Beyond the drugs, stags and dancing girls, take a look through the hazy exterior and discover how Amsterdam has a lot to offer the fussiest of traveller
Not long ago the Netherlands reinforced rules and regulations on immigration, religious freedom and red-light districts. Their tolerance has been tightened but the city is still as amazing as it’s always been.
Jordaan’s lanes are charming, and the Vondelpark remains a magical place to visit. The cafés are thriving, the museums are littered with wonders and everyone still parties like crazy. Amsterdam has a range of festivals all year including Queen’s Day, the Holland Festival and Gay Pride, as well as many concerts on canal stages.
With 37 museums in Amsterdam, even the most cultured of tourists won’t be left disappointed. Buy the I Amsterdam card, which offers admission to 24 museums, and gives you access to unlimited public transport.
For a hefty €15, take a visit to the Heineken museum. In 1988, Heineken stopped brewing here, but kept the building open for tours. The building was renovated as the Heineken Experience; an interesting tour, plus you get to enjoy a free beer at the end of it.
The Sexmuseum is one of two museums devoted to doing the dirty in Amsterdam. The Damrak location, just by Centraal Station, lures in thousands of passing tourists daily. Entry is cheap, and it’s clear why; the museum is filled with a collection of pornographic Victorian photos, ivory body parts, peeling pin-ups and ugly art.
One of the most popular exhibits in Amsterdam is The Anne Frank Huis, which attracts almost a million visitors every year. To avoid the famously long queues, arrive first thing in the morning or after 7pm in summer.
The Rijksmuseum is sometimes called Holland’s treasure trove. It’s the largest museum for art and history in the Netherlands, and remains world famous for its collections. It has five departments and you’ll also find famous works from Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt. Art and history fans shouldn’t miss out on this treat.
Where to eat….
There are many restaurants and cafés offering classic Dutch cuisine to worldwide dishes off the tourist dirt track in this city.
If it’s traditional Dutch dishes you’re after, try Greetje, which also offers French cuisine. The service is very professional and as it’s located down a quiet street close to Central station, you’ll find local diners. Reservations required.
(020) 779 74 50
Located just off the far end of the De Pijp neighbourhood is Sari Citra. Sari Citra is one of the tastiest and most affordable Indonesian restaurants in town. The staff will happily build a plate for you so be sure to try several of the dishes.
Ferdinand Bolstraat 52,Amsterdam www.iens.nl/restaurant/amsterdam/restaurant.htms?r=5360
Amsterdam’s best kept secret until now is Jerry's Eetcafe. This very cheap and small restaurant has great food and service with fantastic views, but make sure you reserve if there’s more than 6 of you. The restaurant is shared with a gym, but swing past it, head up the stairs and you’ll feel welcome once you’ve stepped foot into Jerry’s!
Ferdinand Bolstraat 52, Amsterdam
Where to stay...
The Lloyd Hotel is located a short tram ride away from the centre of Amsterdam. It was designed in 1918 and was once a prison, where the resemblance can be seen when you walk in. The corridors are long and winding, and rooms are small and basic but with surprisingly comfortable beds. Make sure you opt for en-suite otherwise you’ll be sharing your bathroom and shower with everyone else down your corridor. Breakfast is tasty but pricey.
Oostelijke Handelskade 34
1019 BN Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 5613636
If you’re looking for a unique way to get to know the city, book a stay at The Amstel Botel, a modern and luxurious floating hotel, at the NDSM Pier. The dockside area plays host to various artists, cool cafés and restaurants, exhibitions and performances. There’s a free ferry connection to and from Central Station which takes just 10 minutes, and throughout the night there’s a free shuttle bus from the Botel.
NDSM-Pier 3, Amsterdam - +31 20 6264247
Park Hotel is located in the heart of the city, between the famous Leidseplain, the Museumplein and the fashion district. Park isn’t a cheap hotel but its sophistication, elegance and friendly atmosphere makes up for it.
1071 ZD Amsterdam
The Netherlands T +31 (0)20 671 1222
Take a car into the centre: Parking is difficult and expensive in the city, with regulations strictly enforced.
Ride a tram without a valid ticket: You can buy a strip of tickets that you self-stamp on board from newsagents and train stations. Buying your ticket onboard will cost you more, and you’ll get fined if you travel ticketless.
Walk along the bicycle lanes: Avoid walking on and standing in bike lanes as this drives locals mad!
Smoke at train stations: It is prohibited to smoke in all trains, stations, waiting areas and on platforms, and throwing your cigarette butt on the platform can cost you €40.
Take pictures of the Red Light District's windows: Keep your camera in your pocket and respect the privacy of both the visitors and the workers of the district.