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December in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam canal with small boats, during day time

Travel in December has become a tradition for us a few years ago. Despite the cold and the rain, the magic of the holiday season makes traveling special and turns all cities even more beautiful.
In Portugal, December 1st and 8th are holidays, so we always travel on these dates.
For this year (2017) we chose Amsterdam, a city that was already in our bucket list for some time.
Before describing all the wonders of this city I have to admit that I was a bit discouraged by the lack of Christmas atmosphere I encountered. In recent years, at this time, I have traveled through Germany, France and Belgium and it was WONDERFUL!


Ice rink situated at Museum Square
Museumplein

In Amsterdam the streets were illuminated, I found the ice rink in "Museum Square" (Museumplein), and the light festival was already taking place, but I missed the Christmas Magic and the lovely Christmas markets I have already found in other European cities. But we traveled early in the month so, maybe with the approach of Christmas day the city will become more and more magical.

Dam, one of main squares in Amesterdam, with christmas lights
Dam

Transportation

We flew from Porto to Amsterdam (Schiphol), with Vueling, on a Thursday evening. The transfer from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station is quite simple and fast. It can be quickly  made by train in just 20 minutes.
At the airport you can find automatic ticket purchasing machines but also an information desk.
We chose to buy for 26€ the "Amsterdam Travel Ticket", valid for 3 days after the first check-in. So, this ticket is valid from the moment you check in for the first time until 04:00 AM on the morning after the final day that it is valid. This ticket allows you to use the train, 15 tram lines, 4 metro lines and 5 ferry routes. With this ticket you can reach all the main attractions on city centre and it includes unlimited travel to and from Schiphol Airport.
All tickets have to be validated at the entrance and exit, on machines that are easily identified. The ticket also comes with an handy map, where you can find all the places of interest and all the different transport lines near them.
There are different types of tickets, with more or less days, only including Amsterdam or also the surrounding regions. At the airport, consult the information desk and choose the best option for you. For example, if you are planning to spend a few days in Amsterdam, why not see what surrounds the capital? With 2 and 3 day Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket, it's easy to see what lies beyond the city center. You can visit Zaanse Schans and step back in time to the old Dutch world of windmills and chocolate, or if your trip is in the spring you can visit the tulip fields of the Keukenhof. You can see here my post about Zaanse Schans.
blue 3 days amesterdam travel ticket and map
Amsterdam Travel Ticket valid for 3 days - 26€ per person
If you want to visit any of the zones that are not included on Amsterdam Center, even if it's only one, I recommend that you make your math before deciding on the Travel ticket to buy. In our case, since we visited only the Zaanse Schans windmills, we did not bought the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket because the difference between them was 7,5€ and we payed 7,20€ each for the extra ticket from Amsterdam Central Station to Zaandijk Zaanse Schans station.

The tickets prices are:
Type / days Amsterdam  Amsterdam & Region
1 day
16 €
18,5 €
2 days
21 €
26 €
3 days
26 €
33,5 €
We stayed in Amsterdam until Sunday morning, and during this weekend it was possible to realize that it is a city with an excellent transport system, easy to navigate, with beautiful canals and numerous points of interest.

Leidseplein Square during day time
Leidseplein

In the map below you can find all the points that I studied and pointed out before the trip and that I had the purpose to visit. Generally, I always do this study before each trip and I point out on the map, with different icons by category, the places that interest me the most.

 

Main Attractions

Here you can find a brief description of the main places to visit. The remaining points of interest are marked on the map:

1. Heineken Experience: Beer is the most popular drink in the Netherlands, just like at my home so, my visit to the Heineken Experience was inevitable. This museum is super interactive, dynamic and filled with new technologies. In the end, you get to know the whole manufacturing process and you have the opportunity to taste 2 glasses of the best that Heineken has to offer: BEER! (Admission: 16€, using a discount of 2€ via Booking.com)
Lots of people Toasting with beer at Heineken Experience
Heineken Experience

Tourists tapping a beer at Heineken Experience
Heineken Experience
2. Anne Frank Museum: The story of Anne Frank and her family is well known around the world: a family of Jews living in Amsterdam, then occupied by the Germans. A visit to this museum is a must. It is an unforgettable history lesson. To guarantee the visit you must in advance purchase the tickets online (the adult ticket costs 9€). While you are waiting for the time of your visit, you can find the ideal place to relax and enjoy some delicious pancakes, "Pancakes Amsterdam", which is right next to Anne Frank's house.
Delicious pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam
Pancakes Amsterdam 
3. Bloemenmarkt: Without a doubt, tulips are one of Holland's trademark images. In December it is not possible to enjoy the wonderful fields, but it is possible to visit this market that sells flowers, seeds, bulbs, souvenirs, etc.
One of the flower dhops in Bloemenmarkt
Bloemenmarkt
4. Vondelpark: Public park, which pays homage to the Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel, has about 45 acres of green and leisure area. It is located near the "Museum Square" (Museumplein) and is worth the visit, even in cold weather. If you are hungry and freezing, you can do as I did and visit the restaurant Vondel Park 3, and taste a delicious tomato soup with or without meatballs.
Delicious tomato soap from Vondel Park 3 Restaurant
Vondel Park 3 Restaurant

Vondelpark lake
Vondelpark
5. Museumplein: It is the cultural center of Amsterdam, where you will find the most famous museums of the city: Rikjsmuseum; Van Gogh Museum; Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. If you only have time for one museum, choose the Van Gogh Museum, the most visited and recommended. In this square you can also find the famous sculpture with the letters that form the expression I Amsterdam (always full of tourists!).
Rikjsmuseum and museum garden
Rikjsmuseum
6. Red Light District: This is one of the city's great spots, that attracts millions of visitors. It is situated in a charming neighborhood, where you will find several windows with a red light, indicating the presence of a prostitution spot. In this neighborhood you will see lots of tourists, sex shops, coffeeshops; etc.
Red Light District with the canal in middle of the streets
Red Light District
7. Amsterdam at night: It is worth visiting the city at night, as it gains another charm and offers options for all tastes. On one of the nights, we happened to meet a bar called "The Waterhole", which is located in the city center, near Leidseplein. We ended up dining at this bar and watching a live rock concert. It was super fun.
a live rock concert at The Waterhole Bar
The Waterhole
8. CoffeeShops: It is no secret to anyone how liberal this city is, and much of that freedom is related to the famous coffeshops, where light drugs are freely sold. During our stay in Amsterdam we visited one coffeeshop of the famous Bulldog chain (Bulldog Havri in Leidseplein) and we tried the famous space cakes. In this place you are not allowed to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, because they sell several types of weed and you need to buy from them. You will find a menu where several drugs are available for consumption in house or to take. While inside, if you breath deeply, you can get a free sample :)
2 coffees and 1 space cake at Bulldog Havri coffeeshop
Bulldog Havri

To sum up,

Amsterdam has many more attractions and points of interest, some of them highlighted on the map above. Fell free to use the comments section below to ask any questions you have about these places or about restaurants and hotels. In another post I will talk about our trip to Zaanse Schans, a typical Dutch village, very close to Amsterdam, with beautiful mills and tasty delicacies. When in doubt, travel to Amsterdam, get lost in the streets and canals and be careful to not get hit by any bicycle :)

Grace

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