The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


Amsterdam – the Best of Europe’s Canal Cities

Author: Drumnotes (More Trip Reviews by Drumnotes)
Date of Trip: December 2002

Amsterdam is a city of canals, restaurants, museums, and a cool attitude and ambience all its own. Despite a “sin city” reputation, it is quite middle-class and offers attractions for older tourists who are not easily offended.

Golden Tulip Barbizon Palace
This upscale hotel provided a large, newly furnished room with three phones, one next to the toilet. Unfortunately, as soon as we moved in, the phones began ringing and eventually had to be ripped out to stop the ringing. However, the location was wonderful for sightseeing, as it was right across from the Centraal Station, where you can catch canal boats for tours as well as public transportation. The hotel has two excellent restaurants, with prices comparable to those in the U.S. We had a wonderful dinner, and the waiter was delightful and helpful. The breakfast buffet (ours was included with the room rate) was excellent and hearty, with many selections. I have only seen one better in Europe.

Service in the hotel was cheerful and polite. The very nice gift shop has good souvenir-type gifts and quite good quality.

I noticed that on a weekend evening, gay men seemed to frequent the bar and perhaps the more expensive restaurant. One looked like he had jusy stepped out of Brideshead Revisited.

The hotel is located in a commercial area rather than one of brown cafes or the red-light area. It is an upscale hotel for business travelers and some tourists, but is quiet and does not bustle with tour groups.

Canal boat tour:
The canal tour boat has several stops near the most popular sights, where you can get off and explore and then get back on and float to the next sight. The major stops are Anne Frank’s House, the museums, the Flower Market, and the Red Light District. Whether you get off or not, it is worth the trip to see the sights pointed out. Be sure to get an early start, as the museums and the other sights may take some time. The Rijksmuseum has the most famous collection of old Dutch Masters and is must-see. At the same canal boat stop is the Van Gogh Museum, another important sight.

Even if you are not a gardener, everyone enjoys the Flower Market. It is a good place to find inexpensive souvenirs and a hearty lunch of Dutch sandwiches and beer.

If you are after a little adventure, you will want to stop at the Red Light District. Watch your wallet and passport. Also, photographing is frowned on.

The “brown” cafes are popular with the young tourists, based on the belief the marijuana sales are legal. They are not, but are generally ignored. Lately, there have been raids because of stronger drugs being sold.

Amsterdam is notorious for the aboveboard gay life, and it is pretty obvious. The city attracts gays from all over the world and alternative lifestyles are quite visible.

Rent a Live-aboard Canal Boat
The live-aboard boats along the canals make you want to rent one for your next vacation. When you check out the ads for them, you’ll be even more convinced. Many are very luxurious, complete with every convenience. They go for about $1,000 a week. This is quite a bargain if you are bringing children or are traveling as a group, as it is cheaper than hotel rooms and you can prepare some or all of your own meals on the boat. You also can sit out on your deck and watch the world go by.

You can find the ads and information by using a search engine and keying in “Amsterdam” and “Canal Boats.” The sites have pictures and descriptions of boats for rent. They also have articles and people telling about their experiences renting a canal boat. Even if you never rent one, you can enjoy it vicariously at the site. Apartments are also listed. Everything is furnished for the renter.

The narrator on our tour boat said that musicians favor living on the canal boats–so you may have some free music with your boat.

Please don’t take the canal boat across from the Rijksmuseum–I want that one!

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From