When traveling, especially to a city one has never been to before, it’s easy enough to pick up a brochure, stop at the tourist information kiosk, and book yourself on the city tour. You will certainly get to all the attractions, points of interest, and “must-see” tourist destinations.
In Amsterdam, Netherlands, for example, a canal cruise will get you through all three major canals, a view of the Anne Frank house, and quick glances at the Opera house, the Rijks Museum, and the famous Skinny Bridge. But as tourists, we forget that often, the best kept secrets are in the least expected of places—such as the public library.
The Central Library in Amsterdam, located just east of Central Station is just such a place you can not afford to miss when visiting the city. Recently opened in July 2007, it is the largest public library in Europe and with a budget of 80million euros to build, it will not disappoint you.
You can easily get there by foot from Central Station or you can take the bicycle you rented—the library has 2000 of its own parking spaces for bicycles. Just try not to forget which bike is yours.
With over 10 floors of media at ones disposal, the library does its part to provide the public with books, films, and multimedia material for every possible need and whim. But for you, the city traveler, the library is also an architectural marvel with several museums enclosed in its space. Open and airy with high ceilings and bright lighting, you will feel more like you are in a gallery space than in your public library.
The library also utilizes energy-saving devices such as elevators that slow down when no one is on them, fluorescent lighting throughout, and naturally efficient toilets with self-flushing mechanisms. Even the hand dryers in the restrooms are green and worth wandering down to the lower level just to experience.
There are over 600 Internet connections for Mac and PC lovers alike, all of which is available for public use during all hours of operation. The second level is entirely dedicated to music and film wherein you can listen to tracks off your favorite album before you check it out, lounge in one of their recliners, or just browse through their comprehensive collection of all media in multiple languages, including English.
For children, there is a whole level with bright red plush chairs, low shelves for easy-to-reach ease, and plenty of space to cuddle with mom or dad for a short story time and break from the big city.
And for you, after taking the elevators to each floor and being blown away at the sheer magnitude of such a place, there is a restaurant on the very top floor with sweeping panoramic views of the city. The restaurant is self-serve with a healthy and delicious array of foods from a simple but gourmet salad bar, to a pizza station, pasta station, and a grill where you chose what you would like and they grill it right before you. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere is simple enough to take children while maintaining a very adult flair.
If you’re not toting around the little ones, there is also a bar which serves alcoholic drinks and espresso, as well as light appetizers. You can eat standing right next to the bar, or at any of the bar tables nearby.
The library is open from 10am to 10pm but you’ll want to come to the library in the evening, when the student crowds are low and you’re tired of the circus of being immersed in the city all day. Also because after dining on the top floor, you’ll want to walk out to the balcony to get a view of the city you won’t get anywhere else. You’ll want to take a few pictures so leave room on your camera after a day of sight-seeing.
The Amsterdam library will leave you wishing your city library was as awesome and for most of us, it will be the only time we will ever think, “I should spend more time in a library.” I know it seems like a far fetched thought now, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself wanting to come back to the library on your next visit.
Photos of Amsterdam Public Library originally posted by tacoekkel