Amsterdam, Netherlands

April 2014

We flew to Amsterdam Schipol airport with EasyJet arriving around lunchtime. We then took the train from Schipol airport to Amsterdam City Centre and then took a bus to our hotel, the Westcord Art Hotel which we had booked online.

Amsterdam Central Station

After checking into our hotel we took the bus back to the city centre. The public transport is very good in Amsterdam and for €7,80 you can buy a ticket that allows you to travel on the buses and trams for 24 hours.

We had a map with us and decided to explore on foot. We took a main route away from the central station passing by a number of coffee shops and the red light district for which Amsterdam is famous.

The city is laid out in a semi-circular pattern of roads and canals and unsurprisingly we soon found ourselves away from the city centre and having to refer back to the map to find where we were.

We decided to eat in the city and were a little shocked at the price of the food in the restaurants. For an average two course meal with a drink and coffee you can expect to pay €25 – €30. This was the only time that we ate in a restaurant.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a supermarket (most shops are open until 10pm) and bought some bread cheese, cold meat and fruit for breakfast. We also bought some cup-a soups, crisps and snacks which with fresh bread bought daily saw us through the rest of the trip and saved us quite a bit of money.

Day Two – Amsterdam Museums

We decided to visit two museums today, the Museum of Dutch Resistance and the Anne Frank House. After taking the bus to the city centre we walked a short distance to the Museum of Dutch Resistance. This is a small museum located on the outskirts of the city (opposite the zoo) but we felt it fitted well with a visit to the Anne Frank House. The lady behind the desk told us, rather smugly, that old age concessions were reserved for citizens of Amsterdam, so we paid the full adult price of €8.50.

The museum is full of interesting information, pictures, newspaper cuttings and personal stories and everything is labelled in both Dutch and English. It is possible to have an audio guide but we chose to read everything for ourselves and it took us around 2 hours to read everything the museum had to offer.

Leaving the museum we walked north towards the nearest tram line and came across a rather nice cafe where we stopped for a coffee and a slice of delicious carrot cake.

Amsterdam Cafe
Feeling refreshed we took the tram across city to Prinsengracht and joined the queue for the Anne Frank House. There is always a queue of around 45 minutes to 2 hours to get inside the house. It is possible to book tickets online in advance to avoid queuing but we hadn’t done this so joined the end of the line.

Anne Frank House

It took us about 45 minutes to reach the front of the queue and after paying the entrance fee of €9,00 we followed the path to the main building.

Everything has been preserved as it was in 1945 when Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam except that the furniture has been removed and the rooms left empty. There are pictures and information boards in all rooms to give additional information.

The tour begins at ground floor (warehouse) level before moving to the office area where the helpers, Miep Geis, Bep Voskuijl, Johannes Kleiman and Viktor Kugler worked.

Next the route passes the movable bookcase that hid the annex from view and up a very steep staircase to the first floor. More stairs lead to the second floor and also to the attic (not accessible).
Leaving the top floor via a connecting corridor there is more information in another room as well as a shop and restaurant.

Day Three – Canals

We decided that a trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without a boat trip on the canals, however we did not want the standard plastic bus type of boat with recorded commentary but rather wanted a tour by a local guide that was a bit more personal. We decided to ask at the Tourist Information Centre and the lady behind the desk seemed rather amazed that we were not at all concerned by the light drizzle outside but was able to provide us with the perfect boat tour.

We found our guide, Wolfgang, waiting for us and after purchasing refreshments we boarded the H Mulder (right). Our guide was excellent answering all our questions about the city, its history, customs and people as well as pointing out all the local sights and points of interest.

The price of the tour was €18.75 but we considered this money well spent for the personal commentary and guide we received.

Canal boat Amsterdam

Day Four – Zaanse Schans

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills, clogs and cheese and the village of Zaanse Schans offers the opportunity to see all three. We took the 191 bus from Amsterdam City Centre which cost about €8,00 for a return ticket. The journey from Amsterdam centre took around 45 minutes.

Zaanse Schans

On arrival we walked the short distance from the bus, through the car park, to the entrance gate. At the gate we were greeted by a photographer taking photographs of people as the entered the gate. As the photos were set against a backdrop of the queue of people behind us we politely declined and explained that they might get more sales if the photographs had windmills as a backdrop. The girl (aged about 25 years) selling the photos rather rudely told us that she had been selling those photos for more than 50 years so she knew a bit more about it than us.

Trying hard not to laugh we moved away from the entrance gate and began walking around the complex.
There is no charge to enter Zaanse Schans but there is a charge of about €6,00 to enter each individual museum, workshop or windmill so it is rather expensive if you want to see everything.

The shops and a few workshops are free to enter so we concentrated on those. Inside the clog shop there was a demonstration area roped off so we decided to wait and see the demonstration of clog making. A man wearing an apron duly appeared with two blocks of wood which he fastened to a machine. He then flicked a switch and walked to the other side of the room and made a phone call. Finishing the call he came back, stopped the machine and showed us the hollowed out clogs. Amazingly everyone clapped!

Clogs

 

Day Five – Keukenhof Gardens

This was our last day in the Netherlands and after checking out of our hotel we decided to visit the flower gardens at Keukenhof. Although it was quite late in the season following a mild winter there were still plenty of flowers to see.

We took a train from Amsterdam City Centre to Schipol Airport where we purchased a combined bus and entrance ticket for €23,00. We left our luggage in the lockers at the entrance and made our way into the gardens.

There are lots of flower-lined walkways around a few main exhibition buildings. At the time we visited there was a chrysanthemum exhibition, an orchid exhibition and a local artists exhibition.

As we had a late evening flight we stayed in the park until nearly 7pm and got some fabulous pictures of the flowers once the crowds had left.

Keukenhof Gardens

All of the flowers are labelled and it is possible to buy bulbs of any you like in the shops around the park.

All too soon it was time to go and after retrieving our luggage we took a bus journey back to the airport where we took a flight back to Gatwick.

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