Read Part 1 of this Lazing Tour to a cold Amsterdam HERE
Now that we have rested after the first day in Amsterdam, it’s time to do tourist things in ernest. Today, we eschewed the usual tourism traps like Anne Frank’s House and Van Gogh Museum to explore the Harbour and Eastern Islands.
Starting always from the Centraal Station, we walk east along the Oosterdokskade, which is the Eastern Docks Quay that opens out from the Centraal area. You walk past new building developments where the former station post office building on Oosterdokseiland was demolished in 2010. Now, the area is a posh row of residential and commercial buildings including the Central Library (Openbare Bibliotheek), Stedelijk Museum of Contemporary Art and Concert Hall (Muziekgebouw aan ‘tc IJ).
We didn’t visit those institutions but at least they are recognisable landmarks along the way, if you wish to do so.
Walking away from Centraal Station on Oosterdokskade and looking back across the water, we see the Shipping House (Scheepvaarthuis) and the Old Church (Oud Kerk). The Oud Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, founded circa 1213. Ironically, it stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam’s main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein.
Hilton Double Tree Hotel and SkyLounge Amsterdam
The Hilton Double Tree Hotel is a convenient base location for visitors to Amsterdam with the current hottest bar-with-a-view in the city – SkyLounge Amsterdam.
Here they serve the most expensive Heineken beer in town but you can comfort yourself with the cityscape at night.
Bitterballen are a Dutch meat-based snack served in every bar or “café”, typically containing a mixture of beef or veal mince and beef broth in a thick roux filled into deep-fried bread-crumbed balls.
They are typically served with a small bowl of mustard for dipping. They are eaten in the Netherlands, Suriname, Netherlands Antilles, Belgium, and even in Indonesia (ex-Dutch colony).
Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant
Along the Oosterdokskade is a large floating Chinese restaurant, which seems incongrous until you remember the Dutch “traded” in Asia through the quasi-military Dutch East India Company (VOC).
The locals have a bi-polar opinion about this establishment. On one hand, they recognise it’s prominence as one of the largest restaurants in the city (floating or otherwise) but on the other hand, some will direct you to other Chinese restaurants in “Chinatown”. There isn’t really a Chinatown in Amsterdam but most Chinese businesses are located in the red-light district.
It is said that the prices of meals here go up with each level that you climb.
I’m mostly Chinese and I thought the simple ‘dim sum’ lunch was adequately authentic, considering it’s location in a little country in Western Europe.
Adults: € 17.50
Students: € 9.00
Walking past the Stedelijk Museum of Contemporary Art brings you to a pedestrian bridge but beware the stealthy ninja cyclists who are also permitted to use it. They will mow you down as if you are dandelions on a lawn!
Across the bridge is the NEMO Science & Technology Museum perched over the entrance to the IJ Tunnel. The tunnel is a major road artery connecting the once inaccessible northern Amsterdam.
Admission for visitors aged 4 and over: € 16.50
Children under 4: Free
University Card: € 8.25
The green copper-clad building resembles a ship rising out of the water and it’s stepped roof with decking is the largest summer terrace in the city. Visitors both young and old are drawn to it’s interactive ‘hands-on’ experiences teaching science and technology. You can “draw with a laser”, play with ‘anti-gravity’ mirrors and learn the answers to Life’s mysteries like: “How do you make cheese?” and “How black is black?”
Vereniging Museumhaven Amsterdam (VMA)
The Harbour Museum Society works on the restoration, preservation and maintenance of sailing vessels that are more than 50 years old. Their dock filled with about 20 historic boats is located between NEMO and the National Maritime Museum.
The vessels range from clippers and luxury motorboats to tugboats. This historic port served both the navy and the Dutch East India Company merchant ships in the 17th century, and was a centre for inland shipping until the 20th century.
It was a pleasant (if freezing), free stroll down the dock. Unfortunately we didn’t know about the free information pamphlet available about the vessels but there were information signs at each boat.
At the end of the dock, you can see the National Maritime Museum and the replica East Indiaman ship moored there since 1991.
The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam shows you how the sea shaped Dutch culture. Stimulating, interactive exhibitions allow visitors to explore 500 years of maritime history.
Adults (18+ years): € 16.00
Youth (4 – 17 years): € 8.00
Student: € 8.00
Children (to 3 years): free
It’s a huge museum so allow at least 2 or 3 hours to even get a glimpse of everything. There are paintings, sketches, models and interactive displays about a whaling, trading and fighting nation. We had limited images as flash photography is restricted.
You can experience the East Indiaman ship ‘Amsterdam’ to feel what life was like on board. You can hoist cargo, scuttle through the hold, “fire” a cannon etc with ‘Rinus the Rat’ as your guide on board.
The Captain’s accommodation was not as luxurious as you would expect but far better than those of the sailors.
The ship moored alongside the museum is a replica the famous East Indiaman lost on her maiden voyage in 1749. it was constructed by 400 volunteers including apprentices of the Maritime Academy from 1985.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch set sail in ships like these, known as ‘Dutch East Indiamen,’ to the Far East (Asia). The journey took about eight months. East Indiamen made nearly five thousand journeys.
Two centuries ago, King Willem I commissioned the building of the Royal Barge. Lavishly decorated rowing barges were a required accessory for European royalty in the early nineteenth century.
From here, you have a couple of options for the day depending on how long you spent getting here and how long you spent at each attraction.
It’s a quick walk or tram ride back to the Centraal Station using Prins Henrikkade street. Drop into the Café Karpershoek (see Day 1 Report) on the corner of Prins Hendrikkade and Martelaarsgracht for it’s fresh Heineken beer on draught.
Or you could walk along canals in a south-westerly direction towards Nieuwmarkt (New Market), Plantage (Botanical Gardens) and Rembrandhuis (Rembrandt’s House).
Personally, I’d leave the Nieuwmarkt for another day and get there by canal boat. There is the last remaining working windmill De Grooyer and the microbrewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ next door to visit. Brewery tours in English are on Friday – Sunday at 15:30Hrs.
A note about “discount cards” and sightseeing passes in Amsterdam.
There are a number of sightseeing passes e.g. ‘I amsterdam Card’ and ‘Amsterdam HOLLANDPASS’, that offer “discounts and Skip-the-Line fast-track entry tickets” to attractions in Amsterdam, that also include transport cards for the trams and buses. They do offer fast-track entries and even save money on tickets if you are prepared to be a “frenzied tourist”.
The passes are for fixed durations of 3 to 5-days but you need to visit a large number of attractions to get your money’s worth. Even in summer, there are only 8 – 10 hours of opening time so it may be cheaper to only pay for the attractions you actually visit and the public transport passes separately. You can buy transport passes for 1 to 7 days at automated machines in Centraal Station. To avoid the queues for tickets, use online bookings with credit cards before you arrive for electronic tickets and simply glide into the fast tracks at each attraction.
Other Amsterdam Reports
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).