Holidays – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reviewer: Simsi
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AmsterdamI’ve been to Amsterdam 4 times in the past 4 years and am starting to get a pretty good feel for the place. The first 3 times I booked one of LastMinute.com’s holiday packages and stayed in a different hotel, although one change was only because my preferred hotel was fully booked. My latest trip in 2009 saw me return to my favourite hotel, the Victoria Park Plaza but rather than book a package holiday per se, I booked flights and hotel seperately.

I’ll be honest and say that my visits weren’t strictly for holidays as they were to attend conventions, however the sort of convention I go to, you might just as well call it a holiday as it’s all laid on LOL.

I’ll come back to the hotels in a bit, but first, Amsterdam itself. I would call myself a fan, although it’s the sort of city where IMO you have to be a bit choosy about the times you go. It’s got a very relaxed atmosphere, perhaps not quite to Paris levels, but nonetheless it’s chilled and the layout of the city means it’s difficult to get lost as all roads tend to curve in an arc round the centre. Many of the streets are split down the middle by canals, and it’s these really that provide the ambience of Amsterdam. Note it’s quite an expensive city too!

Now, regarding times to go, I’m talking more on a day-to-day basis here. I’m not into noisy party streets with hoardes of guys and girls wandering around, and Amsterdam does tend to be a bit like this on Friday and Saturday nights. The reason being that because of the relaxed rules on drugs, the infamous red-light areas in the centre with the girls paraded in cages like zoo animals (truly horrible IMO although I appreciate the fact that a lot do it through choice) and the easy access from the UK and other Western European contries, you get the stag and hen (bachelor and shower?) parties going over for long weekends of debauchery helped no doubt by cheap package holiday deals.

Better in my opinion to experience Amsterdam during the week, unless you like the whole party atmosphere thing! On weekdays, the place has a totally different feel to it. There’s not a massive amount of tourist attractions in Amsterdam (worth visiting anyway), although the cuisine is superb. Anne Frank’s museum is probably the pick of the bunch, although it’s small and be prepared to queue at busy times, but it’s a very emotional experience, tempered somewhat by the fact you are packed in with loads of other tourists! A trip on the canals is also a must.

Regards restaurants, the choice is excellent although you need to watch for weird menus! The Amsterdam chefs do like to experiment, but o the other hand, this opens up new culinary opportunities that you won’t find elsewhere. My first choice restaurant would be Supper Club (in the ciy centre) which is fantastically laid back….you sit/lie on beds and eat in a converted chapel while a DJ plays chillout music and one wall is dedicated to ambient videos. They also have guest spots most nights where you get entertained for 20/30 mins by whoever walks in the door. The food can be unusual, and everyone is served each course at a set time, but it’s fantastic – just be sure to book ahead. If you prefer something more straightforward, Amsterdam also has a Gaucho’s steak house just off the main Dam square which is very good.

Regarding hotels, the first time I stayed I pitched down at the 4* Jolly Hotel Carlton. Clean and only 10 mins walk from the centre of Amsterdam, but a bit like living in a shoebox. Not somewhere I’d go back given a choice, but OK. The second time, I stayed at the Victoria Plaza hotel, again 4* but soooo much better and this would be my first choice hotel if you see a package holiday with this as an option. It’s ideally situated, my room had no external noise (ask for a room at the back) and it was just over the square from the central station which links you to the airport in 20 minutes (much, much cheaper than a taxi and quicker). The last time, I stayed at the 5* Krasnopolsky dead centre of the city. It was OK, but a bit noisier and to be honest not as nice a room as the Victoria, although downstairs is pretty classy. 20 Euros a day for wireless Internet too which I thought was a ripoff.

As mentioned above, I’d get a train from Amsterdam Schipol airport to the city centre. The train station is pretty central and at the airport end is part of the main concourse, so very easy. Costs about 3.5 euros each way compared to 45-50 euros in a taxi. And quicker because the roads in and out of Amsterdam are quite slow once you’re off the motorway.

Overall, I’d definately recommend a trip to Amsterdam, but during the week and probably only for 2, maybe 3 days. Maybe use it as a base or a starting point for a Holland or European trip. You might also want to check out the quick Amsterdam video guide.


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