by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
Amsterdam, the capital city in the Netherlands, is known for its canals, bicycle culture and love for the arts. After all, this is home to Van Gogh, Vermeer and Rembrandt. And Heineken.
Amsterdam’s tourist season begins in April when tulips generally reach their peak in Holland, which covers two provinces in the Netherlands. Summers are very busy, and August 2020 will be no exception with Sail Amsterdam, a once-every-five-year event that features tall ships from around the world accompanied by street food and entertainment, and also August’s annual 10-day Grachtenfestival for classical music, jazz, and music from other cultures.
Off-season, on November 2, 2020 to be exact, the annual Amsterdam Museum Night gives you access to museums city-wide that stay open until 2 am. One wristband gets you in to all 50 participating museums. November also brings the Super-Sonic Jazz Festival to the city.
For canal tours, the "best" time is April through October. Summers, of course, are warmest and also the most crowded.
No matter what time of year you go, here are 10 Ways to Feel the Groove of Amsterdam, Holland:
Getting to Amsterdam is easy with flights arriving at the city’s Schipol Airport from around the world. A taxi from downtown Amsterdam will cost about 60 euros, while the train from the airport to Centraal Station runs every 10 minutes for 6 euros a ticket. The kiosks to purchase train tickets are located just after you pass the baggage carousels both inside the baggage claim area and outside once you clear customs. Trains and buses from Amsterdam take you throughout Europe.
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA, is a PRSA-accredited public relations practitioner, and an IATA-accredited travel advisor. Connect through facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel, Instagram @friendgrouptravel or firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
Copenhagen is a fabulous walking city.
Do NOT walk in the bike lanes.
Unlike the United States, where cyclists are often forced to share roads with motor vehicles and pedestrians, bicycling in Denmark is a serious mode of transportation with designated lanes and traffic lights in urban areas. In Copenhagen, where more than half of all employees bike to work, wandering tourists walking into bike lanes can lead to injury, so pay attention to the bike lanes and stay clear. The train and bus systems make it very easy to get around Copenhagen without a car.
Whatever your mode of transportation, here are 7 things to do in Copenhagen:
Leading the Way for Sustainability
Denmark is a world leader in bringing sustainability to life, affirming the importance of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Currently, 30 percent of all Denmark’s energy comes from renewable sources, including bioenergy, followed by wind, solar and geothermal energy, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark. The country’s public and private sectors are both committed to achieving an energy system without fossil fuels by 2050. The enthusiastic Danish Society of Engineers, IDA, and is ahead of schedule on the project, and has a roadmap to implement the goal of a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2035.
Playing On a Heap of Trash
One of the steps towards Copenhagen’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral capital includes the opening of Amager Bakke, or CopenHill, planned as the new epicenter for urban mountain sport, offering year-round skiing and snowboarding on artificial snow. It includes the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall, running and hiking trails, and a café – all surrounded by a sprawling recreation area with water sports, soccer fields, and even a go-kart track.
The clincher? CopenHill is built on top of the city’s new waste management and energy plant. Amager Bakke is considered the most efficient waste-burning and energy-generating plant in the world, and is expected to power and heat 160,000 households across Copenhagen.
Getting Away From the City
As beautiful as Copenhagen is with its waterways and happy vibe, seeing the outlying countryside is part of the Danish experience. Whether you travel by bicycle, car, train or bus, here are 5 day-trips that take you outside Copenhagen’s city center:
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA, is a PRSA-accredited public relations practitioner, and an IATA-accredited travel advisor at FriendlyGroupTravel.com. Connect through facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel, Instagram @friendgrouptravel or email@example.com
Stockholm Winter Wandering
by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
The most popular time to visit Stockholm, Sweden’s capital and most populous city, is summer, with warm days, bustling outdoor cafes and extended hours of daylight to explore the city’s archipelago and canals by foot or by sea. After all, Stockholm is built on 14 beautiful islands connected by 57 bridges.
But, as fate would have it, I had family business that called me over in mid-January. I didn’t mind, airfares and hotel rates are lower in winter, and having been to Stockholm about 30 times in my life, I was happy to approach this trip as a journey into winter life in the city.
This time I opted not to stay in the tourist area of Gamla Stan (“Old Town” with cobblestone walking streets and preserved medieval architecture), near Djurgården (the island in the southern part of Östermalm that’s home to the famous Vasa Viking ship museum, Skansen outdoor living museum of traditional life, Gröna Lund amusement park and the Abba Museum), hip Södermalm with its artsy vibe and eclectic eateries, or near the ferry terminals that take passengers to the archipelago and numerous water tours of the city.
Instead, we stayed in Norrmalm, a 20-minute walk north of the city’s Central Train station, passing by Sorgel Torg, the heart of this busy shopping and working district. Norrmalm is also a cultural hub, with ballet and opera at the Royal Swedish Opera, as well as art exhibits and modern dance at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. Drottninggatan is a vehicle-prohibited shopping street filled with outdoor cafes and fun places to get a sense of current Swedish design and fashion. It begins close to the Royal Palace where you’ll see shops selling all the expected souvenirs, from t-shirts and Viking horn hats to Swedish crystal and H&M department store bargains. The farther north you walk, the more this becomes part of the local community. We also walked around Vasastan, a neighborhood near Stockholm’s prestigious KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), which was part of my reason for visiting over the winter.
In winter, in Norrmalm, you feel less like a tourist and more immersed in daily culture of Swedish life. Here are my observations, some pertinent year-round and some most noticeable in winter:
If it had been summer, and the days were long and warm we’d be more apt to see families and lots of children out on the streets. With school in session and the setting sun closing in on daylight by mid-afternoon, it was a different vibe to see commuters – well-dressed men with their stylish hair and manbags, women bicycling in leggings and skirts, and shiny white lights in every direction. Most people would enjoy Stockholm more in spring, summer or fall. However, stretching a necessary family trip with a quick immersion dump into Stockholm’s winter culture gave us a fun new insight into the winter scene in one of Scandinavia’s most beloved cities.
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA is principal of friendlygrouptravel.com and MSE Public Relations. She’s also a writer with special interest in travel, health and wellness. Connect at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel @marciasimon on Twitter or friendlygrouptravel on Instagram.
10 Great Things To Do In Barcelona
by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
A visit to Barcelona will likely include a stroll down Les Rambles (La Rambla), the main walking street lined with shops and restaurants filling tourists with paella, tapas, big mugs of local beer and sangria, and some really odd flavors of gelato. Other than to say, “been there, done that,” if you miss La Rambla, you can still have an excellent time in Barcelona.
Explore the city and its outskirts. Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) is where you’ll find Tourist Information. This square is known as the “belly button” of Barcelona, the center of visitor activities, tours and excursions. It also serves as a boundary point for the different neighborhoods that reach out in different directions from this core. Under the plaza is the large mass transit metro complex.
10 Great Things to Do in Barcelona
Marcia Simon, CTA, APR, has been exploring new places since she was 17 years old and traveled around Europe on a Eurailpass with her best friend. Decades later, she still considers travel the best investment of time and money she's ever made for herself and her family.