Amsterdam, Netherlands

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyEuro
Local languageDutch
Country Netherlands

Introduction

Amsterdam is situated in the northwest of the Holland District within the Netherlands, and is in close proximity to the North Sea. With its myriad of canals (165 to be precise) the city has developed into one of the world’s most accessible and top tourist attractions. Amsterdam is largely split into the geographic areas of north and south with the emphasis being placed on the numerous ‘pleins’ for identification. As the city of Amsterdam is so compact it has a unique feel to it, with all its different races and religions living harmoniously together.

The City came to life in the thirteenth century when a small settlement emerged at the Dam on the River Amstel, hence giving the city its name. Despite a lot changing since the early days it still has a small town feel with many of the current buildings, houses and architecture worthy of museum status. The locals are very proud of their history and this is made apparent by Amsterdam’s vast array of museums. The amazing architecture of the Rijksmuseum (built in 1885) and the contrast of the modern Van Gogh building take center stage on the Museum Plein.

Amsterdam lies only a 50 minute journey away from The Hague (the governmental quarter) via the excellent double-decker train from Centraal Station, or just a 40 minute journey from Rotterdam.

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Things to do

The Leidesplein, Amsterdam’s vivacious epicenter comes to life as soon as darkness descends the city. It has an abundance of street performers to keep you entertained whilst you drink on the terraces of the local bars. The Museumplein houses all the museums, the oldest and biggest one being the Rijksmuseum containing a large variety of masterpieces including Rembrandt’s Nightwatch. Also on the Museumplein is the famous Van Gogh Museum, which houses the Sunflower paintings. Walletjes, commonly known as the Red Light district is one of the reasons why Amsterdam is famous the whole world over and is a must see, but beware no cameras are allowed.

On the Dam Square in the geographic center of Amsterdam is the Koninklijk Paleis (The Royal Palace), only inhabited by Royalty a few times a year but with amazing architecture and inside décor, which is open to the public. The city is well known for its markets which include the Flower Market as well as the Flea Market, the latter selling everything from bikes retrieved from the canals to clothes by the kilo!

The area of the Jordaan is Amsterdam’s capital of Bohemia, along winding streets and run down buildings artists have opened stalls and restaurants have begun to spring up. TheVondel Park situated to the south of the city offers another relaxing alternative.

One of the central attractions most popular in Amsterdam is the Anne Frankhuis which is a truly moving experience! But beware, as queues can be extremely long in high season.

Local transport

Public transportation within and around Amsterdam is readily available and easy to use (www.ovr.nl). The best method of moving in and out of the city center is via the numerous trams lines leaving Centraal Station every few minutes. If you want to visit the outer limits of Amsterdam however the most efficient way is to take the number 52 metro line that circumnavigates the city’s perimeter. Best value is the ‘strippenkaart’ which is readily available from tourist offices, tobacconists and most of the large hotels. The ticket must be validated on board before commencing travel. The bus network is also extensive, though the typical Dutch mode of transport is still the bicycle. There are numerous designated cycle ways to take you to nearly every destination you require. You can rent a bike from an abundance of rental places for approximately €10 a day, with the most popular tending to be the yellow bikes of Mac Bike (just off the Leidesplein).

Day trips

If you would like to see some more of The Netherlands then Amsterdam is perfectly situated for day trips to a number of very attractive destinations. The Old University town of Leiden is only 30km (18 miles) away and is reached in about 30 minutes by train from Centraal Station. Here you will find history dating back to the sixteenth century, including the museum of the Spanish Siege in 1574 and the oldest botanical garden in the world; Hortus Botanicus. Moreover the town of Leiden hosts the fabulous Molenmuseum de valk (Windmill Museum), which is housed in a windmill built in 1747.

For something a little lighter and more relaxing, there are numerous coastal areas to the north of Amsterdam in the small seaside towns of Hoorn and Volendam. These get very lively in the summer with all-night beach parties turning the towns into a vibrant escape haven for the business community of Amsterdam.

Recommended places and events to visit in Amsterdam

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