AMSTERDAM: Useful Information and Free Tours
Русская версия At the end of November, Vitya had an event in Amsterdam, but found one day to explore the city in very tough regime. City tour, Red Light District, Heineken Expirience, and Ajax Arena – this is the small list of his activities. This is what he saw and learned.
First of all, I will focus on important travelling things, every visitor needs to know.
How to get the city from the Airport. The connection between the city and Schiphol Airport is excellent.You can take a taxi, bus, train or even free hotel shuttle if you stay, for example, in Hilton. I chose a train. The ticket to the Central Station costs 5 euros. After 20 minutes, you find youself in one of the most famous city in the world.
Public transport. You can use subway, trams, and buses. You can buy an hour ticket for 2.8 euro, or a 24-hour ticket (not daily, exactly 24 hours) for 7.5 euro for all kinds of transport. You can buy them in the subway, or from bus/tram driver. However, drivers may have only one type. For example, I was not lucky and had to buy one hour ticket, and then 24 hours.
NOTE! Validation is mandatory at the entrance and exit.
Toilets. At KFC WC was free of charge. Males have some advantage due to this kind of street toilets widespread in the city.
Internet can be found at McDonald’s.
What to do. First of all I decided to explore the city through Free Tours. Google showed to me the company which does not look like egular Free Tours: 3 euro fee is kindly asked. I was in a hurry and took this one because anyway usually I leave some tips to guide. It is not neccesary to book tickets on-line, you can pay later, as I did. The meeting point was at the Dam Square near the monument to victims of the Second World War.
Later I found another web-page, you can try to get free tour here.
The tour began in an unusual way. First of all, we were asked to introduce youself to neighbor. Later, when we left the noisy square everyone had to introduce his neighbor to the others. It was quite funny. There were 30 people, and most of them were from the US and Australia / New Zealand. After that, we were instructed about safety.
The first rule is not to take pictures of prostitutes. They are very upset, and can even beat you. Or their friends can break your camera. This is due to the fact that these girls are very shy.
You probably will laugh, but we were also warned not to buy drugs on the street. This is a flyer I got from the policeman. It’s written that instead of cocaine deallers sold white heroin. I’m not so good in this kind of things, but the result is clear: three people died.
Be aware of the bicycles. This city is overcrowded with cyclists. At the sidewalks next biking roads and at the crossroads you should pay attention not only to the vehicles, but also to the bikes rushing very fast.
And of course, it was highly recommended to look around, but remember about pickpockets. This is a usual thing for a big city though.
After 1.5 hours of walking, our guide stoped near the building, where we could get some snack. The tricky thing that at the same place they have their own office, where you can book tours for coffeeshops or Red Light District. Each costs 12 euro (students – 10).
The duaration of the tour was declared as 2.5 hours, so after the lunch we were supposed to continue our tour. I’d already booked the tour to Ajax Arena and Heiniken Expirience, so I bought Red Lights District ticket and left the group. I promise to make a separate report about my Red Lights Dostrict experience.
I should notice that later I met a girl who took all three tours offered by this company. She wasn’t satisfied with the coffeeshops tours, however.
So, what did I learn about the city during the tour?
First of all, a legend tells that two men and a dog survived a storm getting to the land. The first version of the legend claims that they were Vikings, and a fisherman saved him. According to the second version, these were just two fishermen. Opinions about what happened next, are also different. They either built a house and a dam on the river or a church in honor of the saint patron of sailors.
In the real history, the village was first time mentioned at the end of the 13th century. It was a marshland then. Its name comes from the Amstel River, and initially it sounded like Amsteldam – dam across the river Amstel. By the way, the Dam square, mentioned above, was the piece of land near the dam. After that, people organized channels via engineering solution and literally created land by own hands. The place became popular among sailors and traders, as a consequence, the settlement grew up. I don’t want to go deaper into the history of the city. I will say only that main progress was made by the city after the 80-year war with Spain: then it became the largest port in the world. Another interesting fact is that Amsterdam recieved the status of the capital from Napoleon, and his brother became the mayor of the city. It was the time when the Netherlands were part of France.
Now Amsterdam is a cute city with a lot of channels:
Buildings in the city center are tall and narrow. This is due to the fact that the land was heavily taxed. This way owners reduced the area, making the house high and thin. It was probably uncomfortable to carry up furniture or plasma TV. So there is a beam near the roof which was used as a lifting crane.
Many buildings have historical value. For example here, in Waag, Rembrandt painted a picture of “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp”. I do not have any idea why our guide paid attention only to this house:
Amsterdam and Holland are well known for diamonds, cheeses, and flower market which sells a variety of seeds …
Few words about Amsterdam museums…
All of them are located very close to each other. For your convenience, here I provide links to their web-pages.
City Sstedelijk Museum,
and Van Gogh Museum .Between these museums there is the famous inscription every tourist uses for the photo in Amsterdam:
Nearby you can find Diamond Museum.
I will mention the Royal Palace as well . It is located on Dam Square, and the ticket costs 10 euros.
The dark side of Amsterdam is in the coffeeshops. I’ve heard that the golden age of this business has started in 1970s. At this time, the city faced immigrants as a problem. Many people rushed to Amsterdam, especially from former colony of the Netherlands – Suriname. Now in the city center you can often feel a specific smell, but frankly I didn’t see a lot of junkies. However, our guide claimed that smoking of marijuana in the Netherlands is even less frequent than in Australia, the US, or France.
My story would not be complete without the Red Light District discription. I’ll tell about it next time.
In conclusion, a few photos of night Amsterdam, which I made before my departure.