Amsterdam in a Nutshell – 18 Experiences in 48 Hours

Amsterdam in a Nutshell – 18 Experiences in 48 Hours

Amsterdam in 48 hours – A perfect European City break

Amsterdam in a nutshell - a perfect European City break
Amsterdam bridges and canals – an inviting scene

Take a trip to Amsterdam and you will find that it is a city like none other! Amsterdam is a City that portrays the “anything goes” image – from prostitution that is tolerated openly and the use of cannabis in fashionable coffee shops. Amsterdam is also a seductive City, often referred to as the Venice of the North because of its canals and bridges. It is popular for its fairy-tale landscape which offers so much to see and experience from windmills, gingerbread houses and museums to marijuana, cheese and tulips. It makes a perfect destination for an amazing European City Break, and in this article, Amsterdam in a nutshell, brings together 18 experiences which can easily be had for a memorable 48 hours.

Where is Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands, a country in northwestern Europe. The country is more popularly known as Holland.

Amsterdam can be found at:

52° 22′ 12.7776” N and 4° 53′ 42.6048” E

Above > Locations of key attractions in the city of Amsterdam for a weekend trip.

Best time to visit Amsterdam

Amsterdam makes a perfect destination at any time of the year. Visit during Spring and the city bursts with colours of the tulip season or experience the sparkles during the festive season. In Fall, the streets of Amsterdam portrays a charming atmosphere as the leaves in Vondelpark turn golden, while in Summer the whole city is alive with so many options for open-air drinking, dining and partying.

Amsterdam in a nutshell

Here is a little background to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam – Venice of the North

Amsterdam in a Nutshell - Central Amsterdam
Amsterdam in a Nutshell – Central Amsterdam | Image: georgina_daniel

This endlessly fascinating city, Amsterdam, often referred to as “Venice of the North” is the capital of Netherlands. It originated from its growth as a city around a dam in the river Amstel. It is a progressive City which boasts an elaborate canal system that extends over 100 kilometres, 90 islands and has 1500 bridges. The are three main canals here which are Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht that forms a concentric belt around the city, known as the Amsterdam Canal Ring – for the locals, it is known as the grachtengordel. The Canal Ring is basically an intersection of waterways which were dug during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.

There are 1550 monumental buildings alongside the main canals.  The City is unique in that it offers a beautiful sight of gabled houses which line the streets on both sides of the canal and a unique experience (depends how you look at it) of witnessing little red neon lights, emanating from the infamous ‘Red Light District’ when the sun sets down.

Amsterdam – A City of Art, Bicycles and Beer

The City has a rich artistic history and is home to the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum. The modern art is displayed at the Stedelijk.  Outside of these, there are museums about cats, collection of handbags and photography, as well as archaeology. Amsterdam has dedicated cycle paths as cycling is key to the City’s character. We learnt that the number of bicycles in the City, of approximately one million outnumber the City’s approximately 750,000 residents, which seems incredible for a City that is quite small. Alongside all of these, the City’s long tradition of beer is being revolutionised by craft brewers, tulips flood the market streets and the Dutch cheese shops appear at every corner of the City.

Amsterdam – Getting around the City

The City Centre itself is small and it is easy to walk to many of the attractions if you do not want to hop onto the trams or buses. I list two choices here for your perusal.

  • It is worthwhile purchasing The I Amsterdam Card for the duration of your stay, for example for 24, 48 or 72 hours. The Card offers you unlimited rides on all public transport within the City and free entry to almost all the museums.
  • You can purchase a value for money public transport pass for the duration of your stay, anything from 1 to 7 days. This public transport pass affords you the space and time to explore Amsterdam at your leisure, at your own pace during your stay. The pass gives you unlimited rides on all trams, buses, ferries and the metro (day and night) for the number of days that best suit your schedule – allowing you to hop and off with ease.

Buy > I Amsterdam Card

Amsterdam – Exploring + Discovering 18 experiences

Our adventure in Amsterdam began soon after we checked-in into our hotel. Equipped with our I Amsterdam Card, we made our way to Dam Square, the heart of the City, to explore and everything else just followed on…

1 | Dam Square

Central Dam - Canals, pubs, restaurants and Oude Kerk, towering in the distance.
Central Amsterdam – Canals, pubs, restaurants and Oude Kerk, towering in the distance.

The Dam Square is the heart of Amsterdam City and it should be everyone’s first stop because it is from here that you can get to many places around the City.

Dam Square is located at the original Amstel River Dam which was built in 1270. It connects the Kalverstraat and the Nieuwendijk, which is a pedestrian-only street. It is one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam and is the main shopping street of the City. There are shops lined on both sides with major labels and chain stores.  (Running parallel to Nieuwendijk is Damrak, which is the north-south route from the Dam Square to the Central Station).  

From this Square, you can access the Royal Palace which became the royal residence in 1808 but the building itself was built in 1655 as City Hall. You can also access the Nieuwe Kerk, (New Church) which was built in the 15th century. The National Monument was constructed in 1956 to honour the victims of WWII. You could access Madame Tussaud from here and for those of you who want a little luxury shopping, head over to De Bijenkorf which is opened till late.

2 | The Oude Kerk

The Oude Kerk near central dam
Amsterdam -The Oude Kerk

This is the Old Church that was built around 1213 and it is the oldest building in Amsterdam. It is huge, magnificent and boasts a Gothic architecture which features characteristics of Catholic cathedrals. 

It is ironic that this spiritual building dominates the Red-Light District! We stood at the church’s main entry and in-front of it, across the canal, we could see windows with sex workers in it.

3 | The Red Light District

It was our first experience to step into a Red-Light District. Personally, I did not know what to expect. I was a little apprehensive because Red Light areas are often associated with shady businesses like sex trafficking, drugs and gangs, where premises are often disguised as bars, massage parlours or clubs. So, yes, I was a little afraid of pimps!

3.1 | A place where transparency has no bounds

Well, on both sides of the canal, we saw that there were plenty of sex shops, with prostitutes sitting in glass cubicles, like shop windows, and these were lit with red neon lights. There were also plenty of peep shows, brothels, an elaborate condom shop, a sex museum and live sex shows. Nothing was hidden. Everything was transparent and straight forward.

As evening fell, the crowds started to build-up and soon was bustling with visitors and tourists. There were families, couples, groups and some seedier characters too, so you need to be careful of pickpockets etc when you are visiting here. As darkness fell, the ‘shop windows’ were beginning to fill, the long queues for the live sex shows were getting longer and the streets were getting more “neon-red” as darkness fell.  So, too the increased scent of potent cannabis floating in the air.

3.2 | Safety and security

Although we did not witness any incidents and there was a heavy police presence with 24-hour video security surveillance, we would highly recommend travelling in pairs because of the sheer crowd that this area attracts. One thing to remember though, is that photographing the prostitutes are forbidden and this rule is strictly enforced. The Red Light District is not for everyone, and this is one place we will not be re-visiting.

4 | The Rembrandt Square | Amsterdam in a Nutshell

Here, you will find the statues reflecting Rembrandt’s famous work, “The Night Watch” and it is well-worth a visit. The Square is also significant as it is the centre for some of Amsterdam’s best restaurants and the many ‘trendy’ coffee shops which you could visit.

5 | Amsterdam coffee shops

The “Coffee Shops” in Amsterdam offer a range of cannabis in small quantities to adults over the age of 18. It is perfectly legal for tourists to buy and enjoy weed, hash and marijuana in a safe environment. If you like the smell of weed, then you may think that the environment is pleasant, but I beg to differ, unfortunately.

6 | The Flower Market in Amsterdam

Amsterdam in a nutshell | Flower market
Amsterdam in a nutshell | Amsterdam flower market

The Flower Market in Amsterdam is a unique market that has existed since 1862. It is the most colourful and most fragrant part of the City. There are all sorts of tulips in all sorts of colours, which comes prepacked, singular or in bouquets. You can get them in bulbs too. There are also narcissus, geraniums and many other types of flowers that adds to the vibrant colours of the tulips.

7 | Albert Cuypstraat

If you want to experience a little of the local lifestyle, then head over to the Albert Cuyp Market because this is where the locals go! This market has been trading since 1904 and over 300 stalls line both sides of the street. You can find basically anything and everything here, from fridge magnets, key chains, souvenir clogs to chocolates laced with cannabis, fruits, spices and cheeses.

8 | Canal boat tour in Amsterdam

When in Amsterdam, a canal boat tour is a Must as it offers visitors a unique window on the history of the City and the lifestyle of the people of Amsterdam. The canals are lined with pretty, gabled houses as well as 17th and 18th century mansions and many canal cafes. A canal cruise is an easy way to get acquainted with the City and learn its history. 

8.1 | Choice of canal boat tours

Amsterdam in a Nutshell - The hop-on hop-off canal bus
Amsterdam in a Nutshell – The hop-on hop-off canal bus | Image: georgina_daniel

There are many canal cruise-stops along any of the canals. Regardless of the season, you can do either a 1.5 hours or 2 hours tour. There are boat tours throughout the day with large boats that has plenty of seating with covered tops and there are smaller boats that take fewer visitors but with open tops.

The Canal bus is the hop-on, hop-off canal bus, which you may wish to consider as it stops at strategic places around the City Centre.

8.2 | Sunset canal cruise

 Canal Cruise 4
Amsterdam in a nutshell – sunset canal cruise | Image: georgina_daniel

There was a canal cruise-stop right in front of the hotel we were staying at. We opted for a sunset tour of the canals, a smaller open top boat which included snacks and drinks for the duration of the one-and-a-half hour, journey plus a good narration of Amsterdam’s history. The evening cruise was very pleasant and mesmerising as the sun began to settle-down. The City looked different in the sunset, very pretty. 

Experience Amsterdam City canal cruise

9 | The Jordaan Neighbourhood

This is a popular part of Amsterdam because it had undergone transformation in the 1970s. In the 17th century it was an area for the working class community but post 1970s, it has attracted the young professionals and the upper-middle class families. You will find trendy cafes, bars and galleries.

10 | The National Holocaust Memorial

Although we did not have a list of places to visit, we definitely wanted to visit the National Holocaust Memorial, at The Plantage, Amsterdam.   

National Holocaust Museum, he Plantage, Amsterdam
National Holocaust Museum, he Plantage | Amsterdam in a nutshell | Image: georgina_daniel

Our visit to the Holocaust Memorial was a sombre moment. It was heart-breaking to see the courtyard with messages attached to tulips placed on the wall. The courtyard was formerly, a luxurious theatre, in an affluent Jewish neighbourhood. Today it stands as a permanent reminder to the atrocities committed by the Nazis during WWII here. There is an exhibition on the first floor and an eternal-flame on the ground floor to honour the memories of those who had lost their lives.

Photography is allowed here but I did not take any, as a sign of respect in memoriam. Just as this is a personal choice, I respect those who chose to take photographs.

The Museum and the Memorial is supported through donations. If you are visiting Amsterdam and if you can, please visit this war memorial.

11 | The Westerkerk

In the most western part of Central Amsterdam, next to the Jordaan and the Canal Belt, you will find the Westerkerk – The Western Church. It was built between 1620 and 1631, in the Dutch Renaissance style, designed by Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621). The Westerkerk is the largest and the most important Protestant Church in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam - The Westerkerk
Amsterdam in a nutshell – The Westerkerk | Image: georgina_daniel

The Westerkerk has a tower which was built in 1638, known as the Westerkerk Tower. It stands at 85 metres (275ft) high and dominates Amsterdam’s Old City. It is regarded as the City’s symbol and a pride of Amsterdam.

12 | The De Gooyer Windmill

The De Gooyer Windmill stands at 26.6 metres high and is the tallest windmill in Amsterdam. This large wooden, octagonal shaped windmill was originally built as a flour mill in 1725. The mill was moved to its current location at Funenkade in 1814, and it sits on a stone foundation which is part of a water mill that was destroyed in 1812. 

Amsterdam - The De Gooyer Windmill
Amsterdam in a nutshell – The De Gooyer Windmill | Image: georgina_daniel

The De Gooyer no longer serves its original purpose, however, it remains a distinctive feature of Amsterdam and is listed as a National Monument. It is one of the last of the 26 corn mills remaining in the Netherlands.

13 | Food and Drink Experiences – Heineken

When in Amsterdam, having the locally brewed Heineken is an essential experience. Even though Heineken is available in 192 countries but experiencing it here, in Amsterdam, makes it a somewhat different experience.

In addition to Heineken, you must also try the local craft beer by Brouwerij’t IJ

14 | Food and Drink experiences – Craft Beer

The IJ Brewery which is famous for its craft beer is located next to the De Gooyer Windmill. The brewery was opened in 1985, and offers a nice selection of beers, organic and dark. The brewery offers guided tours and tastings. 

Amsterdam - IJ Brewery next to the De Gooyer Windmill
Amsterdam in a nutshell – IJ Brewery next to the De Gooyer Windmill | Image: georgina_daniel

What impressed us was the large outdoor terrace, but as it is popular, finding a place all to yourself will be a problem.

15 | Food and Drink experiences | Seafood + Cocktails

It is always interesting to try the different cuisines of the City you are visiting. In Amsterdam, what stood out for us were the oysters!   

Amsterdam in a Nutshell - Oysters, beautifully presented, fresh from the seas
Oysters, beautifully presented, fresh from the seas
Cocktails to go with fresh oysters
Cocktails to go with fresh oysters

16 | Food and Drink experiences – Stroop waffles or Pancakes or both?

We tried both!

The Pancakes were tastier, crispier and freshly made – we tried this at the Old Dutch Pancake House in Amsterdam Centrum.

It was quiet inside when we visited, because everyone opted to sit out in the sunshine. Service was quick and we enjoyed a quiet time, no rush at all.

17 | Food and Drink experiences – Dutch Cheese

Amsterdam is famous for its cheese! There was a cheese store on every street, every corner and within a few hundred feet of each other! Our favourite was the Henri Willig.

Amsterdam - Henri Willig
Amsterdam – Henri Willig

The Henri Willig offers an extensive range of their cheese products and dips. We found their range of herb cheeses rather unique and they had a new one with chillies, rather unusual. When you are here, Henri Willig is worth exploring.

18 | Just watch out…

For bikes! In a City where the bicycles outnumber the local population, you may want to look both ways when crossing. 

Amsterdam in a Nutshell – 18 Experiences in 48 Hours Look out for them! They are everywhere!
Amsterdam in a Nutshell – 18 Experiences in 48 Hours Look out for them! They are everywhere!
Amsterdam: Bicycle parking in style.
Amsterdam: Bicycle parking in style.

As an experience though, it is amazing to find how effortlessly people take on to riding their bicycles, with their shopping and bags, without a fuss or discomfort. With dedicated bicycle lanes, it is one of their primary mode of transport.

Practical information

Anne Frank’s House

Amsterdam - Anne Frank's House
Amsterdam – Anne Frank’s House

If you are planning a visit to Amsterdam and you wish to visit Anne Frank’s House, then I would suggest that you pre book your visit as tickets for a tour of Anne Frank’s House usually sells out months in advance. Although a handful of tickets are released each morning, there is always a long waiting list and the chances are slim to get one of these tickets. So, if you want it, pre-book it!

2. Where will you stay in Amsterdam?

When travelling, accommodation is key to a good vacation. I have often used booking and sometimes booked directly with hotels as well – depends what suits my needs.

Stay at Radisson Blu Amsterdam City Centre for a luxury 4-star stay within a stone’s throw of the Canal Belt and makes exploring the city convenient.

If you are looking for a simple stay, Park Inn by Radisson Amsterdam City West offer an ideal location and price.

Alternatively, if spacious and fully equipped suite is more of what you need, then stay in Radisson Hotel & Suites Amsterdam South and enjoy the best of nature and the city.

For elegance and luxury, embodying history and authentic Dutch style, Pulitzer Amsterdam is the place to be!

Navigate to Beautiful places to stay in Amsterdam for carefully selected accommodation for timeless vacation

3. What will you do in Amsterdam – sights and attractions

There are more than one way to experience Amsterdam and for me, my go to place is Get Your Guide, a trusted source that offer thousands of sightseeing tours, attractions and transfers worldwide. You can also find theatre and show tickets and city passes to suit. Have a look and see if you like what they offer.


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Amsterdam in a nutshell
Amsterdam in a nutshell
Amsterdam in a nutshell
Amsterdam in a nutshell
18 Unforgettable experiences in 48 hours on an easy weekend in a city where anything goes! A detailed guide on what to see and do including how to get around the city | 48 hours in Amsterdam | Amsterdam City Guide | Weekend in Amsterdam | Things to do in Amsterdam | What to see in Amsterdam | Amsterdam | Visit Amsterdam | Visit Netherlands | Netherlands | Cities in Amsterdam | Sights of Amsterdam | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/18 Unforgettable experiences in 48 hours on an easy weekend in a city where anything goes! A detailed guide on what to see and do including how to get around the city | 48 hours in Amsterdam | Amsterdam City Guide | Weekend in Amsterdam | Things to do in Amsterdam | What to see in Amsterdam | Amsterdam | Visit Amsterdam | Visit Netherlands | Netherlands | Cities in Amsterdam | Sights of Amsterdam | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Best 10 in Chicago not to be missed

Best 10 in the beautiful City of Chicago not to be missed

Chicago, Illinois

The best 10 in Chicago not to be missed is only a short list of experiences compared to the variety of activities that one can do here. Chicago, popularly known as the Windy City although not exactly named for the weather, is a beautiful city with skyscrapers, amazing architecture, world class museums, beautiful parks and food from around the world for you to immerse in when you visit.

This city is the third most populous city in the United States and is situated on a huge lakefront, on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is so huge that it feels like an ocean rather than a lake because you cannot see the other side.

Lake Michigan in Chicago: Absolutely beautiful! Cannot see the other side! View from Oak Street Beach
Lake Michigan in Chicago: Absolutely beautiful! Cannot see the other side! View from Oak Street Beach

In addition, as I am sure most of you are familiar with Route 66, known as “America’s Highway”.  Route 66 begins (or ends, depends where you begin your journey) at Grant Park. However, for now, come along with me and discover what my top 10 are.

My top 10 on Chicago are:

1 | The Lakefront

The Lakefront is one of my favourite parts of Chicago. It is perfect for a morning jog or cycling, play beach volleyball and you can even go rollerblading. When the sunsets, its perfect to walk along the shores and get your feet into the cool water. It is absolutely beautiful when you see the sun just setting behind the skyscrapers and glimpses of sunlight coming through in between the buildings. In the summer months, the shores come alive with activities and music and food.

The Lakefront in Chicago: Sunset over the skyscrapers
The Lakefront in Chicago: Sunset over the skyscrapers
The evenings at Lakefront, still a very busy place.
The evenings at Lakefront, Chicago, still a very busy place.
Sunset, Lake Michigan
Sunset, Lake Michigan, Chicago

2 | The Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is a beautiful pedestrian walkway along the Chicago River, spanning from Lake Shore Drive to Franklin Street. You will enjoy the many showcase of art, restaurants and bars where you can stop and enjoy a pint or two and resume sightseeing.

Chicago Riverwalk: Be spoilt with skyscrapers, architectural designs and the many restaurants here during a Riverwalk
Chicago Riverwalk: Be spoilt with skyscrapers, architectural designs and the many restaurants here during a Riverwalk

3 | Shop till you drop!

Michigan Avenue or as it’s often referred to as the Magnificent Mile is a mile-long street of shops and is the most popular shopping street in Chicago, just like 5th Avenue in New York! At the north end of Michigan Avenue is Oak Street, where you will find designer and luxury goods and high-end brand names such as Gucci and Prada. From the south of the River, there is State Street where you will find affordable shopping at Macy’s, and more shops such as Forever21.

In winter, these shop windows sparkle with pretty Christmas decorations and in the spring/summer months, the parkways are filled with colourful blooms.

Christmas in Chicago
Chicago by Night

4 | The Loop in Chicago

The Loop is the heart of the business district and it is here that you will find the great architecture that Chicago is famous for, such as the Willis (Sears) Tower, the Cultural Centre and many more. The Loop is a vibrant area for eateries and theatres.

Alongside these, in a prime waterside location, there is Marina City towers in Chicago. The bottom 20 storeys of the twin towers of this iconic building consist of continuous spirals of parking and the top floors dedicated to apartments.

The iconic Marina City towers in Chicago, where the bottom 20 storey of the twin towers consist of continuous spirals of parking.
The iconic Marina City towers in Chicago, where the bottom 20 storey of the twin towers consist of continuous spirals of parking.

5 | Millennium Park

Millennium Park is in downtown Chicago and it is here where you will find the popular Chicago Bean sculpture, also known as “Cloud Gate”  by Sir Anish Kapoor . It is a huge park where you can run, picnic or just hangout.

6 | The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is home to more than 5000 years of human expression depicted in sculptures, photography and textiles representing cultures from around the world. This is definitely a “Must See” for any art or history enthusiast.

7 | The Navy Pier

The Navy Pier is a popular attraction. It has ferries wheel, carousel and lots of restaurants and beer gardens. Suitable for anyone – family with children, couples, singles, young and old.

8 | Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza

One of my favourite pizza and I am sure many of you pizza lovers out there, is the Chicago-style “deep-dish” pizza. So, when in Chicago, head over to Pizzeria Uno where this pizza was invented in 1943.

Although the pizza is known as “deep-dish”, the crust itself is thin, but deep! Of course, mine was pepperoni.

To know more of Pizzeria Uno or to make a reservation, click on the link below:

https://www.pizzeriaunodue.com

9 | Dining in Chicago

Chicago is renowned for its world class cuisines, from steakhouses, Cantonese stir-fry and chicken pot pie. There are many diners and eateries around the City, from high-end dining to casual open-air experiences.

Chicago's dining experiences are unique and are all around the city - from steakhouses, Cantonese stir-fry and chicken pot pie. You just need to choose what you like.
Chicago’s dining experiences are unique and are all around the city – from steakhouses, Cantonese stir-fry and chicken pot pie. You just need to choose what you like.

10 | Fly into O’Hare Airport!

Although it is one of the busiest airports in the world, I would highly recommend that you fly into O’Hare at least once in your lifetime. Besides the crowd, the long queues at security, you will be rewarded with one of the most colourful sight.

The colours of the neon lights in the 744-foot tunnel that connects United Airline’s Concourse B and C is an amazingly beautiful experience and for some, it may transport you back to your late teen disco days. It is full of colour and is the longest neon sculpture in the world.

This piece of art is called “The Sky’s the Limit”, by Michael Hayden. If you are interested in knowing more about this artwork, click here.

Conclusion

Chicago has plenty more attractions than what I have listed here. It is a City to visit and experience because of its skyscrapers, world-class food and a fun nightlife. It has something for everyone.

Travel tips on Chicago

Airports – There are two airports here – O’Hare International and Midway. Both are easily accessible and connected to the city by the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).

Local transport – the transport system here is good. Take the CTA line around the Loop and change where necessary to get to your destination or further out of Chicago. It’s good to familiarise yourself with the colours, for example it is the Blue Line from O’Hare International which will extend through the Loop.

Best time to visit: May – September/October.


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Happy adventures! xx


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Windsor Castle and Windsor in 1 day-what to see, do and experience in 1 day

Windsor Castle and Windsor in 1 day-what to see, do and experience

A trip to the UK or London is never complete without a trip to Windsor, the home of the historic Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle has been home to the British Royal family for over a thousand years and is one of the most visited attraction in UK. Windsor Castle and Frogmore House attracted 1.65 million paid visitors in 2018-2019, making it the most popular of the Royal Estates.

To make the best of Windsor Castle and Windsor in 1 day will require some prior planning. You may also need to have some knowledge of the highlights at the Castle which should not be missed especially if your visit here is just for the one time.

In this article, you shall find some of the highlights of this iconic and historic castle and the town of Windsor. Practical information is included to support your planning.

Town of Windsor

The Town Square at Windsor
The Town Square at Windsor | Image: georgina_daniel

Windsor is a historic market town in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, Southeast England.

It has a lively atmosphere with great shopping and restaurants. It sits on River Thames, just west of London, and is under an hour’s journey from London. You will find Windsor at:

51°29’1.19″ N 0°36’9.59″ E

1 – day at Windsor Castle and Windsor

The day began with a train journey from London, Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside. Exiting Windsor & Eton Riverside, it is a rather pleasant short walk up a slight hill. The street is lined with shops and the castle in sight. The Town Square to your right. A walk-up a further slight hill on your left will lead you to the ticket office. If you are here during the peak season, you will see a queue from the high-street. 

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, Berkshire: View from the Cambridge Gate
Windsor Castle, Berkshire: View from the Cambridge Gate | Image: georgina_daniel

Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, is the residence of the British Royal family for over 1000 years and is said to be the Queen’s favourite weekend getaway residence. In fact, if you see the Royal Standard flag flying from the Castle’s Round Tower, it indicates that the Queen is in residence.

Throughout history, Windsor Castle has been the home to thirty-nine monarchs and is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. It has recently hosted the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on 19th May 2018. With so much history just on one site, Windsor makes a perfect destination for a special weekend break or a day trip. 

Can easily opt for a horse & carriage ride around Windsor.
Can easily opt for a horse & carriage ride around Windsor.

Windsor Castle grounds

Windsor Castle is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. The Castle floor area is 13 acres (5 hectares) and has 1000 rooms. It comprises of two-quadrilateral-shaped building courts that are separated by the Round Tower. The two building courts are called Lower Ward and Upper Ward 

Round Tower, Windsor Castle

Round Tower_Windsor Castle_Berkshire
Round Tower, Windsor Castle, Berkshire

The Round Tower, as the name suggests, is a circular tower, massive and is built on an artificial mound. The court in the west of the Round Tower is called the “Lower Ward” and the court to the east is the “Upper Ward.”

The Round Tower, Windsor Castle built on artificial mound.
The Round Tower, Windsor Castle built on artificial mound | Image: georgina_daniel

Lower Ward Windsor Castle

Includes St George’s Chapel and the Albert Memorial Chapel, more on these below.

View from the Lower Ward-St George's Chapel on the left and the Round Tower on the right.
View from the Lower Ward-St George’s Chapel on the left and the Round Tower on the right.

Upper Ward, Windsor Castle

Includes the private apartments of the Queen and the private apartments for visitors. It also houses the Royal Library which contains collections by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other famous artists.

The Inner Courtyard of the Upper Ward is home to private apartments in Windsor Castle.
The Inner Courtyard of the Upper Ward is home to private apartments in Windsor Castle | Image: georgina_daniel

The Northeast corner of the Upper Ward was destroyed by fire in November 1992 which included over 100 rooms and St George’s Hall. This area has been successfully restored and was completed in 1997.

Highlights at Windsor Castle Berkshire

When exploring Windsor Castle, it would be best to begin with the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Afterwards, you can explore the castle grounds by commencing your tour of the interior of the Castle. I would suggest that you start with the State Apartments, at Henry VIII’s North Terrace. You may encounter a queue here, but they get through very quickly. After the State Apartments, you can visit the beautiful St George’s Chapel and other parts of the Castle.

1 | Changing of the Guards Ceremony

The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is one of the highlights of visiting Windsor Castle. The ceremony takes place at 11:00 in the Lower Ward within the Castle grounds. The times can change and there may be occasions when the Ceremony may take place without music because of other duties and demands on the guards.  The guards return to their barracks at 11:25.

This is one highlight when visiting Windsor Castle that you should not miss. It is less crowded than the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, so it allows you a better view of the ceremony itself.

As it takes place at 11:00 prompt, it is best to plan your visit to arrive here before it begins so you get a good view.

2 | State Apartments and Semi-state Apartments

This part of the Castle is a grand building with opulent furnishings and intricate ceiling paintings. There are many art-work on the Royals and is home to the infamous Queen Mary’s Doll House.

** Queen Mary’s Doll House is sometimes closed to public viewing. Best to check before your visit.

3 | St George’s Chapel

The side entrance to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
The side entrance to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

My favourite part of the Castle! Being here, in St George’s Chapel which is rich in history and in royal tradition is, at moments, simply overwhelming. It is unique in that it has a Perpendicular Gothic-style architecture. Construction of the Chapel began in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed by Heny VIII in 1528.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in this Chapel in May 2018, which makes this Chapel even more special.

The architecture inside St George's Chapel_Windsor Castle_Berkshire
The architecture inside St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire | Image: georgina_daniel

The interior of the Chapel itself is not huge but the architecture is absolutely breath-taking! You need to see to experience it. Cameras are not allowed in the Chapel but I quite simply had to steal a moment to capture this jaw-dropping wow sight for keeps.  

4 | The Inner Courtyard

The Inner Courtyard is home to the private apartments of the Queen and the private apartments of the Queen’s visitors. It is of Gothic architecture quadrangle with a green grass square in the middle.

The Inner Courtyard of the Upper Ward_Private Apartments of Windsor Castle, Berkshire (2)
The Inner Courtyard, Upper Ward_Private Apartments of Windsor Castle, Berkshire | Image: georgina_daniel

**Lunch

I spent quite a lot of time walking around the grounds at leisure and then lunch at the nearby pub. Afterwards, a walk up to the parks and down to Albert Road to view the Long Walk.  

5 | Home Park, Windsor

To the Eastern side of Windsor Castle is Home Park which was previously known as Little Park. It is approximately 655 acres (265 hectares) of parkland privately owned by the Crown Estate.

Frogmore House is in this Park and is only open twice a year, May and August. If you want to visit Frogmore House and its grounds, schedule your visit during these two months in the year. 

6 | Great Park, Windsor

Great Park is situated towards the South of Windsor Castle. It is approximately 5000 acres (2,020 hectares) which includes a deer park. Parts of this Park is open to the public.  

7 | The Long Walk

The Main Entrance to Windsor Castle, view from the Cambridge Gate, Windsor Castle, Berkshire.
The Main Entrance to Windsor Castle, view from the Cambridge Gate, Windsor Castle, Berkshire | Image: georgina_daniel

A short walk from the Castle, the Long Walk is crossed by A308 (Albert Road) to Old Windsor. This is what I wanted to see and capture the essence of the moment – The Long Walk!

The Long Walk is the straight path that links Windsor Castle with Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park, the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse). It is approximately 3 miles (5 kilometres) in length.

According to legend, King Henry VIII sat and waited at Snow Hill for news of execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

The Long Walk, view from Cambridge Gate, Windsor Castle, Berkshire
The Long Walk, view from Cambridge Gate, Windsor Castle, Berkshire | Image: georgina_daniel

However, the path and the landscape as we know it today only came much later, an improvement to what was by King Charles II and Queen Anne. King Charles II had 1,652 Elm trees planted in double-rows the entire length of the route and Queen Anne had a road constructed down the centre of the tree lined landscape, so the coaches could head into the park comfortably.  


Winding-down the day

There is a quintessentially English pub at the quiet corner here by Park Street gates (which leads to the Long Walk and Cambridge Gate, entrance to Windsor Castle), a peaceful cul-de-sac where you can stop for a hearty pint! It’s called the Two Brewers, one of the smallest pubs in Windsor. Established in 1792 although the building dates back to 1709.  


On a final note…

Windsor Castle is uniquely beautiful, set in a lively town, with accommodation to suit every individual, couples or family, It has great shopping choices and restaurants to fulfil every palate a destination that will surely not disappoint.

Practical information

At Windsor Castle – What you need to know

  • There are guide maps available free at the counter. Just pick one. Given the vast area where one needs to walk, I found the map to be extremely helpful.
  • If you gift-aid your entrance ticket, you get a 12-month pass to return. Just ensure that you write your name and address and get it stamped at the designated area near the exit.
  • Commentary on the audio, for the most part is good and informative but sometimes too elaborate. It is also sometimes hard to navigate to the number of the room.
  • Give yourselves between 3 to 3.5 hours although the recommended hours are 2.5 to 3.

Facilities:

  1. Audio guides are available in all major languages.
  2. Induction loop on Audio tour is provided to hearing impaired visitors.
  • Guide dogs are permitted
  1. Toilets for disabled visitors
  2. Areas are wheelchair accessible.

Tickets:

                                                         Regular (£)            During closure of State Apartments (£)

Adult                                                       21.20                                      11.70

Family [2 adults + 3 under 17s]         54.70                                       30.60

Senior/Student                                      19.30                                       10.60

Under 17/Disabled                               12.30                                         7.20

For up-to-date information on Windsor Castle, you can look-up their official website here: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle

Getting to Windsor

From London by train:

Getting to Windsor Castle from London by train is the most convenient and cheaper mode of transport. 

There are 2 services:

  1. London Paddington to Windsor Central – services are provided by Great Western Railway, need to change at Slough for the shuttle service to Windsor & Eton Central. The shuttle service runs every 20 minutes and will have extra charges.

Return Adult Fare is £10.20

      2. London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside – services provided by South              Western Railway are 4 services per hour, at 20, 28, 50 and 58 minutes past the hour. Return Adult Fare is £10.50

Buy Train tickets from Trainline

If you are driving:

Parking:

  1. Castle car-park is a ‘Pay & Display’ car-park, so you will need coins. £14 for 5 hours;
  2. Car-park next to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station – £4 All-day if you arrive after 10:00. You can pay by phone            

Is this post valuable to you in planning your visit to Windsor Castle and Windsor? If so, let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Happy adventures!

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A simple guide listing highlights on what to see, do & experience in Windsor Castle and the quintessential city of Windsor in 1 day | Windsor Berkshire | What to do in Windsor | Things to do in Windsor | What to see in Windsor Castle | Visit Windsor | Visit England | Visit Berkshire | Long Walk Windsor | Windsor Castle | Windsor Town | Royal Castle | Royal Palace via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A simple guide listing highlights on what to see, do & experience in Windsor Castle and the quintessential city of Windsor in 1 day | Windsor Berkshire | What to do in Windsor | Things to do in Windsor | What to see in Windsor Castle | Visit Windsor | Visit England | Visit Berkshire | Long Walk Windsor | Windsor Castle | Windsor Town | Royal Castle | Royal Palace via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Why Regent’s Park is the #1 garden with a total zen

Why Regent’s Park is the #1 garden with a total zen

Well, before I share my views on Why Regent’s Park is the #1 Garden with a total zen, I would like to ask you this.

When you work in a City like London, don’t you want to get away from it all every now and again, from the City’s fast-life? Sometimes, just for a little sunshine (if there is sunshine) fresh air and a place where you can have moments to yourself?

Well, there is a place, right in the middle of the City of London where you can do just that – Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, which is one of the Royal Parks in London.

Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill

Regent's Park and Primrose Hill
Regent’s Park in summer | Image: georgina_daniel

Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill is a large green space that offers a sanctuary for people who are constantly on the go with City’s hum-drum. Regent’s Park is different, from the other Parks in London because of its tranquil settings, beautiful landscape and the opportunity to catch either the sunset or the sunrise at Primrose Hill. There are flowers of all colours, roses especially, 12,000 of them, all named and planted in neat rows (more on this below). This is a place where you can spend hours admiring the sea of colours and enjoy the amazing fragrances.  A total paradise.

For me, every visit to Regent’s Park had been a journey of new experiences and discovery, even more so on my recent visits which was part of MyCityMyTown – London Series.

My favourite part of Regent’s Park

My favourite parts of the Park are the two gardens, the Avenue Gardens near Broad Walk and Queen Mary’s Garden in the Inner Circle. Here, I could grab a seat on one of the many benches available which are spaced-out, spend my day just people-watch, read a book or write my blog and do pretty much anything I like.

However, my recent discovery has changed some of that. There is not much people-watch in my “new” spot, although I can still have a bench and write my blog or read a book. The beauty of it is I can do so in the midst of the delightful sounds of water coming from the hidden waterfall, surrounded by a Japanese Garden, an area of total zen.

Queen Mary’s Garden in Regent’s Park

This secret area of total zen is in Queen Mary’s Garden, in the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park, named after Queen Mary, who was wife to King George V. It is world famous and has been opened to the public since 1932. To find this hidden waterfall, walk across this beautiful bridge ⇓⇓⇓ and follow the path and the sounds of the water to see this splendid mini waterfall.

Regent's Park | The bridge that takes you across to the hidden waterfall in Regent's Park, London
The bridge that leads you across to the hidden waterfall in Regent’s Park, London
Regent's Park | The waterfall in the Japanese Garden, Regent's Park, London
The mini waterfall in the Japanese Garden, in Regent’s Park | Image: georgina_daniel

Then, follow the path up around the waterfall to the top for a stunning view of below. There is a circular seating area at the top with benches for you to take a break or have a picnic. It is quiet, less people here and surrounded by lots of green vegetation, simple flowers and buzzy bees. The sounds of the water is calming, soothing and peaceful.

The view from the top of the waterfall, Japanese Garden, Regent's Park. London
Regent’s Park: The view from the top of the mini waterfall | Image: georgina_daniel

Rose Garden

In addition to the Japanese Garden, Queen Mary’s Garden is also famous for its Rose Garden which was completed in 1934. It is presently home to 12,000 or so roses of 85 single varieties in a perfectly tended landscape. This is a place of total delight and an uplifting experience. There is a sense of romantic playfulness too, when you walk through the elegant sea of colours, roses of different colours, combination of colours in one rose, the vibrancy in these colours amidst the amazing fragrances. At every bed of roses, you will want to smell the sweet scent of the fragrance.

The garden is somewhat magical in the evening sunlight. It is a place you would want to return again and again just to capture the peacefulness that exists here.  I can only share some of these beautiful sights and hope it will inspire you to visit this beautiful garden at some point.

Meet ‘Doris Day’

Doris Day - Rose Garden, Regent's Park
Doris Day | Rose Garden, Regent’s Park | Image: georgina_daniel

This lovely, full of sunshine, nicely perfumed of bright yellow roses with glossy mid-green foliage personifies the joyful, charming and amazingly talented “America’s Sweetheart” Doris Day. Named to celebrate her 90th birthday. These old-fashioned blooms form beautiful round clusters on vigorous stems and have a fruity and sweet spice aroma. You get to enjoy the gold yellow coloration until the petals drop. They are in bloom from June until hard frosts.

Meet ‘Golden Smiles’

Golden Smiles, Rose Garden in Regent's Park, London
Regent’s Park: Queen Mary’s Rose Garden . This variety is called Golden Smiles | Image: georgina_daniel

This unfading, golden yellow garden rose blooms in large clusters, has long-lasting petals that will stay pert in poor weather. The large, glossy foliage is disease resistant. It blooms from spring until winter.

Meet ‘Blue for You’

Regent's Park: Queen Mary's Rose Garden. This variety is called
Regent’s Park: Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. This variety is called “Blue For You” | Image: georgina_daniel

The ruffled petals of this semi-double flowers are initially lilac with a blush white base, but as they mature, they turn slate blue. The stems are clothed in rich green foliage. They bloom quite freely, throughout the season.

There are other carefully tended, well-established flowers as well – The Delphinium, the Mediterranean and the Begonia Garden. There are about 9000 begonias which are planted twice a year. The entire landscape is perfectly planned, with shrubberies in strategic places to afford privacy to visitors and benches every 20-30 feet apart. There is a water-pond, tiny bridges and the encircled round of flowering shrubs.  There is a sense of mystery too, as you turn every corner of these shrubs, not knowing what prettiness you might meet next.

I would highly recommend a visit to Queen Mary’s Garden.

The Avenue Gardens in Regent’s Park

Avenue Gardens, Regent's Park
Regent’s Park: Tiered fountains, evergreen hedges, spring bulbs and summer bedding at Avenue Gardens | Image: georgina_daniel

The setting  at Avenue Gardens, located near the Broad Walk is different to Queen Mary’s Garden. There are tree-lined path, tiered fountains, evergreen hedges, spring bulbs and summer bedding. There are ornamental bowls filled with flowers, some with year-round blooms. In the centre of the Avenue Gardens, sits a large circular stone bowl supported by four-winged stone lions, known as Griffin or Lion Tazza. More commonly called as simply the Lion Vase, it was installed in 1863 and recently underwent repairs during the restoration of the gardens (1993-1996).

Brief history on Regent’s Park

The green space which is now known as Regent’s Park (including Primrose Hill) was originally appropriated by King Henry VIII for use as a hunting ground. Often known as “the jewel in the crown,” it is in the heart of London and conveniently located (see useful information below on how to get here). It was only in 1646 that John Nash, an architect and friend of Prince Regent designed this vast circular-shaped of 197 hectares of green space to be a park as we know it today. The original plan was to build a summer palace surrounded by villas, a canal and a lake for the Prince but the summer palace was never built.

There are only 2 villas of Nash’s original conception here, St John’s Lodge and The Holme. St John’s Lodge was built in 1818 by John Raffield, is now a private residence.

Regent’s Park today

Today, Regent’s Park is many worlds away from Henry VIII’s hunting ground. Besides Queen Mary’s Garden and Avenue Gardens, it is home to the largest green space for sports, offering a wide variety of activities, an Open-Air Theatre, the London Zoo, and a selection of cafes and restaurants. It is also home to Regent’s University, an institution with academic excellence. It has an inviting tree-lined path, the gardens are beautifully tended, lots of flowers of different names and flowering shrubs that adds a little mystery as you turn a corner.

Regent’s Park today is a Wildlife sanctuary

Wildlife in Regent's Park, London
Grey heron roaming freely in Regent's Park, London

Grey heron roaming freely in Regent’s Park, London

Regent’s Park is a wildlife sanctuary. Bird-watch has been taking place since 19th century and there are at least 200 different bird species listed. The mature trees here provide a home for species like Tawny Owl, Green Woodpecker and Kestrel whereas secluded shrubs provide nesting opportunities for tits, Robins, Blackbirds and other small birds.

The diversity of the grassland, woodland and the wetland support 21 species of butterfly and more than 230 species of moth. Hedgehogs still live here! As well as fox, grey squirrel, bats and woodmouse – these mammals form an unusual mix of inhabitants in a Central London park, so look-out for them when you are here. There are about ninety species of swans, geese and ducks that roam the waterways.

[NB: Feeding wildlife is strongly discouraged as it causes more harm than good].


Travel tips and Useful Information

Best Time to Visit Regent’s Park

The best time to see the blooms is in Spring but if you want to see the roses in all it’s glory, it will be the first two weeks in June. You can capture some fully bloomed and some just opening-up whilst some others still in their buds.

Entry : FREE

Opening hours

The Park opens at 5 a.m. and closing times varies in winter, spring and summer months. Please check https://www.royalparks.org.uk for closing times when you plan to visit.

Map of Regent’s Park

Map of Regent's Park, Google maps
Map of Regent’s Park, Google maps

How to get to Regent’s Park

Info taken from Royal Parks

Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill are easily accessible by public transport.

The postcode for the park is NW1 4NR if you are using google maps or any other location app to find the Park. Just a word of caution, that this postcode is for guidance only as the park covers a large area.

The Tube stations closest to Regent’s Park are:

  • Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line)
  • Great Portland Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle & Metropolitan lines)
  • Baker Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan & Bakerloo lines)
  • St John’s Wood (Jubilee line)
  • Camden Town (Northern line)

Buses that stop around the park are:

  • 2 Marylebone Station – Crystal Palace
  • 13 Aldwych – Golders Green
  • 18 Euston – Sudbury
  • 27 Chalk Farm – Turnham Green
  • 30 Marble Arch – Hackney Wick
  • 74 Baker St Station – Roehampton
  • 82 Victoria – North Finchley
  • 113 Oxford Circus – Edgware
  • 139 Waterloo – West Hampstead
  • 189 Oxford Circus – Brent Cross Shopping Centre
  • 274 Angel Islington – Lancaster Gate
  • 453 Marylebone Street – Deptford Broadway
  • C2 Oxford Circus – Parliament Hill Fields

Recommended read > Tours of Parks and Gardens in London

Thoughts on Regent’s Park, the #1 garden with a total zen

For me, Regent’s Park is a huge garden planned to perfection. The rich sights and scents of these marvellous plants are a delightful experience. The atmosphere is inviting and I think it will make you smile as it does me. The colours are vibrant, harmonious and lively. There are parts to this garden that are quiet, relaxing and provides an oasis to refresh, connect and rejuvenate. This is a place where stress and tension can melt away. A simple walk in this little paradise within a metropolis is therapeutic to the soul and will make you return again and again.

I sincerely wish that this post is valuable to you in planning your visit to Regent’s Park, London. If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Have a splendid time enjoying the royal parks!

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Why Regent's Park is the #1 garden with a total zen
Why Regent's Park is the #1 garden with a total zen
Why Regent's Park is the #1 garden with a total zen
Why Regent's Park is the #1 garden with a total zen

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With hidden waterfalls, and a sea of colours that inspires a somewhat romantic playfulness, discover Regent's Park, the #1 garden of total zen in the heart of London | London | Free things to do in London | Parks in London | Visit London | Top things to do in London | Flower Gardens in London | Queen Mary's Garden | Rose Gardens in London | Visit Britain | UK's Best | London's Best via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/With hidden waterfalls, and a sea of colours that inspires a somewhat romantic playfulness, discover Regent's Park, the #1 garden of total zen in the heart of London | London | Free things to do in London | Parks in London | Visit London | Top things to do in London | Flower Gardens in London | Queen Mary's Garden | Rose Gardens in London | Visit Britain | UK's Best | London's Best via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Victoria-An intimate look at the Woman behind the Crown and her childhood

Victoria-An intimate look at the Woman behind the Crown and her childhood

It was the first day of the Discover the real Victoria, made in Kensington Exhibition, 24th May, a glorious day of summer sunshine and the Palace grounds were a busy sight! People sunbathing, reading or just relaxing.

The queues to the ticket office was long…

Kensington Palace: The queues at the ticket office for, Discover the Real Victoria exhibition was long!
Kensington Palace: The queues at the ticket office for, Discover the Real Victoria exhibition was long!

Fortunately for me, I did not have to wait in queue to get a ticket with a timed entry. As a Member of the Historic Royal Palaces, I get to visit at anytime and as many times as I wish. You can read more on the benefits of this Individual Membership here

Here’s how my day went at the exhibition in Kensington Palace.

Discover the Real Victoria Exhibition

The exhibition was in two parts – Victoria: Woman and Crown and Victoria: A Royal Childhood.

1 | Victoria: A Royal Childhood

Victoria, A Royal Childhood was the first of the two exhibitions where I began my tour.

It was not overwhelmingly crowded as I anticipated it to be. I had plenty of time on my hands and I did not want to rush through. The exhibition allowed the visitors to follow a route through a suite of rooms and it did give me a feel of how Victoria grew up. There were many rooms here, and these have been curated to reflect how they would have been when young Victoria grew up. I will just mention a few that is of interest and which relates to the exhibition particularly the Red Saloon room, the Dance room, the Baby room, and the Playrooms.

Read: Kensington Palace – Why you should visit this 18th century historical gem

1.1 | The Red Saloon room

Victoria's first meeting with her senior ministers in the Red Saloon Room
Victoria’s first meeting with her senior ministers in the Red Saloon Room

The Red Saloon Room was where Queen Victoria held her first meeting with the Privy Council, the most senior ministers and advisors, on 20th June 1837.It was laid out with pretty little miniature figurines on top of the large long table, depicting the scene as painted by Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841) in 1838.

Kensington Palace: Red Saloon Room - First Council Meeting of Queen Victoria by Sir David Wilkie in 1838
Kensington Palace: Red Saloon Room – First Council Meeting of Queen Victoria by Sir David Wilkie in 1838

1.2 | The Dance Room where Victoria had her first dance with Albert

The dance room was dimly lit with a piano in one corner of the room.

I thought that the room was rather small. It was a little crowded here, so I walked briskly through to the next room.

1.3 | The Baby Room where Victoria was born

Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood - The Baby Room where Victoria was born
Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood – The Baby Room where Victoria was born | Image: georgina_daniel

The baby room where Princess Victoria was born was one of the highlights of my visit.

The room was dressed in green wallpaper which, perhaps, reflects her maternal Leiningen heritage. It was gently warm, the drapes neatly pulled back and the sunlight coming through. It was not difficult to imagine for a moment, stepping back into history, where the room was the same, and the glorious sunshine streaming through on a very ordinary Spring morning, same day in May, 200 years ago. Described as “a pretty little Princess, as plump as a partridge” by her Mother, the Duchess of Kent in a personal letter, the heir, fifth in line to the throne was born.

Queen V_3
Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Victoria, later Queen Victoria, c.1824 (enamel on copper), Henry Bone (1755-1834) / Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2018 (credit to: http://blog.bridgemanimages.com/

I remained fascinated with the unfolding of her story as I continued on to Her playrooms.

1.4 | Victoria’s Playroom

Her playrooms were well laid out with a toy box in the centre of the room. There was an invitation for children to sit on the carpet and play with the toys from the toy box, a gesture which I thought was unusual. I have visited many palaces and castles during my visits and usually there are signs that says “please do not touch” – I was pleasantly surprised that here, and I welcome the idea too, to engage children-visitors to get the feel of how Victoria played.

I was enchanted with Victoria’s doll house, with its miniature furniture and pretty colours. It was an ordinary London townhouse. It is thought that it was probably made by the palace staff with household bibs and bobs and scrapes of pretty pink palace wallpaper.

Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood - Victoria's Doll House
Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood – Victoria’s Doll House

The Ten Wooden Peg Dolls caught my attention. Victoria started collecting these when she was 11 years old. After two years, she had 132 dolls, each with a name and its own background story either after her favourite dancers or imaginary ladies.

1.5 | Victoria’s Journal and Kensington System

Victoria had vivid imagination and would describe the characters in detail. She was lost in writing her own stories.

IMG_2231 (2)
Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood – Kensington System Rules

The rooms displayed her journal entries and, in some instances her handwritten entries. These captivated my interests and I spent some time reading them. The sight of “Kensington System” hung on the wall and the distressing effects of these rules did not go amiss but I remained fascinated by her story.

1.6 | Theatre Room

There was a Theatre room which was cute. Victoria loved the theatre, and she attended the concerts and the theatre shows as often as she could. It was one way to escape the constraints of the “Kensington System”.

Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood - The Theatre Room where Victoria visited to escape the Kensington System
Kensington Palace: A Royal Childhood – The Theatre Room where Victoria visited to escape the Kensington System

From the Royal Childhood of Victoria, the exhibition continued on to Woman and Crown Exhibition.

Read: Kensington Palace Gardens – an idyllic getaway from chaos of the City

2 | Victoria – Woman and Crown (1819-1901)

Kensington Palace: Victoria - Woman and Crown (1819-1901)
Kensington Palace: Victoria – Woman and Crown (1819-1901)

There were a lot of information exhibited here and dresses she wore. This exhibition was aimed at unveiling the private life of Queen Victoria behind the carefully controlled public image of her role as queen, wife, mother and empress.

2.1 | Victoria as a Woman

IMG_2328 (2)
Kensington Palace: Victoria – Woman and Crown Exhibition, The Secret Portrait of Queen Victoria, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1843, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the exhibition.

As a woman, Victoria was totally in love with Prince Albert. She commissioned a secret portrait of herself as a surprise gift to Prince Albert for his 24th birthday. The portrait shows Victoria in a simple ivory gown, looking relaxed, with her long hair round her shoulders in a sensuous manner – intended for his eyes only!

2.2 | Victoria as a Woman

As a wife, Victoria adored her husband, Prince Albert. In her words, he was “an angel whose brightness shall illuminate my life” – she submitted to the choices of her husband in all matters.

The dresses and the jewellery she wore was often designed and chosen by Albert. They both often appeared in public together which made them popular with the nation. 

IMG_2320 (2)
The original colour of this dress was bright pink . Queen Victoria wore a bonnet so as not to upstage her husband.

One of the displays exhibited a gown worn by Victoria which was originally in bright pink and fashionable at that time. Queen Victoria always wore a bonnet when in public with Prince Albert because she did not want to upstage her husband who had no right to wear a crown. A stark contrast to the black gowns, and widow’s bonnet which she was so famous for wearing later in life.

2.3 | Victoria as a Mother

As a mother, I think her views can best be attributed to one of her journal entries in 1952: 

“Children, though often a source of anxiety and difficulty, are a great blessing and cheer and brighten up life, and to see us after 12 years surrounded by this blooming family is a source of great gratitude”

2.4 | Victoria as an Empress

IMG_2345 (2)
Kensington Palace: Victoria, Woman and Crown Exhibition – Victoria’s love affair with India takes centre stage at the Exhibition | Image: georgina_daniel

As an empress of the world’s largest empire, the exhibits displayed the story behind her love affair with India, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, her friendship with deposed Maharajah Duleep Singh.

IMG_2343 (2)
Kensington Palace: Victoria, Woman and Crown Exhibition – Personal diary of Queen Victoria with inscriptions in Urdu | Image: georgina_daniel

There were exhibits of her personal diaries inscribed in Urdu.

2.5 | Victoria’s love affair with the Scottish Highlands

There were further exhibits on her visits to the Scottish Highlands and Balmoral. The couple’s first visit was in 1848 and she captured their first moments in her journal entry where she wrote:

“All seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils”

They loved the mountains, the people, the highland games and the dances.

Queen Victoria published a book in 1868, ‘Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands from 1848 – 1861’ – this book were of extracts from her journal, of her time in Scotland with Albert.  The book sold 80,000 copies in the first 3 months. You can purchase a copy by clicking the link below:

Read more on 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s Birth – this blog contains a video on Balmoral Castle which gives a splendid view of the beauty of Scottish Highlands.

2.6 | Victoria’s love affair with Isle of Wight

Queen Victoria once said of Osborne House, that “it would be impossible to imagine a prettier spot” and one could not agree with her more! Osborne House became her permanent home till her death in 1901.

Read: Isle of Wight and the Victorian Love Affair with the island

Travel tips and Useful information:

Tickets

Visiting during Covid-19 and adhering to safety measures – Pre-booking and selecting a specific time slot is required prior to the day of your visit. All related information are here for you to peruse.

Tickets are £17.50 for Adults    and     £8.70 for Child

The ticket covers entry to Kensington Palace and the Discover the Real Victoria – Made in Kensington Exhibition.

You may wish to consider purchasing an Annual Membership with the Historic Royal Palaces which grants you unlimited access to 6 Royal Palaces including Kensington Palace.

Opening Times

Monday-Sunday: 10:00-18:00

Last admission: 17:00

Getting here

Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens,

London W8 4PX

Public Transport

London Underground and trains

High Street Kensington station (10 – 15 minute walk) – for the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines

Queensway station (10 – 15 minute walk) – for the Central line

Notting Hill Gate station (20 – 25 minute walk) – for Central, District and Circle lines

Paddington station (20 minute walk)

Bus

Routes 70, 94, 148, and 390 stop along Bayswater Road

Routes 9, 10, 49, 52, 70 and 452 stop along Kensington High Street


Is this post valuable to you in aiding your travel plans to Kensington Palace? if so, let me know in comments below or via Contact Form. I would love to hear from you.

Happy adventures!

March 2021, Update


March 2021, Update


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Cycling in Amsterdam-19 useful tips for an enriched experience

Cycling in Amsterdam-19 useful tips for an enriched experience

Cycling in Amsterdam is one of the best ways to experience the Dutch culture and for most visitors, this is an essential experience. However, do not imitate the Amsterdammers!

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Cycling in Amsterdam

cycling in Amsterdam

It may seem overwhelming and at times terrifying to watch the Dutch get around their city with their kids in their front baskets, talking on the phone and in some cases biting into their sandwiches! They do so with such ease and with great confidence! Observing how the Amsterdammers go about their daily lives may discourage visitors from riding a bike in the city but cycling in Amsterdam independently really is a favourite adventure to undertake if you are a skillful cyclist.

Bike friendly city

Cycling in Amsterdam is made easy by the 500 kilometres or so of dedicated cycle paths. You can basically go everywhere and anywhere within the 17th century canal ring and beyond if you are confident to do so. There are low-speed cycle paths, extra-wide ones as well along with protected cycling spaces at intersections. This cycling haven, only second to Copenhagen has even great bicycle parking facilities. Moreover, bike rentals are cheaper than public transport and cycling is a lot quicker than public transport.

Cycling in Amsterdam opens up many opportunities to discover the historic city and the countryside. You may want to explore the wonders of a forest or observe some riverside wildlife, while marvel at the preserved architecture, taking-in the serenity that surrounds you when not in the bustling city centre. Riding a bike and discovering the city and surrounds either independently at your own pace or on a small group guided cycle tour is a rewarding experience.

However, cycling in Amsterdam can be hectic if you are a visitor and cycling in Amsterdam independently is not an activity for everyone!

What to expect from this article

Therefore this article sets out 19 useful tips on cycling in Amsterdam as a basic guide to an enriched cycling experience for those who wish to explore the free city by bike.

Whilst we work hard to be accurate, and provide the best information possible, we also encourage you to please always check before heading out.

cycling in Amsterdam

1 | Road signs, Traffic rules and regulations when cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling in Amsterdam

Before getting onto a two-wheeler in Amsterdam, familiarise yourself with the Traffic rules and regulations in the Netherlands as these may be different to your home country. Ensure you are familiar especially with the road signs, traffic rules and regulations in Amsterdam in relation to cyclists. In particular:

1.1 | A working bicycle bell when cycling in Amsterdam

Ensure that you have a working bicycle bell that can be heard by other traffic users who are at least 25 metres in distance to you;

1.2 | Working lights and reflectors

Ensure you have working lights and reflectors on your bike incase your adventure takes you beyond dusk, or you are exploring in winter. You will be subject to a fine if you do not use lights when riding at night or if you have faulty lights;

1.3 | Keep to the right when cycling in Amsterdam

As you ride, keep to the right side of the road so other cyclists who are faster than you are able to pass. If you are riding in a group, keep to a single file.

1.4 | Don’t ride on the pavements!

Most importantly, don’t ride on the pavements although most Amsterdammers ignore this rule. Disembark from your bike and walk the pavements instead;

1.5 | Pedestrian only zones

Don’t bike through pedestrian only zones, or you’ll risk a fine;

1.6 | Use hand signals when cycling in Amsterdam

Use hand signals when you want to stop or when turning at an intersection. If you are turning left or right, you would want to put your arm out as a signal that you would be turning at the next intersection. It is important to give proper and enough notice so fellow traffic users are aware of your intentions and next move. If proper signals are not given, you may cause accidents.

1.7 | Follow all traffic signs

cycling in Amsterdam

The Dutch are so geared into cycle travel that cyclists have their own set of traffic lights and dedicated lanes. In some areas, they have their own roundabouts as well. Adhere to all traffic lights and signs. Always wait for the ‘green bike’ to appear before you continue on with your journey.

1.8 | Give way to pedestrians

Give way to pedestrians on crosswalk. Don’t try and speed-up in the hope of missing them. Accidents can and do happen! Just stop and let them pass.

For a comprehensive guide on Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands download the PDF to peruse.

2 | Amsterdam bikes are different!

renting a bike in Amsterdam

Amsterdam bikes are different in that they may not have gears or handbrakes. This is because the Netherlands is mostly flat and and gears are not needed. Therefore, bikes with fixed gears are readily available where all you have to do is pedal. However, if you are renting a bike for your visit, you might want to hire a bike with handbrakes. You may feel more comfortable cycling in Amsterdam with these features that give you some control and ability to stop rather than stopping with your foot.

3 | Beware of Tram rails when cycling in Amsterdam

Trams are part of an extensive public transport network in Amsterdam and you just need to be careful not to get your wheels stuck in the tram rails. Ensure you cross the tram rails at a 45 degree angle, or avoid the tram tracks if at all possible.

4 | Bike parking policy in Amsterdam that you need to know

Amsterdam.noparking.sign
No bike parking sign in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a strict bike parking policy!

Amsterdam is a city of bicycles and getting around on a bike is a way of life for the Amsterdammers. They don’t only go everywhere with their bikes, they also park everywhere and anywhere they like. Therefore, basically you can park your bicycle anywhere as this is not illegal.

Wrongly parked bicycles may be removed by the police. To retrieve your bike, you need to go to the bicycle depot, and pay a fine. Learn more about retrieving your bike from the bicycle depot by visiting Amsterdam’s official site in this regard.

5 | Park bicycles in designated guarded parking facilities

Amsterdam: Bicycle parking in style.
Amsterdam: Bicycle park

Theft of bicycles in Amsterdam is high! Even if you have locks and secure your bike to the side rails, there is a possibility that your bike will not be there upon your return.

You are strongly advised to use one of the guarded parking facilities provided by the Amsterdam City Council. The Council do not charge for the first 24 hours of parking but thereafter, a small charge is levied. Unfortunately, there is no prior booking for this facility. Visit the Amsterdam City Council web page to locate guarded parking facilities dotted around the city.

6 | Bike theft and cycling in Amsterdam

Bike theft is a huge problem in Amsterdam. Hundreds of thousands of bikes are stolen each year in the city. When cycling in Amsterdam, never leave your bike unattended or unlocked even if you are stopping for a quick photo.

7 | Lock your bicycles

cycling in Amsterdam | cycle locks
secure the bicycle frame to a solid object | Cycling in Amsterdam

One of the best things to do to avoid an unpleasant experience such as theft is to lock your bicycle at all times when not in use even when you pop into a shop for refreshments or on a terrace sipping up the city’s local brew.


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8 | Use certified locks

Lock your bicycle using certified locks. Ordinary locks are easy to break. Use thief-proof locks which takes longer to destroy. You can purchase these certified locks from any of the bicycle shops in Amsterdam city. Certified locks are little more expensive than ordinary locks but it is worth it.

8.1 | Double-down on the certified locks

Use two certified locks and secure your bike to a solid object. Having two locks is twice harder for a potential thief to break the locks and to ride away with your bike.

When securing your bike, don’t just secure the front/back wheel alone. A front wheel can easily be unscrewed from the main bike frame and bike thieves can walk away with the frame. Secure your bicycle frame as well. Ensure you secure your bike to a bike rack or a solid metal post.

9 | Avoid quiet or abandoned areas to park your bicycle

Avoid quiet and abandoned areas to park your bicycles. Vandalised signs and broken locks are areas not best for leaving your bike. Choose a secure location to park your bicycles as mentioned in #5 above. You could park in busy areas such as along the canals and bridges where you could secure your bicycle to a lamp-post or railings.

10 | Do not leave valuables on your bike

Do not leave valuables on your bike. It is pretty obvious that leaving money, mobile phones, passports or GPS is never a good idea. The less obvious items such as water-bottles, bicycle pumps or even bicycle bags may be tempting the thieves also.

11 | Adequate Travel Insurance

cycling in Amsterdam

Having your bike stolen while visiting Amsterdam is not a joke and certainly an incident best avoided. However, should the unfortunate happen, you need to report it to the police. Chances of your bike being recovered is low to none! You shall need the police report for insurance purposes.

Ensure your travel insurance cover your bicycle and cycling activities whilst on holiday in Amsterdam or wider Netherlands.

Some insurance companies may consider cycling as an ‘adventure’ activity and may not cover adventure activities as part of their standard travel policy. You may have to pay a little extra to include cycling but it is worth including it. Also ensure your policy covers theft of bicycles and not just injuries or medical expenses resulting from cycling accidents.

Check World Nomads for their comprehensive cover on travel and adventure insurance. Read all fine prints before signing up to a policy and ensure the policy covers you and your travel needs.

12 | Be prepared for the rain!

cycling in Amsterdam

It does rain in Amsterdam! If you are biking, you may want to use a waterproof jacket, wear a cycling cap and wear overshoes and gloves. Most tourists use a poncho instead. Best to check the weather before embarking on a cycling adventure in Amsterdam.

13 | Avoid rush hour

The rush hour in Amsterdam are between 08:00 and 09:00 when everyone rushes to work as well as between 17:00 and 18:00 when everyone rushes home. You can imagine what the cycle lanes will be like – long queues! If there is no great need to be cycling in Amsterdam during these hours, then avoid it by all means and wait for the rush to calm down.

14 | Helmets and cycling in Amsterdam

Believe it or not, cycle helmets are not required when cycling in Amsterdam at the moment. Cyclists in Amsterdam rarely wear them and they consider cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity. The Dutch have pretty much created a safe cycling environment. Most of the head injuries sustained are from car accidents. So bicycling is regarded as a super safe activity in the Netherlands.

Having said that, it is highly recommended that you use a cycle helmet when cycling in Amsterdam. This is so, especially when you are unfamiliar with the roads and fellow Amsterdammers.

The bike rental shop will have one available for you for a small extra charge.

15 | Do not imitate the Amsterdammers!

cycling in Amsterdam

The cyclists in Amsterdam are notorious and well-known for breaking the rules. Weaving through cycle lanes, cycling through red traffic lights, cycling without lights at night, eating and drinking while cycling, riding with one hand and holding an umbrella in another with no helmets! Don’t follow them!

16 | Biking directions | Smartphone Apps for cycling in Amsterdam

There are many smartphone apps in the Apple Appstore and in the Google Android PlayMarket designed for cyclists. Some are specifically designed for cycle-touring the Netherlands and available in Dutch . There are some that are useful for non-Dutch speakers also. Some of these apps require internet connection for it to work, and we known that this is not always possible when you are cycling in open spaces, countryside or rural areas. The following two apps, one for within range of a cell tower and the other is an offline app which could be something you may want to consider:

16.1 | Google Maps

Google maps is my go-to app whenever I am out and about. Google has its own proprietary data and the quality of the maps and directions are detailed. It is an app, without which I would be completely lost navigating my way around a foreign city or driving in another country. However, the downside is, google maps requires an internet connection. It may not always be possible to connect to a cell tower when you are out of the city and you would not want to hike-up your data usage when abroad. For this reason, the offline maps.me is a useful tool to consider.

16.2 | MAPS.ME App

Maps.me was formerly known as MapsWithMe and is a mobile app for Android, iOS and Blackberry. It is free and internet connection is not required which is really handy when you are cycling in Amsterdam or the rural areas of the Netherlands. In fact, maps.me is increasingly becoming a favourite for adventurers.

In relation to quality of content, Maps.me takes a universal approach by using opensource OpenStreetMap data. It is completely community driven where the content is developed by passionate individuals who readily and willingly contribute to the growing list of local knowledge.

The main benefit of maps.me is the offline feature. You could download the maps and store it onto your device. You will always have access to the maps, location and local resources such as hiking trails, driving directions, cycle routes. The maps.me app also allows searches by name, street or co-ordinates. You could search for hotels, points of interests, and so much more.

The only thing you need remember is to ensure that your device is charged so that you can access the app when you are on the road.

Download maps.me

17 | General information for cyclists cycling in Amsterdam

In the Netherlnds, there are currently twenty-six long-distance cycling routes and many smaller ones to make up longer journeys. If you decide to go beyond cycling in Amsterdam, the following websites may be useful:

17.1 | The ANWB

The Royal Dutch Automobile Association, simply known as the ANWB is a travellers association in the Netherlands supporting all modes of transport. Their information centres, ‘VVV’ is the place to go to for all of your information on cycling. You can pick a cycling route map here to plan your cycling in Amsterdam.

The ANWB has developed an app allowing for cyclists to plan their route using node numbers. It also includes descriptions of sights and places to eat.

Navigate to the ANWB – the site is in Dutch, just Google translate to read in English

Alternatively, you could pick-up a cycling map published by ANWB right here by clicking the image link below:

17.2 | Fietsrouteplanner

The Fietsrouteplanner is a great site to go to for mapping your cycle journey. Although this site is in Dutch, you could select the Google translate option to English. Set your marker on the starting point and a red ‘flag’ appears which you use to select your end point. You could also select any points to go via and map your route.

Navigate to Fietsrouteplanner here.

17.3 | I Amsterdam Visitor Centre

The I Amsterdam Visitor Centre is a tourist information office located in the heart of the city. Here, you can pick up various cycle route map for cycling in Amsterdam. Staff are friendly and helpful.

I Amsterdam Visitor Centre, Stationsplein 10, 1012 AB Amsterdam, Netherlands

17.4 | Amenities

There are not many public amenities available along the Dutch cycling route, so ensure you map your route to reach a town or village where you could visit.

17.5 | Resources – guide books and maps

The following useful resources may be handy – available in print and Kindle version:

18 | Renting a bike in Amsterdam

As a cycle city, Amsterdam has a number of bike rental shops and you are never too far away from one. There are number of bike rental shops which you could go to on the day or you may want to do the easy wayprebook your rental and pick it up from the various locations to suit your itinerary.

Recommended read: Rent a bike in Amsterdam Green City

Here are some suggestions for you if you would like to visit a bike rental venue.

Green Bikes Haarlem, Kruisweg 30, 2011 LC HAARLEM

Dutch Pedelec Tours, Flevoland 11, 1948 RH BEVERWIJK

Yellow Bike Rental Central Station, Nieuwezijds Kolk 29, 1012 PV AMSTERDAM

19 | Independent cycling in Amsterdam or small group guided cycling tour – which is for you?

If you are a skillful cyclists and can endure the craziness of the Amsterdammers 🙂 then by all means, go out there and have a splendid time. On the other hand, if you are unsure and feel that being with fellow cyclists may be better for you, then joining a small group guided bicycle tour led by an experienced guide is the best option for you.

The benefits of a small group guided cycling tour includes but not limited to, are:

i | Biclycle rental;

ii | Guide to where to park your bicycle;

iii | Led by an experienced guide;

iv | Cycle paths that are away from major traffic areas so you feel confident riding at your pace;

v | The benefits of travelling in a group – shared interests and fun.

There are a number of bike tours which you could sign-up to – from private tours to group tours, and from exploring hidden gems to food & drinks tour. Select what best suits you from this dedicated page.


On a final note

Cycling in Amsterdam city is not for everyone! You need to be careful even as you walk the narrow streets of the capital city not to be run over by the sophisticated cyclists. It certainly was not for me!

While I very much wanted to tick off cycling in Amsterdam city from my bucket list of experiences, I was much too overwhelmed and certainly did not feel confident to embark on this adventure, after almost run over twice. No, not on this occasion. Cycling beyond the city in the outskirts at my own pace is more my kind of fun and adventure.

Though I did not bicycle in the Dutch capital, I feel compelled to share my observations of the cyclists and of the city’s overall cycling culture along with my extensive research which I undertook in preparation for my cycling adventure. I share these to support your cycling trip, should you elect to do so and sincerely wish the 19 useful tips for an enriched experience of cycling in Amsterdam is valuable to you in planning your visit.

In preparation for your trip to Amsterdam, you may like to read the following articles also:

Delicious Dutch culture food in Amsterdam
28 best things to do in Amsterdam
Beautiful places to stay in Amsterdam

Find all of the above and more plus the latest articles on Amsterdam by navigating to this dedicated page > Ultimate Travel Guide to the Best of Amsterdam.


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Have a splendid time exploring and cycling in Amsterdam!

xoxo

Quick facts on Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam on world map
52° 22′ 40.6416” N and 4° 53′ 49.4520” E
Amsterdam flag
Amsterdam flag
Amsterdam Coat of Arms
Amsterdam Coat of Arms

City: Capital of Netherlands

Population: 1,149,000

Mayor: Femke Halsema (since 2018)

Zone: Central European Time Zone | Central European Summer Time

Elevation: -2m (-7ft) – Dam Square

Nearest Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

Train Station: Amsterdam Centraal Station

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