from ipanema TO AMSTERDAM the smallest big town in europe
Just so that you know who you are getting tips from, the author is a world traveler since 1969 and a world partier since 1984. He is also the owner of a travel agency.
Our city guides are designed to provide you shortcuts to cities we know very well, and love.
Amsterdam is a great first city to visit in Europe. The Dutch speak English, the city center is negotiable on foot. The city is adorable, people are friendly, the museums are awesome. Amsterdam is unique, and I know it quite well.
Arriving I am assuming this is your first time. Unless you arrive by train, your first stop is the Schiphol Airport. Once you go through Customs and Immigration, stop for a snack if you want. It is a large and very comfortable airport hub, with a Dutch flair.
If you are traveling light consider public transportation. The train will take you to the Central Station and from there you can take a taxi to your hotel. You may take a taxi from the airport to the hotel, too. I do not think prices are fixed. Amsterdam taxis have very funny ways.
Transportation in Amsterdam is either on foot, bicycle or by tram. You can buy a one or four-day card at the Central Station go places with a map. Take taxis only if you must. Once I had a limp, and a taxi refused a short ride. Another time I was very near my hotel and he drove for ten minutes before dropping me off! I keep a grudge.
Lodging If you're going to travel all the way to Amsterdam, do not stay far away suburb because it's cheaper. Lodging in Amsterdam is more expensive than at same places, deal with it. The best way to go is booking ahead, and keeping an eye for last-minute deals.
You want to stay is within the circle of canals surrounding Dam Square, this is the historical and adorable heart of the old city. Keep in mind that at night you may have to walk your way back from the clubs. Your choice includes hotels, hostels and flats!
a little about history Though small in size, the Netherlands has played a major role in world history since way before Brazil was discovered. There was even an attempt of colonization in Recife, Pernambuco. Yet trading is where they excelled at. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) is considered the first multinational corporation.
The Golden Age was a period when the industry, the arts and the sciences florished. The historical center of Amsterdam itself reminds you of an open-air museum. The Dam Square looks the same, the narrow crooked buildings are standing, it's the real thing adapted to contemporary use!
MUSEUMS & CULTURE The contribution of the Dutch to world culture in trade, sciences, arts, philosophy and ingenuity is a fact. Amsterdam itself has a fascinating history and you can learn a little about it at the lovely City Museum. This one is right in the heart of the old city. Anne Frank's House, too.
The Museumplein is a park and home to the unique Van Gogh Museum, a must-see. And then there's the Rijksmuseum one of the the greatest museums in the world. The collection is priceless, and an enthusiast may easily spend a day inside! The historical palace was completely renovated.
MORE THINGS TO DO & see Also around the Museumplein you will find the Concertgebouw, recognized as one of the most perfect and adorable concert halls in Europe. Buy a ticket to and enjoy a chic night out before hitting the clubs.
There are no double-decker city tours. You can take a bike tour and visit the main spots, or you can take a self guided walking tour at specific parts of town. Boat tours are also fun, and you will pass by the narrowest house in the city. If you never did a Mme. Tussaud's, there is one. There's also the Heineken Experience.
the great outdoors Weather wil play a major role in your travel experience. On the first sunny day it is time to visit the Vondelpark, not far from the Museumplein. This is where Amsterdamers enjoy their park experience whenever given the chance. You can do it on foot, roller skates or bicycle. Give yourself time, stop at one of the lawns or the café, sit down, breathe in the atmosphere.
To enjoy your visit sometimes you have to stop and watch time go by. Never mind the people playing volleyball in their underwear. They're sunbathing, don't stare.
EATING OUT IN AMSTERDAM Other than breakfast I usually to for one light meal (fast food) and one meal in a restaurant. It's a way of saving time, really. There are branches of McDonald's if you get homesick. But the typical junk food is vlaamses. A cone of french fries with a generous coating of dressing. The health alternative is stopping at a kiosk for a herring treat - typical and rich in Omega 6.
Restaurants are not particularly expensive and service is not very fast. Plus people dine early. Make reservations if you have to. Here is an excellent restaurant guide.
SHOPPING IN AMSTERDAM Right in the heart of the Dam Square you cannot miss the imposing De Beijenkorf one of the great department stores in the world. I love their umbrella section (it rains in the city). But seriously, they have wonderful home articles with Dutch design, it is a good start.
There are so many specialty stores, from the Steinway showroom at the Spui to one of the best roller skate shops in the world. Pedestrian streets like Rokin have shops on both sides! If you are a label victim your best bet is street P.C. Hoofstraat, and the choice is somewhat limited.
the city of sin As far as I know Amsterdam was the first city in the world to offer coffeeshops where people can legally buy and use marijuana. It is their approach to deal with more harmful drugs, and it seems to work for them. Do not buy anything from people in the streets.
The Red Light District is more of a curiosity to sailors and tourists. There are live sex shows at Casa Roso. There are ladies in the window. They are working, and may interact with people in the streets. You are not supposed to take photos, this is a basic courtesy rule. Apply it.
GAY AMSTERDAM The Dutch are among the most tolerant people in the world, and the gay community is completely integrated with the city life. There are baths for men only open day or night. The parties and clubs cater to all tastes. Leather, bear, denim, pick out your scene and have fun.
In addition to Pride Week there's Konigsdag, the King's Day, celebrated on April 26 (Saturday). These are events that attract people from all over the world, so we suggest you book your hotel early, and buy tickets to the main parties as soon as you arrive in town.
AMSTERDAm ETIQUETTE Most people speak English, really, they learn it at school. But there are many immigrants in Amsterdam, and they may not be as proficient in the language. Learning at least a few courtesy terms is the least you can do. Practice alstublieft, Danke u is easier.
Tipping is excpected at restaurants, bars, clubs, coat checks, even at rest rooms, that are kept spotless by cleaning ladies. A curiosity is that when you go to a dance club you tip the door person on your way out. You don't have to do this, but they will think you are cheap. Be nice!
exploring the surroundings Amsterdam is centrally located, and they have bullet trains to may destinatins nearby. There are also disocunted airlines, so check prices before making choices, keeping in mind that train stations are usually in the heart of the city, while airports are far.
In addition to cities in the Netherlands you are very near lovely Antwerp, in Belgium. And Cologne in Germany is also within quick reach. City-hopping is not the best way to travel, but making a side trip to another country to enjoy a great party or something makes sense. Take along your passport.
safety tips Ohter than pickpockets in crowds, safety is usually not an issue to concern about. Or rather, it is. Streets in Amsterdam are very narrow. If there is a tram line get out of the way, they are fast. Never ever stand on a bicycle lane, (painted in red). It is the easiest way to cause accidents, and hear unspeakable curses in Dutch.
This pocket guide is basically intended to point you in the right direction. We provide links to hotels, attractions and other valuable sources of information. One of our favorite sources is I AM STERDAM which covers in detail all the main attractions. For night life tips, Night Tours Amsterdam offers a wonderful guide with the current parties, bars and specials! Time Out Amsterdam is yet another excellent source. Enjoy your trip!