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Old buildings cost a bundle to maintain and the biggest, most historic of Amsterdam's churches appear to be making up shortfalls by operating as galleries and event centers on the side. This can cause some frustration for visitors keenly interested in experiencing the essence of something very old.
There was an exhibit of very modern art at Oude Kerk when we were there that was a rather jarring distraction from the centuries-old details. Nieuwe Kerk (no longer a functioning church) is a full-time gallery/event center that was offering a de Kooning exhibit (for a rather steep entry fee) that we skipped altogether: no wish to see the interior cluttered up with 20th-century abstracts. That one is, in fact, closed for a month as I'm writing this due to installing the latest show. Westerkerk, while a venue for some excellent concerts, also doubles as event space - you can see photos of some of those here.
If you enjoy the juxtaposition of old and new, no problem. The rest of you, be ready to expect the unexpected in the form of duel usage and temporary closings.
Written Dec 6, 2011
Amsterdam has a very comprehensive system of streetcars and trams; however, it's not always easy to make sure that you are getting on the right one. This was particularly true when boarding at Centraal Station. It seems that every streetcar line in Amsterdam passes in front, making it a convenient hub for getting around, but also a very confusing place to figure out. I studied the signs as diligently as I could, and I still made a couple of mistakes, one boarding a streetcar that set out in exact opposite direction that I wanted to go. And I don't think I ever really figured out the system of knowing which doors of the streetcar you were supposed to enter!
Written Aug 18, 2008
An interesting aspect of grungy, dark cornered areas on Amsterdam, is the city's methods to keep the city clean and odor-free by teaching those drunken fools who think every little corner is their personal urinal. Most of the buildings near the main squares in Amsterdam are equipped with "pee deflectors" that were installed by the Dutch government. This was instituted from a late 1980's survey that was conducted asking Amsterdam-ians what disturbes you most about tourists ... their answer "they pee on our buildings and stench up our alleys". 80% of the residents stated this. So city hall devised the implementation of pee deflectors that would splash the pee back on the pisser to teach them a lesson. Most of these are triangular shaped metal sheets that protrude and are angled to splash pee back on the man conducting the act. Some have sharp barbs to conduct a lesson of pain on the perpetrator. In the 1980's they had electrical charges running through some of the deflectors so that the law-breaker would be shocked, but some accidents happened and it was determined inhumane. In some of the main squares they installed open-air urinals for the men. Women were upset that they had no wear to pee in public so they staged a "*** off" on some of the bridges. In response, the city created sheltered toilettes for women, but they were taken over by heroine users and drug dealers so had to be boarded up. Now there is no place in public for women to pee, and they get a heftier fine if caught squatting than a man gets for peeing in the corner.
Written Apr 30, 2009
i felt more safe in amsterdam than i do in my own city las vegas. honestly i did not see or hear about any violence in the 11 days i was there. i never heard about al quaida or osama bin laden, the vibe's were all positive. the only place i felt uncomfortable was the redlight area's and even then by using common sence i avoided any possible encounters ( which were few ) so by using your brain you will be safe!
Written Dec 5, 2002
You may have heard that queues can be very long indeed.
It is absolutely true. This is a very major 'attraction' indeed, a must-see for most people who visit Amsterdam and an absolute certainty for the many tour groups and school groups.
I was there by 8:40 in mid-February, in temperatures well below freezing (about -6). I was about tenth in the queue and there was also a tour group of 20+ people in front of me.
By midday...still well below freezing....the queue stretched rather a long way (see photo).
Don't think that visiting later in the day will mean a shorter queue. On my April visit, passing by at 7pm (the house closes at 9 or 10pm) the queue was just as long as in the photo above.
It really is best to there very early indeed, as I did, or book your tickets online (see website).
Updated Apr 6, 2013
Beware of Dutchmen laying on the pavement - he might just be drunk - on the other hand it might be VT member Pieter Jan V taking a photo from a *quirky* angle!! :)) Be careful you don't trip over him!
Updated Feb 19, 2006
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles! And it makes perfect sense to cycle around. The city is compact enough, the streets and bridges are narrow, and like all big cities, parking is expensive and difficult to come by. Any visitor to this city should know that bicycles ALWAYS have the right of way. If you're not careful you will be hit. Even if you are careful, you'll probably still have a run in with a cyclist. Even if you think you are walking on the sidewalk, you're probably not. There are more bike lanes than sidewalks. Keep your ears open for the little bell--and move out of the way!
Written Oct 30, 2005
Much is written on the Dutch and their bicycles, however the danger of walking in bike paths needs to be etched in your brain. Walking in a bike path can be dangerous!
While it may appear they are trying to run you down, in truth the bike path is treated the same as a street is for a car. Most of these bikes are heavy metal, and going at a fair amount of speed. Most do keep an eye out for tourists who don’t know better, however one simple distraction, and you could have a major collision.
While not always true, most paths will be red and/or have painted lines. When there is a canal, bike path, street and sidewalk together, they will be in that order. That nice path next to the water is for the bike traffic not foot.
Written Jun 21, 2005
Our family went on a trip to the country on New Years Eve and returned to Central Station at about 8pm. We were unable to access any public transport or taxis because of street closures. There is an annual large outdoor concert by the Royal Palace and this leads to a shutdown in transport. Amsterdam is not a large city and our lodging was within walking distance but there are large numbers of young people throwing fire crackers and - for small children - the environment can be very frightening. Plan ahead!
Written Apr 2, 2004
Beware your feet. You will want to walk the entire city...twice! It's easy to do since the city is relatively small.
Be nice to your feet, jump on a tram once in awhile.
Bring moleskin for blisters.
Written Jul 28, 2003
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