AMSTERDAM IN 3 DAYS
After many, many years, I finally travelled with my sister again, and to both of our surprises, it was a great experience. The fact this was our first visit to the amazing city of Amsterdam definitely helped. As we are both busy, we could stay only 3 nights so we tried to see as much as we could in 54 hours we stayed in Amsterdam.
Our first thing upon the arrival was to get to our Element Amsterdam Hotel which was just 1 stop by train from the airport. As many people suggested, we purchased the 3 day GVB passes on the airport in one of the newspaper shops. These passes (17euros each) will provide free public transportation on any GVB metro, trams and buses. The train from the airport is the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get to the city. As our hotel was located near the 1st stop from the airport, our train tickets were 4euros each compared to 10.50euros to the Centraal Station. The train tickets can be purchased just before the escalators to the train platforms (located on the lower level).
When using any type of Amsterdam transportation, remember to scan your pass when entering and leaving the metro, tram or a bus. Some of the scanning machines are inside but some are on the stations and need to be scanned before entering, which is obviously confusing.
Amsterdam Centraal was our first stop as its position allows you easy access to the old city, red light district, and some great canal views. Picture below was taken on Damrak street just few hundred meters from the Centraal. This is a very popular tourist area and a main embarkation spot for canal tours. Many tours leave from Damrak and usually take 45min -1 hour to go up and down the Amstel river for 17euros per person. Damrak will take you towards the square with the National Monument and the Royal Palace. Amsterdam center is not very big, so the main thing is just to walk the streets, and have lunch/dinner in one of thousands of restaurants and bars. Almost all of them have front outside seating.
We booked Those damn boat guys canal tour as it was highly recommended by travelers. It's owned and operated by expats and luckily we had the opportunity to be guided by one of the owners Alec. The tour is very small (up to 8 people plus the skipper) as the boat is small and uncovered. As I learned through my world travels, big touristy tours are never fun. The smaller the better and more personal. This particular tour operator even encouraged travelers to bring their own snacks and drinks. As the weather in Holland is unpredictable, grey, cold and rainy, both me and my sister put on several layers of clothes. However, this ride was during the most warmest period of our 2.5 day trip. And of course with few sips of our chosen white wine, the tour was even more enjoyable. As I mentioned, the boat size allowed our skipper to take us under the bridge with the smallest clearance in Amsterdam. All of us (including him) had to lay on the floor as we were passing underneath, and that was very cool.
The best and the cheapest way to see most of the city is with one of the free city tour walks. All these tours offer highlights of the city. We choose the City Free Tour that will take you for a good 3-hour guided walk around the city. You will learn about Holland's and Amsterdam's history, culture, citizens and some of their not so nice customs, such as throwing old bicycles in the canal. Be aware of any bicyclist as they do not yield to pedestrians. The city tour takes you to the Red Light District, and that is a very weird experience. You can only hope that Amsterdam's police is very vigilant when it comes to trafficking in persons.