Chances are you have heard one or two things about Amsterdam already!
A liberal city full of juxtapositions, this is a place that you just have to see for yourself to fully understand its quirks.
Although I work for HI this was a personal trip that I took with some friends and whilst Amsterdam is not commonly a place for a ‘girls holiday’, I think we held our own! We had an amazing time, saw some intriguing sights to say the least and laughed a LOT.
I thought I would share some of my highlights from the weekend that show a different side to The Dam…
It goes without saying that a visit to Anne Frank House is a must. Unless you buy tickets ahead from the official website, be prepared to queue for at least an hour, but do not let this deter you; people watching, taking photos and hot chocolates from a nearby café kept us occupied. Since learning about Anne Frank at school and reading her diary, I have always wanted to see the small annex where 8 people managed to remain in hiding from the SS during the Holocaust for 2 whole years. Visiting the house is a very surreal experience; you are taken through what used to be the warehouse in the 1940’s and the original office of Otto Frank, before going through to the secret annex. It is a very unnerving moment going behind the moveable bookcase which conceals the door and practically climbing the steep and narrow stairs that resemble ladders. Upon entering the darkened rooms where Anne and the others lived, it is difficult to comprehend how they managed to remain unheard for so long as being such an old building every noise seems magnified. Seeing Anne’s bedroom and the attic where Anne and Peter shared their first kiss was very poignant as they were just as I had pictured when reading Anne’s diary. Quotes by Anne are interspersed with other historical artefacts including emotional video footage from her father Otto and her old school friends. This visit is one that stays with you long after you leave; my friends and I have already started re-reading Anne’s diary.
The Anne Frank House is situated in the centre of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267. Tickets at the door are €9. It takes around 20 minutes to walk from the Central Station to the museum. Trams 13, 14 and 17 and buses 170, 172 and 174 stop nearby, at the ‘Westermarkt’ stop.
City Canal Cruise
As the sun was shining on Saturday afternoon in the city, we wanted to make the most of it, so we decided to hop on a boat and take the one-hour City Canal Cruise tour. There is nothing like being on the water, sunglasses on and the sun beaming! Costing only €13, tickets can be purchased from the many tourist shops along the canals and boats depart every 15 minutes from various locations. We boarded outside Anne Frank House and befriended some very funny fellow Englishmen whilst queuing!
The tour is a convenient way to see more of the city including the wealthiest street, houseboats, bridges and the old harbour.
A computerised audio system in several languages guides you through the canal sights. A Hop On/Hop Off Day Pass can also be purchased starting from €20.
I paid a visit to one of our most popular HI hostels, Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark. The hostel is partly located in a vast chalet building from which guests have a stunning view over Vondelpark which is the largest park in Amsterdam and includes an open-air theatre, a playground and several restaurants. Our Stayokay hostel sits at the start of the park and is only a short 10 minute tram ride from Amsterdam Central station.
The hostel was fully-booked and very busy in the run up to Queens Day, but hostel manager Jan took some time out to meet me which was much appreciated. As I am fairly new to HI, it was great to meet one of our hostel managers and chat about all the exciting changes coming to our network.
Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark has a fantastic, fun atmosphere and is an ideal base for exploring the city; guests are advised to book their accommodation early to avoid disappointment.
Dam Square lies in the historical centre of Amsterdam, approximately 750m south of Amsterdam Central station. Here you can expect to find a multitude of souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and popular tourist spots such as Madame Tussauds, the National Monument and the Royal Palace. As the city is quite compact, we found ourselves walking through the square each day as it links the main streets such as Damrak, Damstraat and beyond that the main red light district, de Wallen.
Sunday was a fantastic day to be in Dam Square, the city was gearing up for Queens Day, the weather was perfect and the excitement was palpable. Weaving our way through the hubbub of people, horses, carriages, trams, cars, buskers, cyclists and pigeons only added to the fun and we really did not want to leave!