Amsterdam has a reputation of legal highs and weaving canals that exceeds its borders, because of this I wasn’t sure what to expect of this city. In usual form I did virtually no research and in even lazier form, I relied on my friend, a local, to guide me to the best places to see. Without a word of Dutch in my reportoire I stepped off a train from Rotterdam to enjoy what Holland’s capital had to offer.
In person the city has a comfortable soul, well worn from time, but inviting to newcomers. With bike riders everywhere, crossing the street became something I did wearily, despite having been doing this successfully since I was five.
One of the first things my dear friend Nina said as we walked through Amsterdam was “coffee shops mean something different here.”
And welcome to the city of many many coffee shops.
Let’s not be narrow minded though. Amsterdam has much much more to offer than legalized weed. It’s also lined with bikes as far as the eye can see and when your eye loses sight of parked bikes someone will go by on one.
The first time Amsterdam was mentioned in history is October 1275, although it wouldn’t prove to be a developed name of the city until 1327. The name Amstel is the main river that runs through the city to this day and the dam indicates the dam created on the river by it’s early inhabitants.
The canals are considered apart of the old city and Amsterdam now has much wider borders, so leaving the canals, getting on a bike or tram and seeing another part of the city is well worth the effort.
Amsterdam has a busy social life and the first stop to see whats on during your stay should be i am sterdam, with all the information for whatever your looking to see, do and enjoy while in the city of canals and trams. It is also a good resource if you are planning on relocating to Amsterdam and need somewhere to begin.
I was only in Amsterdam for one night and happened to have some time to wander around the canals at sunset which proved to be the loveliest time of day to get lost among the streets as locals went off to dinner with stores closing and boats sailing by, at that time of day the canals were rather serene.
The boats that passed me by, either full of tourists or a small boat where one couple were having an intimate date on the water was barely louder than a thuming of motors moving them through the Amstel.
One of the things that is a must while in Amsterdam is the Apple Tart, or rather slice of pie which is most often served with whipped cream and should count as one whole meal due to it’s heftiness. While most cafe’s sell Apple Tart throughout Holland, the most famous Cafe Winkel 43 where you can devour a slice of pie with cream as high as the pastry topping in the sunshine and a view of the canals is a definite highlight.
Many people I know don’t enjoy liquorice, but the Dutch know how to do genuine strong liquorice like the back of their hand, so if you enjoy this dark sweet and sometimes salty treat don’t leave the borders before trying some of these.
Oh and if you love cheese than Holland may be your form of heaven as even small supermarkets have more than the usual amount of cheese to tempt any fromage lover.
If you can get a visitor card the trams can get you around almost all the important spots of the city, here is more information thereon.
Anne Frank famously lived in Amsterdam and wrote her diary there and a museum stands next to the canals, with lines that can stream down the street almost until closing so it would be best to get there early.
Just a few feet from the entrance to the Anne Frank museum is a canal cruise that buzzed with people getting on and off also. If you would like to enjoy one of these here is the link for the operators. If you want something a little more intimate for you and a loved one than consider hiring your own boat.
If you want to behave like a local than hiring a bike is the best way to start.
The most famous market in Amsterdam is just a 10 minute walk from Museum square, called the Albert Cuyp market and a tram stops right at the entrance.
The museum square or otherwise known as museumplein is a park surrounded by a number of museums, but also a great place for locals and tourists alike to enjoy a picnic and company. Even when it’s bustling on a sunny day there is a patch to be found and the atmosphere is relaxing.