Amsterdam: One of the Best City Destinations in Europe
Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam or would you like to visit? One of our featured travel writers Lou E. Albano recently visited and shares her experiences on what to do, where to stay, how to get around and where to eat and drink…
Stoner jokes, tales of the red light district, and complaints about the dodgy weather aside, Amsterdam is a cool city with a proper working rhythm in place. Many come here for its permissiveness, i.e. weed and sex. But many return again and again for what I came to discover is called Gezelligheid. I’m sorry, I can’t even spell nor can I pronounce, but Chris Collin best describes it here: www.afar.com/magazine/going-dutch. It’s an old city, famous for, among other things, its canals, its narrow streets full of aggressive bicyclists, and even narrower houses, with windows wide open you’re sure you saw a glimpse of life you’d like to lead for yourself. It is a masculine city, in that men more than women, will most enjoy the city’s casualness and rock n’ roll demeanor. Note that I am a woman and there’s no city I love more than Amsterdam.
There are so many boys who come to Amsterdam, European university students who come here for their summer break, or to spend a long weekend. Canadians and Australians who come here for a good time, American post-grad students who come here for some clarity or direction. I come here for a good time. It is my happy place. I like the city’s unhurried pace, a groove into which you’ll find yourself naturally falling. The Dutch rides their bicycles like it’s nobody else’s business but theirs. On a sunny day, you will find them sprawling at the Vondel, a bottle of wine and some cheese in hand. Or, they’re seated on the outside of their favorite café, having a cheese sandwich, a coffee, or a beer.
Central Station is as busy and as efficient as Schipol so getting into the city shouldn’t be a problem. While Amsterdam is infamous for its bicycle culture, don’t forget about its trams. Get yourself a public transport card (OV-chipkaart) to make the most of your time in this sprawling city.
Places to Go
The Rijks Museum (Museumstraat 1 Amsterdam) re-opened in 2013 after ten years of renovation, as did Stedelijk (Museumplein 10) and the Van Gogh (Paulus Potterstraat 7). Yay, art! Of course there is the Heineken Experience. (Stadhouderskade 78) as well as the Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 263-267). Speaking of Prinsengract, you might want to spend a good afternoon along the canals, where views are fantastic and bars, cafes, and shops align. A tip: Visit the Anne Frank late in the afternoon around 5 p.m. after you’ve had your fill of the canals; the lines are much shorter then. For lesser known trip-outs, The Sex Museum (Damrak 18), the Hash (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148), and the Torture Museum (Damrak 33) are pretty popular among young lads.
Things to Do
Walk through the red light, sure, but please keep your cameras away. That’s not a very respectful thing to do, no? Try some dope, you are in Amsterdam after all. Choose your coffeeshop wisely—De Dampkring (Handboogstraat 29) is ace, as The Grey Area (Oude Leliestraat 2). Hang out at the Vondel. Ride a bike! The Amsterdam Public Library, aka the Open Barre Amsterdam, right beside the Centraal Station, is a seven-floor wonder. The OBA is Europe’s biggest library, if that should mean anything to you. They have comfortable couches that face huge windows; feel free to ride out that high there. If not going on an all-out reading trip from its many, many, many books.
Eat and Drink
While food in Amsterdam is modest compared to cities like Copenhagen, there are a few things you must try in Amsterdam. Beside the Torture Museum is a Belgian Fries stand. Hit that up, carbo-load, and walk away happy that you did. The localization of McDonalds is interesting here—try their freak sauce. The Dutch know how to maneuver an apple pie and mix milk into their coffee to produce a beautiful cup of cappuccino. Try any café. If you’re into what the English are into, two recommendations: The Hill Street Blues for an excellent cup of tea. And the Pie Minister (Oude Hoogstraat 29H) for a mean English pie.
Secrets of the City
Should you see a strange and unusual number of people entering a door without a sign, you might want to join them. This is the entrance to a Beguinage, an inner courtyard surrounded by small dwellings. Such door opens into a hallway, leading to a patch of green, in a middle of an enclave, a community that provides a certain sector of society free abode. The Begijnhof is one of the oldest courtyards in Amsterdam, located near the Singel. Please, find it. It’s all very interesting.
By: Lou E. Albano