is renowned for its golden tulips, romantic canals, sparkling
diamonds and many art treasures. But do you know what makes
this city really great? Its small size! All the treasures
of this dynamic metropolis are within easy walking distance
from each other, unearths Inder Raj Ahluwalia
is regarded as having more faces than any diamond ever
cut in the city. To most visitors, Amsterdam comes as
something of a surprise. The citys structure itself
is a bit of a surprise, with its inhabitants being able to
convert Europes largest historical city with over 7,000
houses and buildings, into a modern cosmopolitan centre. This
fascinating contrast of the old and new makes Amsterdam what
it is. Surprising, unpredictable and exciting.
Canals and buildings are neatly arranged in a sort of grid
pattern, a delightful mix of water and stone. The 160 odd
canals and 1,100 bridges traverse the citys length and
breadth, and feeding all the canals is the river Amstel. A
dam built on the river gave the city its name, Amsterdam (Dam
on the Amstel). Quite aptly, it is called the Venice
of the North.
Amsterdams foundations are old and solid and its heart
has been beating since 1275. It was during the Golden Age
that the famous canal system was dug around the medieval city
wall, and powerful merchants built richly decorated houses
along these canals. The canals form a concentrated network
that has reduced city distances and given cohesion to the
city. The famous crescent-shaped canal belt of Herengracht,
Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht is still considered a classic
example of town planning. The 75,000 trees line these man-made
waterways and over 7,000 century-old buildings lie within
their girdle. There is no better way to sightsee than sailing
the canals. Tours start and terminate at the Central Station,
and take one through the city, criss-crossing till justice
has been done, and no corner left unvisited. The barges are
large, flat 100-seaters, the pilots are Dutch, which means
plenty of talk and plenty of fun. Sailing along, one passes
through straight, uniformly coloured, high buildings, all
stone and brick. The canal odyssey can include seeing the
17th century West Church Tower - the highest in the city -
through a narrow street in between buildings, or the Twin
Sisters - two houses exactly alike - and the Golden Curve,
residential area of the rich. Just after the Golden Curve
is one of the citys best photographed scenes - a long,
straight view of five arched bridges.
Royal Palace in Amsterdam has a beautiful collection of
empire furniture, clocks and chandeliers
down the Amstel, one passes wooden drawbridges revealing a
typically European system, and the 17th century South Church,
the first Protestant church in Amsterdam. Then one is among
the houseboats, whose number has grown to over 2,000 thanks
to local housing shortages. One reaches the East Dock, the
former city harbour, which now has the Shipping Museum with
its 17th century exhibits. Back one goes to the Central Station
with its huge and beautiful building, with its stately front
and factory-type back made up of corrugated iron and glass.
Museums beckon. None more so than the Rijksmuseum which contains
the worlds most beautiful collection of Dutch masters,
including Rembrandts Night Watch which hangs
in a setting of paneling and effective illumination. At the
Vincent Van Gogh Museum, one can see over 200 of the artists
paintings. At Madame Tussauds, one comes face to face
with famous personalities modelled in wax, and in the Anne
Frank House, one can see and feel preserved memories of the
girl who wrote her famous diary during World War II.
boasts some excellent orchestras
Amsterdam, you can eat in any language an old saying
has it, and while this may be a bit immodest, it reflects
the citys vast and varied culinary options. The Dutch
kitchen boasts specialities like peasoup, zuurkool
(pickled cabbage), pork with sauerkraut and smoked eel, which
dont just taste, good but are also figure-friendly.
Indonesian food is omnipresent among the citys 500-odd
restaurants that also include Chinese, French, Italian, Greek
and Indian outlets. Highly recommended is Rijsttafel
which can comprise up to 20 different dishes stretching from
very spicy to sweet, and the omnipresent Broodjes
(bread rolls filled with ham, cheese, liver, shrimps or steak
tartare). There are the pancake specialists, and there is
the famous Dutch herring.
is no better way to sightsee than sailing the canals
Apart from walking along the canals, the next best way to
savour local atmosphere is by lingering over a drink at an
outdoor cafe terrace and watching the crowds go by, or by
dropping in at a Bruine kroeg, as the pubs or
brown cafes are known. Some brown cafes offer
snacks, some go further and offer a range of cuisine, others
specialise in a particular drink, mostly jenever
(Dutch Gin). People usually stand and you dont have
to be afraid of passing out: theres just no room to
fall down. In the Dam area, one can find several liqueur tasting
rooms where one can sample different Dutch liqueurs with secret
The transition from day to night is barely noticeable, what
with cafes staying open till early morning, and the nightlife
in clubs, bars, and discos still in full swing till even later.
Leidseplein, Rembrandtsplein, Reguliersdwarsstraat, and the
Koepelkwartier, are some local hot spots that
feature quality nightclubs. Nightclubs operate in the Rembrandtsplein
and Thorbeckenplein areas. Jazz and Dixieland concerts are
also part of the show along with eternal disco music.
frequent trams, buses and underground trains will take
you wherever you wish to go. Above: Central Station
are several shopping options, and the nice thing is that shops
are concentrated in certain quarters and are all within walking
distance. The major shopping areas are situated between the
Nieuwendijk and Rembrandtsplein, and at Kalverstraat,
through which some 250,000 people pass every week. Fashion
shops and boutiques beckon in the Museumkwartier (Museum quarter),
and antique shops are found along the Spiegelgracht and Rokin.
The Bijenkorf, Kalvertoren, Magna Plaza Shopping Centre and
Maison de Bonneterie offer shopping in monumental buildings.
Some 150 art galleries also provide plenty of shopping excitement.
Its worth walking through the Jordaan, a charming quarter
with small shops and boutiques.
have been an inseparable part of Amsterdam since the 16th
century, with stone cutting and polishing being amongst the
largest, though not most visible industries. Famous diamonds
like the Cullinan - the largest ever found, and
the famous Kohinoor were cut in the city. Diamond
Foundation Amsterdam represents the citys five largest
diamond merchants, and are open daily for guided tours.
world-famous Madurodam, the miniature Holland, is located
a stone’s away from Amsterdam
is a city of seasons. In spring, the parks and gardens are
ablaze with thousands of flowers. The park is the Amsterdam
Wood that runs from Amsterdam to the residential town of Amstelveen.
In summer, rows of trees along the canals transform the city
into Europes greenest. Autumn sees the browning leaves
turn the canals to gold. And in winter the trees are bare
and the houses along the canals show their full beauty, while
people skate along. It is, undoubtedly, a city that will fill
you with wonder.
offers nightlife aplenty, from bars with live music
to stylish casinos; from trendy night-spots to dynamic
discos and eye-opening entertainment in the red-light
district (a tour with guide can be arranged); and
many cinemas showing original versions of international
films with Dutch subtitles. Trendy lunch bars and
lounge bars, such as New Deli, NL-Lounge, Vak-Zuid
and the Supper Club are the in places to be. Cafes
featuring stand-up comedians are extremely popular.
Examples are Boom Chicago and Toomlers. To see
and to be seen you go to the Panama or the Theatre
Pompoen (jazz cafe). Most of the cafes, restaurants,
nightclubs and discotheques are located around Leidseplein,
in the Jordan and Rembrandtiplein areas, and are still
going strong in the early hours of the morning.
Theatre Casa Rosso (Tel: 00 31 20 6278954) presents
a non-stop live show seven days a week. A variety
of erotic acts can be seen in continuous alternating
succession. The Bananenbar (Tel: 00 31 20 6224670)
enjoys great international popularity. The bar is
open seven days a week. The breathtaking hostesses
sit on a specially designed bar. The girls pour the
drinks and turn a variety of sexy tricks on request.
The Erotic Museum (Tel: 00 31 20 624 7303) offers
a comprehensive collection of erotica. Both old master
and modern artists convey their vision of sex through
paintings, objects and photographs. The museum is
housed in a five-storey 18th century building. On
each floor is a collection of erotic art from different
cultures and eras. A must for anyone visiting the
red light district.
Red Light Tours: Amsterdams red light
district has a tradition that dates back to when Amsterdam
was Europes main sea port. The guide will take
you past the most interesting spots in the district,
such as the most beautiful and oldest church in Amsterdam,
the oldest street, and the oldest house. The guided
tour takes 1.5 hours.
Music, Opera & Films: The Concertgebouw
hosts two excellent orchestras: the Amsterdam Philharmonisch
Orkest and the Concertgebouworkest. The Nationale
Ballet is world-famous. There are over 50 cinemas
screening a variety of films. The Amsterdam Culture
& Leisure Pass enables free entry or discounts
to all important museums, and reductions on excursions
and in restaurants.
Tickets Booking: The Amsterdam Uit Buro, Tel
0031 206211211. Kaartenhuis, Tel 0031 152136050.
Haesje Claes (Dutch): Tel - 0031 20 6249998
Kantijl & De Tijger (Indonesian): Tel - 0031
New Bali (Indonesian): Tel - 0031 206227878
Cafe Cox: Tel - 0031 206207222
De Bolhoed (Vegetarian & Fish): Tel - 031 206261803
De Roode Leeuw: Tel - 00 31 20 5550666
Puri Mas: Tel - 00 31 20 6277627
Holland Village: Tel - 00 31 20 6241876
The Pancake Bakery: Tel - 00 31 20 6251333
Tel: 00 31 20 5564564
This hotel has been built behind the facades of 19 monumental
houses, offering a blend of comfort, historical appearance
and personalised service.
Hotel De IEurope
Tel: 00 31 20 5311777
The most luxurious hotel of Amsterdam is five minutes
walking distance from the Dam Square. The hotel also
boasts the famous restaurant Excelsior.
Bilderberg Garden Hotel
Tel: 00 31 20 5705600
This small five-star hotel combines international allure
and friendly hospitality. Tasty surprises will impress
you in the internationally renowned restaurant, Mangerie
Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Tel: 00 31 20 5235235
This unique hotel combines 17th century grandeur with
the latest in modern comfort. The brand new Pulitzers
Cafe, Bar & Restaurant is an absolute must for special
Tel: 00 31 20 3164300
It is the only five-star hotel in the airport terminal
with direct access from the arrival and departure halls
by an enclosed walkway. The all day dining restaurant
Voyager offers stunning views of aircraft activity.
There: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a major aviation
hub connected with all major world cities, including
Delhi and Mumbai. It offers several eateries and superb
duty-free shopping. It takes 30 minutes to the city
by train, bus or taxi.
Getting Around: Convenient bus stations are at Central
Station, Amstel Station, Europaplein and Weesperplein.
Train stations are Central, Amstel, Metro and Muiderpoort.
Metro trains, buses and trams run until midnight, night
buses take over until 6 am.
Excursions: The city is a good excursion starting
point. There are bus excursions, day or half-day trips,
and self-drive options. Less than an hours drive
away are the province of Noord-Holland, historic villages
like Volendam and Marken, and picturesque towns like
Edam, Monnickendam, Hoorn, and Enkhuizen. Alkmaar with
its cheese market, Keukenhof with its tulip fields,
and Aslsmeer with the worlds biggest flower auction,
are other day trip attractions. The Holland Rail Pass
allows unlimited travel for any 3-5 days around Holland
within one month. A I-Day Rover Ticket allows unlimited
railways travel for one day.
Business Hours: Offices and Banks: Monday-Fridays
9 am until 5-5.30 pm. Shops: Monday-Friday 8.30-9 am
to 5.30-6 pm, Saturday upto 5 pm. There is late night
shopping on Thursdays and Fridays until 9 pm.
Phone & Fax Code: 00 31 20. National Emergency
Tourist Offices: Netherlands Bureau of Tourism,
Bleit Weg 15, PO Box 458. VVV Amsterdam Tourist Offices
are at Stationsplein 10. Tel: 26 64 44, Leidesplein
15, and Rijksweg A2.