I know that many of you have been to Amsterdam a lot and probably know a lot… please pass it along. I haven’t been to enough of this city yet – but it’s worth going back to!
Just two short hours on the autobahn and you’re in Amsterdam, a beautiful city full or parks, museums, great restaurants, the infamous district, and friendly people who speak English almost as well as we do. A perfect weekend or a long day-trip by car or train, there’s no reason to live this close and not go at least once.
This city doesn’t sleep often, so you won’t find shops and restaurants closed much. Parking can be expensive, but isn’t necessarily. It’s all timing. We parked in the canal ring area right by the canal and just fed the parking box for the time we thought we’d stay, but we also showed up on a church holiday, so though everything was open, there weren’t big crowds of tourists either. There are a lot of parking garages as well that might be better on crowded days.
Parking: I’ve never had a problem parking in Amsterdam, but meters can get expensive and it can be very difficult and expensive to park, so, you can also park the car outside the Amsterdam city limits in a P&R parking lot for only 6 Euro for the entire day. There is a parking attendant. This price includes 2 train tickets to Central Station which is within walking distance to the canal ring and Western Side. The train ride into town takes 5 minutes and trains run every 15 min.
Resources: The DK Amsterdam guide is a phenomenal resource that includes detailed walking tours of the canal ring with information on specific homes on the ring with their dates and histories.
- http://amsterdam.spottedbylocals.com This is a fairly new site written in English by Amsterdam residents reviewing local restaurants and things to do. It’s a great site to check out before your next trip.
- http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/netherlands/amsterdam/ Fodor’s guide to Amsterdam.
The Canal Ring:
Beautiful, atmospheric, picturesque. A relaxing stroll along the boat lined canal with it’s historic homes and quaint cafes and you won’t want to leave. It’s a photographers/artists dream. Beauty, history, and culture. People of all types. Food fusions on every corner. This is my favorite part of Amsterdam and where you’ll find the historic Anne Frank house. Do go early there as the lines can get quite long, but don’t be discouraged either by the lines. They traditionally go fairly quickly.
Nieuwe Zijde (Western Side):
A quick walk from the canal ring and you’re in mish mash of shopping, old buildings, monuments, and tourist lures all thrown together around a large rectangular space called the Dam. There you’ll see the old Koninklijk Paleis (Town Hall) just between from Madame Tussauds Scenerama and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). Across the square you’ll find a large diamond dealer and the Nationaal Monument – a memorial to the Dutch who lost their lives in WW2.
Busy with locals and tourists alike, you’ll find quaint shopping streets stemming off from behind the New Church and a beautiful mall just a block behind the Town Hall. Allow yourself to wander and you’ll find Nes, Amsterdam’s oldest street and the Historisch Museum jut off of St. Luciensteeg. This is a walking town… I suggest you bring a map and good shoes. (photos above: the outside and insides of a very nice shopping mall — photos below: the inside of the New Church, Madame Tussauds, and the National Monument)
Along the way…
If you’re making Amsterdam a weekend trip and want to fit in another activity, here’s a brief list of some other things in the area that are fun to do:
- Alkmaar has it’s famous cheese market on Friday mornings. It also has a nice shopping area with an Oilily outlet.
- Gouda is another nice cheese town with a beautiful town center that can easily be a lunch stop on the way out of town.
- Kinderdijk is a MUST SEE – a beautiful canal walk with 19 windmills. One you can tour and the others are lived in. Walk or bicycle this one. It’s amazing.
- Den Haag is the capital of The Netherlands and the home of several museums including the Mauritshuis museum which houses several paintings by Johann Vermeer.
- Keukenhof Gardens (March – May) – Millions of bulbs in bloom in the country most known for the tulips… this is a must go. Do check the website for dates. They are usually only open from the end of March to mid-May.
- Scheveningen – a long beach with a lot of people. This one is probably a bit too crowded in the summer months with parking nearly impossible, but it is a nice wide beach with a lot of restaurants, inflatable kids climbing things, and other family activities.
My quick weekend trip in June of 2006: Day one — Drive up early, then visit The Hague and the Mauritshuis museum. Day two — Amsterdam until early evening, then a drive to Scheveningen for dinner on the beach and some play time. Day three — Walk around Gouda and stop for lunch then drive to Kinderdijk and walk along the windmill lined paths. Return home. Lodging: Stayed in Aarlanderveen at a farmhouse found at: http://www.dutch-farmholidays.com/hvfrkaartuk.htm Click on Zuid Holland, then look for Aarlanderveen’s Groene Hart. We stayed at Hoeve Suydeinde and really enjoyed it. Nice family, quiet area.