Day 1 – From water to land
The best way to see Amsterdam is by getting one of the canal trips. By embarking on one you will get to see most of the city, while the guide playing on speakers on the boat will explain the city’s unique buildings and how to get furniture into them. Boat trips also bring you into the city’s harbour behind the train station, somewhere otherwise difficult to visit.
After seeing the city from the water its good to walk about the city on land afterwards. Amsterdam is very easy to get around, and once you use the train station as your base you won’t get lost. It is right in the city centre and other places in the city such as Dam Square are only a short stroll down the road.
Even if you have walked through the Red Light District in Nieuwe Markt area of the city during daylight hours, it really has to be seen at night to understand just how unique it really is. Centred on one street called Oudezijds Achterburgwal, it is full of sex shops, bars and live sex shows (one inventively known as, ahem, The Banana Bar).
The streets are full every night with a mixture of couples, large groups of males (sometimes resembling large groups of vultures) and drug dealers constantly mumbling “coke, ecstasy” to passer bys. Contrary to belief, it is quite safe, once you don’t walk down the wrong street on your own.
Day 2 – Parks & Partying
Amsterdam has numerous museums, many of them around the aptly named Museumplein. The best known museum here is the Van Gogh Museum where there is a huge collection of the eccentric artist’s drawing and writings, both permanent and temporary. Other museums on Museumplein are Rijksmuseum which is the country’s biggest museum, and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.
Not far from the Van Gogh Museum is Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park. South of the city centre, the park is quite big and a great place to go for a walk, jog or simply laze around for a few hours. By doing so you can see Amsterdam life go by with joggers and rollerbladers filling the paths.
There two main squares in Amsterdam which come alive at night, the best of them being theLeidseplein. Just a short tram ride from Central Station, there are hundreds of bars, restaurants and nightclubs here. During summer months there is always a real carnival atmosphere around with street performers galore.
Day 3 – Bikes followed by some culture also
Bikes are, without a shadow of a doubt, the easiest way to get around the city. As the city is very flat you won’t exert too much energy cycling around the city. There are bike lanes everywhere and if you’re not on a bike you may just get knocked over by one! Make sure and keep your eyes peeled – you have been warned.
Not far from Central Station is the Anne Frank House. Upon visiting the museum you can imagine what it must have been like for the young Jewish girl when she was hiding from the Nazis during World War II. There is a good account of the young girls life, along with history about the war also.
As this is the only place in the world where you can buy cannabis and hash legally, you can’t leave Amsterdam without visiting one of the coffee shops, but whether you sample the ‘local herb’ is at your own discretion. There is a unique atmosphere in these coffee shops, but it is not all smoking joints! You can drink and play pool in some of them. There is also a good chance of meeting some of the city’s more unique characters.
If you do decide to experiment be careful as some of it is very strong and after one too many tokes you could be liable to forget you in a hash bar, never mind in Amsterdam!
Day 4 – Surfs Up
From Amsterdam you will travel to the Rotterdman but not before treating yourself to some relaxation on the way, beach-style. Noordwijik, on the Netherlands west coast, is home to a ‘blue flag’ beach of international acclaim as well as a host of excellent museums and the famous Keukenhof tulip bulb region so give yourself a night off from the bigger cities and kick back in this seaside retreat before hitting your next stop.
Day 5 – This could be Rotterdam or anywhere…
After chilling by the sea, catch the next form of transport bound for Rotterdam. The largest port in the world, Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed during WWII. Thanks to the vital role it plays in the economy of the country, however, it was quickly rebuilt so while very little of the old city remains, there are numerous attractions including the harbour itself, the museums Boymans van Beuningen, the Schielandshuis as well as the vibrant social scene which descends after dark in the city.
Day 6 – Rounding off in Utrecht.
The final stop on this speedy seven-day journey through the Netherlands takes you to the centrally located city of Utrecht. While Rotterdam has played a huge part in the country’s economic development, however, Utrecht is renowned for the role it has played in religious affairs not just in the Netherlands, but throughout the whole of Europe. As a result the host of churches in the city today are undoubtedly its most visited and most important attractions and certainly make it worth a visit, even if it is just a day trip from Amsterdam.