|Amsterdam For The Tourist:
The Tolerant City
Most people would arrive
in Amsterdam via the central train station, either from a train from Schipol
airport, other European destinations or one of the many coaches that bring
daily visitors from many of the North Sea Ferries.
The first thing you will
see on the exit doors of the station will be the now famous Amsterdam trams,
boat tours a bit further on and to the right, a cycle park that must contain
a half a million bikes. Three things associated with Amsterdam.
is in the process of building an underground train system to make travelling
around the city even easier. This does mean that that on main streets and
in front of the central station, building is in process, which spoils some
of the first impressions at this point, but in a few years time when it
is finished I am sure it will be worth it.
Carrying on up the main street
from the station you will arrive at the Dam. Many years ago, it used to
hold ships that came directly up the canals to trade with the city. But
now it is more like a city square with the town hall and Madame Tussaudís
on one side and a the main city statue on the other. In front of the town
hall you will often see street entertainers and if you wish to see the
city on a horse and cart, this is the starting place for the tours. The
dam seems to be a magnet for people during the summer months especially
in the early evening. During the winter months an ice rink is built just
in front of the town hall.
The dam is also a turning
point for tourists, if you turn left you can start exploring the canal
system, turn right and you can walk to Anne Frankís house or if you continue
on you will eventually come to the flower market next to the clock tower.
If I had to select one place
to visit whilst in Amsterdam it would be Anne Franks house. Her story has
been well documented in her books and the films that have recreated her
lifeís story during the Second World War. However being in the house, where
she and her family hid from the Naziís is quite an experience. A lot of
the house is the same as it was then, one room still has here writing on
the walls and is a grim reminder of the horrors of that time apposed on
the Jews. Because the attic room is pretty much as it was, there are steep
steps; those in a wheelchair are unlikely to see the entire house.
During certain months of
the year this is a colourful spectacle, with what appears every type of
tulip and bulb available. The shops are actually boats or floating platforms
on the canal, which you can clearly see on the other side of the canal
but au you walk the market would just assume they were normal shops.
The Canal System
It doesnít matter where you
walk in Amsterdam you going to be near a canal, but in my opinion you donít
see how pretty the canals are until you have walked 15 minutes or so away
from the central station. Here you will have countless opportunities to
take photos of small bridges all with cycles chained to them over narrow
pretty canals. As well as the canal boat tours at the central station you
will come across some more tours boats along the system but beware of the
canal bus. You will see bus stops for the canal bus, but you cannot buy
a ticket on board you must prepay your ticket at their main depot for the
Most of the art museums are
together in the museum quarter. Unless you like walking it is probably
a bit far on foot from the station, so a tram may be the order of the day.
The canal bus that I mentioned earlier also does a canal bus ticket to
take you there via the canals. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gough Museums and
others have some of the worldís most famous paintings in from artists such
as Monet, Rembrandt and Van Gough who are all Ditch Masters. Try and pre-book
your tickets online, as it is hit and miss whether you will get in just
You canít really talk about
Amsterdam and not mention some of the other aspects it is famous for and
that is its tolerance to sex and low class drugs.
Red Light District
This is the only red light
district I have walked through so I canít compare it to anywhere else except
to say it isnít as sleazy as I thought it would be. You see normal people
just going to work, elderly people carrying their shopping, businessmen
and women coming in and out of the offices nearby. I am sure this place
comes alive at night but during the day, it is more peaceful than I thought
it would be. There are tours that will take you and around 30 other visitors
around the area and explain the history of the district. In the tours you
will see people from all ages including children. The sex shops have everything
they sell in the window and seem to be frequented by groups of girls on
their hen night having a laugh rather than sleazy men in raincoats. I think
only those with extreme views would find this area offensive and if so
stay away as it confined to one area of the city and you would not know
it was there should you choose not to.
This is where it is legal
to buy certain grown substances to be consumed in the area known as a coffee
shop. If you want to know where they are, just follow the smell.
It is illegal to buy any
drugs on the street though.
I have been to Amsterdam
many times now, mainly because of the relaxed atmosphere of the city and
its street café culture. In the evening everyone appears to be sitting
outside enjoying life and this atmosphere seem to be contagious, not to
mention a certain Irish bar where I seem to be able to relax more there
than anywhere back at home. It is a city with much to offer that is maybe
not as pretty as some cities say in Italy, but more than makes up for it
with its diversity of culture and beliefs.
Hotels - Amsterdam Self-Catering