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4 Friends - 4 Days in Amsterdam

We (age 30 - 35) will be visiting Amsterdam for the 1st time in April 2019 (19 - 23 April) - over Easter weekend. Amsterdam will be the first stop of our Euro trip. We are early birds, very energetic, love being outdoors and enjoy beautiful scenery.

We would like to include the following during our stay:

1.) Keukenhof half day trip

2.) Rent a bike and explore on our own (Countryside - along the Amstel River, Riekermolen Windmill; Rembrandt Hoeve (cheese & clog).

3.) Bus to Waterland area

4.) Bus to Zaanse Schans

5.) Explore Amsterdam City (Jordaan area / Red light district / Canal cruise / public parks / markets)

Not sure if we have enough time for Zaanse Schans and Waterland area - if we need to choose between the 2, which will it be?

We aren't really interested in the Museums. Any suggestions / tips would be much appreciated.

Regards from South Africa

Posted by
4672 posts

Any particular reason for wanting to visit the red light district? I went many years ago on my stag weekend and I have to confess that I felt a bit shameful wandering around and looking at the women as if they were exhibits at a zoo. Many of the women are exploited and I suspect that if it wasn't for financial necessity the majority would not be there by choice. There are also a large number of women who have been trafficked there by criminal organisations and pimps and then forced to work.

There's nothing entertaining about the place, it's very seedy, grubby and sad and it's unfortunate that it's become a big attraction. I have no interest in gawking at women standing in windows offering themselves for sale, particularly when they're there through coercion and against their will.

Amsterdam has much more to offer and I would recommend sticking to those options you've listed and leave the red light district to those who are actually going to use the services of those in the sex trade.

Here is an interesting article about a young Hungarian woman working as a prostitute in Amsterdam:

https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/xd5w5n/what-its-really-like-to-be-an-amsterdam-prostitute

Posted by
306 posts

Your timing for Keukenhof is perfect.
I recommend going for a full day; you might hook up with a bus going there.
You can expect large crowds, some of which can be avoided if you go on a weekday.

By all means, take the train to Zaanse Shanse. It is a pleasant 15 minute walk from the train station.
You could combine it with your trip to Waterland for a full day.

Recommend the Blue Boat canal cruise,line, located near the museums and Vondelpark.
If you are early birds, try to Flower Market.

Since you are planning ahead, consider Martine's Table for one of your dinners in Amsterdam.
Reservations are required and you won't be disappointed.
Have fun!

Posted by
306 posts

Another thought:
Consider renting a house for the four of you.
We used VRBO and stayed out in Zaandam, about a 15 minute train ride from Centraal Station.
Our rental included the use of two bicycles.
It was a great little town, and a good getaway from the crowds in Amsterdam.

Posted by
27759 posts

You have picked a perfect time to visit, and Keukenhof will be at its peak.

Can I suggest that Keukenhof is so big and so full of so many beautiful things that you may very well decide that half a day really isn't quite enough.

You could cycle to and from Haarlem, through the Haarlemmer Bos down to Keukenhof. It is very scenic and you can cycle around the bulb fields going and coming.. There are cycle paths separate from car roads and pedestrian paths all the way down, and a few places where you will be on farm roads next to the canals.

Train is the way to Zaanse Schans. Or you could go down to between Rotterdam and Dordrecht and see a whole herd of windmills in situ at Kinderdijk. Look it up.

I agree with JC about the red light district. In these days of #MeToo it is unfortunate. And unpleasant.

Posted by
52 posts

Thanks everyone for all the comments / feedback. I really appreciate is.

To be honest, I haven’t done any reading / research on the red light district, but if that’s the case we will definitely skip that part. There are so many other beautiful areas to focus on instead. Yes, we are so excited about Keukenhof, that’s the reason we start our Euro trip in Amsterdam and not end it there as we will then be too late for the flowers.

We will definitely that the train then to Zaanse Schans (morning) and the afternoon travel to Waterland area. So with Keukenhof we have already 2 full days, 3rd day we will rent a bike and so some sightseeing along the Amstel River and the Canal Cruise.

Looking forward to our trip - 6 months from today we will be flying to AMS!! :)

Posted by
86 posts

Those Dam Boat Guys evening canal tour. Fantastic to see it all lit up. Great commentary, small group. Bring your own wine (or whatever).

Posted by
13524 posts

To gently defend the Red Light District....

De Wallen, as it's called locally, is one of the oldest parts of the city and has value both architecturally and historically. The oldest church in Amsterdam is here (Oude Kerk; Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia, is buried there and it has some really interesting misericords) as well as one of the prettiest waterways in the city. My favorite canal shot was taken one early morning of Oudezijds Achterburgwal from a bridge at Molensteeg, in the district. IMHO, a sunny, early morning, when it's quiet, is the best time for a walkabout of the architecture and leafy canal streets. As I recall, there wasn't any car parking along that section of Oudezijds Achterburgwal, which made it especially nice for the lens.

Speaking of lenses... Few of the workers will be plying their trade - as old a business here as the city itself - in the mornings so it's another reason for visitors who find that objectionable to go at that time of day. But day or night, it's strictly against protocol to take pictures of them: you can find yourself in big trouble if you do so restrict your shooting to benign subjects.

Anyway, I suggest some background reading before you go. Just a start:
http://www.amsterdam-red-light-district-maps.com/History.html
https://www.amsterdamredlightdistricttour.com/history-of-amsterdam/red-light-district-history/

Editing to add: I'm in no way ignoring the darker side of the sex industry nor is Amsterdam: the city itself has taken steps to aggressively crack down on trafficking in recent years. The city is also taking steps to curb bad tourist behavior in the RLD.

https://www.cntraveler.com/story/amsterdam-takes-aim-at-tourists-in-red-light-district

Posted by
1821 posts

I'm not sure how jet lag works coming from S. Africa but I'll assume your first day is getting adjusted. Take that first day to explore the area on foot. Keukenhof is closed on Easter so I'd plan all other activities around that. Zaanse Schans has been low on my list because it seems like a theme park. The RLD should definitely be on your list so you can form your own opinion. I'd consider a guided bike tour for your group through Waterland, worth it to maximize time and enjoyment. I know you said no museums but you ought to round out your trip with the Anne Frank Haus and Van Gogh museum and chances are the weather won't always be great so some indoor activities would be welcome. Take a hat that won't blow off your head into the canal and some gloves. A puffy coat is a must that time of year. Keukenhof, Anne Frank Haus and Van Gogh offer reservations that you should make well in advance.

Posted by
249 posts

My friends and I don't have a problem with jetlag upon arrival in Europe. Probably due to excitement.

If your group has traveled previously without jetlag upon arrival, here is a suggestion for Keukenhof Gardens visit:

We arrived at the airport about 9:30 am (from USA) and went to the gardens directly from the airport. There is a bus that goes from the airport to the gardens with no stops. If you go another day, you will be in Amsterdam and then have to head back to the airport before getting the bus. (There are other routes from Amsterdam, but similar situation, you will be traveling out of Amsterdam. Look at the locations on a map if you haven't already.) Going from the airport will save considerable time and also some transportation costs. The bus will return you to the airport. You can prepurchase admission/bus tickets ahead of time. There are eating options there also.

We arrived at the gardens at about 11 and stayed to about 4 pm and would have stayed longer if we had given a later arrival time to our bnb host. It probably was about 6:30 by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We did have minor delay at the airport while buying train tickets to Amsterdam. Not a real problem, but we stood in a line twice to ask questions. You can buy from kiosk with no lines.

Keukenhof has free luggage storage that couldn't be easier. As we approached the front gate, a person stepped out of an adjacent door (to the left, near restrooms) and said, "Here is where you leave your luggage". We didn't even have to look for it. We were there May 1, 2018, but email the gardens to verify the same storage is available in 2019.

Lynn

Posted by
11289 posts

For Keukenhof, get there as early as you can. By mid morning, the place is very crowded, and the indoor spaces are packed like a subway car at rush hour. I found the crowds meant I didn't particularly enjoy it; I'm in the minority, but some other posts here indicate that others also found the crowds oppressive.

One fascinating thing in the Red Light District is the Little Church In The Attic, built inside a canal house during a period when Catholics had to worship in secret. It's a double surprise: you don't expect a hidden church in the Red Light District, and you don't expect such a large church once you're inside the house.

Posted by
20 posts

Fun fact of the day: South Africa and the Netherlands are in the same time zone. Jet lag will not be an issue.

Posted by
228 posts

Hi Richard , You keep spelling Anne Frank Huis in GERMAN . A bit ironic considering what it's all about .
House in English
Huis in Dutch
Haus in German !

Posted by
334 posts

I used Get Your Guide for my bike travels through Amsterdam along the Amstel river out to a cheese farm. I am a solo traveler and it was a wonderful. It is a bit challenging riding in the city center getting out into the country and I was happy to be with someone who could help.
Also I have been using AirBNB Experiences with great success.