If you are headed to Amsterdam on an EF tour any time soon, then here are a few things you might want to try during your free time.
This square is where you will find the Rijksmuseum (above), the largest museum in the Netherlands, with more than a million visitors each year. The Rijksmuseum is a familiar Amsterdam landmark with an unrivaled collection of Dutch art, from early religious works to the masterpieces of the Golden Age. Free entry for students ages 18 and under. Nearby is the Van Gogh Museum, home to some 200 paintings and 550 sketches showing Vincent van Gogh in all his moods. These are combined with hundreds of letters by van Gogh, and selected works by his friends and contemporaries. It’s free to enter for under 17s, too! Finally, the Stedelijk Museum (temporary location on Paulus Potterstraat) houses the civic collection of modern art, displaying works by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne and Monet. The museum also stages contemporary art exhibitions, and a sculpture garden is to be found behind the building.
In the Dam square, you will find the Bijenkorf department store. Nearby, the 1898 post office building has been converted to Magna Plaza, with four floors of shopping. Alternatively, check out the view over Amsterdam from the top floor of Metz department store (Leidserstraat, 34-36). For something truly unique, trawl the area known as the nine little streets (De 9 Straatjes) for independent stores selling everything from Dutch cheeses to the latest designs in fashion.
NEMO Science Center
The fabulous NEMO Science Center offers a dizzying array of interactive features. Make your own soap bubble (big enough to stand in), explore DNA and learn more than you ever thought one could about water. When you’re done inside, climb up onto the roof terrace to have a snack and enjoy the amazing views of the city and harbor around you.
Amsterdam has 11 permanent markets, the best known being Albert Cuypmarket in the De Pijp district (Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) with a bit of everything on offer and some great places to eat nearby. The Singel canal is home to Amsterdam’s amazing flower market (daily, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.),
and the Looiersgracht market in the Jordaan part of town houses an incredible flea market (Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–5 p.m.).
Biking the city
There is no better way to mix with the locals than to join them on the extensive network of cycle lanes across the city. Your EF Tour Director can help you find the best rental deals, and then you are off to really explore the charms of this amazing city. Make time to explore some of the Vondelpark and take a break around the Leidseplein.
Locals like their herring fresh from a neighborhood fish stall. You should definitely try this local delicacy, generally served chopped, with onion.
The World of Ajax tours give you a chance to tour the superb Amsterdam Arena, home to one of European soccer’s great names and training ground for some great players who went on to do amazing things. In one hour, you can sample the media room, sit in the dugouts, see the field and visit the control room. Opening times vary, so check with your EF Tour Director.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is one of three palaces used by the monarch, Queen Beatrix. You can explore many of the reception rooms used for official State Visits and see superb examples of art and décor. (Closed in the month of June because it is used by the family.)
Canals are one of Amsterdam’s most famous features, and a one-hour tour is a great way to get a feel for the city and see the main sites as well as the grand houses built in the Golden Age of the 17th century. The inner city is surrounded by three main canals, the Herengracht (Lord’s Canal), the Keizersgracht (The Emperor’s Canal) and the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). Your EF Tour Director can arrange a trip for you.
(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)