If you are for a short stay in Amsterdam or have just one day in Amsterdam, you can still do a lot of things in the city.
We have been to there twice. Both times it was a short trip, time stolen from our busy schedule. First time we went to Amsterdam from Brussels on our way back to India during gloomy winter days. It was not the best time to visit Amsterdam.
I remember it vividly, it was a Sunday in the beginning of 21st century. We didn’t have a digital camera then. We took an early train to Amsterdam from where we had to take our flight for Mumbai. Brussels to Amsterdam is just an hour’s train journey. Sometimes we feel it is easier to go from one country to another in Europe than to travel from one city to another back home in India.
This is how Amsterdam Central Station looks like.
About the City:
The name Amsterdam literally means Amstel dam. The meaning of Amestelledamme is dam on the river Amstel, where Amstel can be further dissected into ‘ame’ meaning water and ‘stelle’ meaning dry ground. The damming of the river Amstel gave it its name. In Dutch, their native language, Amstelredam means “Dam in the Amstel” which turned into Amsterdam in the course of time.
According to legend, Amsterdam was found by two fishermen, who landed on the shores of the Amstel in a small boat with their dog. So, Amsterdam began as a fishing village. And yes, like Venice it is a city of canals. And that was my foremost reason to visit this amazing city.
The life of Amsterdam has been its aquatic locale, close as it is to the North Sea and built on myriad canals, which neatly divide the city into easily navigable districts and imbue it with a small town ambiance. It looked like there was a canal around every corner in Amsterdam – not too surprising, considering that the city is home to more canals than Venice.
Almost half of the city is below sea level so the occasional Western storm brings a lot of water at once, and all of it has to be pumped out to higher ground and to the seas around the city. These bodies of water make winter days very cloudy and damp.
One more thing that amazed us was triangular shaped houses in Amsterdam.
Public transport in Amsterdam mainly consists of bus, trams and ferries. The above picture is of an old tram. I heard that ferries operate free of charge for pedestrians and cyclists across the IJ lake just to encourage the environment friendly modes of transport. Most main streets have bike paths. In the city centre, driving a car is discouraged. Parking fees are steep and a great number of streets are closed to cars or are only one-way.
Free things to do in Amsterdam:
Every penny counts when you are travelling, especially in Europe. To ease the burden on your pocket, there are many free things to do in Amsterdam. I’ll mention just a few.
- The beautiful Rijksmuseum Gardens at Museumplein are totally free for public every day between 0900-1800. You don’t need to buy a Rijksmuseum ticket to enter here.
- Begijnhof, a hidden garden courtyard in the heart of Amsterdam. It has a chapel, an old English church, and the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam. And yes, some beautiful gable stones too.
- The chess museum Max Euwe Centre, dedicated to former Dutch grandmaster Max Euwe, has a free entry. And at this location you can also see a large chessboard where you can also play with the locals.
- Blue and white GVB ferries which operate from the back of Amsterdam Central station are for free ride. No tickets are required. Just hop in.
- Admire the curved ceiling of glass mosaic, wall tiles and theme chandeliers in a beautiful passageway called Beurspassage. You can see local artists’ work which is a tribute to Amsterdam’s canals and how life originated from them.
- The city has a Chinatown near central station. You can visit Zeedijk Temple and its shrines for free.
Exploring a city on a bike lets you see more in a day as well as blending in with the locals at the same time. The city is well known for its bicycle friendly culture and it has separate paths for the bicycle riders.
Amsterdam is also famous for its red-light area. Window prostitution is legal in the Netherlands at specific places. The red-light district is located in the center of the city along with major canals and is clearly marked on maps.
We didn’t have time to explore much, just clicked some photos before heading to the airport. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is less than 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station. It was the biggest airport in the Netherlands, the fourth largest in Europe. Is it still the same? 🙂
The next post is going to be on Visit to Keukenhof garden, the famous garden of tulips.