Jan Tervoort, known as “Amster Jan,” will lead you on a walking tour of Amsterdam and serenade you with traditional Dutch folk songs along the way. Here, his insider hints for visiting the uniquely gorgeous city.
Q: What inspired you to become a singing tour guide?
A: I fell in love with Amsterdam when I moved here 12 years ago and started giving tours to friends who were visiting, then decided to go professional. The city’s tourist industry is very competitive, so I needed something to stand out. I brought along my guitar and sang old folk songs. I’m still the only singing tour guide in the city.
Q: What’s your best money-saving tip for the first-time visitor to Amsterdam?
A: Contact me at Amsterjan.nl. Start with a general tour of the city. A two-hour tour costs 100 euros, but the tips and advice you will get in the two hours will help you save time and money the rest of the trip.
Q: I’ll bet you get asked a lot of interesting questions on tours.
A: One family brought their 89-year-old grandma in a wheelchair to the old Amsterdam neighborhood where she was born. They brought along a very old picture of the house where she was born, and for some reason she didn’t know the address. From clues in the picture, we went for a search through the neighborhood and found the place. It was very interesting and emotional.
Q: What’s your number-one Amsterdam secret that you’re willing to share?
A: Visit the Western Islands, created in the 17th century for the shipping industry. Tourists haven’t discovered them yet. They’re in the center of Amsterdam close to central station, the busiest part of the city, but on the islands it is totally quiet. There is almost no traffic, beautiful old storehouses, little old wooden walking bridges, a little children’s farm, nice canals, a local bar, and no shops. You’d actually feel as if you’re going back in time if it weren’t for the big yellow submarine that rests in the central canal.
Q: What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve had on a tour?
A: In the posh neighborhood of Jordaan, I was telling a tour group about one of Holland’s most famous gangsters, and the gangster in question actually pulled up on a scooter to say hi. Everyone went silent, then began to laugh. The man is currently in jail, charged with several murders.