Unlike their counterparts in many other European cities, citizens of the Dutch capital never lost their trams - but by the end of the 20th century Amsterdam's extensive network was getting tired, with antiquated cars that were constantly out of service for repair. By 2003, a fleet of new Combino trams came into service, with wheelchair-friendly low floors. These sleek blue-and-white trams have become a welcome sight, operating alongside a number of older cars that have h:er retained.
Riding the trams is an excellent way of seeing Amsterdam for those who don't have time for the water tour, and the Combinos with their large windows provjde a great vjew of 'The Venice of the North'. New trams went hand in hand with a major refurbishment and extension of the network, a work in progress, but the first fruit was the introduction of a new route - Line 26 from Central Station to the new housing developments of IJburg on artificial islands reclaimed from the vast (and equally artificial) IJsselmeer inland sea - the former being yet another example of the Dutch genius for turning water into dry land, and the latter of their ability to tum salt water into fresh.
Line 26 is inevitably known as the IJtram. This 8.5 km (5 mi) route runs mainly through residential areas, rather than amidst heavy city traffic, and includes the 1.5 km (1 mi) Piet Hein Tunnel. Happily for commuters, it is the only tramline in Amsterdam that accepts non-folding bicycles. It also provides an interesting return journey from the city centre, passing the spectacular new Muziekgebouw concert hall, the passenger tenninal where cruise ships dock, the Lloyd Hotel and Eastern Docklands, before crossing IJburg's successive islands. This is not a particularly scenic journey, but the opportunity to see the on-going work of redeveloping Amsterdam's waterfront and IJburg should not be missed.
WHEN TO GO
March to October to avoid short days and sometimes bitterly cold winter weather.
TIME IT TAKES
The IJtram takes just 18 minutes from Central Station to the Harbour · Island terminus in IJburg.
The heart of the old city around Central Station, for the scenic Amsterdam of canals and tall houses at its best.
A visitor centre near the Vennepluimstraat stop on line 26, which explains the ambitious creation of IJburg.
Crossing the impressive Enneus Bridge that carries both the IJtram and the only road to and from IJburg.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Amsterdam's trams cross more than 1500 bridges, often after making the sharpest of turns.