28 July 2009

Other stuff to do in Amsterdam during these long summer days

As promised I have some suggestions for what to do when half the country is on holiday, the doors are shut and you are in your apartment contriving a plan for world domination....

This list was complied with these thoughts in mind: wanting to be outside as much as possible, willing to take day trips (taking advantage of NS train specials during the summer), enjoying cycling/fietsen, and not being afraid to go somewhere with out a map or heck even a plan!? Furthermore, I am certain a lot of you already know about these activities since many are well known places; although I suspect that for others, whether the Amsterdam passer-by or the newly arrived migrant, these suggestions might be something new and something to keep in mind for the rest of your time in NL. I hope that you can use this as a list for when your brain is blank about what to do; all you have to do is pull this list out, maybe you want to number it, or perhaps you aren't a planner and you just want to look it at on the fly; regardless enjoy! And if you have some more suggestions please send them my way at busyinamsterdam [at] gmail. Please note that I do not specifically mention in this list if activities are geschikt voor kinderen (suitable for kids) but most of the activities are self-explanatory.

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Some suggestions to liven up the quiet Amsterdam summer:

1) Café Löfel & Burke and Kriterion café and theater hold Sneak-meals/film every Tuesday. For only €12.50 get a dinner “wat de pot schaft” (whatever is in the pot/plate of the day) from Löfel & Burke and a sneak preview of a film at Kriterion. Reservations are necessary.

2) Travel in and around A*dam by bike and visit organic, animal friendly, sustainable farms in the nearby region. Find/make your own bike/fiets routes to make a personal visit to farms in the area. Learn about farming, organic production, green houses in NL and animals.

3) For those sunny days check out the city beaches in Amsterdam including Strand West (near Westerpark), NEMO's summer terrace overlooking the City, Blijurg at the end of IJburg, and Strand Zuid (behind RAI in Zuider Amstel).

4) Make a ‘big’ trip to Amsterdam Noord. There is a decent market selling a little bit of everything. Lots of parks to explore and if you cycle for about 15 minutes from the ferry station you enter farm country. Also check out the Tolhuistuin, the trendy, art scene neighborhood in Noord just west of the ferry.

5) Yes it may be a clique but check out the museums that you meant to visit this past winter! But first get your Museumkaart, the card that gets you in to a majority of museums throughout NL, which you can purchase at any number of participating museum for 35 euros.

I recommend checking out: 

FOAM, the photography museum. One general admission also gets you into the NY perspectives exhibit just around the corner at Mediamatic (there also is a discount for Muesumkaart holders).

* The Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world with more than 6000 plants in the garden and greenhouses in the heart of the City near Artis.

* At the top of my list is a visit to the just restored and reopened - Koninklijk Paleis op de Dam. The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is now used mainly for entertaining and official functions.

* If you want to brush up on your Amsterdam history and urban development check out the always loved Amsterdam Historisch. Presently hosting an exhibition about the Dutch Masters.

* I recently stopped by the Verzetsmuseum (resistance), which is a must for any history buff. It chronologically moves you through the history of WWII from a Dutch prescriptive, with hundreds of unique artifacts such as letters, videos, bicycles, fake passports, maps, etc... Also check out the Hollands Schouwburg around the corner, the former deportation center during the War for Jews, which is now a memorial.

Ons' Lieve Heer op Zolder / Our Good Lord in the Attic, the hidden Catholic church in de Wallen / Red Light District built during Reformation (the period when Protestants controlled the City and had strict regulations about the observation/practicing of Catholicism).

6) Visit the Brouwerij 't IJ and actually do the brewery tour starting at opening time!

7) Check out your neighborhood. I don’t mean cycle down your street and go to the grocery store but rather go by foot and make a snake route through the buurt. Who knows what you might find; perhaps a new café, a lovely house for rent, a tiny hidden public garden. There is truly much to discover right outside your doorstep. I recently found a tennis court, and a new biking route.

8) Cycle to IJburg, check out the architecture and stop at the very end at Blijburg for some beach time. Or in great contrast check out the lonely, still developments of the Zuidas. 

9) Do some mid-summer cleaning, and drop your second hand goods at the many kringloopwinkels (non-trendy second hand store aka goodwill) in the City and then do some shopping to replace the things you just gave away. This is the best time to find stuff because as this post emphasizes half the country is on holiday so everything is less picked over. My favorite kringloopwinkel is in Noord but there is also a large one near Westerpark. If you have time to sort and pick through boxes you are certain to find some gems.

10) Be a tourist in your own city. Take a tour of de Wallen /Red Light district organized by the Prostitution Information Centre (PIC), every Saturday at 17.00 for 12.50 euro. It lasts one hour with ‘behind the curtain’ tours from experts.

11) Bike to the not so traveled/visited yet extremely beautiful Amsterdamse Bos, which was developed as a social project in the early 30s with lovely lakes, and bridges. While you are there check out the goat farm -De Ridammerhoeve and the Bosmuseum, or rent a canoe/kayak for around 6 euros for the lovely lakes in the Bos.

12) Rumor has it that many of you have yet to visit the Openbaar Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) east of Central Station. The library is just celebrating its second anniversary as it opened up July 2007. So what does the library have to offer you?: a beautiful view at the top floor with a giant salad bar meal from La Place, modern architectural landmark in the City, free internet access/computers, nice environment for reading, and stuff for kids.

13) Get out Amsterdam, for once! And check out the other great places in NL.

Lots of places to see, I recommend visiting:

* Utrecht and touring the largest tower in the Netherlands, the Domtoren. Tours are everyday from 10.00 – 17.00, guided tours every hour, lasting an hour, €7.50. Or check out the Spoorweg Museum / Train Track Museum. Also why you are there do some second hand shopping at the many great stores on the Oude Gracht and enjoy a beer at Café Belgie or even lower on the ‘deep’ canals. 

Zaanse Schans. If you have yet to visit this historic windmill village you must! And get a picture of yourself in front of all the windmills.

* Take your first wadlopen trip in Friesland. Wadlopen is a Dutch speciality where you walk at low tide between islands. An adventurous trip with guaranteed beautiful sights.

* Take the train to the beach and enjoy some windy yet sunny beach days. There are many beaches to explore in just a short train ride: Zandvoort, Bloemendaal, Wijk aan Zee, etc… All of them have great beach cafes, fish stands for a snack of kibbeling (fried cod), and invariably sun (if you aren’t Dutch you are going to have to learn to enjoy windy walks on the beach which is compulsory to total inburgering). I have heard good things about the cafe/club Timboektoe at Wijk aan Zee, but have yet to check it out, but there are lots of nice temporary container-esque cafés scattered on Dutch beaches. 

Spakenburg, a traditional fishing village on the IJselmeer that hosts guest every Wednesday during the summer. Learn how to smoke fish, the functions of a wind mill, see traditional Dutch clothing of Noord Holland. 

Naarden, another hour or so bike ride from Amsterdam, with a Spanish style star fort and moats in het Gooi. Bring the camera and also check out the National Fortress Museum.

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