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24 Hours in Amsterdam

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The city is synonymous with the bike, around every corner and in every crevice it breathes bikes. It’s a cyclist’s spiritual home, a temple to all things two wheeled.

I have always loved the idea of Amsterdam; its pragmatism is by far its greatest attraction. The Dutch had the first homosexual marriage, the red light district is regularly visited by families and it’s synonymous with its relaxed approach to drugs, which infuriates most because in reality the liberal drugs policy hasn’t actually seen an increase in drug use. It’s simple to immerse in all that Amsterdam had to offer, stunning museums, contemporary galleries, an intricate network of canals and vibrant nightlife

There are an abundance of these infamous establishments dotted throughout the city, café-clubs, café-pubs and café-bars, a visit is a must.

Where to stay?

NH City Centre (Spuistraat 288-292, 1012 VX Amsterdam; +31 20 420 4545) set in a 1920s-era redbrick building by the Singel canal, this straightforward hotel is a minute’s walk from the nearest tram stop, a 12-minute walk from the Anne Frank House and a 13-minute walk from the trendy Jordaan neighborhood.

The bright rooms with modern furnishings feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, as well as minibars and sitting areas. Most rooms have canal views. Upgraded rooms add extra space and beds.

A breakfast buffet is served in the casual dining room. There’s a low-key bar, plus a rustic restaurant set in a nearby 17th-century buildin

Where to eat?

Fat Dog (Ruysdaelkade 251 1072 AX Amsterdam; (+31) 20 221 6249) For hot dogs, look no further than the Fat Dog, Amsterdam’s first-ever hot dog joint, opened by acclaimed chef/restaurateur Ron Blaauw in 2014. Order an all-pork frank with sauerkraut, mustard, and onion marmalade (called “Gangs of New York”) or go for the chicken “Gado Gado” hot dog with satay sauce, cabbage, and serundeng (spiced coconut flakes). Innovation doesn’t stop there: The lamb dog comes with baba ganoush, and there’s also a veggie dog. [$]

What to see?

Once home to a stinky wax candle factory and marshy meadows, the Museum Quarter has been transformed into the City’s most affluent area. Home to the RiksmuseumStedelijk MuseumVan Gogh Museum and a diverse array of boutique outlets and specialist artisan shops, which would adequately fuel any shopping spree.

The Rijksmusuem (Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam) is massive and is believed to house over one million objects. Its stunning ornate façade is best enjoyed from the peaceful serenity of the expertly manicured gardens opposite, the only sound was the sporadic rush of water from the contemporary water feature set in the heart of the greenery. As we approached the entrance I noticed several cyclists emerge from the interior. Amazingly a bicycle path has allowed pedestrians and cyclists a shortcut across the city ever since the museum was built. The path is in a tunnel, separating galleries and proving a nuisance to curators, but offering a unique opportunity for Amsterdam’s cycle-loving citizens. However whilst the museum was closed for renovation there were calls for its permanent closure, the Rijksmuseum arguing it was a hazard to its visitors. At one point there was a chance the city might have to hold a referendum before the City Council jumped in and decided it would stay. Vigilance and compromise is key.

Inside the highlight and main attraction is the Rembrandt floor especially the world famous ‘Night Watch’ depicting the jovial bunch of civic guards, it was great to able to sit looking at this masterpiece with the minimal distraction apart from the occasional interloper (usually American) but my personal favourite is the ‘Militia Company of District VIII under the command of Captain Roelof Bicker’ by Bartholomeus van der Helst. The images so lifelike, the painter capturing every emotion and expression.

The unusual?

Anne Franks Huis (Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam;  +31 20 556 7105)  For more than two years Anne and her family lived in the annex of the building at Prinsengracht 263 where Anne’s father, Otto Frank, also had his business. It was strange and emotional to walk through the doorway to the annex that was concealed behind a moveable bookcase constructed especially for this purpose. On August 4, 1944, the hiding place was betrayed. The people in hiding were deported to various concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived the war and arranged for Anne’s inspirational words to be published as a book. Nowadays, the rooms within the property, though empty, still breathe the atmosphere of that period of time, slightly eerie. Quotations from the diary, historical documents, photographs, film images, and original objects that belonged to those in hiding and the helpers illustrate the events that took place here and allow you to contemplate the horrors of war and how it impacts on real people’s lives. During her time in hiding, Anne’s wrote a diary, developing into a talented writer and the original diary and other notebooks are on display in the museum. The whole experience is very moving and tastefully presented and made me so thankful for my life in relative freedom. I would highly recommend a visit especially if you want to see a different more refined and less frenetic side to the city.

Red light district

The majority of people have heard about Amsterdam’s Red Light District well before their visit. Leaving nothing to the imagination, some stereotypes about this area are true…

There are plenty of sex shops, peep shows, brothels, an elaborate condom shop, a sex museum and prostitutes in red-lit windows. But the heart of Amsterdam is much more than that. New opportunities are setting in place a future for the city centre that will show the many qualities.

Prostitution has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance in Amsterdam. Safety is key here. In addition to preventing forced prostitution, the aim is an open and honest approach. Sex-workers here have their own union, plenty of police protection, an information centre (for visitors as well), frequent monitoring and testing and professional standards.

Bike Hire?

Mike Bike Tours (Prins Hendrikkade 176 1011 TC Amsterdam; +31(0) 20 622 7970) specialise in undercover rental bikes. Which means no big signs on the front of our bike rentals advertising that you are a tourist. So with their bicycle rentals you can ride around incognito and really enjoy bicycling in and around Amsterdam. They offer a wide variation of  sizes and colours to suit everyone. So if you want to rent a bike in Amsterdam, drop by their shop for your cool rental bikes.

When renting bikes, Mike’s Bike Rentals requires you to leave one of the following as a deposit: • a Passport OR • European ID card  OR • Driver’s license OR • a credit card imprint (Please note that we are only able to make an imprint in our Rental shop on the Kerkstraat and it’s possible with Visa or Mastercard, no electron cards accepted,) OR • €300 cash.

Getting there?

There are several ways of travelling from the UK to Amsterdam. The quickest and easiest way is by air from a selection of UK airports . The Eurostar train is a good alternative from London, connecting via Brussels with one of the high-speed rail links into Amsterdam. A more leisurely alternative is to travel by ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland with rail connections either end.

Flights to Amsterdam

There are frequent daily flights to Amsterdam from most UK airports. London Heathrow is serviced by KLM and British Airways. London Gatwick offers flights by EasyJet and British Airways. London Southend also accommodate Easyjet and London City airport is serviced by KLM, British Airways and VLM Airlines. The two outlying airports of Luton and Stanstead are serviced by EasyJet.

Train from London to Amsterdam by Eurostar

This is the high-speed daytime option taking just 5 hours 36 minutes city centre to city centre (compare this with around 4½ hours by air in total), with a wide choice of departures and no sea crossing involved. Take Eurostar from London to Brussels via the Channel Tunnel, then either the hourly InterCity train or a high-speed Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam. A comfortable & relaxed way to travel, especially when compared to flying. Book early for the cheapest prices which start around £69 one way. For full details go to www.eurostar.com

Amsterdam by train + ferry

This is the cheapest & most leisurely way to go, with combined train+ferry fares from as little as £29 one-way to central Amsterdam or any station in the Netherlands. You take an early morning train to Harwich, Stena Line’s daytime ferry to Hook of Holland, then Dutch trains to Amsterdam, arriving early evening.
Overnight with cabin: This is the most convenient & time-effective way to go, and one ticket covers the whole journey. From around £55 one-way, this option takes you from central London to central Amsterdam or anywhere else in the Netherlands. The fare includes the train to Harwich, a private cabin on the ferry with en suite shower/toilet, and onward train travel in the Netherlands. Leave central London in the evening, sleep on the ferry, and arrive in Rotterdam, the Hague or Amsterdam next morning. It runs daily, ideal for a weekend away or an eco-friendly business trip.

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