Jungle Goes to Amsterdam
This month Jungle decided headed for the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, one of the world’s most liberal and relaxed cities; famous for its beautiful architecture, canals and world class museums.
We decided to travel by bus from London’s Victoria coach station to see how it stacked up against the easy 50 minute journey by plane; it didn’t, it was twelve hours of discomfort that included a two hour night-time journey across the channel by ferry.
However if you book early enough prices for the coach and the plane are roughly the same so it is definitely best to go for the latter. The train is also pretty comfortable and can include a stop off in Brussels if booked correctly, but it can be rather expensive, especially for last minute travellers.
The coach stops at Amstel station after the overnight bus ride, a couple of stops by metro from the centre of the city. The best thing to do for anyone travelling by Plane or coach is to buy a 24 hour travel pass for seven Euros to get to the centre and to travel around the city by underground, bus or tram.
We alighted at Waterlooplein and the walk over the river Amstel was beautiful as the early afternoon sunshine made silhouettes of the bridges and barges in the distance.
Within five minutes we had reached our base for the weekend, the four-star Eden Rembrandt square, located just 50 metres away from one of Amsterdam’s main squares, Rembrandtplein, a lively neon lit clubbing district with a nice green at its centre beneath a statue of the artist from whom it gets its name.
The Eden had some very nice touches, including frosted glass bathroom walls that let the light straight in from the main bedroom, all for under 90 Euro’s for the night.
What to do
Amsterdam is the most bike friendly city in the world with 40 percent of traffic being of the two wheeled, engine free variety. This means extremely clean air and a calm, relaxed atmosphere that is perfect for enjoying the summer months.
We rented bikes and joined one of the popular canal tours, taking in sites such as the Hermitage museum, Rembrandt house, the artist’s former home and the Anne Frank museum. Afterwards it was on to the Vondelpark to make the most of the sunshine among the locals before heading across to Rijkmuseum via the Van Gogh museum and the Steidmuseum, Amsterdam’s museum of modern art.
Later we ventured into the Red light district before it descended into the crowded chaos of the evening, paying seven Euro’s each to go into the Erotic museum where we were surprised to find a wall of Picasso sketches among the elegant sculptures and miniature Chinese jade statues of contorted lovers.
We also stopped by a quirky cafe called Hill Street Blues on Warmoesstraat where the walls are graffitied and travellers leave their messages on sheets of Rizla which float precariously in the breeze coming from the open door. One proclaims, ‘Gaz woz ere March 2011, Brighton big up’ and it was hard not to wonder if it should have been more poetic or thoughtful although it was written on Rizla stuck on the wall. That aside they made a mean hot chocolate as well as fresh smoothies for their stoned and sober clientele.
Where to Eat
After walking back past the neon bordered windows, being blown kisses by women of all shapes and sizes we got the metro from Niewmarkt and headed back to the hotel to change ready for an evening out.
We found a Rancho Argentinean steak house opposite the Pathe cinema on Reguliersbreestraat, just off of Rembrant square (one of five throughout the city) and sat down for freshly made angus burgers that came with a healthy serving of salad and fries, all for twelve Euro’s each.
Where to dance
After dinner we walked back into the square where there are some very popular bars and clubs. Rain is good for a night out but Escape is the go to place for trendy Amsterdammers. As things start to get lively the queue often spills out onto the street.
Feeling for more of a Latin vibe we headed for Brasil music bar near the Leidseplein, Amsterdam’s other main square. Brasil is quite small compared to the bigger clubs but the atmosphere is excellent, especially for clubbers who are keen to avoid commercial monotony, instead raving until the small hours to both house and Latino house.
During the week Punto Latino on Leidsedwarsstraat, parallel to the Leidseplein is the best place for a spot of Salsa dancing into the early hours. Classes are on Mondays and Tuesdays, costing 5-7 Euro’s for beginners while experienced dancers don’t pay a fee.
For a good lunchtime meal on any day, Antonio’s on the corner of Leidsekruisstraat serves up some authentic Italian dishes in ambient surroundings, with excellent service for diners in Italian, Dutch or English. Travellers going at quieter times in the low season or during the week can opt for the 5 or 10 Euro menus which offer excellent value for money.
Le Marais is also good for an evening meal if the budget will stretch to gourmet food, but as one of the city’s most popular restaurants it must be booked well in advance. Before going, diners should also check if they can get one of the popular menus, such as the theatre menu which is two courses for 25 Euros.
By Daniel Hatton–Johnson and Christopher Niesyto