A January 2003 trip
to Amsterdam by Red Mezz
Quote: Most people come to Amsterdam for one thing, but the beauty and interest of the city goes far beyond the coffee shop...
Amsterdam—a place that every traveller has on their list to stop in at some point. Even if Holland isn't a place that has long interested you, it's impossible not to be intrigued by the freedom of, shall we say, expression, that you can find in the renowned city of Amsterdam.
And though sometimes the hype of these well-visited cities are a bit built up by Lonely Planet carrying backpackers, this is a city that is well worth the visit, even if you don't feel the need to come to 'express' yourself.Amsterdam has a lot to offer, and if I'm being totally honest, it wasn't somewhere that was very high on my list to visit. (largely because of all the 'Lonely Planet carrying backpackers' who had recommended it to me.) But the opportunity to go with a friend arose, and I'm not one to turn down a chance to see anywhere. Amsterdam is one of the few big surprises I've come across in my travels. Despite my desire to go and see places that not everyone has been to—there is a reason that people enjoy these well travelled cities, and Amsterdam made that apparent.
We flew in in mid-January, and coming from farther north in Edinburgh I didn't expect the cold, and walked into an icebox of a city. But that, as well as everything else made it a real experience. Being in Amsterdam is a bit like dreaming someplace you've been to before. If feels like, and resembles many other European cities, but there is something just a little bit different and not quite right that you can't put your finger on, and that is something every traveller hopes to come across.
This was a beautiful and entertaining city to visit. There is plenty to do and see on a cheap budget, and the people there were very friendly and welcoming. The restaurants we found were a real treat—with lots of local cuisine that had that special flare you hope to find in foreign food.
The very air and atmosphere in Amsterdam rings a little bit different, and there is a freedom that you feel the minute you hit the streets. And at the same time, it's a pleasant city to walk around in, and not a place where you feel unsafe. A great city break experience, for what ever reason you make the trip.
My first tip would be, unless you like Baltic weather, don't go in January. I live in Scotland and am rather used to the cold, and because I was visiting a city, I didn't really take the cold into consideration. But the city was absolutely freezing and if you do go in January be well prepared, clothing wise. On the second day of the trip I spent most of the day popping quickly into coffee shops and stores to warm up, and stop the stabbing pains in my legs from the cold. Luckily there were lots of coffee shops and interesting stores to pop into.
If you are into cycling, then this is certainly a city for you, as cyclists generally have the right away and their own lanes—if you're walking, keep an eye on them. They know they have the right of way and you'll be quickly run down by little Holland bicycles if you step into their lanes. Knowing this, however, it's quite easy and pleasant to get around the city on foot.
The best way into the city from the airport is by train. It's a reasonably priced round-trip ticket and it takes you directly into the centre of the city, and everything is easy to find from there.There are some really brilliant markets in Amsterdam, and some great shopping in Nieuwendijk Street. There are photo opportunities galore with really beautiful architecture with quaint Holland bridges, buildings, and castle shaped restaurants. Don't miss the canals, and if you are there when they aren't frozen over, a boat ride down them is not to be missed.
And even if you're not shopping, a look on the Red Light District is a must while visiting Europe's 'Sin City.' The vibe is very very different from Vegas, but equally intriguing.
Hotels can be found fairly cheap in the city centre, and are generally very good. Try the local restaurants for some very, very interesting food experiences.
And even if you don't smoke, pop into a coffee shop for the Amsterdam experience. There are plenty to choose from, but The Bulldog leaves you with a very appropriate vibe and interesting atmosphere.
Walk the canal streets and listen for the buskers that play lone flutes that follow you, and the river, up stream. It's a beautiful place, and easy to enjoy.
This hotel is the definitive of straight forward. It's easy, it's clean, it's efficient--but it has no frills. It's not expensive by any means, but is a nice step up from hostels and what is generally considered budget hotels. The location could hardly be better, right in the forefront of the square directly across from the Central Station. If you take the train from the airport (the most efficient and easiest way into the city centre) then you come out pretty much looking at the Victoria Hotel. And to be sure that you don't miss it, the huge sign towers over the building directly in front of you. It's very hard to miss indeed.
The inside isn't brand new, and I wouldn't call it luxurious by any means, but it is very clean and neat and at the same time manages to have a bit of character. The room (or at least the one I had, and knowing my usual budget I'm sure it was a bottom rung room) was well above average for a budget hotel room. The bed was nice, the bathroom was fine, and there was even a little bar and fridge. Also the room service menu was excellent. I remember splurging for just about the only time we've ever ordered room service and getting some chocolate cake.
The location of the hotel really could not be better. Aside from the fact that it's so conveniently located in front of the train station and how easy it is to find, it's also very well located for wandering the city. It's minutes from Dam Square and other sights of the city, and is surrounded by lots of restaurants and bars. A very, very handy hotel to stay at indeed.
There's not much to do in the hotel, itself... but when you're staying in a city like Amsterdam, why stay in the hotel? It's a great place to drop your bags and go wandering, and come back in the wee hours of the morning and get a peaceful and relaxing night's sleep. If I return to Amsterdam in future, I will likely try to book at the Victoria again.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 17, 2006
Victoria Hotel Amsterdam
31 (20) 6234255
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 15, 2006
Restaurant Café in de Waag
Restaurant | "The Bulldog Energy"
Welcome to the Amsterdam coffee shop. For all that there is to see and do in Amsterdam that doesn't involve coffee shops and sampling the unique experiences that Amsterdam offers legally, there are also places to enjoy these rare experiences, and The Bulldog is at the top of this list. For the ultimate experience of Amsterdam's coffee shops, be sure to check out The Bulldog. You can easily spot it by the big circular sign outside the shop.
There is more than one Bulldog in Amsterdam... one of the first coffee shop chains to offer the atmosphere and experience of a coffee shop, with a relaxed and safe venue. But for the best of the atmosphere, I highly recommend the Bulldog Energy on Oudezijds Voorburgwal. It's not far out away from the centre of town, and there are no dodgy back streets you need to cross to reach it. One step inside and you've left the cruisy Dutch atmosphere of the canals and architecturally brilliant streets and are in another world entirely. The lights are low and red, and the entire dive is painted to make you feel as if you're in a little underground cove, enhanced by all the carvings of gnomes and gargoyles and barstools fashioned after mushrooms and some covered in cowhide.
The bar itself is extraordinary, the carving of the wood is excellent, and adds to the great feel of the place, domed and even the ceiling has the feel of root work from giant trees above. I wish I had pictures to show to do the place justice in this review... but they ask you not to take photos inside the shop. But to get an idea of just how fantastic the interior is, check out their website: http://www.bulldog.nl/locales/Gallery-Energy.htm.Even if you have no interest whatsoever in sampling the coffee shop's infamous stock... you must pop into the Bulldog while in Amsterdam for a look see. It really is one of the coolest places I've been in to date. And if you do want to sample, there are an array of choices. Simply go up to the bar and look at their selection of very reasonably priced goods.
But I warn you, if you do try them, beware that it is very very strong indeed. Even if you are used to it. So stop into the Bulldog for a look at the place, or a taste of the local merchandise. You won't regret it.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 17, 2006
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 218
+31 20 638 25 93
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 24, 2006
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1015
0031 20 625 13 33
Inverness, United Kingdom