A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As much as I like bright lights and big cities, I have to admit that I’ve generally avoided Amsterdam as much as possible since moving to the Netherlands. Why? Well, after being in London for 3 years (crowded commute into the centre everyday, grumpy locals and oblivious tourists), Leiden has been a welcome breath of fresh air, quiet and slow-paced
life. Of course I miss the amazing range of food and nightlife a larger city offers, but fresh stroopwafels at the market on a Saturday morning and being able to walk to uni from my house in about 5 minutes are hard qualities to beat. There are, however, times when a trip to Amsterdam is necessary. Visiting friends always want to experience the infamous city, and there are some things (like music venues) that are just that much better in Amsterdam. So, over the last week I’ve found myself there twice, and there were some really great things that I thought I’d share.
Arriving at Amsterdam Central Station and aiming towards the centre of town and the museums can mean the dreaded walk of shame along that awful street between the station and the Dam Square. You know the one – sex museum, the worst souvenir shops, overpriced fast food, stoned tourists lurching haphazardly in front of you with their wobbly suitcases tripping you up, making your progress irritatingly slow. Fun, perhaps, the first time I went to Amsterdam. Not fun, at all, every subsequent trip. But I realized the simple, blindingly obvious solution, other than avoid it entirely: walk on the other side of the road! On the left-hand side you are free to walk with ease, and you even pass the stock exchange and at this time of year you can check out the more interesting Christmas window displays at the Bijenkorf department store. I feel like an idiot for not having realized this before.
One more thing to do at the moment in Amsterdam is book a ticket online the day before and then head on over to the
Rijksmuseum. It’s been closed for renovation for ages now, but it does have a small exhibition (400 exhibits) of the ‘greats’ of the Dutch Golden Age. A bit pricey at €14, but hey, coming face to face with a load of Rembrandts and Vermeers, and a massive model Dutch ship, is a great way to spend an hour or so. We went on Friday at around 11:30, and it was pretty busy then, so maybe try to get there a little earlier. Ordering the tickets in advance saves a bit of a wait at the entrance.
Finally, if you get the chance to see some live music at Paradiso, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Robyn, Yuri and I had a mini Leidener evening out to see UK singer Bat for Lashes on Tuesday night, so after quickly grabbing take-out pasta at Leiden Centraal Station, we hopped on a train, squeezed on a tram, and were soon at the venue. Paradiso is in an old church, and the main hall is pretty spectacular, with back-lit stained glass
windows as part of the lighting display. There are two levels of balconies above the stage, so we found some standing space on the first level, directly facing the stage so we had a fantastic view of the band and their many instruments. We were, however, right in front of the bar, and the most cutting point of a beautiful ballad was invaded by the bar tender announcing to a customer “that’ll be 15 euros, mate.”
Like I said, I’m not a frequent visitor to Amsterdam, but I really did have a good time this last week. Any Amsterdammers out there with some tips and suggestions for next time?