The Old Fogies go to Amsterdam in the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital city and largest city in the Netherlands which is known for its picturesque canals, interesting history and extensive cultural scene. We last visited Amsterdam over 10 years ago when we stayed for a few days and explored the city. This time we were only here for the day and were keen to visit the Rijksmuseum and the important Rembrandt exhibition.

Amsterdam has a number of similarities with Venice and is not the easiest place to navigate but the best starting place is Dam Square.

Amsterdam began as a small fishing village in the late 12th century but grew to become one of the most important ports in the world during the 17th century. Many of the canals date back to the 17th-century and are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Fortunately the Cruise Terminal is only around 15 mins walk from the rather grand Central Station and then it is a straightforward walk up the Damrak and Rokin streets to the Bloemenmarkt which is a large flower market on pontoons on the canal.

Well I said straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you because bicycles come at you from all directions as well as trams and other traffic.

This part of the city was where stayed before, so we found our way to the Museum Quarter where the imposing shadow of the Rijksmuseum appeared in the distance. We have fortunate to visit many of the top museums and art galleries around the world, however for some reason we have never been to the Rijksmuseum before. Whilst we are visiting there is a large Rembrandt exhibition on, so we were looking forward to have a look around that. Like many museums, you have street musicians and performers, here was no different except the majority were very good.

Once inside the Rijksmuseum, it was time to pick up tickets and head for the exhibition. Although the exhibition has been on for some time, it is still extremely popular and the galleries were pretty crowded. The exhibition covered a wide range of Rembrandt’s work with paintings and drawings, after a quick look around we explored the quieter parts of the museum and enjoyed a more leisurely walk around.

The Rijksmuseum is one of a number of museums in this quarter as well as the Concertgebouw, which is the concert hall which we visited the last time we were here. Around the museums are gardens and playgrounds where the children were working off their excess energy and us old timers sat and enjoyed a baguette and coffee.

Our plan was to slowly walk back through the city and enjoy the sights and sounds of this unique location. Near the flower market is the Heineken Brewery which I looked longingly towards, come on said Mrs Nice, I want to look at the flowers.

My drink would have to wait till later as we made our way past the flower stalls. Their nice I said sounding interested, ‘you do know their plastic’ came the scathing reply.

Mrs Nice kept disappearing and came back eating cheese, I though you did not like Dutch cheese ? Mrs Nice mumbled I don’t but I have to try it.

We next visited Begijnhof which is a secluded old convent in the middle of the city, which was formerly home to the Beguines, a group of religious women who lived in a community within the medieval historical buildings arranged around a central green which includes one of the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is one of those places where the city itself is entertaining with a strange mix of old and new. There are various museums dotted around the city but it is often nice to find a place near the canals and watch the world go by.

Many of the canals have narrow streets and picturesque buildings with plenty of independent shops, small art galleries, antiques shops and atmospheric bars and restaurants.

We had already been to the Anne Frank House on a previous trip, so we decided that we to explore some of the areas around Dam square. The square is dominated by the imposing Royal Palace, with the Nieuwe Kerk, National Monument to the Dutch killed in World War II, De Bijenkorf department store and Madame Tussauds close by.

Further on is the grand Beurs van Berlage which used to be the Stock Exchange but now is used for concerts and exhibitions. In the distance is the large Centraal Station which was built on three artificial islands and over 8,000 wooden piles.

We then had a slight detour into some of oldest parts of Amsterdam, Zeedijk was built-in the early 1300s and was part of Amsterdam’s original fortifications. Zeedijk is on the border of De Wallen, Amsterdam’s Red-light district which offers legal prostitution and numerous coffee shops that sell cannabis and other substances.

In a city with a wide range of cultural attractions, it is odd that this neighbourhood has become a famous attraction for tourists. Working on the idea that sex sells anywhere, sex workers offer their services from behind a window or glass door, often illuminated with red lights. Needless to say it is not the workers but the packed streets of gawpers that make it a less than pleasant experience and the area attracts more than its fair share of drug addicts, pickpockets and drunken groups of people.

When we arrived in Amsterdam, we noticed a large green building and being close by decided to investigate. The building is called NEMO and is Amsterdam’s science and technology centre, nearby is a large replica of a Dutch East India Company ship.

From here is was a short walk to the very modern Amsterdam Cruise Terminal and the ship. Sitting abroad and watching the lovely sunset and river traffic going by, it is worth noting that much of Amsterdam has been reclaimed from the sea and the relationship between the sea and Amsterdam is strong. From the Golden Age in the 17th century, Amsterdam has attracted significant numbers of visitors and is still a major attraction for visitors from around the world.

It is not the easiest city to get to know because of its many small areas and numerous attractions, but everytime you visit you tend to uncover different parts of the dynamic city. All in all it a vibrant city with always plenty going on, walking is the best way to explore but beware the cobbled streets and the thousands of bicycles.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London here