Amsterdam wrapped up

After a covid-y cock up where I moved to Edinburgh, back to the fam-jam in Canada, to England, and then back to Amsterdam – I am currently living in the EXACT room where I stayed 5 years ago (good thing I don’t compare myself to other people or I would be so embarrassed right now). It’s like the last 3 years never happened- right back where I started! Spicay life moments.

Must-sees for short stays

Explore the canals, if you don’t end up renting a bike since you are too scared (rightly so) then explore by foot. Amsterdam is a small big city so you can walk everywhere if you have good shoes or if your bike breaks and the tram isn’t running due to a power outage. From Central Station (north) to the south by RAI Convention Center it is an hour if you briskly walk.

The Jordaan is a beautiful area with pubs, the Negen Straatjes are stellar for boutique shopping and Haarlemmerdijk closer to Central Station is also gorgeous. Leidseplein is very touristy. Rembrandtplein is lively with such places as Coco’s Outback. De Pijp is de Best- fantastic ramen at Takumni (also has a Leidseplein location), Little Collins or Bakers and Roasters for brunch, Coffee and Coconuts for a schnack. You can make your own pub crawl as I have done:

Biking

If you choose to brave the biking situation (don’t say I didn’t warn you, I ring my bell with a firey fury and don’t stop for anyone, leaving path of destruction in my wake). The Netherlands bike path routes are so extensive you can literally bike to anywhere from anywhere. There are even traffic lights for bikes! In the centre, you can bike underneath the Rijksmuseum, which is badass. There is an archway that pedestrians can take to enter the museum but instead, you plough through them on a bike path.

If you are in Amsterdam for a short while and want to get out and stretch those legs without killing yourself in the downtown core, then head to Oudekerk aan de Amstel. This route follows the Amstel River south to get to a small town called Oudekerk aan de Amstel (Old Church on the Amstel) and then loops back on the other side of the river, taking roughly 35 minutes each way by bike. You can start from pretty much anywhere since the bike path (Amsteldijk) follows the river but it is nicer with double bike lanes, which are more towards Amstel Park. Amstel Park is also lovely, you aren’t supposed to ride your bike inside and the gates do close at night but there is a free petting zoo (just push on the gate that you see other people going through). There are llamas!

The exact bike route

Start on the east side of Amstel Park and follow the Amsteldijk south. Once you hit a roundabout you will see the Riekermloen (windmill). Tourist buses sometimes come here but normally there aren’t many people who know about it. Continue following the main path. There is a restaurant near the river that is nice to stop at for a drink and bitterballen (Dutch deep-fried ragout). In the summer there are loads of bees/ wasps if you sit outside. Continue down until you get to a bridge. Across the street is Oudekerk aan de Amstel which is a nice spot for lunch or gelato. Loetje is a good restaurant chain, Paardenburg forgot about us when we were there so we waited 2 hours with no food so I can’t remember what the food tasted like. You will see on the other side of the river a bike path. Take that path back. If you want to end up back at Amstel Park, you will need to go up a (massive) hill and cross over the highway bridge. It is safe since there is a set bike path which will end up at the northmost end of Amstel Park.

More days, more fun!

If you have more than a couple days then try going stepping outside of Amsterdam proper. I have a list of Dutch towns that I’ve explored.

Discount cards

There are a few cost-saving cards that are available, but I have only gotten one so naturally, I am the most suitable person to make a recommendation about all of them.

Iamsterdam City Card and Museum Card

In general, city cards only work (can save you money) if you had planned to do everything on the list and actually do everything on that list. That sentence makes sense, just re-read it a couple times. One thing I can say about the Iamsterdam city card is that I don’t think the Anne Frank House is covered with it, which may or may not be true. However, if you are a museum fanatic and can’t get enough of those one-eared works of art then I suggest the Dutch Museum Card instead. It costs a staggering €64.90 and is valid for 365 days BUT if you attend 5 of the major Amsterdam heavy hitter museums such as the Rijksmuseum, van Gogh, Anne Frank House, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, and Rembrandt House it will save you money. You also skip the ticket line which is a bonus.

Another BIG plus if I do say so myself is the useful feature of being able to use the museum toilets. Amsterdam, like other European countries, charges for toilet use (the top floor of the fancy schmancy Bijenkorf at Dam square department store has a free toilet). SO if you need relief, why not go to one of the museums using your free (already paid for) museum card and use those lush toilets?

GVB Public Transport Card

This GVB card is valid only in Amsterdam and only for the bus, tram and metro within the city. It’s maybe a good deal but I recommend not buying it. I suggest rather, upon arriving at Schiphol airport, you buy an anonymous OV chip card. It costs €7.50 (non-refundable) but you load money on it and it can be used throughout the Netherlands on all transport (trains, bus, metro, tram). You need to load a minimum 20 euro amount on it though, in order to take the train and for public transport such as the metro the minimum is 5 euros. In order to top it up you can go to any of the machines. If I remember correctly, only a few machines in Amsterdam Centraal accept coins so you will need to use your credit or debit card. You can buy it from the cashier booths I am pretty sure along with little kiosks in the airport such as Bruno.

This whole process seems a bit tedious if you are not travelling that much by public transport or are not in Amsterdam/ Netherlands for a long time. I suggest asking a local friend if they have an extra card they aren’t using in order to avoid the €7.50 fee OR if you do buy one you can actually get your loaded money back (less a service fee) from the ticket counter as long as it is under 30 euros (you need to fill out a bureaucratic form first when you go to do this and need a piece of ID). Since the canals are the major thing to see, I would suggest walking or biking over taking public transport. So essentially, you really only need to pay for the train from the airport to the city centre if you are cheap and not lazy.

Museums

Speaking of museums. Since I had a museum card and I am stingy I ended up seeing 23 museums. What’s my favourite you ask? Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (€16.50). Don’t ask what it translates to or what the museum is about since it’s a surprise. If you hate surprises or religion you may not love it but it is one of the only museums where I listened to every part of the audio tour so that’s saying something. I realize with my previous comment that some of you may have imagined that you walk into the museum and get baptized or something SURPRISE! Don’t worry, it is nothing like that.

Rijksmuseum has the Nacht Wacht (Night Watch) by Rembrandt along with heaps of other awesome stuff so it’s a good one if you want to see the main museum in Amsterdam. The other museums are very specific so unless you’re super into pipe smoking or purses there is no need to go into them (unless you have a museum card and need to go to the toilet).

FOR ALL MAJOR museums I recommend pre-booking, especially for the Anne Frank House. The lineup is outrageous throughout the year and tickets sell out quick online so you almost need to book about a month in advance in the summer. I tried to book four days ahead of time and it was all sold out for the entire week.

Tourist things

The canal cruises are mediocre at best. It is cool to see the canals from this view but they cost a lot and the one we went on had this pre-recorded audio tour which was rubbish and then in the end the guy wanted a tip. Not to mention the fact that my ass stuck to the plastic seats in the mildly warm August air.

Heineken Experience is okay if you really like beer and Heineken. There is a lot of advertising in it but you do get two beers (or at least you did) and you see how beer is made and how Heineken gets poured (spoiler alert: the normal way). Usually, there are long lines so be prepared to wait or pre-buy tickets.

I’ve never gone into the Ice Bar but my friend worked there and she is hilarious so I am sure you would have a good time if she ends up working there again. It is made for tourists so don’t expect authentic Dutch culture while you drink out of an ice mug in an Xtra cold setting.

I admit the first time my friends came over to visit me I didn’t know where to take them so we ended up at Madame Tussauds. It sounds French and fancy but it’s a wax museum. In all fairness, it was not great weather so we wanted an indoor activity so this is what we decided on. Not great, not shit.

Parks

Vondelpark is in the city center and it’s where locals sit and chill, play outdoor games and run amuck. You can also ride your bike around there, which is great. When it is sunny it is a gong show so that is why I recommend the quieter (but more out of the city) Amstelpark. In Amstelpark you are not supposed to ride your bike or have a BBQ but there is a free petting zoo and some llamas (I’m really keen on llamas)

Cheese please

Old Amsterdam cheese is the tourist version of old Dutch cheese but it is delicious nonetheless. If you are a cheese enthusiast to the point where you’re willing to naw off your arm for some dairy then good news! You can bring cheese back into NORTH AMERICA, you’re on your own if you are from a continent that I am not born in. For real though I don’t know the rules in other countries, but when travelling from Europe to North America (Canada and the USA) you can bring cheese back in your checked bag as long as it doesn’t contain meat by-products and it is wrapped. So those colourful green, yellow and red round cheeses you see are good to go. I thought originally that I needed it to be vacuum sealed in front of my eyes but that’s not the case. However, it can’t be fresh from the farmer’s market, it needs to be sealed in wax or plastic. I am not a lawyer but I think if you get caught with cheese after declaring it and they throw it out, you can’t use “Corrine said I could” as an excuse.

Festivals

Food Festivals

Rollende Keukens the Rolling Kitchens. That’s right. FOOD TRUCKS. It is expensive but the best time ever so if you happen to be in Amsterdam in May, go.

King’s Day

There aren’t really any tips for King’s Day, some people will rent boats for in the canal which sounds great until you need to pee from all that alcohol merriment or if it is raining you’re stuck on a boat with no roof for four hours. Wear orange. You can buy something the day of or if you go into Action or any other store the day before you should be able to find something orange and/or Dutch. When the weather is crap then the day isn’t the best since the street parties all get ruined, but it is still a cool atmosphere. WOW, I was a Debbie Downer there but I am trying to keep it real. Vondelpark has little booths set up by kids who charge money for fun games like egg throwing and squashing a rolling tomato with a hammer. They also have some stands selling food and drinks. By Leidseplein, you will get a lot of street parties since that is where the clubs be at. You can go to a pub if it is raining on Kings Day which is lively. There are music festivals that day all over the Netherlands but you need to buy tickets beforehand. There is one at the RAI Convention Center. The NSDM Warf also has an outdoor party if I am not mistaken but I think it is popular with families. A top tip would be that King’s Night (the night before King’s Day) is when the parties happen.

You’re welcome.

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