Central Station, Amsterdam
As with so many other countries, those who are not from the capital are supposed to show a healthy dose of scepticism towards the mundane city-dwellers. And, of course, those from the capital are supposed to view all others as a lower form of the human species. It's not really very different in Holland. But I must say (not being from here), Amsterdam is growing on me very fast. I'm getting quite smitten with the beautiful canal-vistas and the cosy little corners you find almost anywhere in this town.
In the picture you see the St. Nicolas Church across the water from the Central Station. Through the little canal in the red light district you can spot the outline of the Montelbaanstoren. I pass this quay every day by bus on my way to and from home and it's a nice way of being greeted by Amsterdam upon arrival :)
Fondest memory: There are a lot of things one can miss when leaving Amsterdam. For me it would be its plethora of hangouts. Food, drink and entertainment are all big business here and nowhere else in Holland you can find such a wealth of it all!
I can't find my faverite hotel on the VT list but it is the only place I stay while in Amsterdam. The Barbizon Palace Hotel is accross from Central Station which mean it has continent wide transportation out side your door. Also it is only a few blocks from Dam Square and trollys to anywhere in Amsterdam. I stay in room 17 which looks accross a canal to an English Pub. The pub regulers' reaction to the boats going by can only be compaired to New Orleans Mardus Gras floats waving at the crouds on the balconies. Max
Fondest memory: It was a total surprise to find that there were more people in Amsterdam who spoke English than than here in L.A.
The main busy street leading away from the Central Station is called the Damrak. It is bustling and a bit overwhelming for the inexperienced Amsterdam visitor. After walking with the crowds for a block or two--I pleaded with Becky for a quick stop at the outdoor cafe so that we could plan our further venturings. We eventually decided to forasake the busy Damrak and steered eastwards into the narrow alleyways which comprise the Red Light District and its environs.
This photo shows the small canal, also known as Damrak, from which the many canal boat tours originate. We did not choose to take the time necessary for a boat tour feeling that we were better off on foot.
By the time we reached Holland, it had been almost 16 months since I had last been on the European mainland, and I only felt like I'd really arrived back here when we got to Amsterdam Central.
Firstly, there were smokers everywhere! Smoking has been banned in many public places in Britain, so I had forgotten what it was like to be surrounded by them. Furthermore, when walking around just outside the station, we noticed there were quite a few people smoking some of the stronger stuff too. I had read that this was mostly confined to coffee shops - actually, over the next few days I discovered it more or less was - so this was an initial surprise. Party on!!
Right opposite Centraal Station is the Tourist Information Office - the VVV - and Smits Coffee House. There are also landing stages for all the canal boat companies here.
The VVV is good if you have arrived without pre-booking your accommodation, as they will help you find some. You can also pre-book museum tickets here. You won't get a discount, but it does mean that you can jump the queues and go straight in.
After visiting the VVV, go downstairs to Smits Koffie Huis. Smits has been around since 1919 and I gather it is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the area. You can sit on the terrace with a coffee and watch the river traffic. I also recommend the ice-cream that contains the orange liquer, it has quite a kick!
The Central rail station is currently undergoing a mammoth renovation and improvement project which will dramatically modernize this vitally important transportation hub. The work being done is especially challenging for several reasons: because the station was constructed on infill land; is a valuable historic landmark in its own right; and because it is imperative to keep the station open and operating during the whole restoration process. I think I read somewhere that the project will not be completed until 2012.
In the meantime, the Central Station can seem like a harried, cluttered place - and one that is hard to get to! But the exterior is certainly a monument to a certain period of Dutch pride and glory. This neo-Renaissance, red-brick "Dutch gothic" style was the rage in the late 1800s, and can be seen in many places across Amsterdam. The architect for the station was a 19th century genius, PJH Cuypers (1827-1921) - who also designed the Riiksmuseum in a similar style on the other side of town.
As you are walking along the busy Damrak (the major thoroughfare that leads from the Centraal Station into the heart of Amsterdam), you are probably too busy avoiding the crowds to really pay very much attention to your surroundings. But if you get a chance you might want to take a look at some of the handsome 19th and early 20th century buildings that are on the street. Many of the buildings are "obscured" by commercial signs and postings, but above the ground floor there are often interesting features and details that are worth paying attention to. These sculptures adorn the first floor (American second floor) of the "De Utrecht" building at Damrak 28. They're the work of early 20th century artist Joseph Mendes da Costa (1863-1939), a Dutchmen of Jewish sephardic ancestry whose work reminds me of similar pieces I saw in "turn of the century" Prague. I quite like them!
The "De Utrecht" building itself is an interesting "Art Nouveau" landmark. Opened in 1904, it was one of the most modern (and tallest) structures in Amsterdam of its time. Architects were Jan Frederick Staal (1879-1940) and A.P. Krolholler (1881-1973).
The late 19th century Stock Exchange, designed by the stararchitect of the day Hendrik Berlage (1856-1934), is one of the classic Art Nouveau buildings of Amsterdam - really, for all of Europe. It was considered to be radically modern in its time, a kind of analog of the stripped-down "minimalism" being practiced at the same time in places as diverse as Vienna and Chicago.
Henrdik Berlage was a progressive designer who actively sought to celebrate the "common man" - as much if not more than the stockbrokers who were his clients. If you look carefully, you'll notice that the decorations of the building consistently celebrate the workingman and and the artist - not the capitalist. I've read that Berlage even believed that each of the nine million bricks used in the structure was a symbolic representation of an individual - all coming together to produce a harmonic whole.
Perhaps it's entirely fitting that today - in the 21st century - the Berlage is no longer used as a stock exchange - its original purpose - but instead as a community center, with public space, cafes and a conference center.
Several of the buildings along Damrak are considered to be classics of the late 19th and early 20th century. The structure at Damrak 62 was built to be the headquarters of the publishing firm Allert de Lange, an internationally famous firm that was subsequently persecuted by the Nazis. The neo-gothic gabled building on Damrak is interestingly decorated in an elaborate style. It's currently occupied by the N.V. Bever Holding Company (real estate).
The architect was G. Van Looy (1852-1911).
When you take the train from Schiphol airport in around 12 minutes you arrive to Amsterdam centaal station and the cost of travel is 3,20 Euro..
Centraal station is definitely one of the most important sites of the city.. Though the picture was taken during some repair works.. Th building itself has a wonderfullooking..
Favorite thing: This is the place to go when you want to know anything about nothing and nothing about everything. You book your accommodation and tours here and ask the people at the VVV anything you wnat and they will gladly oblidge. What alovely crowd. Do not try and sleep here at the station however, they will chase you immediately
enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the city and its multicultural ambience.
Fondest memory: strolling in the central district is a real pleasure. This small area concentrates the most romantic channels, the most beautiful façades, the most impressives churches, the most elegant shops and the fanciest night clubs.
Favorite thing: When you arrive at Central Station (train station), there are a couple of persons standing to answer your questions. If you want to know the directions, they can answer your questions. These persons are wearing red jackets and black trowers.
Train ticket machines at Schipol and Amserdam Centraal stations...
There are some that take cash and some that are credit card only but no signs to indicate which is which until you have reached the top of the line!
They do not take any of the 'brown' change i.e 5,2 and 1 euro coins again no information to advise you
Furhermore, if u decide to buy a ticket at the office, which at the airport, is not obvious if you arrive at gates G and H, there is a surcharge.
At the airport, there are no ticketmachines on the platforms , only on the concourse.
On the plus side, thd travel time is 17 minutes:)
The Amsterdam Centraal Station has many luggage lockers.
There are two sizes avalaible:
-Small: 90cm deep, 45cm high en 40cm wide.
-Big: 90cm deep, 60cm high en 40cm wide.
The main storage is at the city side in the East corridor.
There's a clear explanation in English how to operate and pay (ViSA, MASTER or MAESTRO card) for the storage.
Be aware that the system only can handle 1 storage per payment; so you cannot add or take out things during the process.
Downloadable map of the station.