Amsterdam First Impressions   14 comments

Summer holiday time. We had a fantastic time on our city break by rail trip a couple of years back so all agreed a similar repeat was in order. This time the trip was focussed on a week in Nice on the Cote D’Azure with a few stops on-route. First stop was Amsterdam. Rather than an overnight in London we decided to use the overnight ferry from Harwich. At less than £300 for ferry crossing, cabin and train fares from London and to Amsterdam is was good value and its a nice relaxed way to travel (other than transferring between stations in London in the rush hour with luggage – not recommended)

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We had a quite a nice sunset from the ship and were in bed and asleep before it left port.

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Arriving at Hook of Holland on time it was an easy bus transfer to Schiedam station for an onward (and busy) train to Amsterdam Centraal.

We dropped our bags at the apartment, a very nice, narrow Amsterdam Townhouse on Utrechtsestraat above a shop (we had to open up the shop to access the apartment which was neat!). Time to explore.

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We took a walk along and around one of the main wide rivers/canals, the Amstel.

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A cloudy day was beginning to blink into sunshine as we walked.

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Looking across the Amstel to the Keizersgracht.

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And over the Magere Brug bridge.

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After lunch at the Albert Cuyp Market (more on that in a later post) we returned to the apartment, unpacked and went straight back out to explore some more. Amsterdam has an extensive network of well run trams and we used these all the time to get around. We headed to the Dam, Amsterdams central square overlooked by the Royal Place. Rather dark looking while sun was in.

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From there we headed out to the western canal ring and the Jordaan. It became our favourite part of the city.

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Its the quintessential Amsterdam of the photos. Canals lined with tall gabled houses and flower decked bridges.

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We took an ambling walk around the neighbourhood. Some of these canals may or may not be the Prinsengracht, Bloemgracht and Egelantiersgracht.

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The impressive tower of the Westekerk.

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Its endlessly charming and very quiet when you consider what a popular and in places crowded city it can be.

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All this walking is thirsty work. Luckily Amsterdam is well supplied with quaint old drinking establishments that locals call “Brown Cafes” but are really pubs, all wood panelling and beer taps.

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This one is the t’Smalle bar with a terrace right on the Egelantiersgracht where we were lucky to score a seat for a cold beer. I was starting to like Amsterdam quite a lot! 🙂

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A walk back along the Brouwersgracht (Brewers Canal) to catch a tram home before freshening up and out again for a meal.

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We thought we’d try some local dutch fare and found a rather nice quiet old world restaurant, De Koperen Ketel (The Copper Kettle). We sampled the potato Croquettes in various flavours and the Mash Pots with a sample of various meats, mashed vegetables and gravy, all delicious.

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Bellies full we headed out for a long walk back around the canals before bedtime. The weather had cleared to a glorious sunny evening.

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It lit up the canalside buildings to dramatic effect and was my favourite time of day in the city. The weather can of course be as cold/wet as the UK but we got lucky and had abundant sunshine for our first 3 days.

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We wandered across and along many canals so I have no idea which one is which but it was all wonderful and peaceful.

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Except for the bikes! Everyone knows Amsterdams is a city built for cycling but nothing prepares you for it. They are everywhere not only parked up and locked to railings in unimaginable numbers but also in motion. They pretty much rule the road here and it takes some getting used to to watch for these silent assassins as they emerge from every street and crossing. I lost count of the number of times I was nearly run down, they take no prisoners!

We had thought about hiring a bike for the proper Amsterdam experience but it would be a scary challenge. Trying to navigate around a city you don’t know among thousands of other cyclists who do. We decided against it (much to TBFs annoyance – she became somewhat obsessed with bikes and the idea of cycling in the city).

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As the sun set on the city and our first day the views just got better and we realised we already loved the place.

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First impressions were rather positive. Not a bad first day.

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14 responses to “Amsterdam First Impressions

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  1. A few years sgo I’d never been to Amsterdam, but we had a holiday there, I had a business trip (and added a day and a half) and then my daughter moved there – so now we’ve been there (and Haarlem where she now lives) quite a few times and will be over there again in a couple of weeks.
    My favourite parts of The city are Jordaan, de Pijp and also the Zuid which was develooed early 20 Century.

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    • Its a cracking city as long as you stay away from the shopping area and the Red Light district which are a bit mucky in both senses of the word! We loved the Jordaan and its canals, bars and restaurants. Of all the cities we’ve been to over the last few years that was the one neighbourhood I could live in (although I’d need up a beer-a-holic having discovered my favourite Brown Cafe. Considering how popular certain parts of the city are and how well known the Jordaan is, I was surprised how quiet it was in terms of tourist throngs.

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  2. I agree with you about the best and worst districts of Amsterdam. The Red Light District in particular. We keep away unless visiting one of the attractions- Rembrandt house or Our Lord in the Attic, for example.
    The Brown Cafes are good for atmosphere and cheap eats. We’ve been to t’Smalle bar ourselves a few times and sat on the pontoon on the canal.
    My daughter lived on a houseboat on the Prinsengtacht near the junction with the Amstel. You may have passed it! But the city is very busy and she enjoys living in Haarlem which is quieter. It’s rather like a mini Amsterdam in many ways but much less hectic.

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    • We had a look around the Red Light District just to say we had. I like to think I’m pretty streetwise and broad-minded but I found it really seedy and I was uncomfortable being there!
      When we looked at accommodation there were huge numbers of houseboats available to rent as holiday lets. Not sure if I’d want to do that, probably have to do a bit research when I go back. I found my spiritual home with a bar that had over 150 beers on tap or in bottles and had a menu. Staff were great and we tried some amazing beers (and went back a few times to sample more. Details coming in future posts.
      We went through Haarlem on the train on the way to the city and it looked lovely. It was on my list for a day out (as were many of the surrounding towns and villages) but we ran out of time. A holiday around there based outside the city with trips out would be superb.

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  3. One of my best friends worked in Amsterdam, for Cisco the network people, I even went to their millennium party in 1999. I’ve been to the Dam many, many times. Most of which were in my student days and I was far too drunk to remember them. I’ve done a couple of trips since and done the superb tourist parts like Anne Franks, Van Gogh museum, Rembrants museum etc. I loved the restaurant and bar culture over there, as you say all the bars with the panelling are superb. The beer is fantastic and only behind Belgium for the best bars/beer there is. As for the Red Light, well you know what to expect and its not normally a surprise however I remember walking around a corner for my first look at one of the red light canals, my jaw dropped. I was only 18 though!! Some of my best stories and memories are from that city, love the place.

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    • I was i beer heaven at my favourite spot. Had my first sour beer – amazing stuff. Just such a chilled vibe in that part of town.
      The biggest eye opener in the red light district were the streets around the Oude Kerk. Church, cafes/bars and sex shops all next door to each other! We had a very brief 5 minute wander to say we’d seen it and then left! Its an amazing city.

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  4. A city I’ve always fancied visiting. Had a similar experience in Hyde Park -nearly got clobbered by a guy on a mountain bike doing 25 miles an hour out of nowhere. You expect to relax once you reach a park but galloping horses, mummies pushing speed buggies while jogging with headphones in and dozens of racing bikes meant you had to pick your correct walking path carefully and make sure it was the right lane. Multi use is not always relaxing.

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    Blue Sky Scotland
    • The parks were not too bad – a bit more respectful of non-bikers. The streets were just a menace – you get used to knowing a car is somewhere in your vicinity and where it might be coming from but bikes appear from nowhere and everywhere, mostly silent. 🙂
      Its still a wonderful city though, packed with interesting stuff and peaceful if you look in the right place

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  5. Wonderful to return to Amsterdam via your visit. It is not a city to visit on a weekend. Cheap deals bring so many groups for a boozy weekend.

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    • It’s just the area by the shops and red light District that are a bit rowdy. The rest of the city is great, plenty of life and buzz but not over the top. We loved it.

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  6. You haven’t mentioned the pungent reek of weed which seems to permeate many streets. My own Amsterdam post is imminent and, in honesty, I’m not really sure what I will say about it – I feel slightly ambivalent.

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    beatingthebounds

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