Words & Photos by: Yu-Ming Wu
About a month ago the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board sent a surprising email asking us whether we wanted to visit Amsterdam. That was pretty much an easy yes and for the icing, they also included an invitation to visit Valencia, Spain (more on that later). So after a trying to clear our schedule was finally able to leave for Amsterdam the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday. The Board created a simple three day itinerary for a tasting of Amsterdam with ample free time for self exploration. Continue reading for a look at my 72 hours in Amsterdam.
LLOYD HOTEL & Culturele Ambassade
Oostelijke Handelskade 34
1019 BN Amsterdam
For the three days, the Board booked the Lloyd Hotel just three stops from Amsterdam Centraal but outside of the central area. Staying within the central area has its perks in addition to some cons. Amsterdam has been explained to me as a cousin of Las Vegas and can stay lively into the early hours of the morning. So some hotels in the central area can be noisy (especially on the weekends) but for those who enjoy a hazy night out, getting home quickly is the perk here. My recommendation: stay in the central area.
The Lloyd hotel is a great hotel with eccentric rooms from one to five stars. The star system rates rooms from the simple and low priced to the top tier and highest priced rooms. The hotel was rebuilt in 2004 with nearly 50 Dutch designers adding a unique treatment to each of the 116 rooms. Staying at the Lloyd is pretty easy with the a tram stop just steps away and Amsterdam Centraal is just 3 stops away.
1017 CG Amsterdam
After making friends with the KLM attendant enroute to Amsterdam, I asked her for some recommendations on the city. So after checking in and meeting up with a few travel friends we were off to an area called ….. for lunch. While it’s not recommended just wandering around looking for a lunch spot, I was lucky enough to found a place called Stacey’s Pennywell, a large corner pub with a sizable menu. We ordered a tasting selection including a salad, sandwich and a pasta and each were extremely delicious.
1012 KD Amsterdam
A set dinner was booked at the Brasserie Harkema, a contemporary version of the classic Parisian brasserie located in the heart of Amsterdam. The menu and interior are both modern but with such a large space one can quickly be forgotten. And that was exactly the case, reception was extremely friendly but once seated service was hard to come by. With the exception of having to ask for everything twice, the food and overall ambiance was great.
1071 ZD Amsterdam
MOMO is a pretty legit Japanese restaurant located at the Park Hotel in the Museumkwartier neighborhood of Amsterdam. The restaurant takes its inspiration from the masters of New York and London and describes it self as the spot to go for Pan-Asian cuisine, cosmos and the ultimate chill-out. A lunch was set here by the tourism board and their bento box lunches were pretty delicious and fresh. MOMO is located at Hobbemastraat 1 just off the Singelgracht.
1012 PT Amsterdam
Burger Bar is one amazing burger joint serving up three tiers of beef, Irish beef, Black Angus and their top tier Wagyu beef and two weights, 200 and 270 grams. Each beef patty is freshly rolled into a 200 or 270 gram template and grilled to perfection. Add an order of Belgian fries and you’ve got the perfect post night out meal. Burger Bar is located in downtown Amsterdam between the Damrak and NZ.Voorburgwal on the Kolksteeg 2.
DE CULINAIRE WERKPLAATS
Fannius Scholtenstraat 10 HS
1051 Ex Amsterdam
The second of the two set dinners was at de culinaire werkplaats, an interesting conceptual dining experience that may not be for everyone. Self described as a “novel eating initiative & experience”, “the team of de culinaire werkplaats creates & makes contemporary dishes, bites, delicatessen, new foods, and invents sometimes even new ways of eating. inspirational concepts, like “black’ or “flowers’, are guiding our creative perspective on foods & eating.” While innovative, the “contemporary’ dishes created from a strict criteria of choosing raw materials requires an acquired taste. This menu really isn’t for me but for those with strict organic/vegetarian diets, this would be great place to try.
1054 AB Amsterdam
A visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a tasting of Indonesian Food and a rijsttafel or “rice table” an elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch from the Indonesians. The rijsttafel is unique to Holland so you won’t be able to find such a meal else where in the world. My choice was at Blue Pepper for a meal with nearly 16 different dishes over the course of the 3 hour meal. Everything was delicious but be prepared for the long meal and if you are jetlagged, you may end up taking small naps in between dishes.
ANNE FRANK [HOUSE] MUSEUM
Prinsengracht 267 (1016 GV)
1000 AS Amsterdam
A visit here is a must for anyone visiting Amsterdam. This historical canal house where the Franks and other families hid during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam will give perspective to those who have learned of her through history books or read her diaries. It’s best to visit in the late afternoon after lunch or early evening just before closing. The visit takes about an hour. Note: The I amsterdam City Card offers a discount at the Anne Frank Museum.
GUIDED WALKING TOUR
For city as interesting as Amsterdam, it’s recommended to get a guided tour. There are a number of interesting areas with a lot of history within each. The more important parts of the city center can be walked in about 3 to 4 hours with and with a good tour guide you have a much better understanding of the beautiful city. Some of the more interesting areas to tour include: Jordaan, the Nine Streets, the coffee shops and even the red light district is worth a look. Depending on when you arrive, the best time might be to do the tour on the second day after you arrive so you are well rested and ready for the long walks.
CANAL CRUISE TOUR
One of the most interest aspects of the city of Amsterdam is its canal system, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. There are three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht which form concentric belts around the city, known as the grachtengordel. With over one hundred kilometres (62 miles) of canals, a canal cruise is one of the best and relaxing ways to see the city. Note: The I amsterdam City Card offers one of two free canal cruises.
1072 AE Amsterdam
For our regular readers you’ll know we are part of the Heineken 100 so a visit to the Heineken Experience is a must. For everyone else and especially beer lovers, this is a great place to visit for an educational tour of Amsterdam’s most famous beer. And of course you get to drink some Heinekens along with your visit! Note: The I amsterdam City Card offers a discount at the Heineken Experience.
De Negen Straatjes (‘The Nine Little Streets’)
One of the most interesting shopping areas of Amsterdam is De Negen Straatjes which translates into “The Nine Little Streets”. Straddled in the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht these unique streets will offer both the shopaholic and traveler a picturesque shopping and walking experience. A stroll through this area will include an interesting array of designer boutiques, cafes, vintage stores and specialty shops.
Other interesting shopping streets include:
Utrechtsestraat which is a slightly smaller version of De Negen Straatjes with its own collection of unique boutiques and specialty shops.
Pieter Cornelisz (P.C.) Hooftstraat is described as the mini Fifth Avenue of Amsterdam offering up the likes of Chanel, Gucci, Hermés, Louis Vuitton, Chopard, Cartier and other high-end luxury shops.
Kalverstraat a pedestrian only street will lead to a number of more affordable global fashion brands, Esprit, H&M, Mexx, WE, Zara and a few local brands.
KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES
The Board booked a flight on KLM (a Skyteam partner), it was my first time flying the airline and the friendly all smiles staff was a pleasant surprise. During the flight I made friends with one of the flight attendants who slipped down next time me during some turbulence. As we waited out the turbulence she gave me a quick break down of what to expect during my visit. I was told the people of Amsterdam are very open, tolerant and friendly. The trip was already off to a great start.
Euros It’s generally better to have some euros before arriving whether you plan on taking public transport or a taxi. Conversion rates are a little better outside of the major transportation hubs but ATMs are plentiful at the Airport. Best to check with your banks on rates and fees before leaving your home country.
Credit cards Make sure to call you credit cards before leaving home to place a travel note on your card(s). There’s a good chance you’ll get locked out the after a few uses.
Mobile service Also check in with your carrier to see what roaming rates are available for phone and data service. Google maps can come in handy in this maze of a city but make sure you are not over spending roaming data.
Schiphol Airport – The tourism board did not include chauffeured transportation from the airport which was good as I was able to experience the easy transportation option for getting into central Amsterdam. A one-way ticket to Amsterdam Centraal Station was just 4.90 euros and it is just one stop from the Schiphol train station located below Schiphol Airport. A taxi ride from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal would otherwise cost 50 to 60 euros.
i amsterdam City Card– The tourism board provided a 72 hour I amsterdam City Card during the visit. This is a great value if you plan on making the most out of the city. Starting at 39.00 euros for a one day to 59.00 euros, you end up saving a lot and seeing more of the city. The City Card includes and unlimited public transport pass, a handy city guide, free entrance to 50+ major attractions and more than 60 valuable discounts. Get it after arriving at Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Taxi A taxi ride from Schiphol will run you 40-60 euros if you are with two others and have a lot of luggage this may be a good option. Most trains to Amsterdam Centraal are not too luggage or traveler friendly. Taxi’s are not too economical as the starting rate is $7.60 euros.
Train The train ride from Schiphol is about 15-20 minutes and costs just 4.90 euros each way. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get to Amsterdam Centraal. But as mentioned it can be a pain if you have a lot of luggage as the trains are not too luggage friendly. Get your ticket from the counter and avoid the automatic machines and ask where to go. During the day, trains come every 10 minutes or so but once midnight hits, trains operate once an hour so check the schedule in you plan on traveling afer midnight.
GVM Transit The GVM Tram & Bus system is great and can get you to most areas fairly quickly. You generally get on in the middle of the tram or bus and can purchase your ticket with the attendant. Go for the 24 hour unlimited use if you plan on spending more than a few hours in Amsterdam, available on tram or bus. For 48 hour or longer tickets you must visit a sales outlet. (http://www.gvb.nl/english/travellers/tickets-and-fares/Pages/Ticketsandfares.aspx)
A one hour ticket is 2.60 and a 24 hour ticket is 7.00 euros, for longer periods visit GVM.
Amsterdam Centraal – Arriving at Amsterdam Centraal Station (the main station for most transportation options) I was instructed to transfer to the tram to get to the hotel. This was fairly easy as well after locating the tram and getting on I quickly realized each tram has a driver and a information and ticket sales agent on board. It’s quite a nice system especially for quick information, easy ticketing and safety.