Amsterdam as a Tourist

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  This is partly due to because I’ve not really been anywhere and partly because I’ve been uninspired to write or take photographs. However, back in August, I visited Amsterdam for a weekend break and thought I would write a brief post about what I got up to whilst I was there. 

This was my second visit to Amsterdam, my first visit was back in the winter of 2013. This time, I only took my point and click camera, not my DSLR due to only taking hand luggage on the flight.  The weather all weekend was beautiful and it was wonderful just to mosey around the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

Getting there and Getting Around

We flew from Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) and paid about £75 each for return flights with Flybe. This price included hand luggage only, to check in a bag will cost you extra, in fact, it costs almost as much as the flight itself (£25 each way). As we were only going for a few days, we managed just fine with hand luggage. The only downside to this was that I could not take my large camera as you only get 10kg. Bear in mind at the airport they were checking some bags (not all) to make sure they weren’t too large or heavy. We saw at least two people that had to check their bags in as they were over the size or weight limit. Remember, cheap airlines will try and get as much money as possible out of you so be sure to measure and weigh your bag before you leave home. Doncaster airport does have parking, however, it was going to cost us £75 to leave our car for 3 days, OUCH! So we took the bus from Sheffield, which was £7 one way and got my partner to collect us when we returned home. The flight was only about 45 minutes long and it was quite comfortable as flights go. You have to pay for everything on the flight so take your own water and snacks on board should you need them. When we got to Amsterdam, we took the train into the center of the city, one way, it cost about € 9.00. We got off the train at Amsterdam Centraal and took the bus to our hotel. To get around, we purchased the Unlimited GVB Day/Multi-Day Ticket, 96 hours (4 days) which cost €24.50. We also used this ticket to get back to the airport at the end of our trip.

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Accommodation

We stayed at the WestCord Art Hotel.  The hotel was basic, and did not come with breakfast.  I booked through eBookers and paid £340.86 for a twin room for 3 nights. Breakfast is available to purchase for EUR 16.5-20.5 for adults and EUR 8.25-10.25 for children.  The location of the hotel is a short bus ride from the city center, we did walk it a few times but it was a good 3-4km each way. If I visited Amsterdam again, I would stay closer to the heart of the city, just to be more in the hustle and bustle of things. If you like to be in a quieter location, then this hotel is perfect.

Rooms were clean and basic and did have a Nespresso machine and a fridge.  I’m not a fan of Nespresso so I took a walk each morning to get coffee from elsewhere.  There weren’t many local places, so I walked about 1.5 miles to Haarlemmerdijk where there were plenty of different options for nice coffee.

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Things to do

Like most tourists, the Red Light District was something I wanted to see, but whilst walking down the streets and alleyways, looking at all the women in the windows, I felt a sense of guilt for looking at women as commodities.  Some of the women looked incredibly young and were very beautiful and it made me wonder why they choose to work in such an industry.  As soon as I returned home I purchased a book by Sarah Forsyth called Slave Girl.  The book is about an English girl that was unknowingly trafficked into working as a prostitute in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.  After reading the book (although I’m not overly convinced the story is 100% true, parts of the story don’t add up or make much sense), my opinion is that, in a progressive society, where we as women are fighting for equal rights, women in windows for the pleasure of men seems a little backwards.  Perhaps most are willingly there and I understand they are only trying to make a living like the rest of us, but my personal opinion is that something needs to change.

The next thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit Ann Frank’s House.  I’ve wanted to do this for a while, most people are familiar with the story of the Frank Family, but visiting the actual apartment really brings it home, especially as there are still personal touches in the house left by the family. For example, there are pictures of movie stars that Anne’s sister put up as she wanted to be an actress.  Photography is not allowed in the house but we booked the tour with the introduction beforehand.  A guide talks you through the story, which lasts about 30 minutes. Here you can take pictures of some of the artifacts and the pictures that are on the walls.  To visit Anne Frank’s House you have to book tickets in advance online.  Still expect to queue to get into the house, but it’s well worth it.

The front of the house where the Frank family hid , photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
The Frank timeline can be seen if you book the introductory program , photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

The next place that I visited was the Jewish Historical Museum. Entry is €17 for Adults and €8.50 for students.  The ticket covers five locations: the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and the National Holocaust Museum.  The only other place on that list that I went to was the National Holocaust Museum.  This museum, I think is relatively new and they are just developing it.  There isn’t a great deal to see at the moment, but it’s worth a look as it’s free once you have your ticket. 

National Holocaust Museum
National Holocaust Museum

The next museum I visited was Rijksmuseum.  Adult entry is €20 and they do not offer a student discount.  The museum was very busy and there is a lot to see, but I personally was not overly impressed by it. After reading rave reviews online, I thought it was a little disappointing. Perhaps I unfairly comparing it to the British Museum, which is wonderful and free.

The last two museums that I visited were the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum.  My advice would be to just visit the Sex Museum (Sexmuseum de Venustempel), I thought the Erotic Museum was rubbish in comparison and it was more expensive at €7 with the Sex Museum only being €5. 

Sexmuseum de Venustempel, photograph taken with iPhone

Food and Drink

Although I don’t smoke, I thought Barneys Uptown was really nice if you do want to smoke and drink (usually you can only do one or the other). They also serve food, the menu is not huge, but the food was nice and reasonably priced. For breakfast, the Breakfast Club was my favourite place.  I think they have a few locations in the city. For dinner, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Van Speyk, the food was mediocre, service under par and prices were expensive.  This isn’t somewhere I would recommend, nor return to. It felt like one of those places that simply was there to rip off tourists. We also ate at a placed called Cafe Broer “Brunch, Dinner & Drinks”, which I thought was really nice. Service was friendly, the menu wasn’t massive but the food was really good and very reasonably priced. It also felt like it was more of a local place than one geared towards tourists.

Heertje Friets, photograph taken with iPhone

Overall, Amsterdam is a really nice city to visit, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. I had read the odd article online that said Amsterdam is corrupt and the police are on the payroll of the underworld, but I don’t know how true this is, I certainly did not feel like I was in a corrupt city. I felt much safer walking around Amsterdam than I do in London. I definitely want to return with my DSLR, maybe next summer, but my next trip is to New York in November.

Happy exploring!

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
Sculptures at Westerpark, photograph taken with iPhone