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Amsterdam (Netherlands)

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      17.03.2014 10:12
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      Amsterdam: a lovely place to visit

      I have my friend Elisa to thank for persuading me back to Amsterdam. She'd never been; I had spent a few days there when I was a student, having travelled over on the ferry from North Shields. Perhaps I still wouldn't have gone back if it wasn't for the reopening of the Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam's national art museum that had just undergone a ten-year refurbishment. Unlike last time, I was to travel by plane; I came up to Newcastle on the train the day before. Elisa picked me up at an unearthly hour the next morning; we drove to Newcastle Airport, parked the car in Car Park K ("K for Kardashian", Elisa said, so we'd remember) and began the tedious process of checking in, leaving our bags and navigating the maze that is the airport. I couldn't decide whether I was horrified or impressed at the number of hen parties already dressed in matching pink T-shirts and accessories. Though we felt pretty tired, we did recognise the advantages of getting such an early flight. Even after we'd landed, got the train to the city centre, taken the tram to our hotel and then packed, we still had most of the day left. The first stop was the aforementioned Rijksmuseum - I'd said that I would only go to Amsterdam if we could go here! I was impressed by the building: it was huge, and stunning. There was a bit of a queue to get in, but once inside, there was lots of space and a huge amount to see. The great attraction is Rembrandt's 'Night Watch' but there are lots of other paintings from the likes of Vermeer and Van Gogh. There is also a modern art section, which I found rather bizarre, particularly the 'womb tomb', a brightly-coloured, coffin shaped, fluffy object with a hole in the middle. I got separated from Elisa and ended up wandering around the ground floor - which had the medieval art and the costumes - on my own. When I got back to the foyer she'd been sitting in the café with a glass of wine, having given up on the museum some time ago. We still had plenty of time, so we decided to head to the Heineken Experience. Now, this was not somewhere I would have thought of going; I'm not the biggest fan of Heineken, and it would never have occurred to me to go here. Elisa wanted to, though, and I'm so glad she did, because I loved it! There was so much to see and do. The experience began with a short exhibition on the history of Heineken, followed by a look at the old brewing equipment and a look at the creation process. We got to taste some Heineken and then experience a kind of interactive presentation where you could 'be' the beer on its journey from creation to bottling! The best bit, though, was when - slightly tipsy by now - we reached the interactive part of the experience. We got our photo taken on some Dutch bikes against a background of an Amsterdam street, and sang along to a music video showing us on a canal boat - which I promptly emailed to my mam! We then had a free canal boat ride up to the Heineken Brand Store. Obviously this is all just a big ploy to get people to buy Heineken products, but it was fun nevertheless! We had a great day altogether, actually. It ended with drinks and Chinese food and frozen yoghurt covered in lots of amazing toppings. The next day, we had planned to go to the Anne Frank museum. Elisa set the alarm on her phone, but unfortunately hadn't realised that it was still on UK time. So by the time we got up and went out, we were an hour later than we should have been. Still, it was such a lovely morning that we took our time getting to the museum, having a slow walk along the canal with bagels. When we got to the museum there was a massive queue, as expected, but although we had to wait an hour, it didn't seem that long. The museum is small, but as moving as I remembered. Later we visited the Sex Museum. Again, this was somewhere I had already been, although it was just as entertaining this time around. The flasher in the foyer was still there, and I recognised several of the exhibits. This museum also has one of the fanciest bathrooms I have ever seen - it is inspired by Mucha and the Art Nouveau movement and the sinks are shaped like flowers. Afterwards we went on a canal boat trip which was really relaxing. We went for a walk in the evening, had some tea, and then went back to the frozen yoghurt store - naturally. We didn't have time to do anything the next day, as we had to go to the airport. I would definitely go back, though - even after two trips to Amsterdam, there's so much to see and do there, and it's such a lovely place, that I'd be happy to see it again. *This is a version of a piece I posted on my blog*

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        24.11.2011 09:58
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        Would visit again!

        So I came back from Amsterdam a few weeks ago on my first architecture field trip this year and it was super amazing! The buildings we got to see were mostly stunning and very interesting structurally and functionally. After the mega tiring 12 hour coach journey there, we managed to find a cheap restaurant that did 5 euro pizza/pasta so we ate there. Day 1- Amsterdam I really liked canal houses on Java Island, Amsterdam as they were all individually unique yet complimented each other perfectly. The bridges were also designed by artists which made it very distinctive. The library was also amazing- it was a social hub not just for reading but for meeting people, learning, experiencing, living... It was a really long day but I saw so much which was really good- and had a long night of working on the sketchbook :P Sites visited: Canal Houses, Borneo Sling, Python Bridge, Concert Hall, Amsterdam Library, NeMo Science and Technology centre, Arcam, some multicoloured horror of a building and a modern office building, Rijksmuseum Day 2- Utrecht The highlight of the day was definitely seeing the Schroder House which not every group got to go into- seeing how all the different mechanisms worked was really intriguing and whilst the house doesn't really work for living in, it was definitely a piece of 'art'. I also liked the Utrecht Library- it was a labyrinth of darkness but the windows were amazing both inside and outside- reflecting the light and clouds. The Hilversum town hall was a bit boring given we skipped the Hilversum music and visual hall to go there and it was definitely disappointing after being told it would be 'amazing'. We did adventurously trespass up to the clock tower which was scary and nerveracking as there was no security, all the doors were unlocked and we just clambered up these wooden steps to the top. Sites visited: Utrecht University buildings, Schroder House, Hilversum Town Hall Day 3- Amsterdam The third day was a pretty easy day, though it was pretty bad weather. We went for a mega long walk across the city to 'sense the historical past' of Amsterdam before ending up at the Van Gogh museum and seeing most of his work. We had the rest of the day free so we went to a lovely cafe called 'Bagel and Beans' and then went souvenir shopping. Sites visited: Walk across the city, Van Gogh Museum Day 4- Rotterdam/Delft Rotterdam is such an arty city- there are sculptures and pieces of art everywhere you look- the art museum was also very contemporary and the artwork was right up my street- loved the coat hangers in the main hall. They had a Richard Serra piece (an artist I looked at in art last year) but only one so it was a bit disappointing as it would be amazing to have more... but still good to have seen something of his. The Erasmus Bridge was also stunning, and I was really glad to have met up with Maggie from the Sweden Mission trip at Delft! Sites visited: Sonneveld House, Art museum, Erasmus Bridge, Luxor, Delft University Library Day 5- Leaving for Home... Another long coach journey back on Saturday. Had to hand in my sketchbook on Monday so worked for 16 hours on Sunday, sleeping at 2am to get it done. >< soo tired!!

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          01.10.2011 18:32
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          A wonderful holiday and somewhere I hope to visit again very soon.

          When you think of the city of Amsterdam, chances are you'll think of two things - legal weed and prostitution. What you may not think of quickly though is stunning architecture, friendly people and an almost utopian world where crime rates are low and the pace of life is generally more laid back. Just a side note, whilst crime rates are lower than most capital cities, and violent crime is lower than every other crime, don't make yourself a target. Crime still does and will happen if you're wandering around with your wallet hanging out of your back pocket, euro notes falling out and your head in a map! Be aware. Most people do speak English but if you try to speak Dutch, they're more than happy to give you the time to explain yourself fully. Very helpful and friendly, especially shop staff. It's also a very clean city, especially if you compare it to places like London or Paris. Hotel wise, Amsterdam has a good range of them. We stayed at the NH Carlton which we booked through Lastminute.com and paid around £75 a night for our room for two. It wasn't the best but it did us and I would have no problems going again at that price - though it was a lower price than most people pay. I think our room should have been around £95 a night. Pretty much any hotel you get is going to be within walking distance of all the important things; though I personally would not want to stay in the red light district due to the nightlife booming there. It doesn't strike me as the safest place to walk around at night. Generally you can get some really, really good deals on hotels and flights if you shop around - We paid £650 for two people, 6 nights and return flights. We ended up spending an extra £400 on top of that because of what we did but Amsterdam isn't really the kind of city you can go to on a budget. There is so much more to Amsterdam than pot heads and girls in windows, with plenty for a family to do. There's a very good zoo - The Artis Zoo, which costs about 18 euros per person to get in and is very entertaining for a day. It's not the most animal friendly zoo (if you see the penguin enclosure you'll know what I mean) but by and large the animals look healthy and well cared for. As it's not massive they don't have the widest variety of animals but have all the crowd pleasers and a few more random ones too. The aquarium is outstanding! As well as this, there are lots of nice open green spaces such as Vondelpark where you can relax in the nice weather if you're lucky enough to get it. There's a lot of shopping available in Amsterdam, which is quiet nice and they have some interesting shops! There's all the regulars such as H+M and McDonalds but also, quite obviously, Dutch brands. There's a nice flower market on every evening which is well worth a visit, even if you're not green fingered. Most of the shops around here stay open until about 8pm so you can spend a day out and then go for a wander in the dusk around the shops and stalls. If you want to buy bulbs then make sure you check that you are getting the cheapest ones available as you can walk three stalls down and find exactly the same packets for two or four euros less. There's also a lot of cheese shops in Amsterdam, which sell a wide range of cheeses, from Edam to Gouda, Sheep and Goat cheese. The sheeps cheese is lovely but a little more expensive than the others at 9 euros a round. We bought back a round of edam with fenugeek and it was beautiful! Really worth the 6 euros we paid for it. As always, there's touristy shops every where that sell clogs, blue and white porcelain, dutch themed items and weed/red light district themed stuff. Do make sure if you're going with children that they don't pick up a marijuana themed item and demand it! Generally there is a large selection though and the prices aren't *too* bad. By and large, if you don't want to see the more controversial side of Amsterdam as you're with family or just don't agree with it, you can get away with it. The red light district is obvious once you get into it. We never intended to spend much time in the red district and indeed never saw it at night; but even walking through it can be quite a saddening experience. It's probably the only thing about Amsterdam I don't like to be honest. Girls line up in the windows, a range of pretty young things who you want to drag out and make do something worthwhile with their lives and the older, more experienced women who just look like they've given up. Maybe some of them enjoy it but by and large I didn't get that idea from walking by. As with all tourist places, there are good sides and bad sides. For us, the worst experience we had was when we were ushered into a dark, dingy restaurant, made to buy drinks and a two course meal which wiped out our days budget of 60 euros in one fell swoop and was absolutely disgusting. In an English speaking country, even being as mild mannered and timid as I am, I would've kicked up a fuss. I don't know why we didn't but the whole experience was just depressing. The restaurants are not good during the day. The flipside, however, is the lovely little traditional Dutch restaurant we found that made beautiful pancakes - and the meal, with drinks, was under 20 euros. If you want to go, it's near Spui and is down a little alley. An absolute gem in Amsterdams crown! Amsterdam is also quite well known for it's large amount of museums. Do not be fooled; most of these charge you 9/10 euros entry and when you get in, you can see the entirety of the exhibits out of one eye and you feel very disappointed. The Torture Museum on Singelstraat is quite good and a nice way to spend an hour in the evening at 7 euros 50, but the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum and the Sex/Erotic Museums are incredibly disappointing and expensive. The University museum is very good and does student prices. We didn't bother getting a IAmsterdam card and I'm glad we didn't as I don't think it's justifiable. Not enough museums give you free entry with it and the ones that do aren't very good anyway. ***I'm now going to talk about the legal weed side of Amsterdam. If you do not agree with this practice or feel it is inappropriate please scroll down. I do not advocate drug use in any way. If you feel you may susceptible to some of the more serious effects of weed, such as schizophrenia or paranoia (which can run in families) then stay away from the coffee shops. When I say 'weed' here, I mean anything legal and green that coffee shops sell, which includes skunk and hash.*** As with most people my age, marijuana is a tempting prospect. Before going to Amsterdam, I had only smoked it a handful of times and even then it was imported, tacky and one spliff vaguely tasted of lemon washing up liquid. Whilst I enjoyed it, it was never a massive buzz and I would compare it to merely being tipsy off of alcohol than being high. The first night we arrived in Amsterdam we took a stroll around our hotel and arrived at our first coffee shop of the trip. The atmosphere is pleasant in coffee shops; not at all seedy or underhand as you might imagine. In every coffee shop you will be expected to buy a drink if you're staying there to smoke, and in some (not all, mainly the tourist ones) you will be expected to buy weed on the premises. We found a few where you didn't have to and a few where you were asked to. A couple didn't really care either way. The counter will have a menu on it with the names of the different weed and hash types they sell, the effects and the price per 1 gram. Now, anyone who's bought it illegally in the UK will know that the price over here is generally between 15 and 25 pounds for an eighth - for a gram you're looking at closer to £40. In Amsterdam you can buy a 1 gram bag for as little as 8 euros - or at least, this was the cheapest we saw it. May not be the best though! You can also normally get pre rolled spliffs with either hash or weed for around 3 euros (the cheapest we saw was 2 euros 50, the most expensive was 5 euros. Do NOT pay over 4 euros for a prerolled - it's just not worth it.) If you go into a coffee shop and drinks prices are over 3 euros, and 1 gram bags are over 15 euros, just walk straight out. In particular I'm thinking of a big chain brand that has about three coffee shops and cafes around Rembrandtsplein which was just a tourist trap - 5 euros for a pre rolled that was smaller than the 2.50 euros one we got. Ridiculous. I would say go a little off the beaten track and see what you can find, but trust your instinct. If you don't feel right in a coffee shop, don't stay in it. You're welcome to walk straight back out again! Our favourite one was called 'Betty, TOO!' which has it's own facebook page and has quite a small collection of fans as it's tucked away between clubs, pubs and restaurants. A very friendly, chilled out atmosphere with lovely owners. There are a couple of chains in Amsterdam, primarily the Bulldog coffee shops (in the red light district there's about three on the same canal) which we didn't try out as we presumed they would be touristy and expensive. A little note for those who've never smoked weed or have only smoked minimal amounts before, do not buy a full bag to begin with. Buy a pre rolled, share it with a friend and if you feel ok, the next day you may want to consider getting a bag and some papers if you or your companion can roll. It's very easy to get incredibly high and stumble out of a coffee shop with no idea where you are, a perfect candidate for a mugging (I said earlier the crime rate is low but crime does still happen - it is a capital city after all, with a lot of tourists) and next thing you know you're paranoid that everyone is talking about you and you're having a breakdown in Dam Square. Not good. Take it slow, and remember that you shouldn't smoke anything you don't want to smoke. You wouldn't go into a bar and order a drink that you can't or don't want to drink, so apply the same principle and be responsible. Don't believe the rumours that weed is going to be illegal for anyone who isn't a resident in Amsterdam in 2012; these are just rumours. It is however true that weed is going to become illegal for anyone who isn't a Dutch resident in other parts of Holland, particularly Maastrict and Utrecht. ***End of marijuana discussion*** Overall, Amsterdam is a lovely city that has something for everyone. I'm already planning my next trip back, and even considering moving there seriously when I graduate. Truly one of those cities that you must visit before you die!

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            23.08.2011 11:40

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            Great place to visit for anyone, families, romantic weekends, holiday away with friends

            I have only ever been to Amsterdam when flying through Schiphol airport on the way to somewhere else. The staff at the airport have always been so friendly so I had high hopes that the rest of the city would be like that when I went for a long weekend in June. I was not disappointed. Everyone there, from hotel reception staff, to tram drivers, to supermarket workers to bar staff were very pleasant. In other countries, when you can't speak the language, you sometimes get the sense that the locals are very put out to speak English to you. The Dutch speak wonderful English and you get the sense that they are proud to show off their skills to you so they are more than happy to chat away to you. I couldn't leave without seeing the famous red light district. From what I heard, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot better than I had imagined. I had imagined a seedy, dark, dodgy place with strange characters all around, but the truth of the matter is, it's a section of the city right in the middle of town so it's very busy with a lot of people milling around. Me and my friends went at around 11pm and even at that hour, there were all sorts of people in that section, even young families! You don't feel unsafe whatsoever and it really is more a tourist spot than anything else. And of course you can't go without seeing the various museums. I went to the Van Gogh museum and although it was good, it was a bit disappointing as it is clear all his most famous works are in larger museums around the world. The Anne Frank museum is worth a look and the Bols museum is good for a free cocktail at the end of the tour! All in all, very friendly, lots to do, never dull.

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            10.04.2010 02:09
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            A hugely entertaining and amazing place!

            Amsterdam has something for everyone. Whilst being mostly known for the fact that cannabis is legal there and for it's prostitution there is so much more to it than that, in addition the drugs / prostitution side of it really isn't like most people imagine it to be...... I'll admit, I don't go to Amsterdam to admire the lovely architecture, I go for the 'fun' side of it, but I do still appreciate what a lovely place it is whilst I'm there! For starters then, the kind of things that will please anyone who likes visiting 'nice' places are the floating flower markets (my mum loves these), Ann Frank's house (a bit of a must see for anyone really) and various art museums. There is an absolutely fantastic shopping area down in the Leidseplein area (which is a lovely - and slightly quieter - part of Amsterdam), with lots of the shops that you get in the UK plus many more selling some gorgeous clothes and shoes and unusual gifts. It isn't a cheap place to go shopping (not helped by the poor exchange rates currently) but it is great for any shopaholic. The Heineken museum is a good place to visit (very much like the Guinness museum in Dublin, for those who have been there), there is also a Madame Tussauds on Dam Square and Dam Square itself is a lively place which generally has an assortment of street performers. There are many nice places to eat, steakhouses, chinese, italian etc, everything you could wish to choose from really. Damrak (which is the main road leading up from Central Station up into Dam Square) has many restaurants dotted along it, as well as several souvenir shops. I've never had a bad meal anywhere so far. There are just loads of hotels, I would say of those I've stayed in that the Victoria Park Plaza is the nicest if you are visiting for a nice city break and the Bulldog Hotel is the best if you are going for the coffee shops! For those who want to experience the other side of the culture in Amsterdam there is of course the infamous red light district area. A few things I will firstly say about this....yes I suppose it is a bit seedy and wandering around whilst surrounded by windows full of ladies in their underwear whilst men come and go is quite surreal at first and can take some getting used to but this is just the way of life as it is over there. The ladies are protected by scary looking men who will not tolerate anyone trying to take photos of them, so make sure you don't even think about it! There is a kind of agreement with the police that they don't really patrol the red light district and so you will encounter people trying to sell you drugs on the street, however, they will not push this onto you, if you are not interested they just leave you alone to carry on walking by. You do need to keep a tight hold of your wallet / handbag / camera etc but this is also true of any big city. So, all in all it can seem a bit daunting at first but just stick with your friends, keep hold of your bag and you'll be just fine. The selling of cannabis is not allowed on the streets, only in controlled 'coffee shops' where it is sold in small amounts. You are not allowed to smoke it on the streets. So whilst it is very liberal compared to the UK there are rules and you must bear these in mind. The smoking of tobacco inside is now forbidden, however they do allow the smoking of cannabis inside pretty much everywhere (though sometimes there is a seperate section of the bar / pub for this) and there is usually a tobacco substitute for you to use. As well as buying it to smoke you can purchase 'space cakes / cookies / muffins' which have cannabis in - DO BE CAREFUL WITH THESE! The reason I say this is that often a place will sell both space cakes and normal cakes, so you need to make absolutely sure you know what you are buying, also space cakes affect you differently than smoking a joint and I have seen people eat far too much all at once and end up being very ill! Not fun! So, if this is what you want to do whilst there then take it slowly! It is such a bizarre atmosphere all round the red light district but generally everyone is pretty chilled out and you can choose whether you want to go somewhere with banging music or somewhere more quiet. The bars and coffee shops open around 10am and close around 3am - though clubs stay open later and there is always somewhere open 24 hours a day. There are a lot of awesome little gift shops on the outskirts of the red light district too, so look out for these. I can't think of anything I prefer to do than sit in a coffee shop looking out onto the canals and just chilling! The red light district is absolutely crammed with coffee shops, bars and food outlets selling gorgeous cakes, pastries, pizzas and allsorts. Some of the best - and cheapest - coffee shops are the little ones tucked away in corners. The coffee in Amsterdam is just lovely, all coffee shops do gorgeous milky coffee, often served with a biscuit (of the non-drug variety!). The bars are great fun on a Friday or Saturday night when it can get very busy with stag and hen dos. All in all Amsterdam is such a lovely, different, chilled out place I really don't think there is anywhere I prefer on earth!

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              04.04.2010 13:19
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              well worth a trip

              I love Amsterdam & if I win the lottery I'd like to buy a small apartment there as it's a multi-cultural, bustling city with plenty to see & do yet there's a relaxed atmosphere (unlike London in my opinion). There's also no need to dress up as I feel you need to do in Paris & Rome so packing your bag is simple! Unfortunately I've only been a couple of times - one to stay with my friend who lives near the centre & once on a travel trip as part of a post-grad course. Luckily I'm only 10 minutes from Manchester airport & the flights to Schipol are very regular & fairly cheap so my first trip was quick & easy (fab duty-free by the way). The second time I went was by boat from Hull- Rotterdam then a coach - unfortunately half the British army seemed to have seats booked both ways & the disco thudded all night with the sound of army boots lol! My friend showed me around the regular tourist sites such As the Rjyks museum (LOVE Vincent) & luckily enough they had 'The Sunflowers' at that time. We also went on the obligatory canal trips, strolled round the red light area, the market & visited Ann Franks' home & museum. She also took me to places I never would have thought of including a Medical museum (fascinating), fabric shops & the flea market. The second time I stayed in a budget hotel (the likes & price probably on a par with other similar ones in European cities) but there are some beautiful hotels in & around the centre. Our task was to complete some questionnaires but unfortunately my spot was right outside the biggest sex shop in the city & once people saw my clipboard they scarpered! There was time to take leisurely walks along the canals & hire bikes & I must say nearly everyone we met was friendly. I wasn't too keen on the typical Dutch food I'm afraid - my friend says they like a lot of cold meats (rather fatty) & eggs (which I hate) plus the bread I had wasn't too nice in my opinion. Although I'm not a fussy eater though & there were plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars & takeaways which I'm sure would make anyone happy. I found the prices OK at the time but hasten to add this was well before the recession & bought a whole Edam cheese for around £10 & well-priced paintings & prints from local artists for just a few euros. I didn't see any tulips during my visits - nor any clogs - we had to go miles away by tram to a small town which manufactured & sold wooden clogs but it was well worth the trip. I think Amsterdam has the reputation of being a young people's city but we saw plenty of people from all age groups - transport is easy enough to work out & all major places of interest seemed easily accessible. If you haven't been yet I'd certainly think about it - in my opinion it's a fairly stress-free but really interesting place to visit.

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                04.04.2010 12:39
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                A wonderful place to visit

                Last year I journeyed to Amsterdam with my daughter Sam, now I know most people would think it's not the type of city to go to with your daughter but I disagree. Amsterdam in my opinion has got too much of a reputation for being the city of drugs and prostitution. Yes it is a rather big aspect of the city but not all of it. Sam and I only went for a few days and of course we walked around the red light district which is pretty interesting considering you have dozens of women in underwear around you selling themselves but also hundreds of people drinking, chatting and having a good night. Extremely surreal to say the least, then there are also the drugs. Now don't panic, I didn't take any drugs with my daughter, she wanted to but I thought it was rather immoral. Now you can smoke in Amsterdam and I must say there are literally hundreds of little cafes that do. They are pretty easy to spot and I have been told are fairly well priced and do the job pretty well! If you go past the tourist spots of Amsterdam and the main strip full of souvenir shops you come across the most wonderful city. The shopping is pretty good and there are plenty of shops about that are reminiscent of any high street. We didn't do any shopping but we did pass plenty. Now we get to the good bit, the main square where there are amazing buildings which had our focus for quite awhile. The old post office's architecture is something to admire although there are only shops inside which I was a bit disappointed about. Walk a bit further than this and you come into a delightful area of Amsterdam. The nine streets are absolutely gorgeous, small side streets full of a variety of shops and small cafes. You can find such treasures in these little shops and walking around is just beautiful as you have all the boats and bridges. Then you have the Anne Frank house and museum which I would say anyone going to Amsterdam needs to go there. There is so much to do in Amsterdam including the Van Gough museum, Amsterdam's history museum, canal tours which show some amazing sights. The only negative part I find is what hotel you stay in, if you are in the centre you have to be extremely careful where to stay as some areas do look a bit dodgy. We stayed in the Barbizon palace hotel which I would recommend to anyone if you fancy a trip. The price of everything is typical at the moment with how the pound is: quite expensive. However you can sometimes find a good restaurant that doesn't bankrupt you, but I would say meals are at least 20 Euros a head. So overall I would definitely recommend Amsterdam, yes there are plenty of people who want to go just to smoke, look at prostitutes and go to the sex museum (which is rather funny) however if you look further Amsterdam is a beautiful city full of interesting things to do.

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                  06.11.2009 20:33
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                  Save up some cash and book it soon!

                  Getting there Like us, the majority of visitors from the UK arrive in Amsterdam by plane. On this occasion we flew with BA from London City airport and had no problems with the service at all. London to Amsterdam is one of the shortest flights I have ever taken, lasting no more than 40 minutes. Basically enough time for a drink and a sandwich and that's it! The city of Amsterdam is served by Schippol airport, which is located about 15km south of the city centre. The airport is linked to Amsterdam city centre by a quick and easy train service. The trains depart from a station situated in the basement of the airport terminal with trains running every 15 minutes to Amsterdam Centraal Station. A return fare cost us 12 Euros each, which I thought was a bit pricey (but still much cheaper than a taxi if there is only 2 of you!) Despite the price it was very convenient and only 60 minutes after landing we had left the train and were walking through Dam Square. Where to stay Our hotel was located right in the city centre only a 2 minute walk from Dam Square. This meant that all of Amsterdam's top attractions were within easy reach. The hotel was called The Citadel and cost 80 Euros per night for a double room. The room was quite compact but came with en-suite bathroom and satellite TV. Included in the price was a Continental breakfast buffet serving fresh breads, ham, cheese, eggs, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. All in all I thought the hotel was great value and would definitely recommend them if you are looking for a good 3star bargain. What to do Rent a bike and explore Amsterdam is fundamentally geared towards cyclists. Its comprehensive network of cycle paths mean you can zip around town feeling safe and protected from traffic and wandering pedestrians. With no underground train system, it's a really handy way to get around the city. I paid 8 Euros for a 4 hour hire period, although the rate gets considerably better if you book for longer periods. I was also required to leave a credit card imprint as a deposit. I cycled round the city centre taking in the Joordan district, Waterlooplein, the old Jewish quarter, the Red Light District and a number of nice parks. Its really a great way to see the whole city. One complete circuit round town took me about an hour and I did get slightly lost at one point. After that I headed southwest and found the Vondelpark, which is a lovely landscaped park with nice smooth cycle paths. It seemed like there were less tourists and more Dutch people in this area, which was good. It was great to escape the traffic and was a really invigorating and refreshing experience. The Anne Frank House and Museum Tucked away in the west side of Amsterdam is the house where Anne and the Frank family went into hiding during World War 2. During her time in the house, Anne kept a diary which was published by her father following Anne's death in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The house showcases the actual living quarters where the family lived their secretive existence, desperately trying to evade capture by the Nazi's. As well as the original house there are also exhibits and video presentations, which bring home the horror of the holocaust in sobering detail. Admission to the House and Museum is 8.50 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for children. Peddle Boat Another way to peddle your way around the city is to rent a pedlo. These small peddle powered boats are a great way to see the city and explore its vast network of canals. As you saunter along the waterways you will encounter tour boats, narrow barges and even people in their houseboats, so keep your wits about you and remember to give way to bigger boats. That being said, it is a very relaxing way to see the city (unless you rent the boat with someone determined to leave the majority of the peddling to you, then its just knackering!). There are numerous companies that rent these peddle boats and you won't have any trouble finding them along the banks of the canals. One thing to bare in mind is that you will have to give a fairly chunky deposit to cover the period of rental (usually about 50 Euros). At about 20 Euros for 2 hour hire, it's a bit more expensive than renting a bike, but the views more than make up for this. The Van Gogh Museum This museum is definitely worth the trip, but be warned it gets INCREDIBLY busy. The museum has 3 floors with 1 entire floor dedicated to Van Gogh's work. I'm not a massive art fan but I enjoyed my visit to the Van Gogh museum. I found that the vibrancy and urgency of Van Gogh's work is so engaging that it doesn't matter if you're not an aspiring art critic. The paintings are still engaging and entertaining. My favourite painting was Van Gogh's Crow's Over Cornfield. As well as his paintings, the museum documents Van Gogh's life in detail. Audio commentary tours are also available for about 5Euros per person, but having already paid 12 Euros each to get in, we didn't bother with these. The museums other 2 floors are dedicated to Dutch painters of the 17th, 18th and 19th century. I did enjoy looking at these paintings but there was a sense of anti-climax about them. Really I was in the Van Gogh museum to look at Van Gogh paintings and nothing else. As I said it does get really busy and we found ourselves shuffling along behind an endless line of tourists like a conga line of penguins. It wasn't a problem for us but if you were travelling with children I think you would struggle to keep them occupied here. All in all it is worth the visit, try and get there early to avoid the queues. N.B. The Rijk Museum is supposed to be great as well but we ran out of time and didn't get there. Therefore I haven't included it in this review. Spend the afternoon in a coffee shop Many people go to Amsterdam and spend their whole visit sampling the many coffee shops the city has to offer. I have to say, that idea doesn't really appeal to me but we did spend an afternoon in the Abraxas coffee shop and had a really good time. As you would expect, it had a really relaxed and chilled out feel. I don't smoke and don't really like the feeling of smoking anything so instead we ordered some hash cake and hot chocolate which cost us about 8Euros each. They were both delicious but also quite potent, so if your not used to the affects of marijuana, make sure you take it easy with these tasty treats. At about 4pm we left Abraxas and went back to our hotel, fell asleep and didn't wake up until after 11 that night! Where to Eat At lunch time you can't go wrong with any of the countless bakeries that are scattered throughout the city. The fresh baguettes and pastries are exquisite, if a tad pricey (one place tried to charge me 3 Euros for a single donut!). Make sure you can see the prices before you order, or just ask. Amsterdam has an eclectic mixture of international cuisine on offer. Due to its Holland's colonial past, there is quite a large Indonesian population in the Netherlands today. There are loads of great Indonesian restaurants in the centre of town offering delicious, spicy foods which I found to be like a cross between Thai and Chinese cooking. There are also a great number of Argentinean steakhouses around town, some good, some not so good. Unless your on a serious budget I would steer clear of anywhere offering the 10 Euro tourist special menu. Amsterdam is a fairly pricey city and eating out is no exception. Expect to pay a minimum of 20 Euros for a drink and a main course. My Verdict Amsterdam is the ideal place to spend a chilled out long weekend. Only a 40 minute flight from London, and with great transport links from the airport, getting there couldn't be easier. There are loads of things to keep you amused, the above list being just a small selection. Other attractions worth mentioning are the Amsterdam Dungeons, the flower market, the Rijk museum, the Heineken Experience, the countless bars and coffee shops. The list goes on! Despite its slightly seedy reputation, Amsterdam is a very picturesque city and I could happily spend a day just wandering around taking photos or just soaking up the atmosphere. We got a deal on Expedia which was for flights and 4 nights that worked out at £340 per person, so keep your eyes peeled for bargains. It is quite expensive once you get there, and you'll need a sizeable wad of spending money, but despite this it remains one of my favourite cities.

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                  12.10.2009 19:20
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                  a city of fun!

                  I went to Amsterdam last october with my boyfriend. We had been together a month and thought lets go have some fun. We got our flights from BMI baby, they cost approx £60 each for the return, absolute bargain! I found this deal online through the BMI baby website. The flight itself lasted around 45 minutes, for somebody who is terrified of flying alike myself it was quick and painless. No food served on flight as very short, but drinks were available. We arrived in Amsterdam at Schiphol airport at what was around 11am in the morning. Only an hour time difference was good! From the airport you can get trains to a great variety of locations, we got ours to Amsterdam Centraal train station, which is pretty much at the heart of the city. We had no idea where our hotel was so from there we got a taxi for 20 euro. Not bad. Our Hotel, the Kooyke was 1*, very poor. But we had no intention to stay in the hotel much. Locationwise we were a little way out, we were right by the Hard rock cafe which is Max Euweplein 57- 61. However a walk to Centraal was 30 minutes, which isn't too bad. The first night in Amsterdam we found a great little coffie shop, had a really bohemian theme, we bought a spiff of jamaican purple stuff and well got happy, was very cheap 4 euro. Went on for a drink, drinking is not verey expensive in amsterdam, almost everywhere we went we paid around 10 euro for 2 drinks. Day two we found the Van Gough museum, i found in a bit dull, but my boyfriend found it verey cultral. We went on to Vondelpark, which was nice, then that evening, food and drink. A lot of the restaurants have student deals, which consists of ribs, chicken or steak for 15 euro! great bargain, they didnt cheack my student expiry so i ate like a king!! Day three we found the sex museum, 3 euro really funny! we then took a tour of the red light district was 10 euro each, meets opposite centraal station. Really funny, saw alot of the red light sights, lernt a lot too! fun and educational. was great! day four we started on a free tour of the sights of amsterdam. we decided to bugger off as we couldnt be bothered. however for free meets at centraal, definataly worth it if staying for a week. We went for a walk about had another smoke and went on for some more drinking. Last day we decided to go visit the museum of torture, was rubbish! cheap, but also a bit of a waste of money! we had pancakes for breakfast which were lovely, and went shopping! all the typical stores, h&m, bershka, mango and zara! The annoying thing i found about amsterdam was the bikes! everybody is on a bike, and they will knock you down if you dont watch out! so be carefull! for a 5 day break, £300 spends is plenty! drinking can be a bit pricey but you can find happy hours all over the city! also if your into the other stuff fairly cheap, its definately one of the things you should try upon going to amsterdam! There is so much to see, van gough museum, anne frank house, many different monuments, and there are loads of tours willing to show you around and all you have to pay is tips. If like me your not up for sleeping with a hooker, try the tour of the red light district, it was really informative and lots of fun! A friend recommended me Banana bar in the red light district. 50 euro entry and all you can drink. sex themed and theres a show involving a banana, but apparemtly very funny! for everyone a little dirt hookers are meant to be approx 50 euro for 15 minutes, you pay extra to touch breasts, and for them to look like tehir enjoying it (charming!!), blue lights signal lady boys. if you take a photo of a hooker she will assault you! and destroy your camera! there are also a lot of sex shows, some full on, some where you can see others watching too. my friend went into one with her boyfriend and said it was hillarious, but i decided to give that a miss. I had a good break, it was different! i would recommend it, maybe stay in a good hotel, 1* is a bad plan! but ours was £160 for the week, pay more and get a good breakfast too! it'll be worth it! Theres lots to do for different interests and different age groups. A magnificent city!

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                  27.07.2009 14:20
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                  5 days of boobs and porn shops... what a great holiday!

                  Mention the word Amsterdam to someone and they'll probably conjure up images of window girls and soft drugs. And to be honest, you're not too far wrong! Amsterdam is a great city if you like those sorts of things, but is also a great place to visit for the history and culture too (although I did concentrate more on the window girls, if I'm honest) ;) I visited Amsterdam in March 2008 with my fiancee (at the time, we're married now). It was the 2nd and final stop of a one-week city break in central Europe, with Berlin being the other city we visited. We arrived in Amsterdam by train and were quite tired after our 6-hour journey from Germany - which only cost 40 euros each... putting British train prices to shame! Our first real view of the city was stepping out from Amsterdam Centraal station. It was mid-afternoon on a Wednesday but the place was absolutely heaving with people, cars, trams and dozens of bicycles! People were dashing around here and there and we had to stop once or twice to get our bearings and finally find our hotel. Luckily for us our abode was only about 5 minutes walk from the station. Red Light District ---------------------- It's impossible to go to Amsterdam and not look at the lovely ladies. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and it is possibly the city's biggest (and best) attraction. Ladies can be viewed behind glass on various streets around the city. Some will be fully dressed, but most will be wearing rather less hoping to coax you into their booth. Obviously I didn't sample any of the array of delights that were on offer (a: I was with my fiancee and b: I ain't paying!), but I'm reliably informed that it's around 50 euros for what known as a "suck and f***". If you've never been to Amsterdam, you might think it somewhat seedy, but I can assure you it's not. The Dutch just seem to be more open about that sort of thing than us up-tight Brits and walking around the red light district is an absolute pleasure! ;) Even my fiancee enjoyed wondering round and seeing the sights! The earlier you go, the more couples you'll see before the stag parties come out at night. Quick tip: don't even think about trying to take a photo of one of the girls. It is strictly forbidden. Sex Shops -------------- Littered within the red light district and within the central shopping areas are an array of adult shops. These shops sell pretty much anything and everything you could ever want as well as many things you wouldn't even dream of having! There's plenty of vibrators, dildos and other sex toys as well as magazines and masses upon masses of videos and DVDs. These aren't your soft movies either - it's proper R18 porn. I was more interested in the DVDs than anything else and I must admit that we returned home from Holland with quite a few! ;) The prices are incredibly cheap when compared with the UK (or so I'm told ;) )... with some DVDs available for around 5-10 euros, compared with up to £35 in UK stores such as Pulse and Cocktails (which dooyoo won't add into their catalogue for me to review :( ). There's films for pretty much every taste, including ones which are illegal in the UK. Sex Museums and Sex Shows -------------------------------------- The red light district has several places that provide live shows. We did some research on this before we went, but the other half decided that she didn't want to see any of the shows. Reading reviews online, people weren't particularly impressed and it was around 30 euros each to get in, so we gave it a miss. We did however venture into the two sex museums. The one on the Damrak (Amsterdam's main street near the station) was pretty good, but the one in the red light district is poor by comparison. There are several adult-related things on display, including a replica prostitute booth and a giant penis (and I mean giant)! Drugs -------- Besides the sex, Amsterdam is also famous for its legalised drugs. I can't give you much information on this side of things though, as I don't take drugs and didn't even think about it in Amsterdam. There's plenty of cafes dotted around the city where you can see people inside getting high - and you can certainly smell it as you walk past! There are some people at night who will offer you illegal drugs, but a polite "no thanks" will mean they won't bother you again. Other Attractions ---------------------- Obviously there's more to Amsterdam than just sex and drugs... well, that what the Mrs said anyway! Here's a quick run-down of some of the other things we did on our trip: Amsterdam ArenA ----------------------- I'm a football nut and love visiting new grounds. Unfortunately Ajax were playing away from home while we were in Amsterdam, so we couldn't watch a match, however we did go on a tour of the ground. The Amsterdam ArenA is about 10 minutes train ride south of grand centraal station and really is an impressive sight. Tours run daily in Dutch and English and are very informative and friendly. You get to see the changing rooms and press room as well as standing at pitch level and sampling the seating in the ground. Canal Cruises ------------------ To get a different perspective of Amsterdam we went on a cruise of the city's famous canals - actually we went on the cruise 3 times... we were there for 5 days and the other half was getting bored of looking at boobs - some people have no stamina! Cruises last around an hour and really show the city for how beautiful it is, with fantastic old buildings and some lovely architecture. You can board the boats from outside the train station, where the price is around 11 euros each. Amsterdam Zoo -------------------- Amsterdam has its own zoo that contains all the usual animals (elephants, lions, tigers, gorillas etc) as well as the star attraction for us - a polar bear! Well, he would have been the star attraction if we hadn't have just visited baby Knut in Berlin zoo a couple of days before. Amsterdam zoo was very, very poor when compared to the one in Berlin and it really isn't worth visiting. The enclosures seem small and run-down and it looks like it needs a lot of money spending on it - spend more time looking at boobs instead. Anne Frank's House -------------------------- Neither my fiancee or myself had ever read Anne Frank's diary and neither of us were particularly bothered about going to look round her house. However, we seemed to be in the minority as every time we passed there were large queues at the entrance. We didn't go in, and I don't really feel like we missed much. Safety -------- Before visiting Amsterdam we were a little concerned with how safe it would be to visit - what with the drugs and the prostitution, but it's not really much different to visiting any other big city. Sure, there's some idiots about but at no point did we feel unsafe - either when wandering round the red light district or when being asked for drugs. Just be sensible and you'll be fine! Overall --------- Writing this review has whet my appetite for another visit to this great city. If possible, we'll go mid-week next time as the place definitely livens up and gets a lot busier at weekends - where the main areas are full of English stag groups.

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                    23.02.2009 17:48
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                    get yourself out there

                    Weather your there for the flowers or a smoke or even a romantic weekend you will really enjoys this place with its fantastic canals systems boats and bridges. The reason most people go to Amsterdam is because the toleration of cannabis, it is legal to smoke in some of the bars in the cent rum but not out on the streets. the other thing is the flower shows which are quite splendid with a wide range of flowers and greenhouses. the shops are also really good because everything is close knit so your always a stones throw away from any where which is a bonus there is also an area called the red light district where prostitution is legal as well but beware of some areas because there are men everywhere trying to sell hard drugs they are known as lucky men which ruined my holiday because they just don t leave you alone but if you see them coming towards you walk in another direction and keep your head down other than that have a good holiday and hope you enjoy .

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                      11.02.2009 15:50
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                      Good experience

                      Amsterdam is not only one of the most famous cities in the world, but one of the largest too, its huge. I have been out here a couple of times with some friends of mine, and when we do go, a couple of times a year, we only spend a weekend there, and for me, I would rather spend a little more time in this wonderful city. The hotel that we stayed in was right in the centre of Amsterdam, so all of the local tourists attractions were really close to us, as were the best restaurnates I have eaten in. There are so many shops here as well, and you can buy lots of things for a lot cheaper than you would in the UK, like alcohol for instance. One thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of cars in this city, and with the streets being as narrow as they are, it is really hard to find somewhere to leave your rental car, if you get one. However, they have introduced a perfect way around this, by using a tram system, meaning you say on any rental expenses, and you can get around the whole city. I would say to you that before you go, by a tour guide book or something like that, as there are so many things to see and do, that it would be a good idea to make a list before you travel and it makes it much easy when you get there. Most of the people I know only go there to buy cheap products like cigarettes, and of course pay a visit to the infamous red light district, which is some parts of the world, is what Amsterdam is famous for, but for me, I like the city for what it is. It is a brilliant place to visit, and I have the pictures to prove it.

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                      09.01.2009 18:57
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                      Great people, LOADS to do!

                      Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands has often been misconceived as the place where youths go to take advantage of the lax laws on Marijuana smoking, and men go for stag weekends in the red light district, however Amsterdam is so much more than that. Amsterdam was founded in the 12th century and has a huge amount of history to it, the buildings are all full of great little stories! The centre is laid out around concentric canals which were once the prime way to get around the city, and a boat tour will show you many areas and give you many of the stories of the East India Trading Company, and the many stunning buildings you will see as you pass. The city can be a little difficult to navigate at first as many of the streets are small, and with the canals you can get a little confused, but a good map (the iAmsterdam map is brilliant) will help you out. Transport in Amsterdam is fabulous. The trains are frequent, cheap and high quality, the trams run everywhere and are the best way to get around, and of course you can always hire a bicycle for your stay as the city is one of the most cyclist friendly in Europe (just be wary of trams and other more experienced cyclists!) The city has the beautiful Vondelpark which in the summer is regularly filled with people enjoying the sunshine, and many students in groups. There's also a huge number of small streets with little boulangeries and patisseries where you can get some delicious picnic items! There are many museums within Amsterdam, and I'd highly recommend the Sex Museum for a good giggle and the Van Gogh Museum if you have an interest in impressionist art is fabulous and has many of Van Goghs paintings. For all tourists visiting Amsterdam for the first time the iAmsterdam card is ESSENTIAL. The card can be brought to be valid for a specific length of time, and the price depends upon this. All cards come with a tram pass, a guidebook that includes loads of information and vouchers, and a free trip on one of the boat tours, meaning that you save a lot of money on travel and the multiple attractions around the city. There are hundreds of restaurants serving fabulous food from most cultures, however one thing I noticed in Amsterdam is that the service at many restaurants is not very good. In our four day visit we only had one really pleasant experience. There is just so much to say about Amsterdam, and I'd definitely recommend Lonely Planet and the iAmsterdam websites for more information. I'd also recommend that ANYBODY go and visit as Dutch people are great, and it's such a beautiful city with so much to do and see!

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                      15.11.2007 12:18
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                      Well worth a visit.

                      Quickly on the heels of our trip to Mexico (thanks to all who read/rated/commented) it was a friend’s 40th birthday and six of us (three couples) had booked at the last minute to go to Amsterdam for the weekend. I had heard lots of stories, especially surrounding the Red Light District & smoking cannabis, although had also heard that Amsterdam was much more than this and it should not be judged on rumours. Yeah right! So with a semi open mind the six of us flew out from Manchester on the evening of 19 October. ***Booking*** Whilst I was not involved with the booking everything was booked online (I am not going to list the many thousands of web sites here – just do a google search) and we flew with KLM for £130 return and booked two nights Bed & Breakfast at the Delta Hotel (www.delta-hotel.com) which cost 40 euros per person per night but there was one catch – we were all in the same room. Oh well, it was last minute and we were friends! You can fly to Amsterdam from almost every main UK airport. After a very eventful check in at Manchester, eventful because they had overbooked the flights and too many people had turned up but we somehow wangled our way onto the flight and we arrived at Schiphol Airport after an hours flight. We were very quickly through immigration and collected our bags. We had decided to get the train into the City as our hotel was located close to Central Station. This was a very easy exercise and tickets were purchased from a machine, which was in English and cost 6.20 euros pp weekend return. The train station is actually underneath the entrance to the airport (it actually feels as though the airport has been added on to the train station) and all directions are in English, very easy to find and run every 20 minutes or so and take 20 minutes to get into the City. What is amazing about the train service here compared to the UK is that they take the most obvious things and utilise them to make the service better. For example, lots more carriages and double decker trains. Why on earth we cannot adopt something like this in the UK is beyond me but I suppose that’s for another review. ***Hotel*** Upon leaving Central Station you simply arrive in the middle of a bustling City and this was 10pm. You are immediately sucked into the atmosphere of the place. It was absolutely packed everywhere but you never felt claustrophobic because the streets are wide open spaces. The hotel was a five minute walk away and very easy to find as it was located on Damrak 42/43 which is a main street from the station down to Dam Square (and Amsterdam’s main street). Hotel was 3 star and very basic but in a superb location, welcoming staff and was basically what we expected. Our room was large and whilst not designed for six single beds fitted them in easily. If you want quality then this is not the hotel for you. If you want good accommodation at a cheap price then it is highly recommended. Check in was efficient, it was really laid back and it never once pretended to be something that it isn’t. The staff were excellent in making recommendations of places to go. There is a wide range of accommodation available from hostels to top class hotels and so it can cater for your every need. Similarly, there are lots of places to eat from top class meals to basic fare. I would urge you to try a Dutch Pancake house and get a mixture of fillings. Delicious!!! ***Getting Around & things to see and do*** There are numerous options the least popular of which appears to be a taxi as these are over priced and unless you are in a rush not necessary. Bikes are the standard transport given it is flat and the city (and country) caters for cyclists by providing bike lanes. Bikes can be hired for 10 euros per day, including insurance. You can also walk. It is not a big city and you could walk from one end to the other in an hour. Buses are ten a penny and trams are very popular costing 1.60 euros per strip or buy 15 strips for 6.40 – a typical journey take two strips. You just have to be very careful when walking around the street/crossing the road. Dodging cars is the least of your worries. You also have to avoid cyclists (many of which did not seem to have any brakes), swerve from buses and check both ways twice for trams. Coming from Manchester then I am used to the tram dodging so it was like home from home. The transport we used most however, was the Canal Bus which is a company that operates boats around the canal system in a continuous cycle (there are lots of different companies). Typically the boats are hop on/off with three different canal routes calling at 14 different strategic stops around the city. We had pre booked this for a weekend pass costing £18 pp (www.viator.com) and named “Amsterdam Canal Bus Hop On Hop Off Pass”. When booked you are emailed a voucher and you take this to the kiosk outside Central Station (actually a canal stop named Central Station East) and they swap this for tickets for the canal bus (boat). It is then just a matter of getting on the boat and either staying on and viewing the sites or alternatively getting off at whatever stop you want. This was fantastic way of getting around and seeing the city but be warned – if you do not plan your day ahead then you will end up missing out on places you desperately want to see as there is no way you will see everything even in two days. Also, the canal bus can get very full and given they are every 40 minutes or so you need to be queueing up around 15 minutes before it is due in. If you plan ahead then you can also pre book tickets for certain attractions and obtain a discount whereby if you decided to go somewhere on the last minute you will pay full price. Discounts are available for the following: Amsterdam Historical Museum, Scheppvaarrtmuseum, Heineken Experience, Madame Tussauds, Hard Rock Café, McDonalds, Jewish Historical Museum, Gassan Diamonds, Holland International Rondvart, Holland Casino, Wagamamas. It is such a shame however, that they lump discounts for superb museums with money off a Big Mac – what is the world coming to? We pre booked the Heineken Experience which meant we got entry for 5 euros (instead of 11) which included the tour, three free beers and a souvenir on departure – well worth the money. This was a great couple of hours and whilst they do not brew beer there anymore it is a lasting shrine to the Heineken empire. The museum is well laid out, easy to find and has some excellent interactive tours in it which actually enable you to email yourself with some videos/photos for when you get home (or email your friends at work)! We also got off at the Leidseplein so we could have a walk around there (mainly bars and restaurants) although the Rijksmuseum (was shut) and Van Gogh Museum are only ten minutes walk away. We then walked from here all the way back to our hotel and just sampling the atmosphere of the city on the way back. The day we left we visited the Sex Museum as it was only 100 yards from our hotel (not to be confused with the Erotica Museum in the RLD although they are very similar) and which was 3 euro entry fee and covered four floors and has the full history of sex including artifacts and photographs going back to the 1800s. It is simply like an everyday museum but devoted to sex. There is nothing seedy about it at all. We did try to visit Anne Frank’s house although the queues were round the block. With the benefit of hindsight we simply did not have enough time to see everything and two days is way too short to see the wonders this city has to offer. I have hardly scratched the surface in terms of what you can see. There are museums and art galleries a plenty, beautiful architecture, flea market, Artis Zoo, Rembrandt’s House ***Red Light District*** Given it was a Friday night when we arrived, then sightseeing of the usual variety was not an option but given we were adjacent to the Red Light District (RLD) then we could hardly ignore it and there is no point. The RLD is not particularly big and straddles several canals and is just a hive of activity and full of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, sex shops, sex theatres, coffeehouses etc. It is eminently clear that this is a very popular tourist attraction and the vast majority of people there are treating it as such. Whilst it is tacky with its red lights, velvet curtains and performers giving you a peek of their assets to entice you in, I would not describe it as seedy. In fact it is more of a tourist attraction than the epicenter of the oldest occupation in the world. I never once felt threatened, embarrassed, intimated or that I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. The RLD doesn’t offer up any apology for the way it is and there is no way that it should. When you are there it’s an in your face place and if you are offended by this then you can quickly leave or avoid the area altogether. It’s probably not a place you would want to take your kids after dark though! The TV series “Amsterdam Nights” concentrates on the RLD but does absolutely nothing for the reputation of Amsterdam other than to attract hoards of Stag Dos. Whilst the area has large groups of blokes there is also a significant number of couples also so do not be put off from visiting in couples or a mixed group. Whilst the area undoubtedly has its seedy underbelly we never at any stage felt threatened or intimidated although we were approached in the street asking if we wanted drugs but a polite no thank you sends them on their way. There is also a visible police presence with police on the beat. In a way, the bizarre thing about it is that a brothel will be stood cheek by jowl with a 600 year old church and a canal side café and it all looks completely normal. Whilst the ladies are trying to tempt you in from behind the glass you are not at any time pestered by anyone in the street promoting their wares or insisting you come into this bar or that one. You are very much left to your own devices. We also went to see a sex show which is surreal given it just felt completely normal – like going to the theatre. ***Drug Scene*** Similarly, drugs, especially cannabis, are rife and accepted as long as they are smoked in a licensed coffee-house. These establishments are highly regulated and are everywhere. Again, this is part of Amsterdam that you cannot ignore and that Amsterdam has no wish to hide. In fact I get the feeling that the city is proud of the regulated drug scene. Whilst other countries like the US/UK waste billions on an unending war on drugs, Amsterdam opened it’s doors on the basis it is more of a health issue than a criminal one. At least this way they can control and regulate it and who says they are wrong? However, there appears to have been some pressure from the politically correct brigade at the EU resulting in coffee-shops no longer being able to sell alcohol from 1 April 2007 which is no bad thing. You can though get a lovely latte!! You cannot however smoke in the street and can be fined for doing so. Whilst you can choose whether or not to go into a coffee-shop you do not have much choice over the smell that they emit and you cannot fail to notice it if you are walking past. In terms of the places themselves they are generally small, quite dark and intimidating looking places although we went in seven/eight over the weekend and once in the staff are very friendly, you do not have to smoke any drugs if you don’t want to although you do have to buy a coffee or soft drink. The drugs themselves are sold in a café style menu with various options on offer from a straight joint to a gram. The staff will advise you on what everything is and also roll it for you if you like. They are very open to bemused questioning from tourists. Don’t confuse coffee-shop with coffee shop either – the one word or hyphenated version sells drugs, coffee & space cakes. Coffee shops sell coffee and pastries. If you do decide to go to Amsterdam then I would urge you to visit one just for the experience. It is part of the real Amsterdam. Don’t just ignore it. ***Conclusion** Was it what I expected? I would have to say no because whilst I tried to keep an open mind when the words sex and drugs are joined you get a very stereotypical feeling and view but I could not have been more wrong. Amsterdam is a very cosmopolitan city that has something for everyone, is easy to get around, has plenty to see and do and allows you to experience the sex and drugs if you so desire. It has nothing to hide and does not offer any excuses for what is on show – what you see is largely what you get. It is a very laid back, relaxed city in which I felt completely safe and at ease and at no times did I detect any under current of tension which is something that I cannot say for many cities in the UK. It has lots of attractions for the most discerning of travelers including galleries, museums and wonderful architecture. To anyone considering Amsterdam for a short break, I would say go for it. Don’t pre judge what it may be like or come to some pre conceived conclusion on what to expect because you could very well be wrong. After all, it’s not just sex, drugs & rock n roll you know! ***Tips*** • Try and spend more than two days there • Pre plan and book the sights you want to see and spread these over a couple of days. • Do visit the Red Light District • Do go into a coffee-house • Do take a canal trip Finally, I have no idea why this review is under National Parks International. Come on Dooyoo sort it out!

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                        27.03.2007 01:59
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                        So all in folks dont be wary of the district enjoy the place but be cautious and enjoy the smoke

                        Hey every one looking for red light district info,I recently visited amsterdam for 3 days from the 16/03/07 til 19/03/07 , Ive read many a review but none with real truth in them,the red light district i situated as you come out of central station its on your left three canals over,and trust me the sex shops will let you know you found it,I visited the red light district many times there and it was an experience , During the day its like any other canal walk til you see the beautys in the windows, at night the place changes full of drug dealers selling everthing ,{ignore them they usually leave u alone}but at night the real red light ladies come out something to meet any mans taste, playboy quality girls ,I thought before i went to amsterdam prostitution was seedy, but the girls i visited opened my eyes as most girls are extremely happy at what they do and will tell you so they make alot a money , as u walk through the district u will be harrassed by the not so good lookin girls begging for bussines.Just laugh at em because just keep walkin u will find better lookin girls ,And never walk through extremely drunk, because the city is known for drug users preying on drunken tourists ,Sex costs $50 euro basic rate and extras cost more , always be sure to never bring much money if you are visiting the girls as my friend paid $150 euro and lasted 5 mins as soon as you ejaculate its game over and the girls wont be shy in askin you to leave, most the girls i visited where friendly bar one who was a bit nasty, i visited 8 girls in case youre wondering, But all in my review should help any red blooded male heading there ,never take pics as girls always have minders near by and trust me you dont wanna meet them i seen one english lad taking pics ,and he wouldnt hand over his camera they threw him in a canal after beating him up 4 a few mins ,And dont visit the sex shows really cheesy and expensive 25 euro in 25 more and u can have your own live sex show and take part in the whole show , oh yeah and if you smoke weed in amsteram go a little further outside the city during the day and its bigger and cheaper deals

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                        "Amsterdam is the titular capital city of the Netherlands. It lies on the banks of two bodies of water, the IJ bay and the Amstel river. Founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village on the banks of the Amstel, it is now the largest city in the country and is a financial and cultural centre. As of 1 August 2006, the population of the city proper is 741,329; the population of the official Greater Amsterdam area is approximately 1.5 million. Amsterdam is also one of the core urban centres of the greater metropolitan area called "Randstad" (Ring City) which encompasses other Dutch cities such as Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam and has a population of over 7.5 million. Amsterdam is also colloquially known as Mokum, which means 'city' in Yiddish. Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, dating largely from the 17th century. At that time, a series of concentric, semi-circular canals ("grachten") were dug around the old city centre. Along the canals, houses and warehouses were built. The canals still define Amsterdam's layout and appearance today, with many fine houses and mansions situated along the banks. Some of the narrow brick houses are gradually sinking because they are built on wooden piles to cope with the marshy subsoil."