FROM clogs, tulips and windmills to the hedonistic Red Light District and ubiquitous ‘coffeeshops’, visiting Amsterdam conjures up many varied images. While many tourists will inevitably want to engage in all of the stereotypical pursuits, others will also flock to the well-known attractions such as the Anne Frank House and the Heineken Experience. However, there is much more to see and do in this beautiful city. During a recent visit to the Dutch capital, I was based close to Leidseplein Square which is a lively entertainment hotspot. Purchasing the official ‘I amsterdam City Card’ is highly recommended as this allows visitors to gain access to a wide selection of attractions within a specified period. The card includes free public transport use on GVB bus, tram and metro lines.
As Amsterdam possesses such a high quality public transport network, visitors will be able to comfortably travel throughout the city on a frequent basis. Cards can be purchased for different timespans – 24/48/72/96/120 hours.In fact, the biggest problem is deciding which attractions to visit. We decided to concentrate on the attractions in and around Museum Square (Museumplein) as our accommodation was conveniently situated close to this area. For culture vultures, this area will certainly not disappoint as there are numerous museums worth checking out.The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to the arts and history of the Netherlands (www.rijksmuseum.nl/en) It’s easy to spend an entire day perusing the vast array of displays which take visitors on a journey of more than 800 years of Dutch history.Dutch colonial history features prominently, allowing visitors to learn about the country’s links with far-flung locations such as Indonesia and Suriname.
The Rijksmuseum features paintings by many great Dutch artists including the renowned Rembrandt.His masterpiece ‘The Night Watch’ takes pride of place within the museum and generates an air of astonishment among all who gather to admire its beauty.
If a visit to the Rijksmuseum leaves you with an appetite for further artistic pleasures, then the nearby Van Gogh Museum is a must (www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en) The museum includes more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters by one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Visitors can learn of the life of Van Gogh including his tragic demise.
It’s easy to pass a few hours admiring his instantly recognisable impressionist works, including his landscapes, self-portraits and still lifes.
As with the Rijksmuseum, entry is free with the ‘I amsterdam City Card’ but booking a time slot ticket in advance is advisable due to the large number of visitors each day. The museum houses a high quality gift shop which stocks many products which are ideal as gifts and souvenirs, some of which incorporate Van Gogh’s famous ‘Sunflowers’ into their design. If you’re a fan of glitter and glamour, the nearby Amsterdam Diamond Museum (www.diamonds-amsterdam.com) will not disappoint. Amsterdam has played a hugely important role as a diamond centre for more than four centuries.
Visitors can learn about the history of the lucrative diamond trade and discover the features associated with the perfect diamond!
In addition to the museum’s permanent collection, the Amsterdam Diamond Museum also hosts interesting temporary exhibitions.
Visiting Museum Square provided us with an intriguing glimpse into a slice of Amsterdam which is a world away from the misconceptions some people still harbour in relation to the Dutch capital. However, there is one stereotypical Amsterdam experience which simply has to be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without enjoying a leisurely canal cruise. The ‘I amsterdam City Card’ includes a one hour canal cruise during which you can learn about the city’s history and admire the intricate details on the beautiful houses which line the canals.
For more information on visiting Amsterdam and to book an ‘I amsterdam City Card’ visit www.iamsterdam.com
Aer Lingus, Ryanair and KLM operate direct flights from Dublin to Amsterdam. Aer Lingus operates direct flights from Cork. A direct railway line connects Schiphol International Airport with Amsterdam Central Station.