Having been a Schiphol airport transfer driver for many years, I know my way around Amsterdam. I’ve driven through all parts of it and spent lots of time there, and of course, I’ve spoken to plenty of holiday goers at the start and end of their trips, on the way to the hotels and on their transfer back to Schiphol airport. So I know a thing or two about the best parts of the city – the hidden gems, the overrated attractions, and the big sights that are truly worth seeing.
When to Go
Amsterdam is a great place to visit at any time of the year. It gets cold in the winter, but not too cold, and the occasional snowfall can really add to the atmosphere of the city. If you want to time your arrival with a festival of some kind, here are some of the year round highlights:
• April 30th – Queensday: A riotous party day in Amsterdam, where the streets are swarmed with revellers clad in orange.
• June and August – Vondelpark Open Air Theatre: Amsterdam’s best park is host to music, comedy, theatre and a great atmosphere.
• Last weekend of August – Uitmarkt: The biggest event in Amsterdam’s cultural calendar, with performances, concerts, exhibitions, drama, and a book market, and all events are free.
Where to Go
Amsterdam’s Red Light district may be one of the city’s most famous (or infamous!) attractions, but it isn’t really worth spending much time in, except perhaps for one brief walkthrough to satisfy your curiosity. Most of the real pleasure to be had in Amsterdam comes simply from walking around the city – it is a beautiful horseshoe shaped canal city that is great to explore on foot, with the Vondelpark in the south of the city being its best green space.
The cities attitude to cannabis is as famous the Red Light District; with the drug sold legally in coffee shops throughout the city, I can tell you, during my transfers to Schiphol airport I’ve heard my fair share of cannabis war stories from people who took things too far! If you do decide to experiment, then be sure to ask advice from the owners of the coffee shops and be sparing – Amsterdam cannabis can be very strong!
If you are a culture vulture, the Rijks museum (containing many Rembrandts, including “The Night Watch”) and Van Gogh museum will satisfy any artistic cravings you’ve got. I’ve heard plenty of people say that Anne Frank’s house, where she and her family lived in a secret during the Second World War before they were betrayed to the Nazis, is a very moving place to visit, but it is worth going in the off-season to dodge the long queues. It’s a place that is best experienced without hordes of people around you!
Where to Stay
Being a Schiphol shuttle driver, hotels are often the hot topic in my car; the good, the bad and the ugly! At the top end of Amsterdam’s hotels, people continually rave about the Hilton Amsterdam. Located a short way out of town in a beautiful tree lined street, it is a pleasure to drive to and, apparently, even more of a pleasure to stay in! The place to go for luxury stays in the city.
For mid-range, a good choice is the Hotel Pax. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but for a surprisingly low price you get a comfortable private room and some very friendly service. At the absolute budget end, there are a lot of bad choices; when I’m taking people on a transfer back to Schiphol airport, I hear a lot of people complaining about some of the youth hostels and cheap hotels. But one good one is the Hotel Tamara – this place is continually recommended as being clean, cheap and good value for money.
Amsterdam is a great city to visit, so long as you know where to stay and what to see, and I hope my few pieces of advice help you to have a great holiday in Amsterdam!
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