If Paris is the City of Love, since the liberal counter-culture took hold in the 1960s, Amsterdam is the City of Hip. Amsterdam is a lot like a favorite uncle: comfortable and welcoming, cool, and hip — instantly likeable, but a bit frayed around the edges. The relative you love to be around, as long as you don’t have to stay too long.
A compact city that is easy to see on foot, Amsterdam, with its network of canals, is a blend of the ancient and the modern. From the 13th-century buildings in the historical center where the merchants built their mansions, to the ‘weed’ bars, where you can relax with a smoke and a cup of coffee. If you’re into history and culture, you’ll definitely want to visit Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht 267 and Van Gogh Museum, which is at Paulus Potterstraat 7. For a little history mixed with fun, try the Heineken Brewery at Stadhouderskade 78, with some so-so explanations of the beer-making process, but stops along the way to sample the products, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours. It’s only a short walk from the Rijksmuseum, or State Museum, which is unfortunately currently undergoing renovation and won’t reopen until sometime in 2013. Of course, the Amsterdam Museum at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357, which shows seven centuries of Amsterdam’s history with displays, models, and maps, is a good alternative while you wait for the State Museum to come back on line.
Amsterdam’s Changing Image
Long known as a city where anything goes, Amsterdam’s city administration has over the past decade tried to burnish the city’s image. Explicit displays such as one could once see in the windows in the city’s red light district have been banned and efforts have been made to get the Dutch to curb their dogs. Walking around the city now is less of an obstacle course than it was as late as the mid-1990s, but it is less titillating for the voyeur. You still have to be careful if you’re traveling with kids to beat them to the TV in the hotel room, to make sure you have it turned to a channel that won’t shock their tender psyches.
Amsterdam is now a place where the family, kids included, can have a great time visiting the museums, the zoo, or just walking along the ring of canals that circle the historical center. But, it still offers a lot for the single traveler. Restaurants offering a wide range of world class cuisine, bars and coffee shops, and night clubs galore, are available for singles or couples looking for that romantic getaway after a day of historical and cultural touring. The night life, behind the closed doors of bars and other establishments, while not quite as wild as the old days, will still amaze most first-time visitors.
The neatest attraction in Amsterdam, though, has to be the Dutch. It’s rare to encounter a local who doesn’t speak excellent English, along with Dutch, and probably fluent French and German as well.
Frequent international flights arrive at Amsterdam’s Schipol International Airport from around the world. From the train station at the airport, the city is easily accessible, as is the rest of the Netherlands and Europe. From the airport you can take a train to the main station which is located conveniently downtown with easy access by public transport or walking to hotels and most of the major attractions.
Where to Stay
Whether you’re the type traveler for whom money is no object, or a budget traveler trying to make the most of a thin wallet, Amsterdam has accommodations that will fill your desires. From luxurious five-star hotels with crystal chandeliers to hostels catering to backpackers, the city has it all. For convenience, whether you arrive by plane or train, a hotel near the train station, that also offers easy access to the city’s attractions, is the Park Plaza. Located directly across the street from the main train station, it has clean rooms and plenty of amenities at affordable rates.
Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam
1012 LG Amsterdam
For bookings: http://www.amsterdam-hotels-guide.com/Default.htm?hc=VICTORIAAMS&extra=1&lb=pp