Amsterdam is delightful any time of the year but summer reigns supreme. In July and August tourists flock to the never-ending procession of celebrations, festivals and music concerts staged atop scenic canal bridges. Amsterdam is an attractive Old World city truly in touch with its evocative, idiosyncratic and tolerant heritage. This city is a canvass, and its your vacation to paint any way you see fit.
Logistics: Dont take an airport shuttle from Schiphol International to your central Amsterdam hotel. Full shuttles drop each visitor off at separate hotels strewn about the city you may be wasting valuable hours in the process. Dont even consider renting an automobile. All the citys major sites are within walking distance; if you want to view the countryside, there are plenty of other options, including trains, buses and tour groups. Dont convert your dollars into Euros at the airport: The exchange rate is preposterous. Consider using a more established and respected financial institution in the citys business district.
Do take the train. The trains are conveniently located beneath the well-organized airport. The ride to the citys hotel district is only 15 minutes and costs a paltry 3.60 euros (about $4.42), one way.
Lodgings: The Hotel Aspen is an affordable, clean and centrally located boutique inn. Youll notice the glowing neon XXX on the street sign, but you havent arrived in the red-light district: XXX is emblematic of Amsterdams official flag. After being buzzed in, the imposing vertical flight of stairs gets you to the check-in. The charming rooms are small and minimalistic; several rooms share a bathroom, but this really isnt as much as an obstacle as you might anticipate. Details: www.hotelaspen.nl.
Oh, the sights: No trip to the Netherlands would be complete without visiting Anne Franks rooms the Secret Annex which have meticulously been maintained. You will definitely want to arrive earlier in the day. More than likely, there will be a time-consuming line to get into the Ann Frank Museum.
Before you arrive, grab a hearty breakfast a traditional Dutch pancake (pannekoeken); top yours with apple and Grand Marnier. The Pancake Bakery is only a block from the Anne Frank house.
Hop-on/off canal cruise: Try a canal bus. The cruise is an enjoyable and peaceful way to reach all of Amsterdams top historical or notable sights. Youll pass many noteworthy attractions and be dropped off at all major museums. A two-day pass runs only 33 euros (about $41) and you can get on/off at your leisure.
The worlds largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings is in the famous Van Gogh Museum. Beauty in Abundance, currently on display, has works of such masters as Bonnard, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Details: www.vangoghmuseum.nl.
The giant Rijksmuseum is considered Amsterdams finest museum, but due to hold-ups in renovation, displays are limited. Do your homework in advance ( www.rijksmuseum.nl). The iconic I amsterdam letters in front of the museum are a photo opportunity waiting to happen.
Shopping: For designer brands, great shopping and fine dining nothing tops the fashion and museum district. Also, there is extensive browsing to be found in vibrant Dam Square. Be sure to stop and sample the street markets or take in a local art show.
The Waterlooplein Market, in the middle of Amsterdam, is more avant garde in its offerings and is an enjoyable and laid-back shopping experience.
Mark Vanek, who lives at Lake Norman, has unlimited standby flight privileges and writes about where he goes: flying-standby.blogspot.com.
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