Back Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a modern city with quite a past and with much more than the well known red light district and coffee shops on offer. The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, for example, have world class exhibitions, and the Anne Frank House provides an insight into some of the evils of the Second World War.

Getting to and from Amsterdam is easy and from Leeds/Bradford International Airport offers a high quality and affordable service to Schipol. In many respects this is a model airport with with good security, wide walkways, efficient baggage handling and an abundance of shops and places to eat; but there is also quite a distance to some of the departure gates from check-in - those in the 'D' series are a good 20 minutes walk from Departure Area 3.

Transfer by train to Amsterdam Centraal takes 20 minutes with departures every 20 minutes via platforms 1 or 2 which are only a short escalator ride away from the airport's concourse. Single second class tickets cost €3.20, plus €1 if paying by credit card. Travellers should be aware, however, that whilst it is possible to use any credit card to pay for rail tickets at Schipol, at Amsterdam's Centraal Station only Maestro cards or cash are accepted.

Transport within the city is also excellent. Trams are modern, clean, fast, frequent, regular and efficient. At many stops the departure time of each of the next three trams is displayed, along with their destinations, while on-board displays show the next stop and the current time, with weather forecast and advertising included. Lines 2 and 5 are the most useful, linking, as they do, the Dam, Leidseplein and Museumplein areas.

The 'CANALBUS' water bus, with its 14 stops around the city, costs €16 and tickets are valid until noon the following day. The red and green 'lines' follow similar, but different, routes which combine to return you to your departure point. Taking around 85 minutes on each leg, there is an interesting and informative commentary. Even in cold and wet weather, keep the windows open to prevent condensation and to ensure a clear view for site-seeing and photographs.

Amsterdam is quite compact and so walking between locations is often possible. It can also be quite dangerous as roads are often wide and traffic fast moving! Avoiding collisions with trams, buses and cars is relatively easy: they are both big and noisy. Bicycles offer a challenge of a different order being altogether silent yet just as speedy. Often the first inkling of their presence is the sound of a bell; sometimes it is a hand on a shoulder as the rider heaves an unwary pedestrian out of the way!

Amsterdam is well endowed with accomodation and hotels range from the most basic to the luxurious. Close to Centraal Station and Dam, the Citadel hotel is 'good enough' with 'compact' rooms and a reasonable 'Dutch' buffet breakfast. Tram lines 2 and 5 go past the door to the museums. Within the Amstel district the Best Western Eden is similarly acceptable but more expensive.

Places to eat include what seems to be a multitude of 'Argentinian' Steak houses of variable quality along with the inevitable fast food outlets. Amsterdam's Hard Rock Café is not one of the chain's better branches.