You hear ‘Amsterdam’ and an image of naked girls, drugs, alcohol and leering men may enter your mind. Whilst this is partly true, it is only a small facet of what Amsterdam has to offer. You do not need to be a smoker, ‘alternative’ (whatever that means), a drunkard or a pervert to visit this beautiful city. There is an unusual air of peace and serenity in Amsterdam, even when you are taking a walk in busy areas like Dam Square or Central Station, or just trying to avoid cyclists on the cobbles! Everyone is just…chilled out here. And not because they are baked but because there is a feeling of total freedom.
Once you arrive at Schiphol Airport you can purchase a train ticket from one of many desks to take you to Central Station. On arrival at the station just follow the throng and they will take you upstairs to the station entrance. You will be met with the hustle and bustle of tourists, canal boats, cyclists, unusual smells and beautiful buildings. My first thought was ‘I’m home’ (cue tears). Tip- If for any reason you have to keep your luggage with you, there are lockers in Central Station where you can pay to leave your bags all day. It is very secure, although I recommend you get there early to avoid disappointment!
As for the holiday experience here, everyone has a different perspective on what to do, so I’m igniting what I call ‘The Ben Clause’. Ben is my friend who lived in Holland for quite some time and I am pretty sure he will be ready to critique this post! So ‘The Ben Clause’ makes it clear that this is a summary of my experience. Let us break it down into categories, starting with Amsterdam’s main tourist attraction…
The first thing you should know is that you do not have to buy something in every coffee shop you enter, although it is polite to at least buy a beverage. If it is your first time in a coffee shop then do not be scared, the owners are overall quite lovely and accommodating. There will be a menu on the counter of different strains of cannabis that you can purchase, with the price and gram of each. They also sell cakes and pre rolled smokes if you are a first time smoker and do not know how to roll. The coffee shops do not feel like run down drug dens. They genuinely feel like a place of happiness, even if you do not partake in the plant itself. Here is a few to get you started-
Coffee shop Free!
The Bull Dog Café
Where to stay
The best thing about Amsterdam is that it can be done on any budget. If you want top of the range service and surroundings then head to the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel, which will set you back around £150-£200 a night. It is over the road from Central Station and there is even a door man (to me that means it is posh!). …whose job is hopefully self-explanatory!
Equally as pleasant but much cheaper is the Rembrandtplein Hotel in… Rembrandtplein! This is just on the outskirts of the main city and it is ideal if you are looking for a more peaceful trip. If you go in low season you can bag a room for around £40 a night and they throw in scrambled eggs and coffee in the morning. Tip- There is a small, romantic Italian restaurant around the corner from here and the food is bellissimo.
It was not until my second visit that I saw Amsterdam by boat and it gave me a new experience of seeing the city. The guides go through the history of the canals and buildings, which look even more spectacular and doll like from the water. There is only one point in the canal system where you can see seven locks one after another. It may confuse your eyes a little bit but I challenge you to capture it. Not only do you learn more about the city seeing it by boat, it is also quite romantic.
Okay so I am always shocked when somebody says ‘who is Anne Frank’? If you plan on going to Amsterdam and you have never heard of her I suggest you read the book ‘The diary of Anne Frank’. Once you are familiar with this tragic and heroic story you will want to visit the Anne Frank Huis on Prinsengracht. There is always a queue, however, once you are in it is a very moving experience. You actually get to go through the bookcase entrance and see all the rooms the Franks and the Van Pels were confined to during Hitler’s regime.
The ICE bar is situated on the corner of Amstel just by the Blaubrug Bridge. It is much smaller than I initially thought, although it was a fun experience. On arrival you are kitted out in Arctic gear and given two drink vouchers. The cups are made from actual ice and you only get one for two drinks, so do not pick the shot glass! There are ICE sculptures of a Polar Bear and a Penguin if you want a good photo opportunity. The bar is lit with disco lights which reflect like rainbows off the ICE. This combined with the loud music makes you want to have a little boogie! Once you start turning into an icicle you can enter the normal bar for a complementary cocktail.
The Hemp Museum and Gasson Diamonds
I have combined these two as they are both very cheap things to do if you are going on a budget. Gasson Diamonds is actually free, although you have to be willing to listen to a sales pitch at the end. I quite enjoyed it after learning about the different grades of diamonds and the history of Gasson itself. There are some beautiful pieces displayed in glass cabinets and you can watch the engineers at work shaping and creating jewellery. The Hemp Museum is very commercial and does not last long. Nonetheles, there are amusing items on display along with a grow and the history of hemp. For 4 Euros it is definitely worth a little visit. At the end you can have a virtual picture taken so it appears you are stood in a Hemp field.
There are so many places to choose from you are literally spoilt for choice. The Red Light District is rather laid back and many tourists take a walk through at night time just to see all the shop windows lit up. It is most likely that you will just stumble upon it by mistake. Of course there are ladies offering their services, however, they are not pushy and they do not stand out on the street. You will see all sorts of people in this district, as it is just another normal thing over there. If you are into a bit of naughtiness, then there are a number of live sex shows, sex booths and shops to entertain you. If you are as lucky as I was, you will see a young man fall in the canal whilst trying to get a shop window in his photo!
If naked ladies and red windows are not your thing then keep walking and you will come across a number of little bars and clubs. One of the most popular places is The Water Hole. This trendy bar has live bands on every night and a great crowd to enjoy them with. Check out their website waterhole.nl
So that is one trip in a nut shell to get you started. The next one will cover food, Vondel Park, the Zoo, Amsterdam cards and lots more. See…told you it is worth a visit!