Amsterdam Centraal


Amsterdam Central Station is the Kim Kardashian of train stations - high maintenance, more than a little dirty, frequently invaded by foreign objects, yet not without its charm at times.

Centraal (the extra 'a' is the Dutch spelling) like so much of the overall Dutch experience, inspires a mix of emotions.

It is not the cleanest of stations, no. Particularly during the perennial garbage strikes that grip the station, when you have to navigate the piles of trash and Euro-trash while you dash to your soon-departing train.

Inside, it's not the nicest-looking of stations either. Any number of major centres in Europe have way more attractive central stations - including Paris' Gare de Lyon and Brussels' Antwerp, to name but two - where you step out and feel as though you are in a museum.

As far as amenities, it's lacking. A couple of fast food kiosks, a Hema (a future post will explain the goodness that is Hema), a pay toilet, and that's kind of it. Save for a few benches and a four-seat Starbucks, you can barely find a spot to sit down in the event that you have to wait to meet someone (an all too frequent experience, thanks to the train company NS, short for Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or No Service). You can't even meet someone for a beer here to ease the pain of a teary farewell or celebrate a homecoming.

And yet.

It's seeing the amazing mix and hum of foreign travellers and locals buzzing through the station from all directions. It's the thousands of bikes stacked seemingly on top of each other just steps from the door, yours included, offering quick access to the city beyond.

It's the water ringing the north and south entrances, a sparkling sight to see on a sunny day when the city is crackling with possibility. And it's the arrival from Amsterdam itself, when the station's exterior of red bricks, gold trim, exterior art work and a beautiful clock tower beckon from far away.

As for which one will age more gracefully, Amsterdam Centraal vs Kardashian, my money's on the one with the less generous seating.