As I set off on my quest to discover the city of Amsterdam, I solely envisioned a city condensed with marijuana cafes and a thriving red light district. It came as a pleasant surprise to discover that this European destination offers so much more- a beautiful array of canals providing mesmerising views, a vibrant and liberalistic culture and historic venues sure to interest even the most discerning of tourists!…. Roxanne Annoh
Amsterdam, “City on Water”
Amsterdam boasts striking canals, providing breathtaking views both on land and on water. Canal cruises are the most popular touristic attraction in the city, and rightly so! A private tour of the canals will affiliate you with the typical Amsterdam native and their enthusiastic account of the historic houseboats and life in Amsterdam.
The Canal Bus is the most exhilarating mode of public transport where you will surely come across the jovial faces of fellow tourists and local residents. Walking along the canals is remarkably calming and you’ll be sure to encounter many free attractions along the way.
It would be sinful to not to visit the Floating Flower Market on the Singel, the oldest canal in Amsterdam. The market has evolved into one of the most famous flower markets in the whole of Holland, offering everything from Dutch tulips and geraniums to ‘mano’ bulbs and Bonsai trees. Another must see is the Museum Van Loon, one of Amsterdam’s oldest canal houses.
The house now forms a fascinating historical monument, with most of the furniture and décor intact from the late 17th century. One of its early residents include one of Rembrandt’s most famous pupils, Ferdinand Bol. From the 19th century onwards, the house was occupied by the van Loon family, a generation of city-mayors that largely influenced the expansion of Amsterdam. The museum is one of the few canal houses to have a garden. The van Loon garden is an oasis of peace away from the hustle and bustle of quotidian life. I was fortunate to witness an open-air opera, an unusual treat that made the experience all the more unique!
Amsterdam, “City of Diamonds”
Amsterdam is a key player in the diamond industry. Known as the “Diamond capital of the world”, the city plays host to the world renowned, Gassan Diamonds , a historic steam driven diamond factory turned diamond dynasty located in the heart of the city. A tour of the grounds will immerse you into the history of the factory where you will certainly enjoy hearing about the original founding members, the Boas
brothers, and their quest to open the largest diamond factory in the whole of Europe! In addition, you’ll be one of the fortunate few to witness first hand the talented work of the craftsmen, elegantly transforming rough diamonds into pieces of art. After witnessing such phenomenal artwork and skill, you may well be tempted to add to your diamond and jewellery collection.
The factory prides itself on its extensive and prestigious collection of high quality diamonds and jewellery available for purchase. Picking up a beautiful souvenir is the perfect way to score brownie points on your vacation with that special someone.
Traditional Dutch Cuisine
If gastronomy is your passion, you’ll be pleased to know that Amsterdam prides itself in showcasing its traditional Dutch cuisine. On my travels, I stumbled across the unconventional and quirky restaurant, Moeders (translated “Mothers” in English). As you may have already guessed, the restaurant wholeheartedly rejoices the role of the mother; the walls are covered with customers’ portraits of their mothers and personal messages dedicated to mothers passed away. Mother’s day spent here will be an unforgettable experience, principally because mothers dine for free! Another enticing feature is the peculiar choice of crockery; mismatched cutlery and individually hand-picked glass wear for each customer to make you feel all the more special.
This, along with the friendly staff and amorous atmosphere, makes it the perfect place for a family outing. Most importantly, you are guaranteed to be served a traditional Dutch dish, ranging from the famous ‘Hutspot’ and ‘’Boerenkool met worst’. For a lunchtime break in the city centre, the ideal location would have to be the café/restaurant, David & Goliath.
The restaurant offers a beautiful outdoor courtyard with a charming terrace and colonnade arcade. As it is located just minutes from Amsterdam’s most bustling shopping district, you’ll be able to enjoy a relaxing lunch before you hit the shops!
The Hidden Treasures of Amsterdam
What I enjoyed most about Amsterdam is the eccentricity of its touristic attractions. The City Archive Vault (Schatzoeken) is where Amsterdam’s most prized treasures are situated. From the first document identifying Amsterdam as a city in 1275 to the bicycle theft report from Anne Frank in 1942, the vault comprises a collection of intriguing memorabilia that define Amsterdam’s social and political history. The site is stunning in itself, with beautifully restored floors and an overall combined décor of Art Deco and Egyptian influences.
The Museum of Bags and Purses is a unique museum assembling a historic collection of bags in Western civilisation ranging from the 16th century to the present. It is the only type in its kind, and is recognised as one of the eight most important fashion museums in the world! Fashion enthusiasts will certainly enjoy discovering
more about the transition of the 16th century men’s pouch to the modern day female designer handbag.
Be it a timeless Chanel or Louis Vuitton number, the purse that once belonged to a member of royalty, the bag that is connected to the arrival of the first giraffe in France – each and every one has its own particular and fascinating story!
Getting around Amsterdam
Walking is a useful way to get to know the city, particularly when site-seeing near the city centre, Dam square. Transport links are also frequent in the city but I found that the most efficient way to get around the city was by Tram. Cycling is another alternative if you wish to adopt the Dutch way of transport. Bicycle rentals cost around €8 per day with discounts for longer rentals.
I would highly recommend picking up the “amsterdam card” from the local tourist office which offers many discounts for attractions and restaurants, free use of trams, underground and bus services, and free entry into many museums including the Van Gogh and Rembrandthius Museums.
Where to stay
The Crowne Plaza Hotel Amsterdam offers a comfortable and luxurious stay for all guests. It is located right in the city centre, near the Central Station and Dam Square. Friendly and efficient staff service will make your stay in the city all the more worthwhile, and will leave you wanting to return!
How to get there
Fly KLM from London Heathrow to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
From Amsterdam Airport Schiphol you can take the train to Amsterdam Central Station, trains depart every 15 minutes with a journey time of 15 minutes. Cost of one way ticket is €3,90