Whenever I visit a new city or new place I like to orient myself about the place and what better way than to take a walk around town? By walking you get to see the city, observe the people, see the life that makes up a city. It’s really a lovely way to just learn about a new place. As a tourist without a car, you become free of the burden of having to find parking and driving. It’s wonderful.
Before you start walking I suggest you ask your hotel for a map. It’s free and the staff are always more than willing to give you directions. (Elsewhere in Amsterdam they charge you for a map even the tourist office)
I started my walking tour from my hotel on Vondelstraat which I think is a great neighbourhood for anyone visiting Amsterdam. I haven’t stayed at hotels in other areas but from my experience at Vondelstraat I have fallen in love with it. It is a safe neighbourhood without any dodgy characters hanging around and it is only a few minutes walk to the Leidseplein which is a lively square that fills up with activity late at night. It is also near to the Vondel Park (which is like Amsterdam’s Central Park) and most importantly to the museum quarter and posh shopping road called Hoofstraat.(There are several hotels on that street)
I start my walk and head towards Leidseplein. I cross my first canal and stop to take it all in. The beautiful canal where several boats are parked and alongside which are trees whose leaves have just emerged from their winter rest. Light green leaves glow in the canal. Bicycles are also everywhere so becareful when crossing the street as they come from all directions.
At Leidesplein I stop by the tourist office were I ask for information regarding the public transport pass and about Keukenhof (tulip garden) You can buy tickets and excursions here, but some passes like the 7 day public transport card have to be bought at the office by Central Station.
I continue on my walk on Leidestraat which is a pedestrain street. Cars are not allowed, but several tram lines run along it. Along the street you’ll find shops, bakeries and drugstores. There’s a cute bakery that sells XXL muffins that just look absolutely delicious and Starbucks is also on this street where you can stop, buy a drink and use some free wifi.
I cross several canals walking along the street and find myself at Koningsplein where I turn right and walk along the canal. This is Amsterdam’s flower market. There you can find bulbs as well as fresh flowers for sale. Tulips, Amarylis , Daffodils and many others. Pricewise I thought they were quite reasonable though I am sure you can find them cheaper elsewhere. There are also a lot of souvenir stores along the flower market which I discovered later to be selling postcards and other knicknacks cheaper than those in other areas.
At the end of the flowermarket is a beautiful tower where Amsterdam Museum is located next to the canal. It’s beautiful here and a great photo opportunity.
I turn along and walk on Kalverstraat where there are more shops and boutiques taking me straight to Dam Square. This is the main historical square in Amsterdam which dates back to 1270 when the dam on the Amstel river was first built and around which they city of Amsterdam eventually developed. The palace where the Royal family reside is also located on this square.
It’s a huge square and it is indeed the centre of activity. Several people are in a corner playing music, in the middle I spot a man giving a speech (in Dutch) and around him is a large crowd. Another crowd surrounds a group of youngsters performing a hip hop dance.
Madame Tussaud’s, Peek and Cloppenburg, a huge souvenir shop and several shops occupy the buildings around the square. To escape the cold I spot a few people entering what seems to be a mall and enter De Bijenkorf which turns out to be a luxury shopping mall with brands like Louis vuitton and Gucci. I walk through and exit on the back.
I walk on Warmoestraat which is part of the Red Light district and get a sense of what it is like. It’s daytime and quiet and it doesn’t look so safe. I walk over to Nieuwendijk and stop by Beurs van Berlage which is an art nouveau building now a concerthall. I go inside but can only peak through the doors to see the architecture.
A few minutes later I find myself at Central Station. It’s a huge building that reminds you of times past. Amsterdam in its hey day. People stream in and out of the station and make their way to the tram stops which all see to start or end here.
I go to the pubic transport ticket office across the station, buy my pass and make my way to the trams. After two hours of walking, I take Tram 2 back to the hotel.
I’ve seen most of Amsterdam. Not all, but I think the major sites that make the city what it is. It’s beautiful, lively and a city definitely worth exploring. 🙂 Wear comfortable shoes though! It’s all cobblestone!