JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH TEA GUDEK SNAJDAR FROM AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS!
Tea Gudek Snajdar is an Amsterdam based travel blogger. She writes about art and culture in European destinations in her blog Culture Tourist. When travelling she likes to visit museums, local art and design shops and chat with local people. She also organises private art tours in some museums in Amsterdam, and creates colouring postcards within her project ‘Drawing the art of Europe’.
The Kingdom of Netherlands is made up of twelve provinces. Netherlands is often referred to as Holland, however Holland makes up only the two provinces of Noord-Holland or North Holland and Zuid-Holland or South Holland which lie on the west coast of the country. Home to river Amstel, 165 canals, 2500 houseboats and the oldest stock exchange in the world, Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands.
The famous Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel once said that the whole world is built around Amsterdam. It has some of the narrowest houses in the world, the reason being in the past taxes were calculated depending on the width of the house. In Amsterdam most of the houses are tilted too since they were warehouses earlier which required goods to be hoisted to the upper floors.
Amsterdam is as beautiful in the night as in daylight since it has a Night Mayor, whose role is to promote creative and safe, nightlife. There is a cat sanctuary in Amsterdam which floats, and you can pet the cats there.
When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is quite popular the whole year around. However, many people are visiting it during April, because of the tulips and flower fields that are in full bloom then. Peak season is between June and September. Winters are mild but can get cold and wet. I think Amsterdam is the most beautiful in a Springtime and to avoid the crowds I would suggest visiting it in May.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is famous for its bicycles, and most of the locals are using them as a way of transportation every day. On crowded streets and also on pedestrian zones one is expected to push the bike while walking instead of riding it. However, if you’re not very skillful in riding it, I wouldn’t recommend riding a bicycle in the center of Amsterdam. Some companies from whom you can hire a bike are Donkey Republic, Bike City, Mac Bike etc. For some of them you can find a bike nearby and unlock it with their app.
There are buses, trams and metro service in the city. Buses are mainly used for reaching the suburbs. Trams work until 12.15 am and after that you can avail night buses from 12:30 am until 7 am. To reach the distant suburbans use the metro which currently has four lines, three of which starts from the central station. The metro network opens every day at 6 am and closes at 12:30 am. You can use OV-chipkaart which provides you with unlimited travel on all trams, buses and metros throughout Amsterdam. According to your need purchase a single day or a multiple days card. Since, Amsterdam is quite small you can easily walk everywhere you want.
Schiphol Airport is well connected with Amsterdam. There is a train stop below the airport (Platforms 1 and 2) , and you can catch a train to Amsterdam from there. Amsterdam Central Station is the city’s main train station. You can buy a ticket at one of the yellow machines at the airport. And the journey is only around fifteen minutes long.
What are the top three must visit places in Amsterdam?
Not really a place, but definitely a must see in Amsterdam are its canals. I love taking a canal cruise and explore them on one of the boats. They were built during the Dutch Golden Ages in the 17th Century and are under the UNESCO protection today. Herengracht, Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht & Singel are consiered the most prominent canals in Amsterdam.
Museumplein is Amsterdam’s art district where all the major museums are. It’s also one of the biggest green areas in the city, so definitely beautiful for exploring. Many locals love sunbathing or meeting with friends there on a sunny day. Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, which are among the best museums in Europe, are also there. If you happen to visit the Rijksmuseum on a Saturday, to draw your attention towards the art displayed there you will be provided with a pen and a notebook so you can draw what you see. Located at the back of the museum is the ‘I Amsterdam’ logo which is also one of the most photographed site in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest collection paintings and letters of Van Gogh.
Dam Square, the main square in Amsterdam and a place where the city was founded back in the Middle Ages. This is where all the events of national importance in Amsterdam are held. The National Monument there has urns filled with War Cemetery soil in order to remember the ones who died during second world war. The most impressive building there is the Royal Palace. But, you can also see the Nieuwe Kerk, a beautiful Gothic church that’s today used as a gallery space. The oldest hotel in Amsterdam, Hotel Krasnapolsky and some other interesting sights.
If you have a couple of days in hand you can buy the I Amsterdam card which gives you free access to over forty attractions including canal cruise and public transport. The only popular attraction which is not included in the card is The Anne Frank House where Anne Frank lived for two years in hiding with her parents during WWII. You can buy it from sales points like Visitor Centre at Stationsplein, Schipol airport, the I Amsterdam store, your hotels or online.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Amsterdam?
It’s really easy to travel around the Netherlands. With its excellent train service, you can visit Hague, the home of the royal family and the city of International Peace and Justice or Giethoorn, the Venice of the Netherlands or cheese towns like Alkmaar. Many beautiful places could be easily visited on a day trip from Amsterdam.
Zaanse Schans – (a half an hour with a train) A small village where you can see and visit many traditional Dutch windmills. It has been given a look of an 18th century Dutch village by relocating windmills and wooden houses there. Apart from the windmills there are many souvenir shops, artisan workshops demonstrating wooden clog carving, barrel making and pewter casting, restaurants where you can taste authentic cheese.
Haarlem – (15 minutes with a train) A traditional Dutch town, with a beautiful Medieval historical centre. You can visit the Big Church or St. Bavokerk which is the official cathedral of Haarlem where Mozart and many other musicians played tunes or you can relax at Jopenkerk, a church converted into a bar & restaurant. You can spend half of your day there. And catch a train again (15 minutes) to get to the beach at Zandvoort.
Rotterdam – (1,15 h with a train) Almost completely destroyed during the second world war, Rotterdam was completely rebuilt after it. And it’s today a modern architecture hub. Rotterdam is famous for the Erasmus Bridge and the Cube House. It’s a lovely city with a great vibe, excellent restaurants and a fantastic street art scene.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Amsterdam?
That’s definitely the King’s Day or ‘Koningsdag’ in Dutch. It’s a celebration of the Dutch king’s birthday, and current king Willem-Alexander is celebrating it on April 27th. It’s a day when the whole city is becoming a huge flea market. It’s the only day of the year when you can trade with whatever you want without having to pay a tax on it. Numerous parties are organised around the city. And all the people are dressed in orange colours. It’s definitely the biggest party of the year in the Netherlands.
What is the most loved local food of Amsterdam? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
Seafood is quite popular in Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general. You’re going to find many fish stands selling seafood. A local speciality is a raw herring, and it’s something you should try when in Amsterdam.
A local cookie that’s also very popular is a stroopwafel. It’s a cookie made of two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling.
Amsterdam is absolutely a vegetarian-friendly city. There are many vegan and vegetarian restaurants around. However, many regular restaurants are also offering tasty vegetarian meals, as well.
Where to head for shopping in Amsterdam?
One of the most famous markets in Amsterdam is it’s Flower Market, located on the Singel canal. Definitely, a must see place for anyone visiting Amsterdam.
‘The Nine Streets’ in Jordaan area and a place popular among the locals, as well. It is located just behind the Dam Square, on the way from Anne Frank museum to Rijksmuseum. In those nine streets, you can find many local shops, designers and some cute cafes, too. It is great place to spend your time in.
And Kalverstraat is a busy shopping street in Amsterdam where you can find popular brands of clothes, shoe shops and departmental stores. A great combination of international and local shopping, Kalverstraat also provides lots of entertainment opportunities.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Amsterdam?
There are many souvenirs you can find in Amsterdam.
Wooden clogs (klomps) are really popular as a souvenir from Amsterdam. You can find them in any size and colour. Being known for its flowers, tulip bulbs are also a nice souvenir to bring home with you. If stored correctly, it can be kept for around an year but when planted it needs cold winters to grow.
And some of my favourite souvenirs are Dutch cheese and stroopwafels, so I would definitely recommend getting some of those when in Amsterdam. Netherlands is the largest cheese exporter in the world an Gouda is the best known Dutch Cheese. The other famous cheeses of Netherlands are followed by Edam, Maasdam, Boerenkaas an Leyden.
Which are the best streets of Amsterdam worthy of taking a stroll on?
My favourite thing to do in Amsterdam is just strolling around the city and enjoying its beautiful architecture. Its canal belt is really impressive, so taking a walk along the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht is definitely something I would recommend you to do.
Jordaan district is really picturesque, and any street there looks like it was taken from a postcard. It’s 17th century houses, little alleys and narrow canals provides a lot of photo opportunities.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Amsterdam?
One of my favourite city views is from the SkyLounge bar at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel next to the Amsterdam central train station. You can see the whole historical centre from there. And it’s especially beautiful to come there and watch the sunset.
Would you suggest any shows in Amsterdam to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
Amsterdam is home to some fantastic museums. So paying a visit to the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum is definitely a must.
Het Concertgebouw which translates to the concert building in English is a place to go for some classical music. They have free lunch, and it’s something very popular among the locals in Amsterdam.
You won’t find many street art at a very city centre, because the majority of those pretty canal houses are protected. But, if you’ll go to the Amsterdam Noord, West or De Pijp area you’re going to find plenty of it.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Amsterdam?
Yes! An excellent app for public transport (in the whole country) is 9292. You can simply write your location and a place you would like to go, and you’re going to get all the best travel options.
Another one is the Buienalarm, which is predicting precisely the weather in the next few hours. It’s often raining in Amsterdam so that app is coming in very handy when planning your outdoor activities.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Amsterdam?
Netherlands uses 230 volts AC . It’s difficult to find a converter that change 110-120 volts to 220-240 volts in whole of Netherlands. You might just carry one for your need.
Tap water is safe to drink here. Carry bottles to refill. Public toilets are chargeable in Netherlands.
Amsterdam tends to get overcrowded, so avoid visiting it during the peak season.
Walk around the city and enjoy its architecture and canals and do go outside the city centre. Amsterdam is so much more than the canal houses.
Explore more of the local neighbourhoods like De Pijp or Noord. And don’t forget to enjoy!