What to Do, Where to Go in Amsterdam

Sunday, January 25, 2009

GETTING THERE: KLM Royal Dutch, Lufthansa, Northwest and United fly nonstop from Dulles to Amsterdam, starting currently at about $626, probably double that price in summer.

GETTING AROUND: Amsterdam is best explored by foot, bike and tram. If you rent a bike, be sure to lock it up, as about 10 percent of the city's approximately half-million bikes are stolen each year. Resist the urge to buy a cheap bike from an itinerant vendor; it is almost certainly stolen.

WHERE TO STAY: The NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (Dam 9, 011-31-20-5549111or 800-232-9860, http://www.nh-hotels.com), in the city center, has a fitness center and is near the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museums. Rooms start at about $192 per night.

For a stylish, comfy stay in a 1614 canal house, rent the place I did on the Gentleman's Canal (Herengracht 10, 011-32-472-932006, http://www.amsterdamcanalapartment.nl). Owner Steven Cras is very helpful. Note that this year, occasionally noisy renovations will take place at the adjacent house from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., weekdays only. The fully equipped apartment, which sleeps two or four in two bedrooms and has a beautiful canal view, rents for about $1,160 a week for two (an added $390 for two additional guests). Try Craigslist (click on "Amsterdam," then "vacation rentals") for last-minute deals on canal apartments and other accommodations. Also, http://www.amsterdamcanalapartments.com has a winter canal apartment special at about $995 a week.

WHERE TO EAT: Enjoy the canal-side summer terrace at the gallery-cafe Het Molenpad (Prinsengracht 653, 011-31-20-6259680). It's frequented by artists, some of whom have their work on the walls. Dinner features a mix of Mediterranean and Dutch flavors; lunch is sandwiches and salads ($8 and up). T' Blauwe (Vondelpark 5, 011-31-20-6620254) is a 1936 teahouse with a balcony that serves $8 lunches and cheese fondue ($20) for dinner.

WHAT TO DO: The Van Gogh Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7, Museumplein, 011-31-20-5705200, http://www3.vangoghmuseum.nl) houses the world's largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh and has exhibitions of 19th-century art and art history. Open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and until 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through June 7 (afterward, late hours are on Fridays only); closed Jan. 1. Admission about $16, ages 13-17 about $3.50. Satisfy your Rembrandt-craving at the impressive Rijksmuseum (Jan Luijkenstraat 1, Museumplein, 011-31-20-6747000, http://www.rijksmuseum.nl). Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and until 8:30 p.m. Fridays; closed Jan 1. Admission about $14 age 19 and older. The Anne Frank Museum (Prinsengracht 267, 011-31-20-5567100, http://www.annefrank.org) is in the canal-side warehouse that sheltered the Jewish Frank family during World War II, its life in hiding described in the diary that adolescent Anne left behind. Open daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (extended hours in late spring and summer), Saturdays till 10 p.m. Closed on Yom Kippur. Admission about $10, ages 10-17 about $5.

It's well worth taking a ride on the canals by boat. You can book a canal cruise, but shop around for non-tourist-trap prices. Better yet, rent your own small boat and explore the canals according to your whim. Renting a self-operated six-person-maximum "open boat" (essentially a large rowboat with an outboard motor) is about $65 for the first hour, about $52 for the second hour. A captained 12-person-maximum classic canal boat is about $254 per hour. Both from Amsterdam Boats (Korte Prinsengracht 44, 011-31-20-6247635, http://www.rentaboatamsterdam.com).

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Details on hotels, coffeehouses and just about everything else can be found at I Amsterdam (http://www.iamsterdam.com/en), the official Amsterdam Tourist Board Web site.

-- W.P.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company