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August 20, 2011

What To Do In Amsterdam

by Anne Paddock
Amsterdam is part of the Netherlands although many people also say “Holland.” In planning to spend a few days in Amsterdam, there are 5 sites/activities that should not be missed:
  1. Bike Tour of the City
  2. The Anne Frank House
  3. Museum Amstelkring
  4. Van Gogh Museum
  5. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Before you start the day’s activities, go to DeBakkerswinkel ( for breakfast (or for lunch).  There are many locations throughout Amsterdam (go to the website for a complete list of locations) with one in central Amsterdam at Zeedijk 37, a few minutes from the central train station. DeBakkerswinkel offers a variety of pastries, eggs, croissants, fruit juices and shakes, soups and sandwiches.  Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 – 4:00, Mondays from 10:00 – 5:30, and Tuesdays – Fridays from 8:00 – 5:30. The phone number of the central location is 020 489 8000. This was our favorite place for breakfast.

Bike Tour of Amsterdam
The vehicle of choice in Amsterdam is the bicycle – and there are more than a million bicycles on the roads. In the city, there is a wide bicycle lane on each side of the road where cyclists are expected to obey traffic laws:  ride on the right, pass on the left, and pay attention to all traffic signals.  All bikes come with a bell so don’t hesitate to use it to alert pedestrians of your presence. 

tour_img-140948-48Many companies offer bike tours of Amsterdam and we used a company called Yellow Bike Tours: that offers a 2 or 3 hour bike tour of the city on very well maintained yellow bikes with a tour guide. The 2 hour tour leaves every morning at 10:30 and the 3 hour tour leaves every afternoon at 1:30 from their downtown location (address listed below) which is just a few blocks from the central train station. We took the 3 hour tour which goes throughout the city neighborhoods and gives the rider a great overview of all the major sites. Yellow Bike Tours also provides countryside tours, bike rentals, and bike deliveries to wherever you are staying. The website is in English; reservations can be made by e-mail, calling, or just showing up.

Each tour group has 1 tour guide and up to 12 riders so the group cycling on bright yellow bikes looks like 12 baby chicks following the leader.  The Dutch are very patient as our group had various skill levels of cycling experience and tended to be a bit over eager with the bike bell that warned anyone within a few feet to watch out.

Yellow Bike Tours
Nieuwezijds 29 (Note, the street name is written before the number)
1012 Amsterdam
020 620 6940 (within Holland)

The Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Amsterdam and is advertised as a museum with a story.  The buildings are where the Frank family and others hid from Nazi occupied Holland during World War II. The rooms have been restored to what they looked like during the war with the movable bookcase that gave access to the Secret Annex leading to the series of small rooms and hallways that concealed the families.

canstockphoto13726780There are always lines of people down the street and around the block waiting to buy tickets.Go on-line to the museum website and buy tickets for a specific visit day and time to bypass the lines and gain immediate access.

Anne Frank House
Prinsengracht 263-267
1016 Amsterdam
020 556 7100 (within Holland)

Open every day from 9:00 – 9:00 during the summer (March 15 – September 14) and from 9:00 – 7:00 during the winter months (September 15 – March 14).  Closed on January 1 and Yom Kippur (usually in early October).

Museum Amstelkring

Amstelkring is an old Dutch house with a Catholic church built in and concealed within the house. This site is also referred to as the “attic church” or “Our Lord in the Attic.” The original house was built approximately 400 years ago. The story of the church began about 50 years later around 1660, when a Dutch family built the church within their home because Catholicism was outlawed by the Protestants at the time.  Given that Amsterdam is probably one of the most hedonistic and tolerant cities in the world, the irony in a group of repressed people having to build a hidden church within their house is not lost on visitors.

pict03_onslieveheerLocated in the oldest part of Amsterdam in the center of the Red Light District, Museum Amstelkring is about a 5 minute walk from the central train station.  Tickets have to be purchased on-site.

Museum Amstelkring
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40
1012  Amsterdam
020  624 6604 (within Holland)

The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00 and Sundays and Holidays from 1:00 – 5:00. Closed January 1 and April 30.

Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh in the world. The museum is two structures:  the main building and an exhibition hall. Vincent Van Gogh died at 37 years old and in his ten years as a painter, he completed more than 900 works.

canstockphoto1225317Located on a square called Museumplein, the Van Gogh Museum is one of four museums (Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and the Diamond Museum) on an open large parcel of land that is often used for festivals, celebrations, and picnics.

canstockphoto10020322The lines are long to enter this museum so buy tickets on-line at the museum website, print them out and receive immediate access.

The Van Gogh Museum
Paulus Potterstraat 7
1071 Amsterdam
020 570 5200 (within Holland)

The museum is open daily from 10:00 – 6:00 but on Fridays the museum stays open until 10:00 pm because there is always something special going on that night.  Closed on January 1. The museum has a cafe and shop.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is a Dutch national museum that is probably most famous for housing the “Night Watch” by Rembrandt and other works by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and other artists.  The art collection is divided into 3 categories: art, history, and drawings, prints, and photographs.

canstockphoto11914905The museum has been undergoing a major renovation since 2003 which will be completed by 2013.  However, most of the major works are still being displayed.  Open everyday (except Jan 1) from 9:00 – 6:00, the museum also has three shops but no cafe or restaurant.  The lines are long so buy tickets on line at the museum website and print them out to obtain immediate access to the museum.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Jan Luijkenstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
020 674 7000 (within Holland)

If there is time to spare, explore one of Amsterdam’s markets. There are numerous markets every day of the week which sell flowers (tulips!), fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, fish, and more.  Go to for a complete list of Amsterdam’s markets.

canstockphoto13961009A great place to end your day and talk about the sites, is Restaurant Christophe – a cozy little restaurant in central Amsterdam (within walking distance from the Anne Frank House) that has been around for about 20 years – if there is 2-3 in your party, ask for a window alcove table so you can see what is happening on the streets . The menu choices are good and the cheese selection platter served with homemade breads for dessert is excellent.Christophe_bar5409

Restaurant Christophe
Lellegracht 46
1015 Amsterdam
020 625 0807 (within Holland)

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