Our last day in Holland was spent walking around Amsterdam enjoying the city life. We got up bright and early to get to the famous Amsterdam Central Station around 9am. After researching, we couldn’t believe that the station was built in 1884 on three artificial islands and is supported by 30,000 pilings (poles)! The building is massive and is the one featured in the photo above.
After leaving the station we quickly realized it was very quiet along the streets considering this was a city. It turns out nothing in Amsterdam is really open until around lunch hour. This was great for us though as we walked through the city taking in the beautiful architecture of old slanted buildings. We also walked all along the canals admiring all the houseboats with few other tourists around, just the locals. If you want to see inside a houseboat there is a houseboat museum on Prinsengracht street, however it is not open until 11 and only on specific days. Check the schedule if you really want to see this. The museum goes over the lifestyle of living on a houseboat and the many questions tourists like us have about temperature inside, electricity and where does the waste go for example. This area of Amsterdam is called Jordaan, known for its art and culture with Westerkerk (western church) as its landmark on the edge of Jordaan. It is pictured in the background of the photo with the houseboat to the left on Prinsengracht street. This church is where Rembrandt was buried, as he grew up in this area of town back in the day when it was considered the slums.
The best way to see Amsterdam in the day is to walk everywhere. You’ll be amazed by the things you find, and can use the Dam Square, the center of Amsterdam as your starting point. Here the Royal Palace is located and the national monument memorial from World War II. The building itself was initially built as the city hall and was the largest secular building in Europe during the 17th century. It was also built out of white stone! Hard to believe when looking at the photo.
We walked through the floating flower market on the Singel canal. All the flowers and other gardening tools are on display in these floating barges. From the side you can hardly tell that they are on water! The market opened in 1862 as all the flowers were brought in by boat through the canals. Today they are mostly brought in through a van.
If you walk down Stadhouderskade street you will go past the Heineken Experience as well as the Rijksmuseum. If you want to go to these both you will need more then a day. We just walked by the buildings as they are a sight themselves. The Heineken Experience, besides being in a huge warehouse that takes up an entire block, also has a section of the experience viewable from the street. As you can tell in the photo I couldn’t even get the full building in one frame! The Rijksmuseum is still under renovations and almost in its final stages to re-open in April 2013. With the new renovations you can follow a chronological sequence of 80 galleries, 8,000 works of art and objects that tell the story of 800 years of Dutch history, from the Middle Ages to the present day. If you want to visit this museum you will need almost a full day.
It’s interesting the things you find in Amsterdam…and smell…and see. Our favourite was the number of tiny vehicles just sitting on the sides of pathways or canals. We found these two little ones to the right. Apparently you are allowed to drive these vehicles without a license. So all is good in Amsterdam if you fail your license too, you can still operate just a smaller vehicle. Sure it wont go as fast but you still get to drive on the streets!
Clearly there is a lot you can get done in Amsterdam in a day. This post is long already but we also went through the Red Light District, saw an old castle/church in the middle of town that is now a restaurant and went through some street markets. The best way to experience Amsterdam is to just walk through the streets and you’ll be amazed at what you will see, find and smell.