Amsterdam is a city of wonder. It was one of those destinations that I didn’t expect much from, but as my tour bus drove through the outskirts of the city centre, I realised that Amsterdam was going to be so much more than what I was expecting. The lush green countryside consisting of wide open fields inhabited with cows was lined with curvy canals that wound around earth-toned cabin-like houses, some with white picket fences and occasional windmills. I thought to myself, if the countryside is this beautiful what will the city be like? I was soon set to find out as we made our way out of the dense countryside into the city centre.
Amsterdam is notoriously known for its Red Light District and laws allowing the consumption of marijuana, but after spending three days in the city I realised that Amsterdam is so much more. We arrived at our accomodation, the Best Western Plus Hotel Blue Square which is located north-west of Amsterdam’s city centre, approximately a 30 minute tram ride to Centraal Station. After check in we boarded the tram at Amsterdam, Lod. v. Deysselstraat station and hopped off at Centraal Station to explore the Red Light District or De Wallen.
For the handful of people who may not know what exactly the Red Light District is, in a nutshell it is an urban area in the city centre of Amsterdam known for its high concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses. Nighttime is when De Wallen comes alive and you’ll find yourself not exactly knowing where to look. We continued into the night by attending a live sex-show at Casa Rosso- this was an experience and I will always recommend it to anyone- and we finished off the night with some drinks. When in Amsterdam it is important to be open-minded, to embrace the freeness of the country, and to respect the locals and their way of life.
After recovering from the previous night we headed north to the Irene Hoeve Cheese and Clogs Factory in Edam. The drive from Amsterdam to Edam is breathtaking and the Dutch countryside will not disappoint whether rain, hail or shine. The cottages that line the roads look like they’re floating atop the narrow and windy canals, the grass is the greenest grass you will ever see, the sunlight shines through tall trees that line patches of the highway whilst their leaves sway in sync with the light breeze. We set off on a tour of the cheese and clogs factory and consumed more cheese samples than my stomach could handle. We examined the multitude of clogs and their colourful, unique and eccentric designs and how they are made. I bought myself a small set of red clogs for my travel souvenirs collection before heading back into Amsterdam for a free day to explore the city.
Walking around Amsterdam is a whole other experience. The cobbled and crowded streets in the city’s town centre of Centrum are lined with cafes and coffee shops, wall-sized windows, shopping opportunities, sex-shops, and the scent of marijuana fills the air but is surprisingly not over-powering. While near Centrum some attractions to visit include the Sex Museum, the Museum of Prostitution, Amsterdam Museum, Madame Tussauds, Anne Frank Huis, Rembrandt House Museum, and the Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum. During my time in Amsterdam I visited the Sex Museum and the Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum; both are very affordable and interesting, but also very crowded and quite small.
As you make your way out of Centrum into the outskirts such as Amsterdam-Zuid (Amsterdam South) the streets become wider, calmer, and are filled with cyclists. The canals are larger and as you cross each canal you are presented with an amazing photo opportunity. Small boats line the canals with dancing houses towering over these canals. Bikes are leant against the bridges, unusual lampposts can be found along every corner, and the occasional orangey-green tree is planted alongside the walkway.
Visiting the I Amsterdam sign is a must-do for tourists and getting a friend or stranger to capture an iconic photo of you whilst you climb up one of the sign’s letters is an absolute necessity. Whilst you’re close by, take a short three minute walk to the Van Gogh Museum to see some very iconic artworks. Visiting the Van Gogh Museum incurs a fee and a booking time, so be sure to book online in advance.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Amsterdam on the third Sunday of every month, be sure to attend the Museum Markets located at Museumplein. I wondered these markets alone on my last day in Amsterdam and was blown away by the infinite creativity and festivities the market had to offer. The people I met at these markets were incredibly friendly and so intriguing; wandering these markets will make you feel like a local.
To top off the day, literally set sail into the night with a dine in canal cruise along one of Amsterdam’s 165 canals to experience the city at night one last time.
Amsterdam is a relatively modern city bound by extravagant culture, kind and helpful locals, and filled with vast opportunities to experience. The possibilities to stumble across something unusual or out-of-the-ordinary are never-ending, and Amsterdam’s vibrant way of life stretches past city limits into Holland’s countryside. Your experiences in Amsterdam will amplify your mind and test your beliefs in ways you never thought would be possible. From the dancing houses to the impressionable art to the thorough freeness the city has to offer, Amsterdam will stick with you forever.