Amsterdam was a wonderful city to visit. After a busy month touring Europe it was a perfect city to take in at a slower pace, following the spiralling canals off to interesting neighbourhoods and historical stopping points.
Across the three days we had in Amsterdam we managed to cover most of the tourist highlights, however it is the relaxed atmosphere of Amsterdam that really pulls you in to the city.
The Dam Square was one of the first places we visited when in Amsterdam. It was where most of the tourist stores were – selling everything from cheese and giant meringues to the cliche Dutch clogs and fake tulips. I checked out a few of the odd shops here but eventually ditched the centre for quieter streets.
I think the best part about Amsterdam is that it’s not overcrowded. Unlike other cities such as Paris and London, we often had times where we had streets to ourselves and never had any trouble finding tables at eateries or getting into museums quickly. The city has a comfortable, home-like feeling, that allows you to take a pause in amongst your European adventure. That isn’t to say to city is sleepy…it just has a more relaxed atmosphere.
The Red Light District is a chaotic adults playground dotted with girls in windows, sex toy stores, and a series of coffeeshops that sell everything but coffee. Drug use isn’t technically legal here but the general rule of thumb seems to be…keep it inside the coffeeshops and you won’t get in strife…
I had an amusing walk through the area in the early day time when the streets are all but deserted. It was in sheer contrast to the ‘lads night out’ clusters that overload the district come night time. The Red Light District has a long history in Amsterdam and is a well-known tourist hot spot Europeans sneak off to on a weekend. Unfortunately however, overcrowding from tourists and a lack of respect for the workers has prompted the city officials to begin making restrictive changes to the area.
Canal boat cruises are another cheesy but fun way to see the city if you aren’t game to keep walking or can’t ride a bike. The smaller companies generally offer cheaper prices and in December/January time, Amsterdam hosts a light festival that can be spotted via a canal cruise, in and amongst other typical canal cruise highlights such as the seven bridges.
Fun facts from the tour:
- One car a week falls into the canals on average
- The ratio of bikes to cars in Amsterdam is about 4 to 1
- Around 12000-15000 bikes are collected out of the canals each year
The Vincent Van Gogh museum was another stop during our time in Amsterdam. Again, no photos were allowed inside so use your imagination. The museum houses the largest international collection of original Van Gogh work, both paintings and drawings, as well as collections belonging to artists inspired by his work such as Edvard Munch.
The museum is really well laid out according to decade, or significant moments in Van Gough’s life. The museum was also a great indoor activity to get some brief respite from the cold January winds.
Other activities we engaged in when in Amsterdam included ice skating outside of the Rijksmuseum and strolling around Vondelpark. We also enjoyed copious amounts of Dutch mini-pancakes, cheese, and an odd variety of other local foods we found at an organic food market.
Though the wind had a rather biting chill, we rather lucked out with the weather and largely managed to avoid any rain. That being said, it’s always a good idea to have a rain poncho packed just in case. Though there are cheap umbrellas everywhere when the wind picks up an umbrella is useless so I’d recommend the completely fashionable rain poncho.
Amsterdam is a beautiful and unique city that very much marches to the beat of its own culture. It has a uniqueness and colourful history that make every street interesting and every wrong-turn worth exploring.