Amsterdam (Photo:Brian Kinney/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Amsterdam

There is a fairytale quality to the tree-lined canal streets of Amsterdam. Boutiques, cafes, apartments and hotels may hide behind the facades of the gabled townhouses, but the look of this beautiful old city has not changed much since its 17th-century Golden Age. Some 7,000 historic buildings remain, many of them beautiful merchants' mansions, located along canals that are laid out in five concentric circles, connected by bridges and intriguing small streets. No matter how many times you walk along the canals, they are enchanting to see, even when traffic and whizzing bicycles dispel the Old-World illusion. On a silent Sunday morning or on a summer evening when the old facades are floodlit, the city is magical.

About Amsterdam


Pro

Amsterdam is charming and easy to navigate, and most people speak English

Con

There's way too much to see and do in just one day

Bottom Line

Plan ahead to maximize time in port during your visit


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Amsterdam is small enough that much of the city can be covered on foot, allowing visitors to savor sights such as the charming no-two-alike gables atop the houses, houseboats bedecked with potted greenery and masses of blooms in the colorful, floating flower market. Shops offering antiques and avant-garde art beckon everywhere. Outdoor markets, selling everything from postage stamps and parakeets to "junk-tiques," are another intriguing facet of the city.

Considered one of Europe's major art capitals, Amsterdam boasts three great Dutch museums as well as a branch of the Hermitage, the famous trove of art treasures in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Anne Frank House and Rembrandt's home are also popular attractions. In the performing arts, the city has two international stars: the National Ballet and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. (A 2008 poll from classical music magazine Gramophone called the latter the world's best.)

The canal streets of the old city are protected by ordinance and will never change, but Amsterdam is expanding outward and architecture buffs will find both modern and historic neighborhoods to explore. Though quite close to the old city, Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA), known as "the wave" for its free-form facade (shaped like a whale), is the part of the Eastern Docklands area where shipping docks have given way to neighborhoods of striking contemporary design that now house more than 20,000 people. Muziekgebouw aan het IJ, a concert hall for jazz and modern music, is adjacent to the terminal, and ongoing construction will bring many more amenities, including hotels.

With so much to see and do, Amsterdam makes for a rewarding stay before or after cruising.

Where You're Docked

The Amsterdam cruise terminals are busy in season, hosting more than 200 oceangoing vessels and more than 1,800 river ships that carry more than 786,000 passengers from spring through fall.

If you're on an ocean cruise, you'll dock at one of two areas. The Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA), near the start of the new Eastern Docklands development, is a 10-minute walk or a five-minute ride from Central Station, where all of the city's bus, trolley and boat lines can be boarded. The second terminal area is Felison Terminal, which recently added a second berth. This area is located just in front of the locks.

The city's multitude of river cruise vessels dock behind the Central Station on the River IJ, along a long street called de Ruyterkade.

Good to Know

The Red Light District can get a bit rowdy at night, with the mobs coming out to pay their respect for various reasons. Amsterdam visitors should also be aware that the term "coffee shop" has a different meaning here; these are places where no hard liquor is sold, but the sale of marijuana is officially tolerated.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The Netherlands is part of the European community, and the euro is the official currency. For up-to-the-minute conversions, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.

Bank hours are typically Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.; on Mondays, some banks are open only in the afternoon. ATM's are plentiful; a machine can be found just to the left as you exit the cruise terminal, as well as at the airport, train station and dozens of banks. When out and about, look for the ubiquitous lion symbol (IMG ATM's). Credit cards are widely accepted.

Language

Dutch is the official language, but English is the second language of the Netherlands and is spoken everywhere.

Shopping

Delicate Delft china is one of Holland's best-known products; it can be found both in traditional blue and white and in multi-color designs. Gardeners will want to order famous Dutch tulip bulbs, which are shipped to buyers at the proper planting time. Delicious Dutch cheeses can be bought at the airport, as well as in town. The hand-worked, aged Gouda is a special treat. Amsterdam is also an international diamond-cutting center, with many showrooms offering competitive prices on diamonds.