In part two of this city break experience Craig tells us what to see and do while in Amsterdam
If you read part one of our Amsterdam city break experience you’ll know that we chose not to stay in the heart of Amsterdam but just a short train ride away in beautiful Zaandam at the stunning Inntel Amsterdam Zaandam Hotel.
Amsterdam is a bustling tourist hotspot and with a population of over 850,000 the streets, bars, cafe’s and restaurants are pretty busy. Set on the river Amstel, the beautiful waterways are one on the major pulls for sightseers.
The IAMsterdam City Card
There are more than enough activities to fill your days in Amsterdam! Luckily we had the IAMsterdam City Card. The card allows you free access to a huge number of attractions like Rembrandt House, the Van Gogh Museum and the Zoo to name just a few.
The card also gets you discounts on other attractions, rentals, concerts and theatre shows. It doesn’t stop there as you also get free transport on the GVB busses, trams and metro. You can buy your card online before you travel and choose to also add travel from the airport to central Amsterdam, so there’s no need to worry about that either!
At €77 (£67) for a three day pass, it can be sent directly to your home or you can collect it from the airport at the IAMsterdam office.
If you plan to make the most of your visit, this card really will save you money. With the Van Gogh museum entry fee at €17, €13 for Rembrandt House and €16 for a canal cruise, you can see how entry fees and travelling between attractions quickly adds up.
On Your Bike!
Another thing you must do to get the true Amsterdam experience is rent a bike and make your way around the city on your own steam.
Using our IAMsterdam City Card discount we rented bikes from Mac Bike at the central train station and made our way to the Van Gogh Museum. The roads are busy and there are tourists crossing roads constantly, but with dedicated cycle lanes we felt very safe and after some initial trepidation I found this one of the most enjoyable experiences of our trip
There are a huge number of restaurants in Amsterdam offering every conceivable type of cuisine During our visit we ate at Resturant Haesje Claes, located at Spuistraat 273-275 it has a selection of beautiful dining rooms and a wonderful menu.
After a light salad starter we opted for traditional Stamppot. Probably best saved for cooler weather, this is a hearty comfort dish. wholesome and filling it’s made from mashed potato which is mixed with vegetables such as kale, carrots or sauerkraut and topped with a meatball.
After all that cycling you’ll need to fill up for the next part of your journey!
Visit the Museums
Visiting a museum on a city break is another ‘must do’ activity for the curious and cultured among us. Amsterdam has a wealth of museums to choose from so check out which ones that you can get free with your IAMsterdam City Card and make the most of it.
So, back on our bikes we rode to the Van Gogh Museum.
|Inside the Van Gogh museum where photography is prohibited apart from designated areas|
|A visit to the Van Gogh Museum is highly recommended|
The museum is home for a huge number of original works of art, including many of his signature trademark self portraits, wonderful and moody landscapes and blossoms.
|Beautiful blossoms by Van Gogh|
|Just one of Van Gogh’s many self portraits|
With Anne Franks House being at the top of most visitors list you can expect queues. Serious queues! It’s unfortunately not included in your IAMsterdam City card and there’s no discount.
Some people we spoke to had been waiting for three hours so please either arrive super early or book online, which you can do two months in advance, choosing a specific time slot.
|Sightseers queue to see Anne Franks House for up to three hours|
Anne Frank aside, if you are truly interested in, or are connected to the horrific events of the holocaust, a visit to the National Holocaust Museum is an emotional journey into the past, and brings home the enormity of what happened just a few short years ago.
|Heart wrenching and impactful|
|A picture of one of the victims of the Holocaust|
|A shocking reminder that this was a real event with real people|
Last up on my list is the Czar Peter House Museum in Zaandam. If you read my last post you’ll know that Peter The Great stayed in Zaandam to learn shipbuilding and that we stayed in the Czar Peter suite at our Hotel. So we just had to visit the home that he built in Zaandam which still stands today, protected from the elements under a newer building.
|The small and humble building, protected from the elements|
|How the original house looked in 1632|
|Peter the Great who’s humble home still stands today|
Cruise the canal
Do it by day or do it by night, but do it. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to see the stunning architecture of Amsterdam. We took our watery jaunt during the day and very much wanted to book and evening cruise but were unable to due to time restraints.
|The canal cruise is free with the IAMsterdam City Card|
|There are many different cruise companies and types of cruises to choose from|
There are a number of different companies offering cruises but all of them take you on the same waters. If you’d like something more romantic than a boat filled with tourists and their children, consider the evening cheese and wine cruise or the exclusive four course dinner cruise when your cruise experience will be elevated to a different level.
|Image courtesy of Blue Boat cruises|
|I’m in love with the buildings that line the canal, there’s a prize for spotting the skinniest building|
|The waterways of Amsterdam, explored by boat|
Visit the Windmills of Zaanse Schans
I loved our afternoon in Zaanse Schans! Compared to the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam city centre Zaanse Schans is a more gentile way to while away a few hours. It’s one of the prettiest places I have ever visited, with it’s beautifully maintained toy town original houses set in a chocolate box landscape it’s a feast for the eyes.
|Enjoying a chocolate cone ice cream. Well, it would be rude not to!|
|Chocolate box pretty|
A living museum, Zaanse Schans has a number of original windmills, most of which you are able to enter and explore. While entry to the area is free, entry to the windmills will cost you a couple of Euro each, but it’s really worth it to see internal working and the beating heart of the industry that these giants supported.
|Giant cogs that in days gone by would turn wood chips into powder to make dye|
|The interior of one of the beautiful windmills|
While the windmills in Zaandam sawed wood for the ship building industry, the windmills in Zaanse Schans created dye for the textile industry. Huge pieces of dye wood were brought in and chopped up before being ground into powder.
|There’s a picture waiting to be taken at every turn|
|Taking a few moments to relax on my visit to Zaanse Schans|
While you’re in Zaanse Schans stop off and treat yourself to an ice cream and a coffee before spending some money in the farm shop.
I was in cheese heaven! with a huge variety of cheeses available, all of which can be sampled, I made the most of the visit and took home just a few different variations! This is also a great place to get a few gifts for the neighbour who’s feeding the cat and the in-laws.
|Cheese for days in the Zaanse Schans farm shop|
|Two typical sights of Amsterdam, bikes and windmills|
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our city break in Amsterdam. It’s a few short months before our next break in Krakow, which I will of course share with you. But until then if you want to share your own experiences of Amsterdam or have any other comments, just drop me a line below.