Where do I even BEGIN? To be honest, my visit to Amsterdam was just an afterthought. I had originally planned to fly straight to London for the summer and spend the whole time in the UK. But just on a whim, I took off to Amsterdam for the weekend and Oh Boy! If you are following me on instagram, you probably have noticed that I completely fell in love with Amsterdam. I might even go ahead and say it’s one of my favorite European cities that I’ve visited recently. Beautiful gabled houses and flower-decked water sides, brick buildings, rich history, friendly locals, narrow alleys with an old world charm, there’s an enormous amount to see and do in this Dutch city. You can lose yourself in a canal maze. Window-shop where live merchandise is lit with red neon, or duck into a smoky little ‘coffee shop’ selling substances not available over the counter elsewhere. If you think you’re a bit above all that, visit great art museums… and of course take your chances with the traffic and trams on a bike.
Amsterdam is such a mesmerizing and a fantastic city to explore on foot. All you need is a map, which you can pick up at an information desk around the city and a good pair of shoes to walk in. There are plenty of free walking tours and I highly recommend them. The tour covers the main sights of Amsterdam and in my opinion, definitely worth doing. At the end of the tour, you tip the guide what you can afford based on what you think the tour was worth to you! This way, the guides have to work for their pay, making it an enjoyable tour! First-timers will be surprised to learn that Amsterdam is such a small and compact city. You can cycle right around in a couple of hours. The city looks casual, but it is very organized. Also if you haven’t yet mastered the Dutch language, don’t worry. Everyone you meet will speak English (and probably French, German and Italian too)
There are an insane number of museums to see, however the best 3 must see are- Van Gogh, Rijks Museum and Anne Frank House. It’s always better to go there early in the day or pre book your tour if you wish to skip the insane queue to enter these museums.
The canal tours are also a major attraction, but to be honest I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s nice to just relax and cruise around on the tourist boats but it’s very slow, less informative and you are subjected to repetitive visuals of the city.
I strolled down the flower market, which is the only floating market in the world. There are 15 stalls in this block-long flower market and you can shop for flower bulbs, seeds, accessories, souvenir, and everything else that is related to the flower trade. One of the places you must go in the Netherlands during spring is Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden to see the tulip bloom season. I missed it but it’s definitely on my list for my next visit.
The famous and beautiful Vondelpark is usually busy, with free concerts in the open-air theatre in the summer, a good selection of al fresco cafés and always something going on. It’s a good break from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
One of my favorite memories was the Heineken Experience – I really recommend you go to this experience if you’re in Amsterdam with a few hours to spare. I personally love a nice refreshing Heineken at the end of my hard day. I have seen breweries but not actual start to finish from hop to bottle type-brewing and the Heineken Experience was all about this and more. Learning the history of Heineken as a marketing giant was intriguing, how they became established as a brand plus they spread their one beer all over the world with their signature brewing recipe. Anywhere you go and you can expect your Heineken beer to taste exactly the same – which isn’t a bad thing if you’re a long way from home and that taste brings you back.
9 Streets and Dam Square is an array of narrow streets filled with some of the best boutiques, designer wear and great cafes. Shopper’s paradise! That’s how I would put it. You can spend an entire afternoon just browsing from store to store, buy some amazing cheese only available in this country or even sit by the canal side and grab a cup of coffee while watching the busy canal activities. Dam Square is probably the most famous square in Amsterdam. Flocked by tourists, beware of pick pockets.
Now let’s talk about the best part about Amsterdam-The Night Life! Some of the best food, bars and clubs in the world are in this Dutch city. My personal favorite fine dining restaurants were Izakaya and Sazanka for Japanese food. Bussia for Italian and Bak (Had amazing options for vegetarian food)
For a more casual dining experience, Ree7 and Pluk are great options for a quick sandwich or salad. Toscanini and Casa Di David for Italian. LT Cornelius and Haesje Claes for some traditional Dutch food and Longpura for some lip smacking Indonesian cuisine are some superb suggestions too. A definite must visit is the Pancake Bakery at 9 Streets. The Dutch Pancakes and crepes are a huge hit amongst the locals and be prepared for a long wait to get a seat at this cute little café for some finger licking delicious food.
If you want to start the night with drinks first then Tales and Spirits is the place to be at! It’s ranked in the Top 50 bars in the world. Beside this, Bo Sinq, Door 74, Hilton Sky Bar, Waterkant and Pllek are other bars worth visiting. If clubbing is on your mind then Supper Club on a Monday night is perfect. Sugar Factory on a Tuesday night, Chicago Social Club and Jimmy Woo on a Thursday night are the clubs to rage. Besides these the other good clubs are Escape, Nyx, Panama, Air, Canvas and Paradiso.
So after a wonderful dinner and a couple of more drinks, a few of us went to the Red Light District. I was glad that I had company because I won’t dare to come here alone. After all, it is pretty dangerous for a lady to walk alone at night in such places.The red light district, De Wallen is a major tourist attraction in Amsterdam and you won’t be surprised to see thick crowds of tourists. There are a number of sex shops, sex theaters, peep shows, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana. In the Netherlands, coffee shop is not a place for you to enjoy your “cuppa” like in Mumbai, it is a weed cafe to buy and try drugs. You will be handed a “menu of drugs” selling items such as space cakes, space brownies, space cookies, space muffins, space tea and etc that contain a dose of cannabis. Oh yes, doing all these is legal in Amsterdam. Smoking marijuana is common in Amsterdam and you will know when someone is smoking it because the smell is very pungent and has a recognizable odor. Out there, I have seen real life examples of people becoming stoned and hallucinated after trying small quantities of weed. So…my best advice is don’t try it! These drugs will also stay in your system and I think you might get yourself in trouble when you come back to your country.
With all being said, Amsterdam is a big playground. You can do almost anything and everything there! This is perhaps the reason why Amsterdam is becoming Europe’s fastest-growing tourist destinations. You cannot run out of things to do in this city: biking (including tandem riding) water activities (such as cruising along the canal, canoeing and dragon boat racing), Ice skating (during winter), horse riding and even tai-chi and lots more. It is a tourist-friendly city and for sure if you are traveling solo you can easily navigate around it. My trip to Amsterdam as mentioned earlier, was an afterthought and driven by curiosity, but I can say that if I were given more opportunity to visit the Dutch capital, I would visit over and over again.
Until Next Time,
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