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Amsterdam’s beautiful collection of small shops, cafés, restaurants, and culture--which are best explored on foot or by bike, tram, or boat--make it a beautiful place to visit during the spring and summer months.

Accommodations:

You can easily find a hotel by visiting the GWK Tourist Services desk in Centraal Station. The people at Tourist Services will help you find a hotel (low-budget to five stars). If you want to stay in a youth hostel, stand in front of the station with your luggage and wait for the hostel runners to find you. Most anyone with printed information, or even a card with a phone number, is legitimate.

Food:

For a wonderful snack or an inexpensive breakfast or lunch, you can't beat Gary's Muffins. In addition to their delicious bagels and muffins, they've got fresh, chocolate-chip cookies and brownies that they bake on the premises. Ask them what's still warm and order that. Outdoor seating at Joden-bree-straat and beautiful canal-side tables at the Prinsen-gracht location. Prinsengracht 454 (C4), just off the Leidse-straat, phone 420 1452. Try Joden-bree-straat 15 , Marnix-straat 121 , Kinker-straat 140, and the American Book Center, Kalver-straat 185. Late-night location at Reg-uliers-dwars-straat 53, 12pm-2am, (till 4am Fri/Sat).

Some of the best Italian food is served at unpretentious Panini. Inexpensive pastas in the low f20's, a great spinach salad and homemade warm bread that needs no butter (first one's free, then they start charging). Ask about the lasagna of the day. Vijzelgracht 3, phone 626 4939

Top Thai, not far from the Anne Frank House, or Top Thai II to the west. Top Thai has good, distinct sauces. And each dish has a cute little name. Some, like the 'Phuket Sunset' seem Thai enough, but then there's 'Miss Piggy' and 'I'm On Fire.' Main courses run f20-30, with vegetarian dishes less. Prices 20% lower 'to go.' Kitchen open 4:30-10:30. Credit cards accepted. Heren-straat 22, phone 623 4633 and Top Thai II at 2e C. Huygen-straat 64, phone 683 1297.

Attractions:

True beer enthusiasts should visit the Heineken Brewery on the Stadhouderskade. The quirky, if aging, attraction still offers a real guide and the grand finale - the reception bar where waiters bring as many beers as you can drink in 45 minutes for only ƒ2 (which goes to charity) In the off-season there are two tours (9:30 and 11:00) and the second one sells out. Two more tours at 1:00 and 2:30 are given in summer. No tours Sunday; Saturdays only in Summer.

Boom Chicago: Filled with hysterical improvisation and clever scripted comedy, the shows at Boom Chicago demand that both the actors and the audience think on their feet. Every bit of information from the crowd shapes the show and takes them somewhere unexpected. Take in the late show and dinner and get a free ticket to the midnight totally improv show. The Leidseplein Theater, Leidseplein 12.

Anne Frank House: 263 Prinsengracht. What happened during the hiding period is told in this historical building, open to the public from 9am to 7pm (later during the summer months.) To sustain their authenticity, the rooms in the Secret Annex have undergone preservation activities. The front part of the house - the workplace of the helpers and the former business of Otto Frank - is reconstructed in the style and atmosphere of the hiding period. The story is told using quotations from Anne Frank's diary which, in each of the spaces, illustrate the function and ambience of earlier times. The exhibition also includes original objects, documents, and photographs that serve in strengthening the personal story of the hiding period. Several videos place the personal story in a historical context. The new building adjacent to the original museum houses a current exhibition, the CD-ROM presentation, a reception hall for welcoming groups, the bookstore, and the museum café. Price 10f for adults, less for children and students.

How to get there: Fly into Schipol Airport in Amsterdam (airport code AMS). It’s 9 miles SW of downtown Amsterdam. Once in Amsterdam, the easiest way to get around is by bicycle (rentals available) or on foot. Taxis are also prevalent and reasonably priced.