Living in Copenhagen, Amsterdam was often our “connection point” to get home when flying. We became VERY familiar with Schiphol (AMS), the airport southwest of Amsterdam. Schiphol is one of our favorite airports with endless shopping, many restaurants, a spa, and even a casino.
Schipol is also very convenient to downtown Amsterdam by taxi, bus, train, or private transport. You can easily convert a long layover at Schipol into a quick excursion into the city. And Amsterdam is certainly worth the time. We’ve been there many, many times and always find new streets and new sites.
The most picturesque attraction in Amsterdam are the splendid canals. The myriad of canals bisect the city at every turn. So you MUST find the time to take a canal tour – or better, book a private boat and have your own party. “Cruising” and partying in your boat is a common practice by the locals. You’ll see boats of 4-20 people drift by, with everyone on board having a good time.
So don’t miss a ride through the 165 canals in Amsterdam. They were declared a UNESCO monument in 2010. Amsterdam has more canals than any other city in The Netherlands. If possible, do a catered or private tour – it’s well worth the experience (and I’d be happy to coordinate that for you!).
There are many “big sites” in Amsterdam. The most famous museum is the Rijksmuseum which has been “closed” for almost ten years; Well, the main sections have been closed. In April 2013 the Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, will reopen in its entirety to the public. Four years behind schedule, and after an unending succession of construction issues, the Rijksmuseum promises to be a 21st century musuem. We can’t wait and look forward to returning to see the changes. The Rijksmuseum has many major paintings but also other interesting pieces. Here are a few pictures…
Close by the Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh Musuem. It will be undergoing some work in upcoming months so do check in advance if you’re headed there. Don’t worry, there are almost 50 other art museums in the city. Another famous museum is the Anne Frank House. Located on the Prinsengracht canal, it’s always crowded so do have your tickets purchased in advance.
There’s a HUGE amount of shopping in Amsterdam. Flowers are a big part of the culture in this country. The Bloemenmarkt, or Flower Market, is a complex of stalls that float atop a canal where specially packed tulip and other bulbs are available for international tourists to take safely back to their home country.
You will find many pedestrian shopping streets in Amsterdam; these are prevalent all over Europe. There’s also the infamous red light district and stopping in a “coffeehouse” for the more adventurous. You can find quite a collection of unique items in these areas. And only three blocks from the Royal Palace in Dam Square?
You’ll also find an incredible diversity of food in Amsterdam – and some of the best Indonesian food not in Indonesia!. So much to do – so much to see. As many times as we’ve “stopped over” in Amsterdam, there’s still so much more we want to see!
As you would expect in a city with such diversity, there are many unique hotels. The Virtuoso luxury hotels in Amsterdam are the De l’Europe, Hotel Pulitzer – a Luxury Collection Hotel, the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, and The Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam. All are impressive hotels.
De l’Europe was originally built in 1896 and is located in the heart of Amsterdam opposite Munt Tower, overlooking the Amstel River. De l’Europe is often referred to as the other “Royal Palace of Amsterdam,” continuing to attract the city’s power menagerie and an assortment of the world’s most celebrated names.
I stayed at the Hotel Pulitzer a year ago. If you’re a movie buff you probably saw it featured in the movie, Ocean’s Twelve. My room did not look like theirs but we had an enjoyable stay. The Hotel Pulitzer overlooks two of the city’s most picturesque canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. This unique hotel is comprised of 25 restored 17th and 18th century canal houses. Each of the 230 distinctive guest rooms, including 3 suites and 4 junior suites, represents a small piece of Dutch history and culture.
The InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam is a five star deluxe hotel in a quiet but central section of the Amstel River within walking distance of the financial and cultural centers of the city. The hotel has a famous history and reopened in September 1992 following an unprecedented two-year renovation which restored the “Grande Dame” of Dutch hotels to her former glory. The 79 Executive Rooms and Suites of the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam feature entertainment system including an Ipod docking station, voice mail and marble bathrooms with bathtubs that fill up in maximum 2 minutes.
Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam
Since 1578 the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam has welcomed celebrated authors, actors, ambassadors and heads of state. Along with the Willem van Oranje and Willem de Vijfde Suites, the Maria de Medici Suite is a testament to the rich history of The Grand, with its Dutch contemporary architecture, wall paintings and 20th century décor. The Opera Suites and Suite Appartments blend timeless elegance with the latest comfort and offer tasteful furnishing and modern amenities.
Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam
The Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam is located in the museum and fashion district of Amsterdam. The hotel offers guests an experience that is at once locally-oriented and world-class, all under the roof of a building with unique heritage. Guests will be offered unique access to the best of the local culture alongside amenities, service and design that compete at the highest level on a global stage. All dining venues at the Conservatorium Hotel are under the helm of celebrated Dutch-chef, Schilo van Coevorden, whose style of food has continuously evolved throughout the years, adapting and adopting traditions from all over the world while retaining the virtues of simplicity and focus on locality and seasonality.
Amsterdam is a great destination if you’re looking for good food, a laid-back atmosphere, “free” bikes to ride, friendly locals who speak English, a multiple of art museums, and beautiful scenery! As a KLM hub, it’s easy to get to AMS from almost anywhere.
For many more of our pictures of Amsterdam, head to this Amsterdam Pinterest board.
copyright (c) 2012 by Ron Phillips Travel LLC – luxury travel and consultancy. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, Contact Ron Phillips Travel