The second trip took place in July 2014 for another four days. We flew from London to Maastricht Aachen Airport and spent the first day in the university city of Maastricht located in the very south of the Netherlands. The city was inhabited uninterruptedly since Roman times and some claim it is the oldest city in the Netherlands. It is mostly known by the Maastricht Treaty which led to the creation of the European Union. It is also the place of birth of Andre Rieu, a Dutch violinist and conductor who each year comes back for the Annual Maastricht Concerts together with the Johann Strauss Orchestra for three days of open-air evening summer concerts. This is also the reason why we went there and you can buy tickets here for this year`s concert. During the day, we walked around the city admiring the beautiful architecture and enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of the many restaurants that have sitting areas outside as all the city was preparing for the concert installing big screens on the walls for everyone to listen and see the event. It is worth having a walk along the Meuse River passing through several parks and promenades and interesting buildings such as Hoge Brug (High Bridge) or Sint Servaasbrug called the oldest bridge in Netherlands despite being largely rebuilt after the World War II. The City fortification can still be seen in the city, some of which is dating from the 12th century. After the concert, we rented two cars and drove to Amsterdam, a journey that lasts about 2 hours and 30 minutes. When we arrived we checked in at Hostel Slotania, a very clean and cheap hostel with friendly staff.
Day two was very relaxing as we were a bit tired after the concert and the drive so we decided to take advantage of the weather and relax in the sun in the largest park in the city called Vondelpark. There is an open air theatre, ponds, cafes and places to eat as well as beautiful tulip arrangements. Later on, we visited NEMO Science Museum which contains five floors of hands-on science exhibitions and is the largest science centre in the Netherlands. We also tried some delicious food and drinks and some incredible cafes and restaurants getting ready for the next day.
The third day was reserved for visiting some of the most famous museums in Amsterdam such as the Van Gogh Museum, an art museum dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries and the Rijksmuseum which is the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history. They are both located in the Museumplein, a public square which was originally a wax candle factory and marshy meadows. We also visited The Rembrandt House Museum where the painter Rembrandt lived and worked in the house between 1639 and 1656 containing Rembrandt’s etchings and paintings of his contemporaries. We used the IAmsterdam city card again for free entrances at the museums and free public transport.
The last day we rented bicycles to really get into the skin of a resident. According to some facts and figures, there are 800.000 bikes in comparison to only 263.000 cars. Furthermore, 63% of Amsterdammers use their bikes on a daily basis. It is a very safe city for cycling and I strongly recommend renting one for a day at least. There are bike tours as well as renting a bike for at least 24 hours so you can choose based on your desire. We went around the city as well as in the nearby park called Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) which was designed like an English park looking like an open space with forests and ponds. The park is 4 km away from Amsterdam but is very easily accessible as there are convenient bicycle lanes created on both sides of the road.
For anyone planning to go to Amsterdam, I strongly recommend to:
- Rent a bike
- Buy an IAmsterdam card online
- Visit Van Gogh Museum if you are passionate about art
- Visit Zaanse Schans
- Experience a local Coffee Shop
- Take a River Cruise
- Walk around the city in the night