Visiting Amsterdam

I finally visited Amsterdam on the weekend, with the hubby. The capital city is an hour’s train journey from Rotterdam, where we stay.

Getting around anywhere in Holland is very easy, thanks to the comprehensive coverage of public transport, one of the world’s best. If you are coming from Schipol airport Amsterdam, you can take a metro or a train that connects you any city of the country. Amsterdam is 10 minutes by train from Schipol.

The moment you step out at Amsterdam Centraal, the main station, you won’t miss the IAmsterdam guides wearing red coats, who are tourism-department employees who help you with information you may need to get around the city. Trams originate from the central station; be sure to ask the guide which route your stop comes at.

For our visit, our first stop was the Anne Frank Huis, the museum in the restored building that housed the Frank family during German occupation of the city. Having read the book several times, it was very moving to see the place where the family lived. The house faces the beautiful canal Prinsengracht Canal, one of the three main waterways in the city. If you plan on visiting the museum, it is advised that you book your tickets online at leasta week in advance, to avoid the long queue.

(Below Right: Anne Frank Huis, Left: Canal facing the Anne Frank Huis)

We realized that almost every tourist-worthy place in the city is within walking distance, and we had made the mistake of buying a full-day tram pass for 7 €. As you walk down the Prinsengracht, head towards the Dam square , which is the social center and life of the city. (Below: the Prinsengracht canal)

Dam square was abuzz with activity, street performers, parties, tourists, pubs and restaurants, and oh yes, it also houses the Royal Palace, and the city’s most popular mall, De Bijenkorf. While the medieval architecture is spell-binding itself, what’s even more riveting are the horse drawn carriages that keep going down the side streets in Dam Sq.  These offer city tours at a price.

By the time we reached Dam Sq, we were ravenous, and were on the lookout for a good lunch place. I’v always been one for trying local cuisine wherever we go, but the Dutch don’t have much of a cuisine to call their own. Good options in food here have Turkish, French and Italian influences. We spotted an Argentinian grill house and ordered a chicken grill and bbq ribs with bread on the side. And yes, Heineken while we were at it.

After lunch and a stroll to take in the sights of the streets, we walked right into the Red Light district, for which A’Dam has achieved its dubious distinction.

The experience was both extremely freakish and sad at the same time. The famed windows which are used for soliciting, face the most beautiful canals, and despite knowing that I was in the seedier part
of the city, the beauty of the streets could not be ignored. All kinds of tourists throng this area, some like me to see what the fuss was all about, some – like a group a teens, giggling and gawking in a mix of fascination and disgust, some families with babies, laughing away in amusement, and several (hordes in fact) of men with a “mission”.

Look closely at this picture, notice the baby in the pram, bang in front of the museum of “other delights”? Its all part of co-existence methinks.

In terms of options for food and drink, Amsterdam is well known for its bars and restaurants. Not to forget the patisseries, bakeries, etc.

We stopped at this small bakery to pick up some chocolate muffins:

Finally, the place that I had been planning on for some time before our trip… a bar called “In de Wildeman”. Rustic charm and copious amounts of beer on tap (18 varieties), are its selling points. I was sadly, too stuffed to drink anything, so took a few

sips of the hubby’s English tap beer (forgot the exact name) and quite liked it.

While we managed to get a lot of food and drink into one trip to the capital, we missed out on some of the biggest to-do’s : The Rijksmuseum, which houses the best of Rembrandt, and that landmark, the Van Gogh museum. But given a choice and with around 8 hours in a city, I think I would not regret passing up art for food!


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