This is part of a series of posts on Amsterdam written by guest contributor, David Gavenda, who spent a month living there.
After spending a month exploring Amsterdam, I walked away with a number of tips for anyone who wants to visit this wonderful city.
OV-Fiets (Bicycle Rentals)
Bicycles are by far the best way to see Amsterdam. It has more bicycles than people and is set up for bike riding. It is laced with bike trails and all businesses and train stations have bike parking facilities. Most of the city’s primary sites are within easy biking distance, often within 10 minutes of Amsterdam’s Central Station.
Operated by the Dutch National Railway, these bike shops are all over. There are more than 300 throughout the Netherlands, with many of these in or on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The Central Train Station alone has two shops. You can rent a quality bike for less than 4 Euros per day and you can pick the bike up at one location and drop off at another. All you need to rent a bike is an OV Chipcard or a TripKey Card (see below). Rental bikes come with a bike chain lock and a luggage rack.
Notes: Always lock your bike up when not in use or it will be stolen. Most rental bikes are the “girls” type. Never rent a “boys” style bike as the center bar is not conducive to city riding. And always use hand signals.
UPDATE: The TK card has been placed by the Utrecht Regional Pass).
Mass Transit in Amsterdam can be done the EZ way: “Rent” a “TripKey” Card. The TK card is attached to one of your credit cards and can be used for travel on any bus, train or metro. Simply swipe it when entering and exiting any of these modes of travel. You can also use the card to rent a bicycle (See the Amsterdam Neighborhoods post). The card costs E3.50 plus a E15 deposit, which is refunded when the card is returned at the end of your trip. (Ask for a prepaid addressed envelope when you pick up the card). You can order and pay for your TK card on line, (TripKey.nl) but must pick it up at one of many pickup locations in Holland. Locations include airports, hotels and tourist offices. At the end of your travels, you return the card and Trip Key bills your credit card. The card also has the side benefit of allowing you to travel at the same low transit rates as locals.
Amsterdam has many museum discount cards both online and locally. I purchased the MuseumKaart as I was in town for a month and was looking for bang for the buck. The MK cost E59.99, plus a service fee of E4.95 and it gets you into 400 museums/landmarks/attractions in Holland. Its admissions list includes 40 museums in Amsterdam. In addition, it has a skip-the-line feature for some of the more popular museums (including the Van Gough). (These skip the line features are particularly valuable during the busy summer months.) Although you can buy the cards online, (DutchMuseums.com), you must pick them up at one of the covered museums/attractions. (Hint: I chose a pickup location that opened early and at which I thought less likely to have a line. I recommend the De Nieuwe Kerk new church, located on Dam Square next to the Royal Palace).
Morning and Afternoon Refresher Stops
Dam Good Coffee Shop
if you need your morning coffee, no better spot than the “Dam Good Coffee Shop”, located in Dam Square. Reasonably priced coffee and bake goods with both indoor and outdoor seating and a very hip staff. I would start most days with a double espresso, sit at an outside table and do a little people watching while mapping out the day’s activities.
Café De Sluyswacht
Located in a 300+ year-old (1695) building across from the Rembrandt house, the café has back patio that overlooks the intersection of two of the city’s busy canals. If the weather is nice, it provides a great spot to enjoy a cold beer, local “bar bites” and watch the very busy boat traffic on the canals. On the weekends, the normal commercial boat traffic (tour and work boats) is joined by local residents cruising the canals in their private boats. Multiple houseboats are also docked within sight of the patio.