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by Angeline Boekweit, Flight Centre Associate - Winnipeg,

Tulips, Bikes, Canals, Windmills and Clogs…it can only be one city—AMSTERDAM.  This vibrant city is considered one of Europe’s top city breaks both for Europeans and world travellers alike. Amsterdam is unique and exciting for all groups of people.  It is my favourite European city as it is constantly changing and there are always new areas to discover.  You can explore Amsterdam at any time of the year.

With so much to do in Amsterdam it is difficult to narrow down what to do and where to start! There are 37 museums in Amsterdam including the Jewish History Museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum and the world famous Anne Frank House museum. For the latter, you will see the line ups to enter this museum almost all day every day of the year.  For art lovers Amsterdam houses some of the world’s most recognisable paintings in the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh and the Stedelijk museum (modern art).   There are many things to see at the Royal Palace, the Oude Kirk.  I highly recommend walking along the Prinsengracht and taking in the day-to-day sights.  You may be lucky enough to see a house move--a fascinating site watching big pieces of furniture being removed from these narrow buildings.  The flower market is a must and you can even attend the flower auction. Flower lovers should visit in spring and go to the world famous tulip gardens at the Keukenhof.   Amsterdam also has many emerging fashion designers making it a stylish city with great shopping.  I particularly like the children’s fashion, toys and accessories and if you are tall it is a fantastic place to shop!
GETTING AROUND:  Schipol is a smart and busy airport.  There are many shops and places to eat which is great and I love the smell on arrival of coffee and chocolate. Getting from Schipol airport to downtown Amsterdam is easy and inexpensive. All signs are in English and everybody speaks English (believe me I lived there for a year and tried to speak Dutch but was always replied to in English).  There are trains every 7 minutes and most trains take about 15 minutes to get downtown.  The trains are mainly double Decker trains so there is always plenty of room. Centraal station is itself a landmark. The hustle and bustle inside the station continues outside and it can be slightly disorientating at first. Cyclists in their thousands zoom passed and the trams glide along the streets so watch your step.  You can buy tram tickets in the station and hop on to move around the city.  Or hire a bike, it can be a daunting prospect at first but fairly easy to navigate the city once you have your confidence. There are bike lanes everywhere and even traffic lights for cyclists. I love using bikes in Holland and parking them in the bike parks at the station but make sure you identify your bike or may never find it!  The hop on hop off canal tour is a great way to learn about the fascinating history of the city as well as getting to know the city and has the added bonus of getting discount at certain museums and attractions.  
There are many hotels around Centraal station and around Dam Square.  One of the biggest is the Swiss Hotel.  There are many types of accommodation options available in Amsterdam.  A few years ago I stayed on an old barge located by Vondelpark which was a budget option and an interesting alternative. There are house boats, which many Amsterdammers live in.  Many hotels are housed in buildings that are hundreds of years old; many rooms can be attic style and stairs can be steep and narrow and bathrooms small.  Depending on the amount of time you have, another option for longer stays could be outside of Amsterdam. For example you could stay in the Dutch beach resort of Scheveningen, an easy communte into Amsterdam. 
The Dutch love coffee and the cake, which are "out of this world" visually and taste wise.  There are many Pancake Houses for lunch and dinner.  Indonesia being one of Holland’s former colonies has a huge influence on Dutch cuisine, such that often when you go into a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam it is actually Indonesian food you are eating. I would recommend the Bambi Goreng.  Suriname has a huge community in Holland and influences the food with tasty rotis.  If you want a quick snack there are many ‘hole in the wall’ spots which are literally 40 to 50 tiny windows displaying food for one Euro for a quick friekendel, crochet and fries and mayonnaise or peanut sauce.  There are also many schwarma and falafel houses.  The Dutch department store V&D has a fabulous cafe for lunch- it’s self service with a beautiful display of food and a great view across the roof tops of Amsterdam and  a great place to watch Dutch people enjoying lunch.  There are the traditional brown cafes and pubs, dark wood panelled rooms serving wholesome and hearty fare -mainly meat, potatoes and vegetables.  Amsterdam has fun and interesting pubs in great buildings and locations.
The cities of Leiden, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam are just short train rides away from Amsterdam for an afternoon visit.
Amsterdam is a great city to visit any time of the year.  There are pros and cons to each season.  Visit in winter and you may be lucky enough to skate along the canals. While it t can be cold , coming from Winnipeg you will be fine.  In spring (probably one of the most popular times) you will see the famous tulips bloom and celebrate the Queen’s Birthday on the 30th  of April, a national holiday when the whole city closes down and parties on the street.  Summer can be sweltering, but you will see the Amsterdamers cooling down either on boats on the canals or at restaurants or bars on the canal side, and there are many festivals in the summer time.  Autumn is a fantastic time to shop and  ther is a St Nicolas Day street parade on the 6th of December in this historical and beautiful decorated city.  Get your clogs on and call me today for advice and recommendations, to efficiently use your time in Amsterdam and get the best value for money.






Editor's note: for prices on best deals for travel this month, see Flight Centre advertisement on  right side bar or contact Angeline Boekweit, Flight Centre Associate - Winnipeg -204-417-4217  






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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.