I joined the NewAmsterdam free walking tour that started at the Dam Square's National Monument (conducted by Sandemans).
It was a great introduction tour of the city and I would highly recommend it either you have only a day or several days to spend in the city. You can catch them also at the main train station but before 11am.
The tour starts at 11:15am, the lady in red shirt arrived at the national monument with a red sign board (see pic), she gave us a small paper with a number - a counter maybe to know how many people are joining the tour. Well, there are a lot of us so they have to seggregate the english and the spanish speakers. Both groups is big, I think we're about 30 or sumthin from various nationalities.
Our guide from NZ whom I forgot the name is them ost animated tour guide I've seen during my whole trip - both hands moving all the time, his voice changes from low pitch to high to growling depends on what he wants to emphasize and the theme of his stories. Kind of a good dubber for a cartoon movie. He's so much entertaining that sometimes he tells too much stories in one spot, and has a loud voice - if he's reading this sorry - don't stand in front of him as his spit is trajecting while he talks - am always at the back of the crowd.
Don't get me wrong, he's really good, probably the best guide I've seen.
The whole 2 hours and a half or so tour invloves all walking around some of the highlights of the city - no entry though at museums - so if you want to further explore the stuff you passed by later, at least you already got the info on its location.
If not for this walking tour, I may have not known about the narrowest building in the city, and the trivia about 18,000 bicycle falling on the canals each year, the story of the churches and red light district, and other interesting stuff.
Don't forget to tip your tour guide at the end of the tour, they are not salaried, they get their income from tips. I heard they give EUR1 to their company for each individual joining the tour - now I've realized, that's the small paper with a number they distribute right before the tour. So if you don't tip 'em, he loses 1 for each non-tipper. On the contrary if all people are generous, the guy would be more than happy.
They also have some other tours like Red Light at night EUR12, Bike Tour EUR15.
I wouldn't bother with the Hop on Off Bus Tour or a sightseeing Tour of Amsterdam as its very easy to walk around the City. Take with you a map that you can follow,showing the main sights. I just headed to the Rijksmuseum and then walked from there. If you get tired, you can always catch the Tram. You see so much more when walking.
In the surroundings of Amsterdam, you can escape the city for a moment and enjoy the suburbian nature.
Marked walks from the Dutch Touring Club ANWB in the nature around Amsterdam:
The Demmerikroute near Vinkeveen is about 20 km from Amsterdam: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/1ca004/
Additionally, there are marked hikes in the Amsterdam Forest: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/19afe9/
The Goudriaan route, a walk near the village Durgerdam along the IJmeer lake, just north of Amsterdam: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/1e60a5/
On my page about the Netherlands, there is more information about hikes in the Netherlands, please see the link below:
Rain or shine this tour meets every day at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm in front of Centraal Station, and Starts at 11:15 am and 1:15 pm at Dam Square in front of the National Monument. It is Free.
Again, I'm not a big fan of tours, but this tour is spectacular and quite informative - best yet it's free. This is one of best orientations you could take of the city. Our tour guide was Kevin, a humorously fun and knowledgable man who guided us on a three-hour free walking tour through the history of Amsterdam, from its beginnings as a muddy village on the Amstel River to the prosperous industry it is now. He told the tales, the legends, the lore, and many tales that most won't tell you about prostitution, drug decriminalization, Anne Frank and the Nazi occupation, the Old Church (including the sour occupants), the Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, the Jordaan District, the Anne Frank House, the Dutch East India Company, The Begijnhof Convent, Masterpieces of Dutch Art, the Widest bridge and the narrowest house to name just a few of the sites we saw. We were blessed with a fantastic guide, Kevin, who was the perfect match for our crowd. According to the New AMsterdam site: "Kevin is originally from Boston, MA in the States. There, he went to the University of Massachusetts and began studying psychology. While studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam, he fell in love with the city and began working as a tour guide. Now, he still works as a tour guide, still goes to school in Amsterdam, and is eventually hoping to marry in to the European Union." Excellent Job Kevin! Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Having read the things to do list I decided to get to Singel and walk down to see if could find Anne Frank's house and the floating flower market. Despite a nice long picturesque walk down the graacht i didn't find my way through. But I got loads of pictures of bridges and canals It totally reminded me of my trip to Venice a couple of years ago, the only difference being the buildings were not totally in water and vehicles plied the road.
Small quaint restaurants by the canal- one of which offered cheesecakes and carrot cakes-lured me in for a tasty lunch! More walking and ther I was at the floating flower market! The other side of it looked a little shady so I kept my distance for the fear of chancing upon the famous/infamous RLD of amsterdam. So I headed back to the central business district and took a bus back to bos en lommerplein!
In response to my own question, the Sandeman Free New Amsterdam tour is a GREAT DEAL! I just got back from my trip and I have to say the walking tour with Kevin (tall red-haired kid) was a highlight. I feel like I learned so much in that 3 hours - history, culture, sights that I never would have discovered on my own in that short time. (Even though I research every city to the nth degree.) The tour is free but the guides only make their money on tips. We tipped Kevin 6 euros but I wished we had more (smaller) currency to bump it up. I do think it is really cruddy for people to walk around and listen for three hours and just wander away at the end.
I recommend this tour for younger tourists as well as older folks. (My husband and I are 40/44 respectively and felt that we "fit in" just fine.)
Free tour is very good for a starter and bike tour for an extended view beyond the usual Amsterdam. Although offered by different companies both are guided by young people so they are very open minded which really pays off when taking a tour of such unusual city. The only problem is that older folks may not like the pace, we had a very young group and an older couple got left behind.
We started off by taking a free tour from www.newamsterdamtours.com guided by a student from US who lives in Amsterdam - so the tours was in English and very enthusiastic. We liked it so much that we took the Red Light tour from the same company. Both turned out to be around $10 (yeah, i know I said the the first one is free but, you know, it's tips). Both tours last several hours so it really is cheap. Hey, nothing is free!
If you're not satisfied yet, you can take a bike tour from www.mikesbiketours.com (if you go to multiple locations where Mike works, make sure to pick up discount tickets). The tour goes beyond the infamous part of Amsterdam and into the outer portions, stopping at cheese farm (cheese is really good btw), strolling through roomy park, passing by a wind mill, and of course streets with a flood of other bikes. Even if you don't choose Mike's, Amsterdam on a bike is a must!
A friend of mine just recently was asking for help to go visit the sights of Amsterdam - had been living in London for a number of years and not been to Amsterdam and mentioned that she wanted to walk around and see the canals - and in the end she didnt! She said her family had said they were too tired to walk!
and what a shame to miss how beautiful the sights are - at various times of the day and night!
Ive been up early to head to the Aalsmeer flower auctions and thats a beautiful time to see the canals before the glare of the sun - when i walked from where i stayed in a hostel in the Red light district and walked up to catch a bus from Leidesplein, but it is beautiful at any time of the day - even if its raining!
So heres some pics for encouragement?!
We frequently had a nice warm soup lunch with bread and wine in Amsterdam. The tomato, pea, and mushroom soups were great. The Grolsch beer cafes seemed to work real well for us. One was called “DeBekeerde Suster” - Nice atmosphere, good soup and cheap. Once they had a daily special of spare ribs and French fries. That was my favorite.
Now after this trip, Joan even promised that she would start making some crusty rustic bread when we got back at home.
One of our best meal experiences in Amsterdam was at a woman owned place called “Novembers”. She reminded us so much of “C” and we seemed to connect right away with her. This owner/operator does it all, hosts, bartends, and a waitress; direct the kitchen operation, designs meals / menu, and makes the super homemade chicken pate which we had. She came around and was so happy that Joan liked it. At the Café Novembers, we had:
An appetizer of carpaccio of beef served with pesto, rucola and Parmesan galettes. We also tried the chicken pate served with flat breads and pearl onions. For the main course, Joan had a filet of ‘pike-perch’ with a pea puree, potato waffles, and roasted mushrooms. I had the roasted filets of pheasant served with sauerkraut stewed in white wine and goose drippings, served atop mashed potatoes and gravy with prunes. Her nice wine selection was all good quality French wines. Oh, how we liked Amsterdam.
Arriving in Amsterdam after our flight from Pisa, we were hungry and ready for some good pub burgers after spending 10 days in Italy. We order ‘Ludenburgers’ and bottle of French wine at the closest neighborhood brasserie to our hotel. Outside the place was a green Christmas Wreath decorated with hanging gold spoons and forks and knives. Very clever we thought for some restaurant Christmas decor.
The burgers came on sliced focaccia bread topped with tomatoes, cukes, and wild greens. Then came the French Fries served with mayo. Just perfect! While it seemed that all the restaurant service staff in Italy was males, Amsterdam seemed to only have 30ish-year females on duty.
Even our daily ordinary meals were special. We never had an ordinary or negative food choice. Every meal choice seemed to have some local touch or variation that made it unique and very enjoyable. Of course all our meals included a wine of some sort – glasses, carafe, or bottle. Why is it that wine is so common and easy to consume there without ever getting a headache? Joan says it is because we are on vacation. I think it’s something more scientific. Of course every meal included bottled water “with gas”. Overall, the meals in Amsterdam were probably the best of the whole trip! Go figure!
We strolled through a fancy Department store (Birjenkorf) and somehow found very fancy lacy women’s bras for only 169e. Such a deal! Then we heard that you ‘shop at Birjenkorf but buy at Herma’, a much cheaper little sister store. We never did find a Herma. We feared that the weather in Amsterdam was going to the coldest and worst of our December trip – just the opposite, it was great there. Still winter, but it was very reasonable for us to get around.
European beer drinkers always have their beer served in a glass with the logo of the beer they are drinking. Amstel is served in a special designed Amstel glass, etc. I already had some ‘Stella Artois’ glassware from Belgium, but on this trip I added some Peroni glasses from Italy, and an ‘Amstel Bier’ glass from beloved Amsterdam. I figure I can get a Heineken glass later, which I did.
This grand 19th-century building, once the main post office, has many upscale fashion, gift and jewelry stores. We walked through this big historic shopping complex which is not actually a department store, but a mall, located amid the extravagant 19th-century neo-Gothic architecture. The Plaza's four elegant, column-lined floors are filled with around 50 specialist stores of all kinds. Up on the fourth floor we enjoyed taking an ‘Aquamassager’ – we climbed into a long tube like an iron lung, and then the water pressure moves up and down pounding your body. Before we started I asked the lady clerk if credit cards were ok, and she said Yes, of course. When we were done, the woman’s credit card machine or the telephone line was not working properly after several tries. I had to leave Joan there as a security deposit and/or hostage, while I ran the streets of Amsterdam in the dark looking for an ATM banc mat machine. I came back and found them now appearing to be the best of friends, just chatting away.
Going along one canal we came upon an old black decrepit looking barge tugging along with its’ cargo of a few hundred old bikes, looking like they were on the way to the scrap heap somewhere. We assumed that they were dredged up from the canal’s bottom. Then there are the canals that have a series of house-boats anchored along them. It looks like only certain canals are permitted to house these, while others can have transitory boats tied up along them. We heard of a house-boat museum but could find it and ran out of time to look. To be sure, every canal had some kind of boat traffic. One of the little subtle things about the canals is how the buildings on each side reflect their images into the water, so each view is like an artistic picture. We saw that on every walk, but it took weeks after being back home that we realized how prevalent that feature was in all our photos we took. We also came to realize that Amsterdam is known as Europe’s most planned city.
The canal houses are fun, with them being all connected but each with a different architecture design. This produces some real funky scenery. We found several where over the years, every now and then; one of them is leaning the wrong way and gives an interesting touch to the overall scene. We brought back some little 6 inch souvenir porcelain houses, which you mix and match. Each one is different and is fashioned after an Amsterdam typical house. One is a firehouse, one a red-light district house, etc.
Walking Amsterdam took us to the world famous 19th century Museumplein, which is arguably the cultural hub of the city. It is home to the three major museums in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum which makes this an art lover’s paradise par excellence. The Rijksmuseum which is home to the largest Rembrandt collection in the world is a giant impressive several blocks long building. On another day, we came back to the same area to visit the Van Gogh (say goahk?) museum, which has the largest Van Gogh collection in the world! Both were busy places but very enjoyable. I had a Heineken in both places to recuperate from such exhausting culture events. The museum square also caters to children with its skateboard park and a wading pool, which in the winter doubles up as an ice rink. Between the museums is a pretty park setting in which on our winter trip had a large and popular skating rink. We remarked that many of the European cities in winter seem to have a skating rink in the center of town. Both museums had lines to enter, but within 20 minutes we were inside the doors. Using the audio headphones really enhanced the self guided tour. Some places you can take a photo of an art piece, while at others you were quickly yelled at.
When arriving at Amsterdam's main train station eg from the airport then talk a brief walk in the direction of the harbour (ie out the railway station's back door) instead of straight into Amsterdam central, and look out into the harbour, watch the variety of boat traffic travelling past.
Id missed this harbour view not even aware it was just there the previous two visits to Amsterdam.
Particularly nice on a sunny warm day or when you are in need of a cool breeze.
I strongly recommend the New Amsterdam Free Tour. If this is your first time visiting, this is a fun tour to get an introduction to the city. The tour guides are young and hip, and are native English speakers. There is definitely a young crowd bent to this tour. I think partly because it advertises in the hostels and on the internet. However, the tour provides good historic context with great stories throughout.
Yes, the tour is free, but tips are welcome (and maybe even expected) at the end of the 3 hour tour. I would say that people typically tip between 5 to 10 Euros (and some clearly less), but I enjoyed it so much I tipped 20 Euros. It was the best value I received on my entire Europe trip.
There are two tours daily at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM. The tour takes around the main sites in Old Amsterdam. They also have two additional paid tours which I also highly recommend. The Red Light Tour and the Pub Crawl were definite highlights of my visit to Amsterdam. You can get more information about these tours during the free tour. Look for my other tip on the Pub Crawl.