Have you been misprouncing the Netherlands this whole time?
Most people get confused by the term Netherlands and Holland, but Holland is actually only two of the provinces within the Netherlands.
Amsterdam is the capital that sits in North Holland.
Hence many people who visit Amsterdam, claim they are going to Holland. True and false in both sense of the word. Confused now?
My mother was born in the Netherlands. I am not sure if you have ever visited the birthplace of your mother, but it’s both moving and profound – it reconciles the elemental self-identity fragments deep within your soul like a scattered jigsaw puzzle finally being made whole.
So I guess you can see we were excited about heading to Amsterdam. Excited for the genealogy, history, houseboats, canals and the familiar fabulous food.
But first, let’s talk about what you need to know when you get there. Consider this an overview for what you need to know when visiting Amsterdam.
We caught the train from London with Eurostar through the chunnel. It was super easy and took less than 4 hours, with just 1 transfer in Brussels. You could also fly, bus, ferry or drive. If you’re thinking of renting a car, most companies are fine if you take the car around Western Europe. But it’s best that you check with them in advance.
Once you get in check out the Tourist Office just opposite Centraal Station (Central). They’ve got brochures, maps and can help with booking tours.
Getting Around (And How To Save Money)
Amsterdam has a very convenient and thorough public transport system. The metro or tram can take you just about anywhere. And if that’s not good enough, just hire a bike and cycle around, everything is so close.
Similar to Poznan, Poland, we decided to use the tourist card here, called the I Amsterdam City Card, which we picked up from the Tourist Office. For €67 you can get a 72-hour card, which gives you unlimited public transport for 3 days, free entrance to participating museums and attractions, discounts at participating restaurants and more.
On our first tram ride we told by the ticket collector that since the kids were 4 and 5 they wouldn’t need a ticket. However, typically on public transport kids 4 and older need their own ticket. 1 hour of travel is €2.80 per person and includes transfers.
Regional day tickets can also be purchased for about €14 per person. These will get you outside Amsterdam, if you pine to see the scenic windmills at Zaanse Schans or one of the many other beautiful towns.
Alternatively you can also hire a bike and cycle around, everything is so close.
Where To Stay
It was obvious to us that a trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without staying in a canal houseboat. We found our rental houseboat through Amsterdam Book Now.
The location was awesome, close to a tram and metro station, and right in the thick of it for summer fun in the sun. Why would you stay anywhere else?
What To Do
Like any world-class city, Amsterdam is loaded with mountains of things to see and do, and we barely scratched the surface in our 3 days there. However, we have dedicated a post to all the things you can do, from the regional windmill trip to Zaanse Schans to Madame Tussauds to Anne Frank’s House or the NEMO Science Centre.
Of course you also find the well-known less-than-savoury parts of Amsterdam, infamously named the “red light district”, where you can buy drugs or see a live sex show.
It seems Amsterdam has sex on the brain and is more liberal about discussing it. We came across it in the Science Museum in an exhibit for 12 to 18 year olds, and also in the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam.
However, this is a family orientated blog so you won’t find this in our recommendations, but you will find a host of family friendly activities that you might not have thought about in this diverse city with a liberal reputation.
What To Eat
Having grown up with Dutch food my entire life I was super excited to be heading into Amsterdam to try all the local cuisine. I think during our visit we only managed to find the time to eat at two restaurants, because the rest of the time we were grabbing all those delicious Dutch snack foods.
One of the times we caught up with a lovely family we had met online at a café in Rembrandt Square. And the second time we tried all-you-can-eat ribs for €15. And boy, did Josh give them a run for their money! One tip for these types of restaurants is to watch out for their drink prices (and they usually don’t advertise them), as this is they make their money. Drinks set us back €4 each!
From the moment of our arrival in Amsterdam, we could sense the city’s relaxed energy. It exuded a youthful optimism like an American university campus mixed with a cohesiveness of a small European village. We enjoyed every minute in Amsterdam. So you can comfortably ignore any preconceived ideas and what you may have heard about this city, and bring your family here on holiday. You might even find a piece of a puzzle here you didn’t realised you were missing.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Hi, I have a bit of issues with motion sickness. Not sure if the boat house will have issues for "patients" like me! :(
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