Soak up the rich culture of this vibrant European city – from fine art and diverse architecture to beautiful boat rides and two-wheeled transportation, says One Magazine’s Sam Ottaway.
Founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century, Amsterdam takes its name from its development around a dam in the Amstel river. This stunning city is one of a kind, with a unique cultural atmosphere and a quirky landscape of crooked houses along the riverfront; a combination of their wooden structure notwithstanding the hundreds of years they have existed, as well as them being built on soft peat and clay making them sink into the ground.
Many flights to Amsterdam from airports in the South West leave from as early as 6:30am and, with a flight time of less than an hour, you can easily fit in the sights of Amsterdam over a few days making it perfect for a long weekend break.
The journey to Bristol Airport couldn’t be easier thanks to the Stagecoach Falcon bus travelling between Plymouth and Bristol. With two pick-up points in Exeter, plus one in Cullompton too, you can arrive in good time for your flight without the worry of having to arrange expensive airport parking.
From the moment you step off the plane you are only a few minutes away from a handy train service from inside the arrivals gate. Of course, there is still the option of a taxi or a pre-arranged transfer to your hotel, but the train offers the cheapest method of transport and takes you to the hustle and bustle of the city in just 20 minutes; perfect if your hotel is based close to the centre as many are.
This vibrant city is host to many different cultural experiences, with enough variety for anyone to enjoy. The Museum Quarter oozes culture; from the history behind the Van Gogh and Anne Frank Museum, to the technology and engineering of the children’s science museum, NEMO, which is definitely not just for kids to enjoy! If museums are your thing my best advice would be to buy an Amsterdam City Pass online. This not only covers the cost of the entrance fees to the museums but also all public transport during your stay. This will not only save you money but will also allow you the freedom to explore the city at your leisure.
An alternative to public transport, and the preferred method to get around, is cycling. You will find bikes lining the canals, tied to trees, posts and anywhere there is available space. The average Amsterdam resident owns two bicycles; one of value which is kept at home and a cheap bike they use daily. Over 10,000 bicycles get fished out of the canals every year and thousands more are left chained to the canal front by people who simply forget which is their own or neglect to bother to retrieve it.
You can hire a bike for the day at many different locations across the city. For those who like to stand out, hire one of the yellow bikes from the aptly named Yellow Bike Rental, located at Central Station. If you would prefer to cycle around incognito, and not give off as much of a tourist vibe, there are lots of other options for renting standard bikes too.
The most luxurious way to see the sites of Amsterdam is on a boat ride along the canals. Most boat tours can be picked up along the riverbank by the Red Light District, but one of the most popular is Friendship Amsterdam, which has a bar on board, equipped with a tour guide ready to serve you drinks and a dose of local knowledge.
Of course, the notoriety of the Red Light District is one of the most famous aspects of Amsterdam and no guide to the city could leave it out. For some it’s a draw while for others it’s an area to be avoided, and can even put off potential visitors altogether. For those people, it’s certainly worth noting that this part of the district is actually limited to one main street and away from many of the main tourist areas, and with the city well-mapped out, it’s quite hard to inadvertently find yourself there if you’re not looking for it. The rest of the district offers a buzzing hub for those looking for some nightlife – expect cool restaurants and trendy bars galore.
Amsterdam awakens the senses at any time of year and is a trip too close to home to be missed. Add it to your European bucket list.