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Published May 11th 2014
Tour the canals or walk the red light district
When most people think Amsterdam the first thing that pops into their head is the red light district, but when I first started researching things to do and see in Amsterdam for our European adventure, I was surprised by how much is available.
We were here to visit family and see some key sites but Amsterdam provides such a vast range of attractions that you can safely say that there is much to delight everyone. If you love art you can choose from the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum amongst others. We did not visit any of these, art is not our thing, but we had a great time visiting other attractions.
We were fortunate enough to have family nearby who were happy to spend a day with us travelling to tourist attractions. We are so glad we had that opportunity as we saw so much more in one day than we possibly could have travelling on public transport. All of these attractions are accessible from Amsterdam city by public transport and the web has many wonderful sites which will help you find your way around.
We stayed approximately 2 kms from Amsterdam Centraal in Oude Pijp; very convenient for trains, trams and many attractions. It was an easy walk to the train station or we could catch a tram. We had no difficulty walking around the city or on the public transport at night and felt safe walking out to dinner or catching a train after dark.
A short walk along Utrechtseestraat will find all varieties of restaurants and cafes. Eventually you will reach Rembrandtplein where it is not unusual to find the square filled with people who have met up after work for a picnic in the square. It is a lovely social atmosphere and in the summer months is absolutely wonderful.
Also not far from our hotel was the Albert Cuyp Market. This market was just beautiful and so very different from anything I have seen in Australia. There is a great range of food, both cooked and raw along with lots of clothes, bags, shoes and many other delights. On the corner you will find the croquettes stall. My husband's family are Dutch and he was brought up on many of the dutch treats, however these were served quite differently to what we are used to. The croquettes are served in a bread roll much like we would eat a sausage with a good serve of mayonnaise or tomato sauce if you prefer.
Further along there was the poffertjes stall, this is an absolute must! Walk by the croquettes if you must but do not walk by the poffertjes. We have been eating poffertjes here in Australia for as long as I can remember and they are absolutely wonderful, but you have not had poffertjes until you have had them in the Netherlands. There is a choice of toppings however the traditional way is to have them with butter melting over the top and icing sugar. It sounds really unhealthy and very, very decadent and well yes it is, however even if you only do this once in your life you must do it! At the time we were there a €5 serve was enough to satisfy three of us and we really do love our poffretjes.
If you need supplies, down a little alleyway in around the middle of the market you will find Albert Heijn; Australia's version of Coles or Woolworths. Well stocked and reasonably cheap, I bought many supplies here of our favourite Dutch treats to bring home as it was much cheaper than trying to buy them in Australia.
With the appropriate amount of awareness, Amsterdam is probably one of the safest places I have been, however you do have to watch out for bicycles. The Dutch ride everywhere they can. They have bike lanes down the side of most roads or they simply ride on the road, however if you are crossing the road it is expected that you will give way. They are well behaved and will stop at red lights. They will also give way if you have a walk light, however if they have a go, go they will and you could find yourself in some strife if you get in the way. Scooters also ride in the bike lanes and these can be very dangerous. Because there are so many bike riders you will find bikes parked everywhere and often all over the footpath. Not always as well organised as below. This can make it very difficult to walk on the paths while trying to stay out of the bike lanes; it can be a challenge but seems to work itself out.
There is much to see and do in Amsterdam and is well worth a visit. Tourist season is July to August however we visited in May and it was warm and pleasant. If you are interested in reading about tourist attractions, see my article Amsterdam Attractions.