Online Update: What’s New in Amsterdam Travel

Inspired by the annual fashion weeks in Milan, New York and Paris, Amsterdam International Fashion Week takes its turn. Amsterdam’s old harbor along the waterfront continues to develop, and to welcome new residents, businesses, and dining and entertainment venues.

The discontinuation of the ferry routes from the dock behind Centraal Station to Java Island and the Eastern Docks area took away the finest opportunity for visitors to view the rapidly changing scene from the best vantage point of all — the water — but other routes remain in service. In addition to two short hops from Centraal Station across the IJ channel to Amsterdam-Noord, a third ferry route goes west to the NDSM Wharf, an old dockland installation that’s been transformed into a center for underground and alternative culture.

Here’s a look at what else is new in Amsterdam since the latest edition of Frommer’s Amsterdam came out.

Planning Your Trip to Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Tourist & Congress Bureau, the parent body of the city’s tourist information organization, VVV Amsterdam, has changed its Web address to www.iamsterdam.com. In addition, a new VVV Amsterdam office has opened at Paulus Potterstraat 8, just off Museumplein, the city square bordered by the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, and Concertgebouw. The office is open daily from 8:30am to 5pm.

Beginning April 1, 2009 (a target date that might get pushed back by a month or two), the new national OV-chipkaart smart card will be the only way to pay for public transportation in the city. The three main types of OV-chipkaart are a re-loadable “personal” card that can be used only by its pictured owner; a reloadable “anonymous” card that can be used by anyone; and a non-reloadable “throwaway” card that can be used by anyone for a ride or two and then be thrown away (or recycled). Passengers on Metro trains, trams, buses, and trains “show” the card to electronic readers at the start and end of the ride, and the correct fare is automatically deducted from the value stored on the card. To keep up with the latest information, go to the English version of the Amsterdam Municipal Transportation Authority website www.gvb.nl and click the “OV-chipkaart” link.

Getting around Amsterdam by taxi should be a bit smoother, now that local taxi operator TCA (www.tca-amsterdam.nl) will receive a delivery of 20 London-style “Hackney cabs” with electric engines in 2009.

Where to Stay

If you consider yourself to be a mobile citizen of the world, the new citizenM Amsterdam City hotel (www.citizenm.com) could be the place for you. Admittedly, a location in the business-orientated World Trade Center zone in Amsterdam-Zuid (South) means you’ll miss out on lodging in the bustling heart of one of the world’s most exciting cities. But the hotel’s ultra-modern design, king-size beds, free Wi-Fi connections, and moderate prices are among several persuasive plus-points, and there’s a fast tram connection into the center city. Only online reservations are accepted.

Where to Dine

One of the finest restaurants never reviewed in Frommer’s Amsterdam was 11, which took its name from a location on the 11th Floor of the old Post Building east of Centraal Station. There our review was, already written for the book’s next edition, when the sad news came in that the restaurant was to close in 2008. This was an occasion for much weeping and rending of fancy garments in the city, for 11 had been a standard-bearer of trendy eating, drinking, and club-going. Now there are rumors that it is to resurface in 2009, on Wibautstraat, east of the Amstel River.

Staying with a similarly numbered theme, chic restaurant Lab 111, Arie Biemondstraat 111; (tel. 020/616-9994; www.lab111.nl) occupies the unlikely setting of a former medical anatomy laboratory that’s now part of the Smart Project Space avant-garde arts center. The center and its restaurant are located a few blocks north of Vondelpark, and the menu is a mix of contemporary Dutch and Continental cuisine.

Exploring Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s modern art museum, the Stedelijk Museum (www.stedelijkindestad.nl), is standing by its announced date for reopening at its permanent premises on Museumplein, which have been undergoing a years-long refurbishment. Homeless since moving out of a temporary base in the old Post Building east of Centraal Station in October 2008, the Stedelijk is keeping the flag flying with a series of temporary exhibits at other locations around town. If all goes well, the museum will reopen at Paulus Potterstraat 13 in December 2009.

The Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace; www.koninklijkhuis.nl), on the Dam, which likewise has been closed for long-term refurbishment, is due to reopen to visitors in June 2009 — but don’t be too surprised if this announced date doesn’t hold up.

Another of the city’s attractions currently closed for refurbishment, the Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum; www.scheepvaartmuseum.nl), is due to reopen some time in 2010. Meantime, you can visit the museum’s full-size replica of an 18th-century Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (United East India Company) sailing ship, the Amsterdam, just across the water at a dock beside the NEMO Science Center .

Named after the city’s most famous artist, Rembrandtplein is being treated to a serious facelift during 2009. At a cost of €3.5 million, the square — which is a strange mélange of the chic and the tacky — will be spruced up and reorganized. The 1852 statue of Rembrandt will be shifted to a central position on the square.

Amsterdam After Dark

Tough times have arrived for consumers of some of Amsterdam’s most notorious entertainment options. Hard on the heels of the city-enforced closure of about one third of the sex-for-sale rooms in the Red Light District, and of the city’s platinum-card bordello Yab Yum, comes court confirmation of the mayor’s directive to shutter 43 of the city’s 228 “coffee shops,” in which hashish and marijuana are the main items on the menu. This follows a national government directive establishing a minimum distance between these smoke shops and schools. In even more gloomynews for the city’s dope heads, an appeals court judge upheld the December 2008 national prohibition on the sale of hallucinogenic, or so-called “magic,” mushrooms.

 Time for Amsterdam International Fashion Week: 27 – 31 Jan 2010.

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