A long weekend in Amsterdam: June 2013

I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times over the years. Most notably in the late 1980s I spent a month there, doing research at the Shell labs (known as KSLA then). I even thought I knew the city well. But since about 1990 my visits have been short, and have mostly consisted of changing flights at Schiphol! So when I had the chance to go there to examine a PhD, I decided to combine it with a weekend visit. With the Rijksmuseum having just reopened, and the van Gogh museum having just been refurbished, it certainly seemed a good time to go.

We flew from Manchester with KLM. The flight takes just over an hour; our flight was in the late afternoon but we had booked an airport hotel to avoid having to negotiate transport to the city centre, which can be a tense matter when one is tired! We had dinner in the hotel. On the Friday morning I had the PhD viva, which involved travelling by direct train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Science Park, where some of the science departments of the University of Amsterdam are located. The train trip took less than 30 minutes, and the viva took a couple of hours. I was back at Schiphol for lunch, which we had at the Dutch and Delicious restaurant.

Having got the work out of the way, it was time to start the weekend properly, so on Friday afternoon we set out to go into central Amsterdam. Once we had mastered the ticket machines at the airport, we got our tickets (8 euros day return each), and found our train. There are two intermediate stops, Amsterdam Lelylaan and Amsterdam Sloterdijk, and the total journey time was about 20 minutes. On arrival at Amsterdam Central, more ticket machine negotiation was needed, but we managed to buy 72 hour tickets in the GVB office opposite the station, which cover transport on buses, trams and the metro (24 and 48 hour tickets are also available). It was then the fairly simple matter to find a tram going to the Museumplein, where the Rijksmuseum and van Gogh museum are both located.

The van Gogh museum is open late on a Friday night, which was why we chose to visit then. The refurbishment is impressive, and the museum is worth a visit whether you are a van Gogh fan or not. However, one point is the cost of admission, 15 euros. It’s worth it – just about, but it did make me grateful for our free museum entry in the UK! After exploring the museum we returned to Schiphol and had a very nice and inexpensive dinner in the Grand Cafe Plaza (see various reviews online).

On Saturday we returned to Amsterdam city centre with the initial intention of visiting the Rijksmuseum. However, the enormous queue put us off, and instead we visited the Diamant museum, which is dedicated to diamonds, and includes a shop where our apparent smart appearance made them anticipate a sale! But it is a very interesting museum, dealing with diamonds from their geological formation to their sale, and is also a lot more reasonable in its admission charges (7.50 euros). We then went on to the Amsterdam Canals museum (het Grachtenhuis, admission 12 euros), which is absolutely fascinating, describing why and how the canals were built when the city was expanded. It was then time for a late lunch, and we went to the Dante Kitchen and Bar, which is a friendly and relaxed establishment and which I recommend. After that we headed back to the Museumplein, and spent some time there looking at the interesting open air sculptures. We then went to the central station via the Nieuwe Kerk, and its photos of the recent inauguration of King Willem-Alexander. Near the station we picked up tickets for a canal trip the next day, and took our train back to Schiphol. Later we had our dinner in the hotel, after drinks in the Juggle Juice Bar at Schiphol, which has some very reasonable drinks promotions.

Sunday was spent almost entirely on the canals. You can purchase an all-day ticket from the office near the central station (20 euros), and there are several routes around the canals that can be taken. We managed to go on nearly all of them, and they provide an excellent way to see the city, with a very informative commentary provided. We broke off in the afternoon for a late lunch, an Indonesian Rijsttafel at the Lai and Wai Asian Bistro, near the Central station (see my review and more information here). It should be said that the Rijsttafel is very good value here, at 20 euros (considerably cheaper than some places closer to the city centre), and it comes with a dessert!

On Monday it was time to check out of the hotel and walk to the airport for one last time (on this trip) for our flight back to Manchester. I’m glad to say that everything went very smoothly and the security lines were manageable!

It was a great weekend, and we have already planned another visit to Amsterdam in August!

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