Guest post by Nicola Chadwick, freelance journalist on all things Dutch
In Amsterdam, we love to spend our free time relaxing in the Vondel Park, just off the Leidseplein – it’s comparable to New York’s Central Park. Wander through the park and you will see people sitting in the grass, skaters outside the Vondel CS pavilion and lots of bikes. Free concerts are held every weekend in the summer in the Vondelpark Open Air Theater.
A visit to one of Amsterdam’s many markets should be on your bucket list. The Noordermarkt hosts my favourite market on Mondays (vintage and antique) and Saturdays (organic farmer’s market). The Waterlooplein outside the city hall is one of the city’s best-known flea markets. Or take a tram to the famous Albert Cuyp market.
Timing could be one good way to ensure you have an entertaining visit. On 27 April Amsterdam turns into one big orange street party. It’s King’s Day when Holland’s new monarch celebrates his birthday. Amsterdammers sell the contents of their attics in a huge street market and there are free live bands on various podia around the city. But book ahead it’ll be busy.
North Amsterdam is absolutely buzzing, so why not catch the free ferry to the NDSM wharf and take a walk around the old shipyard. There is plenty to see without spending any money – a Russian Submarine, the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, disused trams and the old shipbuilding halls. There are regular flea markets, art exhibitions and festivals to visit. Good value places to eat within walking distance of the ferry are the IJkantine, Noorderlicht café or Pllek. Noorderlicht café has free live bands and DJs around the campfire in the summer months.
Café de Ceuvel is one of Amsterdam’s happiest hotspots. This eco project is hidden away in an old boatyard and has been built in marooned houseboats connected by a winding broadwalk. While selected plants cleanse the polluted soil, you can enjoy an organic meal without enlarging your CO2 footprint.
There are lots of hostels in the city for budget holidays, but one of the cheapest places to stay must be the Vliegerbos campsite in North Amsterdam. You can book a cabin or tent if you do not want to bring your own camping equipment. There is also a café/restaurant and outdoor communal kitchen and covered dining areas where you can meet up with other campers. There are also plenty of places to eat nearby as well as a budget supermarket on the way back from town.
If you sleep in North it will give you the opportunity to take a look around this upcoming part of the city. A few years ago, Eye film institute opened on the North bank of the river behind Central Station. It’s a short ferry trip and
there is no admission fee to enter the futuristic building. In the basement you can visit the cinema playground, watch vintage snippets of film on a one arm bandit, download a video on your smartphone or make your own animation book starring – well who else – you!
After at least 15 years working as a freelance translator/editor/journalist and ten years at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, I feel I know Dutch society inside out. I’d describe myself a radio junkie, a news addict and I love to write.
Since February 2013, I have been blogging on North Amsterdam for I love Noord. Originally the website was only in Dutch but North is happening and has attracted the attention of internationally renowned media like The New York Times, and is named the world’s best city blog by The Guardian. The website is a bottom-up online community which highlights social and cultural activities in North Amsterdam. It has a feel-good factor and a positive vibe.