Amsterdam – Top Ten City

Amsterdam conjures up for many people an image of canals, cycles, slightly dodgy coffee shops and the red light district. These are all part of the Amsterdam scene, but of course there is much more to the capital city of the Netherlands.

Coffee Shop in Central Amsterdam
Coffee Shop in Central Amsterdam

I have always enjoyed my visits to Amsterdam. Whatever the time of year, I’ve always found it to be a vibrant city with plenty to see and do; hence its place in my list of Top Ten Cities. One good aspect for Seniors, who are maybe not quite as nimble as they were, is that the central historic area is compact enough to be explored on foot without a hill in sight! The three inter-connecting Canal Bus routes provide pleasant, relaxed transport for longer journeys within the city.

Most visitors arrive at the Central Station (built on 8,687 wooden piles over the harbour water), a good starting point for strolling around the streets follow the concentric pattern of the canals, with many historic buildings and interesting shops and markets along the way.

If for ‘educational purposes’ you wish to visit a coffee shop then you can get a good coffee in an unthreatening atmosphere at the Jolly Joker in Nieuwmarkt,  and the nearby red light district is difficult to avoid in an early evening walk.


Top five highlights

Out of the very many things to see and do in Amsterdam, these are my not-to-miss highlights for Seniors who want an interesting, informative, but not too hectic visit:

  1. Ann Frank House – Visiting the house where Anne hid for two years during WWII is a moving experience – very much so for Seniors where WWII and its aftermaths featured prominently in their early lives. You can book in advance on line – the extra €0.50 reservation fee is well worth paying to avoid long queues during tourist high seasons.
  2. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam – One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world dating back to 1638, with over 4,000 plant species and a three-climate tropical greenhouse and butterfly greenhouse. I find it a pleasant, quiet break from the hustle of the city and enjoy a drink in the Orangery café surrounded by exotic plants. Although it’s not in my Top Ten Gardens list, it was a close contender. Seniors 65 and over get about 50% discount on the entrance fee.
  3. Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum – Situated together in the Museumplein (although some of the Van Gogh exhibits are in the Hermitage a mile away until April 2013). The Rijksmuseum has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age including many by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals. The Van Gogh Museum has the largest collection in the world of his paintings and drawings along with those of his contemporaries. Give yourself plenty of time to really enjoy these exhibitions, preferably when it’s not too busy.
  4. Artis Royal Zoo – Not just a zoo, also has an aquarium, a planetarium, a geological museum, and a zoological museum. There is a reduced entry fee for Seniors 65+.
  5. Heineken Experience – An entertaining, interactive tour of the building where Heineken brewed beer for 100 years. Strap yourself in for the simulated horse and carriage ride around Amsterdam and enjoy the Heineken samples along the way!  To avoid queues and get a reduced entry charge then book in advance on line.
PO Ferry berthed in Rotterdam
PO Ferry berthed in Rotterdam

How to get there

DFDS Seaways ferries travel from Newcastle to Amsterdam and PO Ferries travel from Hull to Rotterdam with onward coach connection to Amsterdam (see my review of PO Ferries to Rotterdam). Both are currently offering 2 for the price of 1 excursion deals to Amsterdam, although these offers may not apply during the busy Easter and Summer periods.

Several airlines fly to Amsterdam including Jet2 from  Leeds-Bradford, British Airways from Gatwick (at budget airline prices) and Heathrow and KLM from several airports around the UK.

Where to stay

All the major hotel chains have hotels in Amsterdam, sometimes several, but don’t forget to check my Hotel Deals for Seniors to get the best discount rates. One of my favourite hotels just 300 metres from the Central Station is the Crowne Plaza City Centre (with a 15% Senior discount if 62 or over).