Day 7: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The ship reached port while I was still in Slumberland. It was a light sleep though as I could hear most of the maneuvering echoes through the steel walls of the exterior. It must have been around three or four in the early morning that we had finally reached Amsterdam and docked, as had finally fallen and I could continue to rest for a few more hours.
I had checked for points of interests in Amsterdam the day before while the ship was in transit from Duisburg. The weather had been fine, but the landscape on this section in particular was not the most appealing. At least, if you are not into one giant power plant after the other.
One thing I found a little bit stressful was the bad mobile reception inside the cabin. But for those of you who have free roaming in Europe, the lounge at the stern is a great way to spend planning the day ahead. The coffeemaker is in close reach and there are cookies and fruits to re-energize on.
I have been quite many times to Amsterdam before, but the city is so diverse and colorful, a week would not be enough to check out all the cool stuff on offer. Wherever it is culture, shopping or dining.
Most of the passengers were going on a trip to Keukenhof, which is an enormous outdoor park with millions and millions of flowers outside of Amsterdam. I have seen pictures later that evening and they surely were beautiful, but I was looking for something more urban to explore to make the most out of this full day in town.
So I had decided for a morning visit to the Royal Palace called Paleis op de Dam. It lies in walking distance (about 20 to 25 minutes from where the river cruise ships dock) and is open from 10am to 5pm daily (if not stated differently).
The palace is still in active use by the Dutch Royal House and was originally built as the City Hall in the 17th century. Therefore, not all of the interiors may be toured. Yet it is an entire floor and the main hall where important celebrations and banquets are held that are open to be explored.
I spent almost two and a half hours inside. Particularly if you are looking to take photographs in a more quiet surrounding, I suggest that you come right at 10am or later in the afternoon. The palace fills up quickly and lots of school classes come visit here as well.
There are altogether 17 rooms open to the public, each decorated and furnished elaborately with lots of gold, glittering chandeliers and precious woods and textiles.
Photo Gallery Paleis op de Dam
After the visit, I took a nice stroll through the Grachten back towards the ship for lunch. As I still had a little time, I made a stop at Westerkerk right opposite of the Anne Frank house. I found online that the bell tower can be visited and offers a great panoramic view over Amsterdam. But I learned, that only six people at once every half an hour may take this guided tour and that there were open tours not before the afternoon.
Westerkerk Photo Gallery
That worked out well for me though. I made a reservation at the desk for 3:30pm, paid the 8€ entry and continued back to the ship for a relaxed lunch. Afterwards, I strolled again through the wonderful neighborhoods before mounting up the highest bell tower in Amsterdam. The viewing platform may not be all the way up (87 meters in total), but from it you still have wonderful views over the entire city and the gorgeous skyline.
Magna Plaza Photo Gallery
On the way up, the tour guide also explained the most important basic data about the church itself, as well as about the bells and the carillon that are still is in use these days. He even gave a little sample of the sound of the carillon.
Exciting and sometimes even a little thrilling was the climb and later the descent again. The wooden stairs were so small, narrow and steep, that you really had to watch where you were going or what you were holding onto. Dramatic!
Other fascinating buildings and places that I managed to visit later on that day were the Bloemenmarkt, Theater Tuschinski and Magna Plaza (take the escalators up but then walk down the staircase behind the swinging doors on the side of the atrium, which is really beautiful).
Other than that, every part of Amsterdam is worth touring. There are trillions of cool boutiques, cafés and bars to explore, you won´t have enough time to try them all out.