While globally notorious for it’s acceptance and occasional endorsement of hedonistic delights, the city of Amsterdam has much more to offer than legal access to prostitution and a lenient attitude towards soft-core drugs. Rich in charm and culture, Amsterdam is a thriving city that invites visitors to explore it’s winding streets and maze-like canals, offering a seemingly endless variety of artistic events and dining opportunities.
Big Things Come In Small Packages
Organized and efficient while embracing it’s casual appearance and “relaxed” reputation, Amsterdam serves as the capital of the Netherlands. Most first-time visitors are surprised at it’s compact design and relatively small population: Approximately 800,000 people consider the city to be home. Quiet, winding streets encourage walking and the use of bicycles; it is easy to cycle around the city centre in a couple of hours. As a result, Amsterdam has developed a healthy cycling culture to the extent than many residents use bicycles as their sole or primary mode of transportation.
Bike rentals are inexpensive and available all over the city. You can explore on your own, but guided tours of Amsterdam are cheap and you’ll end up with a lot of extra knowledge. A 20-minute ride will take you to Waterland, which is the perfect place to take pictures of the iconic Dutch scenery.
Failure to Communicate?
Luckily, visitors traveling to Amsterdam don’t have to worry about trying to master the Dutch language. As is common in most European countries, people of the Netherlands are almost always multilingual; English is widely spoken throughout the country, as is Italian, French, and German.
Still, it is always advisable for travelers to learn a few important or funny words and phrases in the native tongue of the countries they visit. While not strictly necessary, knowing enough to make even the most feeble attempt at communication will not go unnoticed by the locals.
These Things are Cliche For a Reason
Every major city has certain sights, venues and events that outsiders consider to be crucial to the experience, and Amsterdam is no exception. The Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum (Vermeer and Rembrandt) are among the most popular, and the city offers many other “must-see” attractions that truly are worth seeing. However, the normally tolerable lines occasionally grow – especially during holidays and in the morning – until the wait times for entry border on absurd. An obnoxiously-long wait can make that glimpse of painting or moment of reflection seem more than a little overrated, and Amsterdam has much more to offer.
- A visit to the Waterlooplein flea-market is considered by many travel experts to be a classic Amsterdam experience, but most travelers will find that it has been overrun with the usual imported novelties. The markets located on Albert Cuyp Street and in the Noordermarkt will offer a better selection with better prices and provide a more authentic experience.
- There is almost always something going on in the stunning Vondelpark: it’s always busy, but never so crowded that it becomes hard to enjoy. In the summer, the air is full of sound from free concerts and artistic performances and t tasty bite to eat is never hard to find in any of the many open-air cafes.
- After talk of the red-light district and smoking cafes, a ride on a canal boat is one of Amsterdam’s biggest cliches. That said, an hour-long rondvaart (round trip) provides a fantastic introduction to the city at a great value. Look for a glass-topped canal boat – never hard to find – and enjoy the views and insider information that you would never find from simply exploring the streets.
A quick glance at a menu in any of the traditional diners around Amsterdam will reveal dishes meant to nourish hard-working laborers after long hours in the cold, providing the ultimate in comfort food. While a visit to any country would be incomplete without sampling the local fare, the thick soups, deliciously fatty sausages and ‘stampot’ of traditional Dutch cuisine may be a bit too heavy for every meal of your trip.
Besides, truly eating like a local means embracing everything that the city has to offer. As is proper for any international tourist destination, Amsterdam offers a staggering selection of cuisine from around the globe.
- Turkish, Suriname, Indonesian and Moroccan fare is immensely popular throughout the city. Though it can be found in right the middle of the Albert Cuyp market, Bazar is one of the city’s better-kept secrets and ranks among the best multicultural dining establishments in the city, serving incredible food at reasonable prices.
- It’s worth standing in line for the apple cake served at Cafe Winkel. Traditionally consumed with coffee, the ‘appeltaart’ served at this cafe has won numerous awards and is recognized as the best in the country.
- Those looking for a luxurious, five-star eating experience should be sure to experience the culinary delights at Lastage. Located near Centraal Station on the Geldersekade, this establishment is immensely popular; reservations are very necessary. After all, Johannes van Dam, one of Amsterdam’s most ruthless food critics, rated this restaurant 9.5/10.
- Scattered across the city, the ‘eetcafes’ (eating cafes) of Amsterdam provide tasty and inexpensive dining options. These places are where the locals usually eat. Places like Cafe Amsterdam, De Eetkamer van de Jordaan and Gent aan de Schinkel provide limited menus that are still broad in scope, even including vegetarian dishes.
Quite The Experience
Eclectic and funky, Amsterdam attracts every type of personality. From festivals to museums, this city has something to offer every taste while never sacrificing the bold originality that makes Amsterdam unique. Here are just a few of the many things you’ll want to experience:
- Staffed by former sex workers, The Prostitute Information Centre offers a fun and informative tour of the Red Light district every Saturday.
- The Tassenmuseum stands out as a surprisingly fascinating oddity museum, specializing in the history of handbags.
- Check out the Jordaan area to stroll through a former Amsterdam ghetto that has been transformed into a bustling outdoor market.
- A more inclusive list of attractions can be found at http://www.amsterdam.info
A Place to Rest Your Head
From former brothels to houseboats, the city has accommodations to suit every style.
No matter which area of the city calls to you, there are plenty of Amsterdam holiday rentals available to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on this wonderful city.