Monthly Archives

March 2016

Travel

Cruising on the Eastside

March 16, 2016

Roest swings

This is my last Amsterdam post. I have noticed that I could just go on and on and on with this topic, because Amsterdam is so lively, full of great places to eat, play and explore … and because I miss Amsterdam. Always when I see a picture or a video from there I cannot help but thinking that I want to live there again. I’m happy to be back in Finland and Helsinki, it feels right, but I’m afraid Amsterdam has stolen a piece of my heart for the rest of my life. I will just have to learn to live with it. Oh life! So here it goes…

The first destinations of this tour are not in the east, but actually in the centre, although they are on the way to the east from the Central Station. You should start your day visiting the famous OBA Central Library. The Central Library has a fantastic children’s department in the ground floor (or more like on the -1 floor). There are of course lots and lots of books to read, big armchairs were you can sit down, a tiny tepee where to play, small exhibitions for kids and last but not least the fantastic Muizenhuis – a miniature mouse house – that you could stare at for hours and hours taking in all the beautiful details. Upstairs in the Library there is a cafeteria La Place with nice lunch options (you will definitely find something for your kids from here as well, the selection is so big) and a terrace with cool views over Amsterdam.

One of the greatest museums for kids in Amsterdam is the Science Center Nemo. My two year-old learned to recognize the ship-shaped building from far away very quickly and would always point at it: “I want to go there”. It is really designed for kids, so there are a lot of things they can do themselves (build dams in a metal trough, make massive soap bubbles, construct windmills or sailboats etc. – the activities change). I have spent there 1,5–2 hours easily with a two year old and for older kids there is even more entertainment. Because the place is so awesome, it does get crowded during weekends and holidays. However, I would go there anyway. In the summertime you can enjoy the sun at the “ship’s” top terrace and there is a paddling pool with toys for kids. It’s Heaven on Earth!

If you continue a little further to East from Nemo, you will come to the Maritime Museum. I thought (my bad, I know) this would be a very boring place to go and went there for the first time with my friend, because I knew there would be booze and a Museumnacht party. We ended up spending a couple of hours there just exploring the exhibition. Later I went there several times with my girl to see the basic exhibition again and especially the old ship they have in front of the museum and once to a whale special exhibition. The Maritime Museum is maybe not as obviously fun as Nemo for kids, but it is definitely worth a visit and better than you would think.

After running in museums you will need some easy, relaxing time and food. Continue even further to east to a beautiful bohemian restaurant and city beach called Roest. At the back of the city beach area they have a combination of a jungle gym and swings. It’s not any standard plastic jungle gym, but a self-made wooden gym with ropes, swings and hanging car tyres (see the top picture!). Very entertaining both for adults and kids! If you have some shovels and buckets with you, you can easily spend an entire afternoon playing, eating and drinking here.

I assume this would be day two or three already when you hop on your bike and go to see the Amsterdam Artis Zoo. There are plenty of things to see here, but what I especially like about it is that it is not too big. I have been to Artis so many times, both in the pre-child and post-child eras, that I now know the place like my own pockets. If you are hungry already when you step in, on the right side of the entrance there is a small petting zoo where you can buy poffertjes (tiny pancakes) before starting off. At the back of the zoo there is a huge jungle gym with long slides that your kids will love. There is also a place where they can play with water (there is a water pump they can use). This said, if you plan to go there – and you will if they see the place – take a pair of boots or/and an extra set of clothes with you. In front of the playground there is a restaurant with a terrace called Cheetah. It’s also ok to eat your own food at the terrace. At least I’ve done that several times and no one complained. In general Dutch always have their own sandwiches with them and they eat them wherever they want. It’s like a basic human right in the Netherlands: the right to eat your lunch sandwich wherever you want whenever you want (can also happen while biking). My favourite places in Artis are the Butterfly and Monkey Houses.

Very close to the Artis Zoo is the Botanical Garden. It is not a big place, but it’s beautiful and cosy with a little cafeteria where you can go get breakfast and lunch. It’s definitely a good place to start your morning or have a little rest during the day.

If you are dreaming of a little beach holiday, your dreams come true further away in the east on a bohemian city beach called Blijburg. I always recommend biking, but you can get there by tram as well. In the summer time there is at least one restaurant at the beach to serve you drinks and food.

However, if you are dreaming of beaches on a bigger scale, then I would recommend you go to Zandvoort aan Zee. That’s NOT East Amsterdam, but it is a little town by the North Sea to the West.

Zandvoort

The train from Amsterdam takes about 40 minutes, and the walk from the train to the beach 5-10 minutes. The beaches are endless and clean and hardly ever crowded and the restaurants offer nice food. Check out beach club Far Out for a chilled out beachfront terrace with good music. Like I said in the beginning, I could go on and on with writing about Amsterdam and the fun things you can do there and in the nearby areas and yes, now I find myself writing about Zandvoort. I simply cannot NOT mention Zandvoort, because I’ve been there soooo many times and spent there such historical moments as my last “childless” holiday and my girl’s first birthday. Anyway, it has to be my last tip for this series…. for now. J Go to Amsterdam! Go and enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Travel

Culture and Countryside trip to the North of Amsterdam

March 1, 2016

bike path noord

When we moved to Amsterdam we did our first longer bike trips to the district Amsterdam Noord – the North of Amsterdam – and then we went again, and again and again over the years. When you cross the IJ on one of the free ferries (“pontjes”), and the bikes and scooters zoom off to the horizon from the boat, you can already feel how the busyness of the central Amsterdam fades away. You suddenly find space for your thoughts and for your own bike on the bike lane.

The boats to the North leave from behind Central Station and the ride to the other side is free. There are three different boats so pay attention which one you get onto!

The boat to the NDSM takes you to the old shipyards where you can find one of the best flea markets in Europe, IJ-Hallen. It’s open once per month (Sat and Sun). There is a small entry fee but if you are into second hand and flea markets, it’s worth it. Take some coins with you to pay your entry fee, because then you will most likely not have to queue: you can pay your ticket with an even sum to a guy who will walk next to the line and tell that if you have cash, you can just pay him and walk in.

After the market you should go and check out a couple of the nice, bohemian bars and restaurants in the area. First, there is Pllek that also has a city beach in front of the restaurant in summer time and Noorderlicht a little further away, because it is just an amazing place. Check some pics from here so you will understand!

For the bike trips we always took the boat to Buiksloterweg which is just opposite Central Station and the boat trip takes less than five minutes. The architecturally amazing film museum EYE is just to the left when you reach the North side and is definitely worth a visit even if you are not interested in the exhibitions (read = if your little ones are not interested, because why would you not be interested in movies otherwise??). Inside the EYE building there is a beautiful amphitheatre and big windows facing towards the water and Amsterdam, so you can see the city from a new point of view. You can always find people hanging around there, talking, having drinks and resting their feet. At the bottom of the amphitheatre there is a restaurant and if the weather is good, there is a large terrace outside, obviously, with the most amazing views.

From EYE you can go back to where you arrived on the boat and follow the canal along Buiksloterweg all the way to Noorderpark. There are a lot of events organized in the park and a lovely and quite adventurous wooden jungle gym for kids where you can even cross a little canal on a swaying bridge. Close to the jungle gym there is a tiny cafeteria called Noorderpark Bar which is open on Sundays (also every Sunday there is music and programme for kids!). They serve drinks and some food and snacks. We went once to Noorderpark to see a little local circus group perform and it was a massively successful family trip, not least because the show lasted only about half an hour which is the perfect time for a two year olds attention span.

A little further down the canal at Noordhollandschkanaaldijk 19 there is a lovely petting zoo with sheep, chicken, ponies & some toys for kids as well. If you make it here with little kids you can already congratulate yourself and maybe turn back towards the ferry. However, IF you and your kids are hardcore bikers (or you have a bakfiets where the little ones can take a nap) you can make it a real adventure and bike all the way to Durgerdam. It’s about 10 kilometers to the east. There are great bike paths and already on this small trip you will see the beauty of Dutch countryside and this charming tiny village by the sea will not disappoint you. It is just one line of old wooden houses facing the sea, behind them are just the flat fields – it is so, so beautiful! We always had a break at De Oude Taveerne at Durgerdammerdijk 73. They have a nice terrace/pier where you can have your drinks and snacks and in the summer you can take a dip in the water from the pier as well.

durgerdam pier

The shortest way back to Amsterdam is about 7 kilometers, so it is not a trip for everyone, but if you are up for a challenge and some sweating, this is your chance to see a bit of “The Netherlands” as well during your trip to Amsterdam which is hardly a representation of the rest of the country.

Also good to know: tram number 26 takes you relatively close to Durgerdam if you want to make a bike-tram combo tour there.