sector, and the port -- is located on or outside the ring motorway, which is four to five kilometers from the centre.
Quite a few travellers visit Amsterdam to enjoy its famously tolerant attitude. Prostitution is fully legalized and licensed, and the sale, possession, and consumption of small quantities of cannabis, while illegal, is ignored by authorities under a policy of gedogen (tolerance). Unfortunately, some travellers take this to mean that one can pretty much get away with anything in Amsterdam, much to the detriment of the locals and fellow tourists. The city has made great strides, especially in the last few years, in preventing such abuses while maintaining its easy-going atmosphere.
Note the important distinction between the expressions "Coffee Shop" and "Café". The former is a place where there is a pot menu, and sometimes drinks. The latter is a place to have a coffee or a glass of wine or beer. Coffee shops generally do not sell alcoholic beverages. Cafés do, but they do not allow the use of drugs, even marijuana and hashish.
When to come
The best time of year to visit Amsterdam is surely springtime. April is best, since all the tulips will be in bloom. A daytrip to the Keukenhof and its surroundings in the west of the country is easy to do and a great way of seeing some more of the country. Every year on April 30 the Dutch celebrate Queensday (Koninginnedag), the birthday of the reigning monarch. The current Queen Beatrix chose to continue the festivities on April 30, in honor of her mother, Queen Juliana. The color of Queensday is orange, symbolizing national and royal pride, stemming from the royal family name - The Family Nassau, House of Orange. On Queensday, the streets are filled with orange-clad revellers and locals selling items cleaned out from their homes, flea market style, taking advantage of the VAT tax holiday that the Queen gives the people for the one day (which actually just applies to the flea market).
Amsterdam Weekly is an English-language free weekly published every Wednesday. It provides coverage of Amsterdam city life and an arts and entertainment calendar. http://www.amsterdamweekly.nl/ (contact information is online, not content)
Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is huge - so when leaving Amsterdam, give yourself enough time to get to your plane! A 15-minute train ride will get you from the airport to downtown Amsterdam for about 4 euro. If you take a taxi to or from the airport, be prepared to pay high fares. Easyjet (http://www.easyjet.com) and other low-cost carriers have flights to and from Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other spots in Europe.
If you decided to bring your bicycle on the plane with you, there is a 15-kilometer bike path that starts at the airport and leads directly to Amsterdam. Turn right as you leave the airport terminal. The path starts at about 200 metres down the road.
Sign for Platform 2b at Amsterdam Railway Station
Most trains arrive and depart from Amsterdam Centraal Station (with one extra 'a' in Dutch), located between the old centre and the IJ waterfront. Other train stations are Bijlmer, Amstel, Muiderpoort (all southeast), RAI, Zuid WTC (both south), Lelylaan and Sloterdijk (both west). Schiphol airport also has its own train station, with at least seven trains an hour to Amsterdam Centraal, with additional ones going to other Amsterdam stations.
Tickets can be bought from machines in the station: to encourage you to use the machines, it costs 50 cent extra to buy a ticket at the ticket counters. Older machines are not in English and as such can be difficult to interpret. New machines come with a language selection, and support English, Dutch, French and German. You can see how these new machines look online at http://webdemo.ns.nl/e2000.html. All trains in the west of the Netherlands are operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (http://www.ns.nl) (NS, "Dutch Railways"). On the Dutch railways website there are pages in English (http://www.ns.nl/servlet/Satellite?cid=1075985690180&pagename=www.ns.nl%2FPage%2FSuperHomepageEnglish&c=Page).
International tickets are available at the travel agency near the westernmost station entrance of Amsterdam Central Station. The machines sell tickets to nearby destinations in Belgium and Germany.
Most international bus services are affiliated to Eurolines, which has a terminal at Amstel Station (train station and metro station). One bus per day is usually the maximum frequency on these routes. There are other international bus services, but they are often aimed at very specific markets, e.g. Polish migrant workers. There are almost no long-distance internal bus services in the Netherlands, and none to Amsterdam.
The western part of the Netherlands has a dense network of highways, of which a number lead to Amsterdam. Coming from the east (Germany), the A1 leads directly to Amsterdam, and the A12 goes to Utrecht and Arnhem, at Utrecht you can change to the A2 direction North. From the south (Belgium), the A2 goes to Amsterdam and the A27 has a connection to the A2. From The Hague, the A4 leads to Amsterdam.
The A1, A2, A4 and (from the north) A7/A8 lead to the beltway/ring road around Amsterdam, the A10. From this highway, many main roads lead radially into Amsterdam (the roads S101 through S118).
Note that the speed limit on Dutch highways is 120 km/h and on some highways 100 or even 80 km/h. These limits are strictly enforced and there are many speed cameras...
On foot and bike
Amsterdam's center is fairly small and almost abnormally flat; you easily can get to most tourist destinations on foot from the train station within a half an hour.
A pleasant way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bicycle. The city is very, very bike-friendly, and separate bike lanes line most major streets. Visitors still must be very careful, and if on bike, especially of other bicyclists. Bike rental shops abound near the train station and the Leidseplein, and cost about ?15-20 per day. Make sure to get a good lock, and to use it; Amsterdam's high population of bike-lovers is preyed upon by a high population of bike-thieves. Note also that if buying a bike, prices that seem too good to be true may be stolen bikes.
- MacBike Bicycle Rental. Perhaps the most ubiquitous bicycle rental agency in Amsterdam, their bicycles are painted red with a MacBike sign on the front, everyone will know you're visiting. The bicycles are reliable, and in very good condition. Multiple locations around the city centre for assistance or repairs. Online bicycle reservations at their website. http://www.macbike.nl
Amsterdam's public transport system, operated by the GVB (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (http://www.gvb.nl/english/default.asp)), consists of sixteen tram lines, four metro lines, with a short underground stretch in the centre of the city and dozens of bus routes. Tram and bus stops in the centre all have detailed maps which make it very simple to navigate.
The standard ticket for use on all these modes of transport is the strippenkaart, which must be purchased prior to boarding a vehicle. They are available from machines in the metro and railway stations, from the GVB office opposite Centraal stations and from supermarkets, newsagents and tobacconists. This ticket consists of a number of strips, which must be stamped in a validator prior to entering the metro, or by the driver or conductor when boarding a tram or bus. Travel through a single zone costs two strips; two zones cost three strips and so forth. Typically tourists will only be travelling through the central zone, unless they plan on visiting outer areas. Alternatively, you can get a 24, 48 or 72 hour all zones bus/rail/tram pass for a reasonable price (€10 for 48 hr), and less hassle. Don't forget to stamp it before your first journey. If you stay longer in Amsterdam, you can buy weekly or monthly ticket at a cheaper rate from most of the post offices or other sale points (1 (http://www.vbn-bv.nl/ovinfo/algemeen_en.asp?vPaginaID=1187&vOrgID=14).
A new national ticketing system is being introduced, based on a contactless card (swipe card). The Amsterdam metro might be converted to this system in 2006, but introduction dates are uncertain. Strippenkaarten are also valid for use on NS trains, but only within Amsterdam. They are not valid for trips to Schiphol airport.
Old trams can be boarded either via the front or rear doors, and passengers alight through the centre doors. With newer trams the situation is exactly reversed. Most trams these days have conductors at the rear (or in the center for new trams), although there are still two or three lines without them. Enter buses only via the front door.
There are several free ferry services across the IJ river, to Amsterdam North, the most frequent runs every six minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern side of Centraal Station. (From the city centre this is the 'rear entrance', you can walk through Central Station, except for several hours at night, when the passage is closed).
Using a car in central Amsterdam is something of a pain. Many of the streets are narrow, the traffic signs are baroque and obscure, and bicyclists and pedestrians walk in the middle of the road. You can try parking at one of the secured parkinggarage's, for example the one under the Museumplein or near the Central Station and then walk around the city center or use a tram. Car parking is very expensive in Amsterdam and it's often hard to find a place to park. You can choose to pay by the hour or for the whole day.
An extensive list of museums in Amsterdam can be found at the public transportation website in the 'tourist guide' section, click the 'sights' button.
- Anne Frank House. Don't let the long line discourage you; it moves quickly and the experience inside the hiding places on the top floors are moving. Go in the early evening around 17:00 to avoid any lines. The Anne Frank House remains open much later during the summer. http://www.annefrank.nl/eng/afh/afh.html
- Rijksmuseum. 'The largest museum for art and history in the Netherlands;' works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch masters. Students are admitted free. Note: The Rijksmuseum is currently facing major renovations and although some parts are opened, only a small part of the usual collection is shown. http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/
- Artis. In addition to being a zoo, Artis is also a botanical garden. Although many of the plants and trees in Artis are native to the Netherlands, many species have been gathered from all over the world, just like the animal species in Artis. An entry ticket for Artis also provides admission to the Planetarium, the Geological Museum, the Aquarium and the Zoological Museum. http://www.artis.nl/international/
- Katten Kabinet. A cat museum. Housed in a beautiful restored palatial home in an upscale area street - very Masterpiece Theater. It was opened by the homeowner after his favorite cat died... and he still lives in the home. Lots of cat-related art, and real felines. http://www.kattenkabinet.nl/html/index_engels_dhtml.html
- Van Gogh Museum. This museum is dedicated to this late 19th century Dutch painter. It's located on the Museumplein, a square you shouldn't miss. Do not expect to see all of Van Gogh's works however as they only have a portion of the collection at this museum. Many of his pieces are at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and elsewhere. Still worth the visit though, especially with the audio tour. At only 1.5 Euro, the audio tour, in the language of your choice, will give you a much better understanding of Van Gogh's life and his paintings. Open late on Fridays. http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/
- Vondelpark. The city park. Especially in the summer it's lively and crowded. Meet the locals there. http://www.vondelpark.nl/
- Filmmuseum. A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of contemporary and historical films. Multiple screenings daily. The Filmmuseum is located in the Vondelpark, between park entrances Roemer Visscherstraat and Vondelstraat. http://www.filmmuseum.nl/
- Bloemenmarkt. (Flower Market), open daily on Singel. Buy pre-approved bulbs if taking them to the US or Canada.
- The Nine Streets. Known locally as De Negen Straatjes. This is a charming area of Nine little streets that straddle the main canals from the Prinsengracht to the Singel - just behind the Dam Square. Fabulous unique little boutiques, specialist shops, galleries and restaurants - you can spend a wonderful afternoon exploring these historic streets...see http://www.theninestreets.com/
- Royal Palace. Open daily on the Dam Square. This former Town hall (built in 1651) has a great and beautiful hall and other chambers
- Heineken Brewery.(Heineken Experience) Stadhouderskade 78. Tuesdays through Sundays 10.00 - 18.00. Cost is 10? for three drink coupons and a take home beer glass. Great place to spend a few hours to learn about Holland's number one exported beer. http://www.heinekenexperience.com
- Amstelkring Most locals don't recognize the official name, but will know what you mean if you say "Our Lord in the Attic." This is a Catholic church stuffed into the upper stories of a house from a time when the Catholics of Amsterdam were prosecuted and had to disguise their churches. It's a beautiful place to visit, and amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place. It's now a museum that also includes the residence of the former owner. Located in the Red light district. The website is mostly in Dutch, the English information is limited. http://www.museumamstelkring.nl/
- Take a canal tour; it's relaxing and a great way to view city architecture. The museum boat is a great alternative to a tour as the boat stops at most major museums. You can get off or on at each stop and as often as you like.
- Visit a coffeeshop, even if you don't smoke pot. Barney's (http://www.barneys.biz/) has a funky design and cool music, and a decent breakfast (though the Barneys cafe two doors down is much "nicer" if you prefer). In fact, if you're going to smoke cannabis, then please go to a coffee shop to do it. The locals are extremely tolerant, but frankly the stuff stinks, and if you wander down the street wafting it in people's faces, they won't thank you for it. That's the deal - no-one will mind you smoking, but please have the decency to avoid inflicting it on the unwilling - the best way to do that is to do it in a coffee shop. If you're not used to smoking pot, you'd better avoid the home-grown nederwiet (a.k.a. skunk), or you might end up with a bad trip. The THC level of nederwiet has increased recently to as much as 15 per cent, more than twice as much as foreign pot (source: Trimbos Institute).
- Check out local "brown bars" with their gorgeous wood panelling and booths.
- Queen's Day. April 30th, but on the April 29th, if the 30th is on Sunday. In celebration of the Queen's birthday (well, actually, the previous queen's birthday) the city is one big fleamarket, there's bands playing, parties. An experience you'll never forget!
- Rent a bike at one of the many bike rental places around the Dam Square or the Leidse Plein. It's fast, it's friendly, it's good for the environment, it's THE WAY to see a lot of Amsterdam. But beware: if you are not an experienced cyclist, it's really hazardous, as streets are narrow and often crowded. It's not only cars you have to be afraid of, nor the tram rails that can get your bike front wheel get stuck in: Native cyclists are known for their brutal traffic manners and will not be very forgiving to swaggering tourists on a bike. And never ever forget to lock up your bike properly: each year, around 40.000 bikes are stolen in Amsterdam.
- Uitkrant is a free monthly magazine, listing all concerts, classical, jazz, pop etc., exhibitions, museums and anything cultural to do in Amsterdam. It can be picked up at many spots in the city, i.a. at the Uitburo at the Leidse plein.
Amsterdam is home to two universities.
- Vrije Universiteit (Free University). Founded in 1880, VU has its campus located southwest of the city centre, and approximately 20 minutes away by bicycle. http://www.vu.nl
- Universiteit van Amsterdam (University of Amsterdam). The University of Amsterdam began as the the Athenaeum Illustre in 1632. In 1877 it became the University of Amsterdam. In December 2003 the university had an enrollment of just over 23,000 students. UvA is located on three separate campuses located throughout the city centre. http://www.uva.nl
Many people plan to move to Amsterdam for a year to relax before "settling down". This plan often falls apart at the job phase. Many people will find it difficult to get a suitable job if they do not speak Dutch. However, many hostels need bar staff, night porters etc. who speak English and other languages. EU Citizens do not require a work visa (may not be available to citizens of 2004 Accession countries yet). Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians can avail of a one year working-holiday visa. As per 1 October 2004, a work permit is no longer required for "knowledge migrants" earning a gross annual salary of at least ? 45,000 plus (or ? 33,000 plus for those under 30 years of age).
Many flea markets where you can find cheap but nice clothes, books, antiques, and souvenirs dot the city during the week and weekends.
- Albert Cuyp. Largest market in Amsterdam. Mondays through Saturdays until 5 p.m.
- Waterlooplein. The famous flea market of Amsterdam. Mondays through Saturdays until 5 p.m.
- Lindengracht. Saturdays. Another large market.
More about Amsterdam markets (with opening times) can be found at: http://www.expatica.com/index.asp?pad=13,36,&item_id=62 or at:
One of the main shopping streets for new stuff is the car-free Kalverstraat, which leads roughly from Dam square, in the center of old-town to Munt Plein. You'll find branches of most of the designer boutiques in Europe here, the catalan Zara being one example.
Directly across Dam Square from the opening of Kalverstaat is Nieuwendijk, where you'll find an equally vibrant alternative shopping area for everything from T-shirts advertising your favorite rock band, to cannabis growing supplies to designer clothing for Goths.
Of course there are also thousands of unique little shops scattered around
the city. These present the real fun of shopping in Amsterdam. Quite a
few are located in the picturesque canal-lined neighborhood of the Jordaan:
- Santa Jet, Prinsenstraat 7, 020 427 2070. This little boutiques specializes in hand-made imports from Latin America. You can find everything from mini shines made of tin, to lamps, to kitchy postcards.
If you, or someone you shop for has kids Amsterdam presents a fabulous
shopping opportunity. There are toy stores, and clothing shops for kids on
almost every block, especially once you get a little way out from the
A give-away shop can be found at Singel 267, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 1700-1900 and Saturdays 1200-1700.
- Bloemenmarket, the flower market is where you can get some tulip bulbs or other flowers.
- De Beeldenwinkel Sculpture Gallery (http://www.theninestreets.com/de-beeldenwinkel-sculpture-gallery.html): This is a gallery for sculpture lovers - they have a great selection of sculptures including bronze statues, pottery, abstract sculpture, raku-fired statues and marble figures sculpture to suit every budget and taste.
Take advantage of the diversity of restaurants... especially Asian. The influence of the Dutch colonial past is apparent; Indonesian food is usually excellent, while Indian is often expensive and of poor quality. Surinamese food is widely available and worth a try. For Chinese food (generally good and cheap) check out the Zeedijk/Nieuwmarkt area. Also very good value are the numerous Falafel bars scattered around town, often sporting a "all you can pile" salad bar. And the Vlaamse Frites -- large french fries served with mayonnaise -- are great.
Local cheese is marvelous, buy some at the Albert Cuyp market. Don't forget to taste the main culinary contribution of the Amsterdammers to the world: Heineken - oh, except you've already done that, and it doesn't taste any better in Holland. Try some of the other excellent beers you can get from this part of the world - including Witbeer. Also check out "bitterballen", a kind of fried meatball, and the "kroketten" (the same, but shaped like a cilinder). Last but not least, don't forget to try the "broodje haring" (herring sandwich), available from the dozens of fish stalls that scatter the city. (And if they ask "with onions and gherkins?", just say "of course"!)
- Odette and Yvette, Herengracht 309 1016AV Amsterdam This is a fantastic spot to watch the world go by, situated directly on the Herengracht Buffet van Odette and Yvette has a terrace overlooking the water. Great place for breakfast and lunch and Sunday lunch reading the papers is a real treat. They use mainly organic produce of the highest quality and everything is homemade to their own recipes. You can also hire the restaurant in the evenings for a private dinner, for birthdays, celebrations or just to get together with friends - see http://www.theninestreets.com/buffet-odette-and-yvette.html
- En Route, Hobbemakade 63, tel 020-6711263. En Route offers the French cuisine for very reasonable prices (euro 22,50 for three courses). The chef changes his surprisingly good and creative dishes every week. Just opened, still fresh and comfortable!
- Proust, Noordermarkt 4. Tel. 020-6239145. Proust is a little off the beaten path, near the intersection of Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht, but it's worth a visit for the inexpensive and satisfying meals as well as the company: It's a favorite with locals.
- Dimitrij, Prinsenstraat 3. Offering dozens of interesting sandwiches and salads, mostly on an Italian model Dimitrij is a must for at least one lunch, and it's on a street which is packed with an ever-changing lineup of fun boutiques.
- La Margarita, Reguliersdwarsstraat 49, near the flower market. Tel. 020 623 07 07. Open 17.00-23.00, reservations accepted. This caribbean restaurant offers a huge range of plates, including three different vegetarian options. Every dish comes with ample sides of white rice, black beans, plantains, and vegetables. In addition to having great food the restaurant is decked out with a range of fantastic and magic-realist art. If you like your food hot be sure to ask for the special home-made hot sauce. 20-30 Euro per person, with drinks.
- Green Planet, Spuistraat 122. Behind Dam Square. Superb food, which happens to be vegetarian, from an enthustiastic and imaginative young Austrian chef. We spent 25 euros each for two courses and drinks, including great crostini, an authentic curry with a pile of basmati and wild rice encrusted in sesame seeds, and a great vegan "cheesecake". A word of warning, they don't take cr cards.
- Maoz Falafel, everywhere - see http://www.maoz.nl/, including outside of Centraal Station and the Bloemenmarkt. Great falafel, with self service salads and sauces for €3.50.
- Gary's Muffins (http://www.garys-muffins.com/) is a pleasant, warm cafe with oversized cups of coffee, muffins and bagels galore. It's a combination of a New York deli and a California cafe where American-style products are baked on location and available to eat there or to take away. Muffins, brownies, giant cookies, cheesecake and bagels spread with various toppings are served at reasonable prices to a clientele that is a mix of locals, tourists, and expatriates hungry for a taste of home. There are 3 locations in the city
- Rembrandt Corner, Jodenbreestr, aorund the corner of the "Rembrandt Huis" is a very nice "Eetcafe" with fresh food, wireless hot spots and internet workplaces. Try the dish of the day or the mussels, this seems to be always a good choice!
- External link: Iens Independent Index (http://www.iens.nl/english/index.htms?) of restaurants in the Netherlands, also with Amsterdam-section. Descriptions often aren't available in English, but pricing and opening hours are.
- Q?s Café - Ruysdaelkade, De Pijp (Opposite the flower boat). Q's is worth a visit with its pleasant canal setting just around the corner from the Albert Cuyp Market. It does a wide variety of sandwiches (hot and cold) at extremely reasonable prices, as well as pancakes, soups and all day cooked breakfast. It also stocks a really good beer from the south of Holland and is the only place in the city that serves it. Definitely at least worth one of their excellent coffees which come in a variety of flavours. http://www.qscafe.nl
- Cafe de Jaren - Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22, next to Hotel d'Europe and a great view of where all the main canals come together.
An agenda of all types of happenings, from alternative to mainstream, can be found on this website: http://www.underwateramsterdam.com/
- Schuim Spuistraat 189, +31 20 638 93 57. The super comfy cafe is a great place to spend entire rainy days at a time. It heats up quite a bit at night. Pot smoking seems to be tolerated even though Schuim is definitely not a "coffee shop".
- Vrankrijk Spuistraat 216. The most well-known and permanent squat café in Amsterdam has been a fixture on Spuistraat for over eighteen years. You have to ring at the door to be let in (the black door on the right with a single buzzer, please don't bother the people living in the building at the yellow-and-black checkered door on the left!), but once inside, you will find a super-cozy bar with an all-volunteer staff and the best prices in the inner city. All profits go to support various good causes. Open every night of the week, special nights are Monday night: queer night; Tuesday night: fancy cocktails to support refugees; Saturday night: dance night, the café's cavernous disco hall is opened for a mix of 80s, ska, and new wave; Sunday night: film night. Sunday through Thursday: 9pm - 1am; Friday and Saturday: 10pm - 3am. http://www.vrankrijk.org/
- In De Wildeman Kolksteeg 3. A very well stocked beercafe, or actually beer tasting room (bierproeflokaal) in the center of the inner city. 17 beers (usually from various countries) and a cider on draught, and about 250 different bottled beers offered. There is no music played, which makes for a very friendly and talkative atmosphere, and it even has a separate non-smoking room.
- Gollem Raamsteeg 4. A special beer café, serving many beers, especially from Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and other countries. http://www.cafegollem.nl/
- Brouwerij 't IJ (http://www.brouwerijhetij.nl/eng/index.html) Or in English The IJ Brewery (on its label some word-play is made between the word IJ and the word for egg, which in Dutch sounds the same. An ostrich has just laid one) . At the fringe of the centre in the Eastern part of town, close to the Zoo, the Tropical Institute and the Dapperstreet Market is, in a former bath house, and with a proud windmill on its top, a small scale brewery where delicious beer in several varieties and strenghts is being brewed and sold - at a bar - on the premises. Check their website for hours. The beer is available at some specialist beer shops, and of high quality and, in some cases, alcohol content. Internationally renowned!
- Melkweg (http://www.melkweg.nl/) - multimedia centre in Amsterdam with live-music, theater, photography, cinema, special events and parties.
- Paradiso (http://www.paradiso.nl/) - music venue with truly excellent acoustics.
- Heineken Music Hall (http://www.heineken-music-hall.nl/) - larger-scale music venue, best reached by train (train station Amsterdam Bijlmer) or metro/subway.
- Concertgebouw (http://www.concertgebouw.nl/) - Famous for its orchestra and its accoustics (among the top ten in the world), this is the world's most frequently visited concert hall. Classical music is the main fare, but they also bring other kinds of music on stage. In the same building is the "Kleine Zaal" or "Small Hall" for more intimate performances, often top-notch also. The building is near the major three museums on the Museum Square.
- Bimhuis (http://www.bimhuis.nl/index.php?&lang=en) - jazz and improvised music.
- Last Waterhole (http://www.waterhole.nl) - Light rock/funk jam sessions in a dingy but atmospheric bar with pooltables.
- Rent-A-Bike Frederic, Phone +31(0)20 624 5509. Frederic has branched out, and now runs a service for booking apartments for a few days at a time. Rent a room in a home, an apartment, or a whole houseboat. Then rent a bike for only 10 Euros a day. http://www.frederic.nl/
- The White Tulip, Warmoesstraat 87 Phone +31 (0)20 6255974 (Fax +31 (0)20 4201299. About 5 minute walk from the main station. Dorms and a few rooms right in the middle of things. Really a basic crash-pad, but quiet and relaxed due to their 'No large groups' policy. $10-30(per person). http://www.wittetulp.nl/
- Hans Brinker Hostel Great hostel, nice bar inside.
- Hotel Y Boulevard, Prins Hendrikkade 145. Located in the city center but on a quiet part of the riverfront. Not a hostel, but a hotel with guests from both vacations and businesses. Nice rooms, classy atmosphere, free breakfast. http://www.channels.nl/10867b.html
- Flying Pig, Vossiusstraat 46 (The Palace) and Nieuwendijk 100 (Downtown). (detailed directions and contact info on the site). Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Lots of students/young adults stay here. Wide range of prices and accommodations, from 20 Euro for a dorm bed to 70 Euro for a private room. There are three Flying Pigs in Amsterdam - Downtown, The Beach and the Palace. The Palace is supposed to be the nicer (and cleaner) compared to the Downtown location. http://www.flyingpig.nl
- Stayokay Vondelpark, Zandpad 5, Phone +31 (0)20 589 89 96. Fairly large youth hostel, very clean and professional. Next to the pleasant Vondelpark, puts you on the southern side of downtown and just a few blocks from the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. The breakfast is filling and has a social atmosphere. This location is popular with school groups. Bring a padlock for your locker, or purchase one at the desk. Stayokay Vondelpark (http://www.stayokay.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Herbergen.showHomeHB&lng=2&id=3&lng=2)
- Stayokay Stadsdoelen, Kloveniersburgwal 97, Phone +31 (0)20 624 68 32. Stayokay operates a network of 30 hostels in the Netherlands, this hostel is the Amsterdam city centre location. A little smaller than Stayokay Vondelpark, this location does not take groups. Stayokay Stadsdoelen (http://www.stayokay.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Herbergen.showHomeHB&lng=2&id=36)
- The Shelter, Barndesteeg 21, Phone +31 (0) 20 - 62 44 717. Two alcohol & drug free christian youth hostels in the heart of Amsterdam. Great value for money. Single-sex dormitories (including breakfast, bed linen) from 17 Euros. http://www.shelter.nl
- Bulldog, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220, Phone +31 20 620 38 22. Friendly, cheap hostel right in the heart of the red light district. Great second choice when the more popular Flying Pig is full. Breakfast, sheets, shower and a locker starting at 22 Euros. The Bulldog Coffeshop is conveniently located on the ground floor (also where you get your breakfast). No curfew like the christian hostels. http://www.bulldog.nl
- *** Borgmann Villa Hotel (http://www.hotel-borgmann.nl) is old brick villa with large windows, tastefully modernised with pale decor with 15 rooms, located right on the border of the Vondelpark. Near to museum zone and Leidseplein. Beautiful surroundings (Vondelpark). Easy to join by car from the motorway - parking places just in front (12? per day). Wireless Internet Access. See at http://www.hotel-borgmann.nl
- Rembrandtplein Hotel, Amsterdam Groenbrugwal 27. Beautiful but sometimes tiny mid-priced (70-90 Euros) rooms within easy walking distance of all parts of central Amsterdam, just a block from the flower market. Extremely friendly staff of various nationalities keep the bar open all night for guests, and serve a fabulous free breakfast.
- Bastion Hotels €70 per night for a double in a comfortable, but soulless "four star" hotel near OverAmstel metro. 10 minutes walk then 10 minutes train ride to Centraal Station. But without pedestrian access to the road - you have to take you chance with the traffic.
- Rokin Hotel. A nice place in 2 renovated 17th century mansions. Good atmosphere and top location in the center. The hotel has a private parking. We enjoyed the breakfast. Very clean and good atmosphere. See their website at http://www.rokinhotel.com
- RHo Hotel. One can have good time at this hotel on Dam square in the middle of the city. Friendly staff. Although the hotel is in the city center rooms are quiet. Parking available. http://www.rhohotel.com
- Hotel Luxer. located right in the centre of Amsterdam's old and historical heart. It is a newly built 3-star hotel with 47 excellently furnished rooms that all have colour television, bath/shower/toilet as well as a telephone. See http://hotelluxer.tobook.com
- Hotel Piet Hein, Vossuistraat 52-53, Phone +31 20 662 72 05. Three star hotel with newly renovated rooms, crisp bedding, great air conditioning, elevator, nice breakfast and sparkling bathrooms. Very clean and neat, modern lounge with large screen computers and internet access. Location is fabulous - short walk to museums, Leidseplein and Vondel Park. The more expensive rooms are in a new annex in the back overlooking beautiful garden. Cheaper rooms are in the front older building - slightly less modern and sparkling (no air conditioning), but clean, comfortable and huge windows overlooking beautiful Vondel Park. http://www.hotelpiethein.nl
- Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel 2 (http://www.renaissancehotels.com), Kattengat 1. Phone +31 20 621 22 23. A four star with conference center located just off of Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal, the Renaissance also offers wireless internet access in the lobby and café.
- Hotel Okura 3 (http://www.okura.nl), Ferdinand Bolstraat 333, Phone +31 20 671 23 44. This five star hotel offers excellent rooms and a range of services including Swisscom (http://www.swisscom.com) wireless service in the lobby, bar, and conference rooms. Being Japanese owned and operated the hotel also has an excellent range of Japanese food, clothing, and book shops in the basement. The only drawback is that it's relatively distant from the central station (15 minutes by tram). If work is paying, and you don't mind taking cabs, this joint is worth considering.
- Hotel Ambassade 4 (http://www.ambassade-hotel.nl), Herengracht 341. Phone +31 20 555 0 222. This four-star hotel offers a great Amsterdam experience. In the middle of the canal zone, the hotel offers superb doubles and singles, most of them with a beautiful view on the canal. The hotel is also famous for the writers that have stayed here and left a signed copy of their books in the hotel's library.
- Hotel Krasnapolsky Amsterdam 5 (http://www.hotel-assist.nl/amsterdam/nh_grand_hotel_krasnapolsky_amsterdam/), Dam 9 Amsterdam. This luxurious 5-star hotel is situated in the very heart of Amsterdam at Dam square (De Dam), opposite the Royal Palace. It is surrounded by department stores, boutiques and shopping alleys. Numerous sights, museums and theatres in the historic city centre are all within walking distance.
- Estherea 6 (http://www.estherea.nl), Singel 303-309. Hotel Estheréa is ideally located on one of the most beautiful and quiet canals in the centre of the city, only 300 metres from the Dam Square and the Royal Palace. Central Station, the most important shopping streets, museums and theatres are all within walking distance. Hidden behind an elegant 17th century facade is a comfortable four star hotel with 75 recently renovated rooms.
There are a number of telephone centers near the central train station. The country code for the Netherlands is 31, and Amsterdam's city code is 020. For phone calls from within the Netherlands dial 020 to start.
If making local calls to reserve hotel rooms or restaurants, or calls to other cities in the country, you will need a phone card (5 Euro minimum) as many green KPN telephone booths do not accept coins. Blue/orange Telfort booths accept both coins and cards. The KPN booths are currently being replaced by newer models, which will accept coins again.
- Amsterdam Network Collective 7 (http://www.amsterdam-wireless.nl/front/)
- ASCII 8 (http://scii.nl/) is a free public internet space run by hackers and activists, whose location can vary over time-- currently at Javastraat 38hs, walking distance from train station Muiderpoort.
Some areas are teeming with tourists, and thus pickpockets, so keep your bag close. Announcers in trams and public buildings such as Central Station will warn about pickpockets, but don't rely on the thieves to wait for fair warning. A well known spot for pickpockets is around the 'Dam' square or the Red Light District.
Groups of women visiting the Red Light District at night might feel harassed in the aggressive environment, though this is said to be the safest area around because of the police presence. Keep to main streets and groups. The Red Light District is generally safe, and although the police have a fairly low profile there, don't cause trouble, or you might find plain clothes officers appearing out of nowhere. Do not take photographs of the prostitutes.
You may be approached by people offering to sell you drugs in the street. A firm refusal is enough. The selling of drugs in the street is illegal and often dangerous. When they invite you to see the goods, they can lure you into a narrow street and rob you. Near the central station and the shopping area, people might ask you about cheap hotels. Ignore it, since most often they will bring you to a hotel which is not cheap at all. It is not legal to do this. Also ignore beggars since they can be quite rude and giving them money is not allowed.
When on foot, do not use bike lanes as side-walks. Some bike lanes along canals or the Amstel river are treacherously like pedestrian paths, purpose-made for tourists. They are not. Their colour and the image of a bike on the ground will give them away. Vice versa don't expect cyclists to be kind to pedestrians: many consider the side-walk an extension of the road, to be used whenever it suits them. Watch out for trams coming out of nowhere. And know that on some roads taxis may (or just will) use the part of the road reserved for trams. When on a bike, be prepared for the erratic movements of your gable-staring fellow tourists near or onto the bike lane. Use your bicycle bell. That is what it is for and people (even tourists) quickly learn that it means to move out of the way. Bikes left in the street often get stolen, use a chain to secure them and make certain you string it through the frame and front wheel, and wherever possible some fixed thing like a lamp post.
Direct trains connect Amsterdam to Paris, to major Belgian cities like Brussels and Antwerp, and to German cities like Cologne, Frankfurt or Berlin.
Almost everywhere in the Netherlands can be reached within 3 hours travel from Amsterdam, by public transport. To make more sense, day trips can be divided into those very close to the city (about 30 minutes by public transport) and further afield.
Under 45 minutes away
Haarlem is the closest of the historic cities, only 20 minutes by train. Smaller towns just outside Amsterdam (all within cycling distance) include:
- Weesp, nearest small town to Amsterdam (12 minutes by train), with a quiet historic centre on the Vecht river.
- Muiden, formerly a small port at the mouth of the Vecht river, with the best-known castle in the Netherlands, Muiderslot. Bus line 136, from Amstel Station, about 20 minutes, the line continues to Naarden.
- Naarden, surrounded by a complete ring of 17th-century fortifications. Bus line 136, from Amstel Station, about 30 minutes.
- Zaandam, just 12 minutes by train. Two stations further is the windmill collection and open-air museum at Zaanse Schans9 (http://www.diza.nl/schans/eng/index2.html) - 17 minutes by train to Koog-Zaandijk station, 10 minutes walk.
- Monnickendam, a small 17th-century port town, 20 minutes by bus lines 110, 111, 114, 115, or 116. All buses to Monnickendam stop at the 'picturesque' village of Broek in Waterland, a tourist destination since the 19th century: 15 minutes from Amsterdam.
- Volendam - once a fishing village, now the most commercialised tourist destination in the Netherlands. 30 minutes by bus, but fortunately they all continue to Edam.
The historic cites of Utrecht, Amersfoort, and Leiden, and the smaller historic town of Alkmaar, are 30 to 35 minutes away by train. So is Zandvoort, the nearest beach resort. The historic port of Hoorn is 40 minutes away by train, and the smaller historic port of Edam is 40 minutes by bus (lines 111, 112, 114, 116, 117).
About one hour away
Rotterdam, The Hague, Den Bosch, Apeldoorn, and Arnhem all take about one hour by train. A slightly longer journey, 70 minutes, takes you to the historic cities of Zwolle and Deventer, by then you are already in the Eastern Netherlands.
The smaller historic town of Enkhuizen is also one hour away by train, it has a large open-air museum 10 (http://www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl) showing how people used to live around the former sea, Zuiderzee. Several other smaller historic towns are within an hour by train.
See the main Netherlands article for other destinations.