New Year's Eve in Amsterdam: tips for the blogging community

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

This is a blog for all the bloggers who are visiting Amsterdam for New Year's Eve. asked how to go about New Years Eve in Amsterdam? (Updated 2015)

This is not an easy question and after experiencing many of these wonderful nights in Amsterdam we are still learning new and wonderful spots. We at Omy Amsterdam Tours are always looking to help and teach people about Amsterdam, a city we love.

Yesterday we covered fireworks so you know where to get them from.

We have valuable survival advice so you can have your own fantastic experience.Why? Because we belong to the blogger's community and no one ever told us the below points when first experiencing New Year's Eve in Amsterdam. We learnt them the hard way.

In the Dutch tradition we will start honest and finish honest.

First a few words of warning.

The city is full and I mean FULL.
Hotels are full, restaurants are full, clubs are full and the streets are full. If you haven't booked a nice restaurant or a club by the last week of December you are not going to get in unless you know the manager or the owner. There is no real place to hide, especially in the inner historic centre of Amsterdam.

No Transport.
Due to the overwhelming surge in the city's population at New Year's Eve public transport grinds to a halt. Finding taxis is difficult and Amsterdam's taxies are not known for being forgiving on visiting folk in the best of times.

Watch your backs.
The city is invaded by young men armed with small explosives. They are not afraid to use these explosives and throwing a banger into a crowd is commonplace. If I was young teen again I probably would be doing the same thing so please don't get cross at their excitement. Just see them coming before they frighten the socks off you.

Telephone Gridlock.
The city is jammed packed with people and everyone is sending text messages. On New Year's Eve in Amsterdam the mobile phone network is overloaded. On this one night it is back to the days before mobile phones. Set up meeting points at certain times in case your group gets separated is a must. If you want to meet someone set time and place before the sun sets. Then set up back up places an hour or two latter in case the first meet up fails.

These tips will be of more use to you than knowing where are the coolest hip and happing parties.

Now for the positive tips.

Arm yourself with Supermarket beer/wine
I learnt this off the Amsterdammers a long time ago. During the day visit the national supermarket institution known as Albert Hein is a must. With an eight pack of Amstel beer costing 5 euro you and your wallet will thank me when you recover in the New Year. If you buy something that is discounted you are going to need a discount card. Just ask any dutch person in the checkout line for those. The Dutch understand the value of a discount and won't begrudge anyone a few euro off their bill.

Please buy tins of beer and plastic glasses for your wine. Avoid GLASS BOTTLES. I have told many tourists this line. "Bikes and glass do not go together." By law you are not allowed to drink on the street. The  Dutch are famous for their tolerance and New Year's Eve in Amsterdam is one of the nights you get to let your hair down and kick up your heels.

Nieuwmarket, Amsterdam New Year's Eve

Nieuwmarket (New Market) Is the Place to Be.
On the edge of the Red Light District this is my favourite place central location. Dam Square and Museumplein (Museum Square) are good but full of people not from Amsterdam.  Nieumarkt is at the end of China Town. The Chinese invented fireworks. Need I say more?

                            Youtube clip of New Year's Eve in Amsterdam thanks to Amsterdam1971

Maritime Museum

In 2014/5 New Year's Eve in Amsterdam the city and the Maritime Museum put on a large display. Infrastructure was there to help crowds. Free toilets and lots of space for vantage points to see the fire works. Check with the IAmsterdam website for an update before you come.

For Families Visit the Library
This may sound like a weird tip but I have left the best to last. The Amsterdam Central Library is the largest public library on the continent of Europe. It is open until 10pm. Take your son and wife to the top after dark and enjoy what will be the best view of your trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is flat. Hence the name the Netherlands and any elevation on this evening is an experience you won't soon forget. No matter how many coffee shops you visit.

The library is also close to Nieuwmarkt, only a twenty minute stroll in a full Amsterdam. There is also a cafe (eating cafe not smoking) at the top so if you haven't been able to snare a dinner reservation you should be able to get something from the food hall. Best of all, entrance to the library is free.

Ok, blogging community and Matthew, Happy New Year.

Nieuwmarket, Amsterdam post New Year's Eve

What is most important is that,

When in Amsterdam...... Enjoy!

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Things to do in Amsterdam: Winter

Best Amsterdam small bar close to Dam Square

Where to buy Fireworks in Amsterdam

New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam: fire works on sale

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Amsterdam fireworks over Nieuwmarkt square

A great party is had by all on 31 December in Amsterdam. The canals and streets are full of people blowing up fire works. In most countries you are not allowed to buy your own fire works but the Dutch allow you this liberty. Fire work shops opened today and sell pyrotechnics for three days.

My favourite shop is in the Red Light District The address is Bethanienstraat 24.

Firework shop in Amsterdam's Red Light District

There are two locations near the Anne Frank House Museum.

Party Balloon on the Rozengracht 65. Also Closer to the Dam Sqaure is Louis Wittenburg on the RaadHuisstraat 16. These two places are normally party decoration and costume shops during the year.

Near Vondel Park we have Vuurwerk de Klerk on the Brederodestraat.

The sale of fireworks is not without controversy. Last year two boys lost their lives exploding hand made bombs. In Amsterdam almost 500 fires were extinguished by the fire department. Most of these fires were lit in rubbish bins. In 2014/5 a young 11 year boy in Amsterdam lost his hand to fireworks.

Amsterdam firework selection

Due to the strict controls many Dutch drive to Belgium to buy their rockets and party explosives. Fireworks are on sale all year around in the neighbouring country and fireworks not allowed in the Netherlands are often transported across the border.

Another trend has been to buy over the internet. Authorities have had problems with people sending and receiving fireworks in the mail. One report cited that 60% of fireworks are bought over the internet.

Amsterdam firework display at Maritime Museum

Belgian authorities seized 220 tonnes of fireworks earlier this week because stores did not have the right permit, they were stored incorrectly or there was too many fireworks in one location.

In May 2000 a fireworks storage facility blew up in the eastern Dutch city of Enschede killing 23 people including 4 fire men.

Enjoy Amsterdam over the New Year period but please be safe.

When in Amsterdam....enjoy!

Amsterdam fireworks after the big night

Similar post:

Top tips to enjoy New Year's Eve in Amsterdam

Things to do in Winter in Amsterdam

All Time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam: a critical analysis

28 years ago Famous Sex Theatre Burns Down

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

On 16 December 1983 the famous sex theatre, which had opened in 1969, the Casa Rosso burned down. The theatre is famous for showing live sex acts performed on stage. The fire was started by a disgruntled former employee Joseph Lan at the former location of 92-100 Oudezids Achterburgwal. He poured petrol through the building and then reportedly lite it with gun. Lan was eventually arrested and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Click on the link to see the crowds watch the fire be put out.

ANP Historisch Archief

The owner of the Casa Rosso, Zwarte Jopie (original name Maurits De Vries)  wanted to leave the business and Amsterdam after the fire. The City authorities thought drug dealers from the nearby Zeedijk would take over the place. Jopie was encouraged to rebuild and moved the location of the theatre to its current spot 50 metres up the canal.

A memorial was built to remember the victims of the fire and stand there to this day.

When in Amsterdam....enjoy!

Crazy Men and Their Magnificent Flying Machines in Amsterdam the City of Bicycles

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Once a year for the last 3 years Amsterdam has been visited by rare old pre-war auto mobiles. Yes, the city of bicycles and canals will host the 100 Miles of Amsterdam. This weird and wonderful event pits man and machine against the winter elements of Amsterdam in the dead of night in a race against time.

This event was established by rally and vintage car enthusiasts, specifically pre-1940 cars. This year it will take place on the night 18 December and be completed on 19 December.

This year around 50 pre-war cars will take to the streets in this all night rally test. The rally starts at Huize Frankendael in Amsterdam East. Contestants will drive through the city. Dam Square and the 9 Streets, especially Reestraat will be great vantage points. They head to the centre of Utrecht where they stop before returning to the banks of the River Ij in Amsterdam.

The Amsterdam Watch Company in Amsterdam's famous shopping districts De 9 Straatjes (9 Streets) is proud to sponsor the event and has designed the wonderful poster below.

On their website The 100 Miles Amsterdam event organisers justify the event citing, apart from good old fun, sustainability and innovation. They believe that today products have a short life and that people are not building products that last. Rallying old cars is supposed to show how men and women can make things that go on for decades instead of being replaced every 3-5 years and placing burden on the environment.

Poster of The 100 Miles of Amsterdam by Amsterdam Watch Company in De 9 Straatjes Amsterdam

Below is a link from The Telegraaf. They made a short clip about last years event.

Everyone has pictures of bikes in Amsterdam and my town bike is one of my prized possessions but their is something classic and cool about old cars racing around Amsterdam. Rug up, get out and see these crazy, mostly,  men and their magnificent flying machines. Send us photos too.

When in Amsterdam.....enjoy!

Dutch Christmas: Racist or Family Affair?

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When in Amsterdam has realised it's that time of the year again. Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa), when the Dutch celebrate the eve of his birthday on 5 December.

When I first visited Holland. I was amazed by this tradition and totally shocked by the 'Black Petes' running around handing out candy. Black Petes are Sinterklaas's helpers.

Seeing grown European men and women blacken their faces, slap on red lipstick, and jump around helping an old white man took me back to the images of theatre in America in the 19th century making fun of black slaves.

This year I realised I am becoming more Dutch. The Black Petes didn't worry me at all. I saw a small boy dressed in an harlequin outfit with a blacken face. The tourists saw him, took lots of photos and caused a commotion on the bike path. I didn't look twice. This year I didn't get stirred up about the racial undertones of this family holiday. Instead I looked at the happiness in the eyes and on the faces of small children.

The race issue is still heavley debated here in the Netherlands and in Dutch communities around the world. This year 5 people were arrested in Amsterdam for interrupting the arrival parade of Sinterklass. They wore t-shirts that said 'Black Pete is racism'.

In Canada too there was controversy this year regarding the festival.
  New Westminster Sinterklaas event cancelled due to Black Pete Concerns

Most blogs in English, or any language other than Dutch, about Amsterdam or the Netherlands cover this issue at least once. They more or less describe the same main points. Lets cover these points quickly.

Who is Sinterklaas?
St Nicholas - A Greek/Turk who spent his life giving away his objects and helping children in need. The patron Saint of Children, fishermen and sailors.

Where is Sinterklaas from? 
Turkey, the old Greek part but he retired to Spain.

What is Sinterklaas doing in the Netherlands?
He arrives two weeks before his birthday and comes to  reward the boys and girls of the Netherlands if they have been good.

Who are Sinterklaas helpers?
Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) there are many of them. They are black with curly dark hair and wear red lipstick. The Zwarte Piets tell St Nick if a child has been good or bad and help carry the old Saint's bag of goodies for good children and beat and put in a sack bad children to take them back to Spain.

What happens on 5 December?
Families meet for lunch or dinner. Simple presents are left by Sint sometimes sarcastic poems are attached to the gifts.

This year I sat down to Sinterklaas dinner. It was a table of 12 people that spanned three generations. I realised that I was the only non-Dutch person at the table. Instead of debating the racist over(under) tones I simply asked them what they liked about Sinterklaas?

Here is what they said about the Sinterklaas festival:
'presents, poems and fun'
'spending time with siblings and parents'
'celebrating with 25 cousins'
'a surprise party for family and friends with lots of food and presents'
' Dutch national day'
'a nice tradition'
'pepernoten, marcipan and other candy that is not good for you'
'as a child we would leave our shoes at the door for three weeks.In the shoe we would put a carrot or an apple or turnip. If we were lucky we would get something in return.'

No matter your standpoint on this Dutch festival it is hard to escape the political debate. What I do know is that children love this holiday. Furthermore, when it comes to dressing up the children always want to dress up as Black Pete rather than Sinterklaas. Black Pete has all the candy and is a mischievous character. Right or wrong you can see why the children love him.

The final word on this topic is left to the gang from the famous Amsterdam comedy house, Boom Chicago.

When in Amsterdam... Enjoy

Sex Workers storm Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA)

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Amsterdam is a busy place all year round. November is no different. As the clocks change time, the weather drops in temperature and the trees lose their leaves, Amsterdammers scramble to get building projects finished before winter and the film buffs take over down town Amsterdam.

It is the month of IDFA: Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival. When in Amsterdam has been attending a two week festival in its 24th year and the largest of its kind in the world. Over 300 documentaries are screened attracting 200 000 visits and around 2600 international visitors.

The city and especially the Rembrandtplein (square) area is crawling with industry people and film fanatics. Talking, selling, networking or just enjoying, you can't get away from the enthusiasm for documentaries in November. As the festival comes to an end it is time to tell you the stars and the prize winners this year.

This year the talk and especially the Dutch chatter has been about Amsterdammers, the Fokkens. Two sweet old Amsterdam ladies in grey knit sweaters identical twin sisters Martine and Louise.

At the age of 69 they have been working in Amsterdam's famed Red Light District for 50 years. One of the sisters still works while the other does not because of problems with her hips. A Documentary Meet the Fokkens about their lives and adventures premiered this year. In time for Christmas the imaginative sisters have also released a book about their lives.

There has been no better example of Dutch honesty then to watch and hear the Fokkens on the television and radio talk show circuit over the past two weeks. Click on the link of an interview with the sisters by the National Broadcaster with English subtitles to watch the women talk about their profession.

With over 300 titles and many events and exhibitions running paralel to IDFA it is hard to list favorites. Below is a list of this years prize winners.

Prize Winners:

Best Feature Length Documentary:
Planet of the Snail (South Korea) is a story of a deaf and blind man and his beloved.

Special Jury Mention and the Audience Award:
5 Broken Cameras (Palastine/France/Netherlands) tells the story of a Palastinian village dealing with Jewish settlement and encroachment over a period of 5 years.

IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary:
Montenegro (Argentina) is about the hermit life of a man and a dog on a quiet island.

Dutch Cultural Media Fun Documentary Prize:
Floating Bodies (Netherlands) about an unidentified corps

IDFA Award for 1st Appearance: The Vanishing Spring Light (China/Canada) life of West Street citizens in Dujiangyan City.

Best Music Documentary Prize (inaugural):
Last Days Here about the crack cocaine addicted front man Bobby Liebling

Best Green Screen Documentary
Bitter Seeds about why an Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes.

Student Award for Documentary
The Betrayal (England/Norway) making mistakes in the world of Norwegian squatters and seeking forgiveness.

Blackberry sponsored Youth Award
Last Days of Winter (Iran) is a portrait about the lives of 7 Iranian boys in a youth detention center.

For more information visit the Film Festival's page:

Amsterdam in the Winter: Food for thought and warmth

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When in Amsterdam and the east wind blows in winter the city gets cold, very cold. It is that time of the year again, Winter. There are many good things about winter in Amsterdam. The city is not so busy, you can go ice skating and walking along the canals reveals the architecture of this great northern European capital.

Through shared struggle comes identity. Winter in Amsterdam at times can be a struggle and food brings people together and creates an identity, Dutch Cuisine. In Winter Dutch Food comes into its own.

photo taken from La buena vida a food store in the Hague

The Dutch are not known for their cuisine, something that their southern cousins in Belgium consistently remind them.

If you are in Amsterdam during winter don't lament the cold, embrace it. Food will be your savior. There is no better time of the year to enjoy good old fashioned Dutch food.

1. Stampot (stamp in a pot)

This is a winter classic. Everything is stamped/mashed together in a pot - makes sense, yes? Normally mashed vegetables with gravy and a boiled sausage.

There are many versions of this of Stamppot:
- Hutspot has onions, carrots and potatoes mashed together.
- Boerenkool, translated as farmers cabbage, but in English Kale. This is mixed into the mashed potato at the end of the cooking and mashing process.
- Zuurkool Mashed potato with sauerkraut
- Andivie stampot: the same as Boerenkool but instead of using Kale, endive is used.

Bacon bits are a popular addition but the dish is limited only by your imagination.

photo of Zuurkool by blog Kattebelletje

Karin Engelbrecht from Dutch Food made an Asian inspired Stamppot with bok choi (an Asian cabbage), cashew nuts and shitake mushrooms.

The secret is always in the sauce. Plenty of sauce is needed.

2. Erwtensoep (pea soup)

Similar to the English pea and ham soup the Dutch have been at lengths to explain the difference. First a traditional Erwtensoup must be cooked slowly over night on a very low heat. Vegetarian versions can be found but normally there is pork hock and sausage in this thick soup. It is perfect after ice skating.

3. Gehaktbal (meat ball)

 A good Dutch meatball will quickly make you forget the cold. Normally served with potatoes and gravy you can also have a sandwich of meatball. If your into meat, this is a show stopper. Dutch meatball is 5 times the size of a Swedish meatball normally around 100grams. Every house has its own recipe but normally there is mixed spice and a toasted bread mixed into the ball.Wednesday is traditionally meatball day. Yes, that's right a whole day attributed to a meatball.

Picture taken from an Australian Food Blog

4.Oliebollen (oil balls)

It doesn't sound healthy and it isn't. The Oliebollen is a Dutch donut without the hole. Amsterdam's squares and train stations are filled with Oliebollen stands during winter. If your waiting for the train or tram because it is to cold to bike this is a perfect treat. Freshly cooked and sprinkled with icing sugar a perfect snack to ward off the east wind.

These also come in many varieties some are stuffed with currents (krentenbollen) or apple.

5. Chocomelk (chocolate milk)

A warm cup of chocomelk goes a long way in winter. The famous brand chocomel originating out of Friesland, a northern province of the Netherlands, is distributed widely in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. This Dutch favourite is served in almost every business from Cannabis Coffeeshop to high end restaurant.
photo taken from blog: Almost barefoot farm girls

5. Mullwijn (mull wine)

Similar to the German and Scandinavian versions. Although a Swedish friend said the Dutch version was nothing like the 'great' Swedish winter wine. Warmed red wine with herbs, warms you to your very toes. Rembrandtplein, the Dam and Leidseplein are popular places to grab a warm red wine.

Here is a list of highly recommended Authentic Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam to enjoy. Click on the links to their websites.

When In Amsterdam....rug up and enjoy!

A Taste of Dutch Music: Amsterdam influence

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When in Amsterdam and it comes to music the Dutch surprise many. Today they are known for their DJs and electronic music. Over the last few years DJ Magazine Top 10 list has been dominated by Dutch names such as DJ Tiesto. The music is not limited to electronic. With Amsterdam as the center for culture and music many but not all of the artists listed started their careers in Amsterdam's music halls. Provided is a list for different tastes.

Enjoy the list of Dutch music and if you have any additions let us know.

A classic one hit wonder to start things.

Putting on the Ritz - Taco 1980s

One from the old colonies. Indonesian born and growing up in the Netherlands Taco's one hit wonder is hard to get out of your head.

If it's classic rock you want then Golden Earring is the most famous Dutch export.
Although not from Amsterdam but rather from the Hague, people are always amazed this group is Dutch. Formed in 1961 they are still going today. Their biggest hit was the rock classic Radar Love.

Maybe something harder? Also not from Amsterdam but they did a track called Amsterdam.

Van halen - Eddie and Alex are from Nijmegen

Not a rock lover but want to pop away your day? You won't be able to get this Dutch track out of your head.
Venga Boys formed in Amsterdam in 1997 and sold 15 million albums worldwide. One of the most influential Eurodance pop groups of the 20th century. 

Maybe some harder dutch pop with some Belgian producers. The Rapper, Ray Slijngaard, is born and breed Amsterdammer.

2 Unlimited

If rap is your thing Amsterdam has no shortage of rappers and budding MCs. 
Osdorp Posse
One of the first to start recording rap in Dutch. It's hard to get more Amsterdam than this group.

Are you a fan of Punk?
The Ex
Founded in 1979 and lasting 30 years the Ex pushed the punk music to the extremes developing post punk experimental music before disbanding in 2009.

Mr. Review
Formed in 1983 in Amsterdam this Ska revival band dissolved in 1998 but reformed three years later and is still ska-ing today. 

Happy Hardcore (Gabber)
Party Animals - hava naquila
Established in 1995 they were the first dutch group to see their first three hits go straight to number 1. Height of their success was in 2000 when their hit Atomic hit number one in Hong Kong of all places.

For all those pysodelic trance music lovers...
1200 micrograms
This is what happens when you combine an Australian, an American, Dutch and a lot of drugs.

Last but not least Amsterdam Folk.
Andre Hazes, known for his hard drinking and smoking lifestyle he is possibly the Elvis of the Netherlands and of course Amsterdammer.

When In Amsterdam....enjoy!

The Worst Hotel in the World Does It Again

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

A traveller's worst nightmare on entering a hotel maybe finding filthy bedding, no heating, air conditioning or incessant noise. Almost everyone has had an experience where the room booked just didn't look like the pictures.  When in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, this city takes this to a new level. The city of canals and bikes had four of the 2011 top ten dirtiest hotels in Europe as listed by Tripadvisor.

One hotel that did not make the list and pride's itself on being the world's worst hotel, yes you read it correctly is the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. This small hotel located in the middle of the the city's famed Red Light District has turned the worst hotel in the world into their byline.

It maybe the Dutch straight forwardness or their brutal honesty but this hotel has been advertising that it is the Worst Hotel in the World for decades. So effective has the advertising campaign been that they made an entire book out of their approach.

The "Worst Hotel in the World" campaign was launched in the 1990s and was geared toward keeping complaints to a minimum. The campaign seems to have worked looking at the media coverage and the subsequent travellers' comments:

"Not as bad as I expected"
"Can't think of anything positive"
"Basic, cheap, does what is says on the Tin"
"You get what you pay for"
"So bad its great!"

Yesterday the Hans Brinker launched the latest episode in the Worst Hotel in the World campaign.

A blind cleaner details the benefits of the Hotel. Search Youtube for other Brinker classics or just check out their website for a laugh.

It is a shame that the World's Worst Hotel no longer makes the list of the world's worst. The power of advertising is finally revealed.

When in Amsterdam....enjoy.

Diary: Amsterdam’s Museum Night

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When people ask what is so great about Amsterdam? This blog entry is one I will direct them to first. This is why Amsterdam is the cultural capital of the Netherlands. Long live museum night!

The 12th annual Amsterdam museum night was held on Saturday night. Every year a much anticipated event and definitely a top 5 night of my Amsterdam calendar. The night was sold out by Saturday afternoon, 25 000 tickets. 42 of Amsterdam’s 52 museums were open to 2 am with after parties at Amsterdam’s prominent clubs through to the early morning.  

Late start to the evening as had to do the regular Saturday night Red Light District Tour. A great bunch of people who had planned on joining for the museums but couldn’t get hold of tickets.

2115hrs: The Meeting Point
Group meets at a central location at Café t’Nes in the city centre. The boys pre-roll their joints and a run to the super market is made for traveling beers. Everyone in the group prioritises 3 museums they would like to see. 

Like Amsterdam the group is a mix: born and breed Amsterdammers, Swedish, French, Solomon Islander and the obligatory Australian.

The Zoo and the newly renovated maritime museum were prioritised.   The Amsterdammer pulled rank and said a family member needed to be supported at one of Amsterdam’s smaller museums.

Bikes lights in hand we left Café t’Nes and headed to our bikes.

2130hrs: Museum 1: Willet Holthuysen House
Entering the house is like stepping back in time. The marble entrance, cloak room to one side, we de-robed and each purchased a glass of champagne.

Sipping bubbles in this museum was the perfect start our museum night.  The museum is small and not as popular as others in Amsterdam. There was no line up and the crowd was dressed to impress and sophisticated just like the interior of the house.

The Willet Holthuysen house was left to the city of Amsterdam by Mrs Louisa Willet Holthuysen in 1895. She was the last resident of the house. The splendid 17th century canal house was a centre for Amsterdam’s cultural elite. Louisa and her husband Abraham were collectors of art and regularly entertained in their day showing off new additions to their collection.

The House for the night had been handed over to fashion. A guest curator and designer Alexander van Slobbe showed elements from the workshop, Shanghai Gesture. Beautiful woven textiles and fashion were displayed. There was a boutique shop full of up and coming Dutch and Belgian designers. 

The amazing 18th century garden had been turned into a fashion shoot with large lights and fashionable types filling the terrace. The group’s Amsterdammer introduced us to smartly dressed man who was one of the judges of the fashion competition. We sipped bubbles in the garden’s courtyard as they talked in Dutch about family and fashion.

After our bubbles we walked around the Grand Canal house imagining what it would be like to be a lord or lady of the 19th century. Louisa’s last will and testament has been faithfully observed by the city. The house is a testament to the elite of Amsterdam in a bygone era.

On exiting we ran into a friend who was an accredited photographer for the night. He said that the line for the Zoo was ridiculously long. Passing on the information to the group we decided head for the nearby botanical gardens.

2230hrs: Museum 2: De Hortus Botanicus
Five minutes bike ride and we were at the world’s oldest Botanical Gardens. 1960s surf rock n roll from a live band could be heard spilling out of the giant green houses as we locked up our bikes. At the entrance was a mechanical surf board with a throng of people vying for a turn. 

As we walked through the 300 year old gates to the gardens, Amsterdam was left behind .

The Palm Greenhouse at the gardens is celebrating its centennial so the theme for the night was everything tropical. The Australian showed us a eucalyptus tree and took a leaf and started blowing on it. Two elderly Dutch women who had a good seat among the 7 500 visitors shared a cheeky can of Amstel beer with us that the boys had smuggled into the gardens. After a dance and look at some of the 4000 plant specimens  it was time for the next museum.

2345hrs: Museum 3: Amsterdam’s Tattoo Museum
Another five minutes by bicycle we were in front of the new Tattoo Museum. Established by Henk Schiffmacher, the founder of Amsterdam’s famous Hank Panky tattoo parlour and has tattooed the likes of the Red Hot Chile Peppers, the line was long. This is where the supermarket beer came into its own. Each of the group opened a beer and what seemed like no time we were at the front of the line and refreshed.

The new museum addressed everything tattooing. The night was also the museum’s grand opening. The place was full of the who’s who of the tattoo world. The Solomon Islander in the group was enormously proud that there was a sizable exhibition on tattooing in the South Pacific. Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and the Maori of the New Zealand were all mentioned for their tattooing culture.

The museum was filling up so after a visit to the rest room we headed for the exit.

As the group exited the Solomon Islander saw the owner Henk Schiffmacher. He thanked him for mentioning his little country on the other side of the world. The Amsterdam personality asked if he had any tattoos and on showing his tribal scarification the Solomon Islander was invited back at a later date to tell more of the Solomon Islands.

A brush with fame as we left, could the night get any better?

0045hrs Museum 4: Portuguese Synagogue
The decision was sudden as we cycled back towards the centre of town. The Synagogue was open! A rare treat. None of us were from a Jewish background but the 3 storey building is an Amsterdam Architectural wonder that survived Nazi occupation.

Before the WW II Amsterdam was the Jerusalem of the West. We were all interested to see what was left of Amsterdam’s once thriving Sephardic Jewish community.

What a delight. In the forecourt was a tent with falafel for sale. The vegetarian in the group yelped with excitement. We decided to check out the interior before taking a much needed food break.

Security was firm but understandable. All of the men received skull caps on entering. The Solomon Islander with his Jewish cap atop his afro was definitely a memorable image of the night but so was the synagogue. 

The room was impressive. Lit with over a thousand candles, warm and cheerful was the crowd. It was like a Jewish dating event with 20 and 30 somethings all talking to one another in their groups and checking each other out. 

The crowd was entertained by a jazz trio. The wonderful piano and double bass warmed the spirits of everyone.

With our warm jazz glow we exited for a tasty falafel in pita.

0115hrs: let’s make a run for it: Museum 5: Amsterdam’s Maritime museum
Amsterdam’s Maritime museum was recently reopened after 7 years of closure for refurbishment. Amsterdam has a rich maritime history. The city was home to the famous Dutch East Indies Company, the largest transportation company in the world for 200 years. One of the group had been before and we were all keen to see what work had been done.

As we arrived at the impressive building many people were leaving. We entered the great inner court and were surprised to see it full of people dancingto a local DJ.

The night at this museum had been dedicated to Sonic Architecture and the courtyard was a kaleidoscope of lasers lights and a 360 degree soundscape controlled by the DJ. We quickly tackled two of the four wings and were enthralled by model ships hundreds of years old and globes depicting the known world 400 years ago.

At this time of the morning the highlight was the trippy room dedicated to the sea. Fluorescent neon lights, warped mirrors and sea like vegetation presented a surreal aquatic experience. The group adorned hats of sea creatures and danced around the room as sting rays, sea horses and tropical fish.

0200hrs Museums closed

After a few minutes of searching we found our bikes. After a discussion about which after party to go to we all decided to head our different ways. No use spoiling a great night with lining up at a club. Experience told us the lines would be long. East, west and south members of the group pedalled their bicycles.

As I put my head down to sleep images from the night swirled in my head: Jazz, tattoos, ships, tropical rainforest, fashion, canal houses, art, music and my trusty bike. Thank you Amsterdam.

photo link of national newspaper

All-time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam: a critical look

When in Amsterdam has realised that every website associated with Amsterdam travel has a top list of things to do in this city. Some websites only have Top 5 or 10 lists.

When in Amsterdam could provide our own list but honestly there is no Top 10 list. Waking up in Amsterdam the list changes day to day because of mood, weather and the place in question.

So we are going to give you the All-time Top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam (updated November 2015).

Our approach is simple: 

  • Collation
  • 100 web pages were analysed.
  • Search Terms were “top things to do in Amsterdam”, ‘top 10 things in Amsterdam’
  • To qualify the page needed to have in its title top things to do in Amsterdam. For Example: Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.

We collated the results then ran a critical look at the list to provide you with an alternative.
Counting down from 10 to 1.

Amsterdam floating flower market
Timmer's Flowers and Plants: Amsterdam Floating Flower Martket
photo: Sonia Hermosin
10. Amsterdam’s Famous Floating Flower Market
The last market in Amsterdam still on the water. A wonderful place for colour and it is central. The Dutch are famous for cut flowers and bulbs. The 1637 stock market meltdown because of speculation on tulip bulbs made the Dutch synonymous with the Turkish flower.

Critical look:
  • The market has no educational aspect at all.
  • The market is not really floating.
  • A retail market servicing mostly tourists from Europe.
  •  Custom’s regulations restrict other visitors from taking back bulbs to their countries.
  • It is worth a look if in the area especially for the Timmer's family stall famous for their quality cut flowers and plants.

  •  Alsmeer Flower Market: An hour by bus outside Amsterdam it is the World’s largest flower market and the world’s 4th largest building. You can’t help but learn on the self-guided tour.
Named after the famous 17 century poet and playwright Vondel it is Amsterdam’s central park. The park was created in 1864 after Victorian England made such gardens popular. It has a Picasso sculpture, wonderful bike paths, the film museum and a theater.
Vondel Park, Amsterdam

Critical look:

  • As is commonly reported Vondel Park receives 10 million visitors a year. 
  • On a sunny day finding a quiet spot in Vondel Park is not possible.
  • The smell in parts also demonstrates the lack of toilet facilities. This has been added to over the last few years.(thanks to comments section)
  • The high numbers of visitors and its central location, the park attracts people that want to be noticed. Unsocial behaviour and drunkenness does occur at the end of a hot day.
  • Westerpark is central and large like Vondel Park. The east-west layout results in more sunshine hours, if you are lucky to get a sunny day in Amsterdam. Large range of bars, eateries and toilets.

8. Visit the Albert Cuyp Market
With over 220 stalls and situated within the old Latin Quarter of Amsterdam, the Albert Cuyp market is the largest street market in the Netherlands and professes to be one of the largest daily markets in Europe. Named after the 17th century painter the market has operated since 1905.

Critical look:
  • It is not the most affordable of Amsterdam street markets.
  • Expensive nature means working class Amsterdammers go to other street markets.

  • Dappermart: cheaper, more rustic, fewer tourists, rated top 10 shopping streets in the world by National Geographic 2007.
  • The new Foodhallen opened in late October 2014. Indoor food market similar to New York's Chelsea Market. Great for a meal and indoor activity.

7. Ride a bike
With an estimated 600 000 to 1 million bicycles circulating in Amsterdam, the city is one of the bike capitals of the world. The compact and flat nature of the city makes biking a fast and affordable travel option in Amsterdam.

sightseeing Amsterdam bike
Amsterdam bike
Critical look:
  • Most anger from locals towards visitors is about biking or walking in bike paths. 
  • Many Amsterdammers believe that visitors should take a test before being allowed to rent or ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  • Riding a bike in Amsterdam City Centre traffic is not for beginners.

  • Walk smaller areas and take Amsterdam trams in between – bike riders don’t mess with trams.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Old City Centre  with a private, small or larger group tours. 
  • Take a countryside bike tour or a neighbourhood bike tour and enjoy Amsterdam with good bike paths. Dutch biking the way it is supposed to be, enjoyable.
The second or third largest beer maker in the world depending with whom you talk started in Amsterdam. The old brewery has a tour called the Heineken Experience.

heineken brewery
Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
Critical look:
  • They have not made beer in this brewery since the 1980s.
  • The tour concentrates on the advertising and marketing power of this international brand.
  • The tour only includes two half pints of Heineken. Trying to make friends with people who don't like beer on a brewery tour. Just to savour more of the product is a thirsty persons dilemma.
  • Spending the price of entrance to the Heineken Experience at one of Amsterdam’s active micro-breweries or quality beer bars will result in more beer. 
  • Amsterdam’s micro-brewery scene is building: Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Prael, De Bekeerde Zuster (the twisted sister) are well worth visit for beer lovers. Some Breweries conduct tours for groups and or individuals.
  • There are beer tours as well as pub and club crawls for the young.

5. Canal Tour
Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. Even though the canals do not smell and the canals are not deep like Venice 20% of Amsterdam's surface is water. With over 100 kilometers of canals, around 90 islands and 1500 bridges traveling by water is a great way to see the city.

Critical look:
  • Few Amsterdammers use their canals.
  • There are three main canal tour companies in Amsterdam. They run tours that are similar with recorded messages, and their boats have no historic relevance to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam local boat tour
Local Boating Experience, Amsterdam

  • Find a local Amsterdammer with a boat. Finding a local boat cruise is easier to find when the weather is good. Inquire with other tour providers you may use. Amsterdammers' have a network of boat operators in the city. 
  • Visit Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House Museum) learn how Amsterdam's world heritage listed canals were created.
  • Rent your own boat and captain yourself. Sleopdelen, Boaty. Becareful, when the weather is good on a weekend, out come the party boats.

4. Red Light District
Situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam this area provides an eclectic mix of sex shops, brothels, coffeeshops, hotels, gay bars and around 300 red light windows. Since 2000 Amsterdam legalised sex workers. The Red Light District is the main centre of this industry in Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • There is more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. The area is often full of young men peering at the scantly clad women.
  • On weekends the neighbourhood can be over loaded with travelling parties of men and women. Exciting for early evening walk.
  • Take a guided walking tour of the Red Light District. The area is the oldest in town and full of hidden secrets. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way compared to peering into the bewitching red lights.
  • Go during the day and see the shopping, art and history side of the area.

The greatest collection of Dutch art and history in the Netherlands. Normally ranked in the top 20 of museums in the world. The Rijksmuseum was under construction between 2003 and 2013. The masterpieces are layed out in a new style with focus still on the grand hallway of Masters. Classics by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer are well represented.  

rijksmuseum amsterdam sightseeing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


  • Rembrandt House: Comparable there are no crowds and you can see what sort of bed the old master Rembrandt slept in and toilet he used. Also the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the world.
  • For practile information on how to avoid the queues of the Rijksmuseum and not be disappointed read this blog. Rijksmuseum Critics: What you need to know before you visit.

2. Van Gogh Museum
The expressionist painter was famed for his rough style, sharp colours and considered a trail blazer for modern art. This museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings under one roof and tells the story of the man from child hood to his end at 37 years old.

van gogh museum amsterdam sightseeing
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • Van Gogh did not spend a lot of his life in the Netherlands.
  • His fame has only come about through Van Gogh's influence on 20th century art.
  • Expect large lines.
  • Pre-purchase your tickets at the tourist information centre at the front of Central Station. Go late to avoid the crowds. 
  • On Friday night the museum is open to 10pm with a relaxed and enjoyable environment.
  • Go on a day trip to Kroller Muller Museum to experience the largest private collection.

1. Anne Frank Museum
The location of the Jewish Frank family hiding place during WWII. Teenage Anne documented her experience from the annex of this Amsterdam house during Nazi occupation. The book has become one of the world's most widely read. This popularity accounts for approximately 1 million visitors a year to this museum.

anne frank house sightseeing
Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical Look:
  • For a small museum there are a lot of people at certain times. 
  • The museum has a difficult job balancing the broader context of the period.
  • It is more of a pilgrimage than a museum.

  • Avoid the long lines and buy on lineGo late in the evening or arrive early before it opens and the school groups arrive. 
  • Resistance museum provides you with a greater snap shot of World War II in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Rated one of the best museums in the Netherlands don't expect long lines here maybe just a school group now and then.
  • The Jewish Historical Museum provides detail on the Jewish community's influence on Amsterdam through the centuries. Ticket to this museum includes entrance to the Portuguese Synagoge and nearby Deportation centre.  

Overview of Amsterdam's Top 10 Things to Do:
  • The 'Big 3' as the industry calls them, fill out the top three. 
  • Sex, alcohol and boats are four, five and six. 
  • Bikes, markets, parks and flowers round out the list. 
Quite a range for a small city of less than 1 million people. Have you got a suggestion? Let us know what you enjoyed in Amsterdam.

For more things to do check out the following:

November in Amsterdam

December in Amsterdam: What to do

Top Things to do in Amsterdam: Winter

A Lovers' Guide to Amsterdam: things to do

Amsterdam Top 10 things to Eat: a critical approach

Things to do in Amsterdam: Local tips from Famous Amsterdammers

Overcoming the biggest problems for Visitors to Amsterdam

All Time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam for Teenagers: A critical approach

If you are bringing a teenager who reads books click here

When in Amsterdam.....enjoy!