Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tips for Amsterdam, Holland

Having just returned from a river cruise that started and ended in Amsterdam, I thought I'd write a little about our time in the city.

First a caveat. There are tons of Internet sites which can advise what to see and do in Amsterdam. This is not going to be one of them. Rather, what I want to do is provide some of the little things I discovered to try and help make the visit a bit easier for a cruiser with limited time.

So.....Amsterdam is a wonderful walking city and also has a fantastic public transportation system. Another VERY popular means of transportation are bicycles. There are designated bike paths and BE SURE to look both ways when entering one. More tourists are hurt by bicycle accidents every year than every other type of accident added together.

As we walked from the dock, heading towards the city, we were instructed to go through Centraal Station. As we entered Centraal Station, we were greeted with a line of ticket entry machines. Not having a ticket (since we weren't going to be taking the train) we exited the building and looked for another entrance.

Next entrance was the same. Then we stood and watched as people walked through without putting a ticket in the machine. So we did the same and walked through the station and exited right into downtown Amsterdam.

Across the street from Centraal Station (be careful crossing all the tram tracks) is Tourist Information. I highly recommend picking up the free booklet on Public Transport.    It shows all the bus and tram routes, by number. There are several transportation passes available, including a day pass that was 7 Euros.

We, however, decided to walk using a walking tour I had printed off. We walked the very old part of Amsterdam detailed in the map and really enjoyed it.

We made it as far as #7 and then headed back towards the ship on Damark Street. That was the last time we walked on the very crowded and busy Damark St and, instead, limited ourselves to the smaller, canal-side streets.

The next afternoon we strolled the other side of the city. We got as far as the floating flower market which is a great place for souvenir shopping. In the map below, I've noted some locations that I hope will be helpful to other travelers.

During our walk the first day we located the cheese shop near the Dam. During our walk the next afternoon, we stopped in the cheese shop (Kaasland Singel, Haarlemmerstraat 2) on the Singel Canal. Both places had a full selection of cheeses that did not require refrigeration. And then we spent a delightful couple of hours tasting several of the many Dutch beers at the Eagle's Nest.

At the end of the cruise, I honestly don't think we could have been docked further away from city center. However, a short walk away was a stop for bus #42 which ran right by Centraal Station. Several of the ship's passengers made use of it.

For those booking their own air and doing their own transfers into Amsterdam: To get from Schiphol to Centraal Station is VERY easy. Coming right out of the Customs area, into the main terminal, there are loads of train ticket windows and entrances to the train platforms.

It's once you get to Centraal Station that you could run into a problem unless you know EXACTLY where your ship is docked. It could be a very long walk, especially dragging luggage. At that point, if it was me, I'd spring for a taxi. And don't let the taxi go until you are absolutely positive your ship is where you are being left off. Many river cruises dock in Amsterdam and it would not be unusual to find them tied up, literally, one next to the other, making your ship even harder to find.

Hope you have found this post helpful and please don't hesitate to ask questions and/or post a comment with your own Amsterdam tips.

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