Amsterdam is a capital and the most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

Amsterdam exudes the old European charm, which is seldom seen in metropolitan cities. Tourists visit for many reasons. Both its wild party scene and age-old charismatic history attract visitors.

This magnificent city stretches from Canal Ring across the Bijlmer neighborhood. Towering windmills and gorgeous synagogues both create an exotic atmosphere.

Things To Do In Amsterdam

Canal Ring is the upscale area in Amsterdam. Here you will find both elegant properties and A-list celebrities. The most famous night clubs are in this part of the city. Plantage overflows with both museums and galleries.

The medieval area is home to lush botanic gardens, the Jewish Historical Museum, and the Museum of Tropics.

The western part of the city is a region of opposites. You will experience nineteenth-century architecture in Old West. However, the New West infrastructure still needs improvement.

Both IJburg and the Eastern Docklands sprawl throughout the eastern region of the city. This part of town is a wealthy neighborhood filled with modern buildings.

Bijlmer is a charming scenic area. However, crime is rampant here. Visitors who love football are often willing to take the risk. The northern section of the city boasts beautiful coastline and is also rich in culture. Southern Amsterdam is the most visited area.

The vibrant marketplace of Albert Cuyp can be fun to explore. Homey pubs with refreshing glasses of wine await you!

Jordaan is the most artistic part of Amsterdam. It is rich in both galleries and boutiques. Enjoy a delicious meal in a fantastic restaurant in this neighborhood. Also, the Old Center offers a traditional view of the city.

Medieval architecture lined with canals complete the feeling of total escape. Take a stroll through the streets or sip a cup of coffee at the local cafés.

Nightlife In Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s famously wild nightlife caters to all tastes and budgets. The archetypical Amsterdam watering hole is the bruine café (“brown bar”), a neighborhood bar of sorts with gorgeous dark wood panelling—hence the name—and booths.

Grand cafés are more grand and spacious, and also serve small food portions. These usually have at least one long table with newspapers and magazines. Lounge and designer bars have recently been popping up across the city catering to the city’s younger and more trend susceptible crowd.

If you’re a beer lover consider visiting a beer shop or tasting room in the Binnenstad or the brewery in Plantage. There are some excellent beers you can get from this part of the world such as wheat beer (witbeer).

The nightclubs in Amsterdam are not as rough as one might think. Many of them congregate around Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein in the Canal District.

You can’t go wrong at Melkweg, Sugar Factory, and Paradiso, three live music venues that usually have large queues in weekends. Paradiso has the best interior, as it used to be a church, while Melkweg feels more like a nightclub.

Sugar Factory is a little more intimate and is a multidisciplinary platform for young talent. Jimmy Woo is an impressive VIP-room, and a strict dress code applies. There are also some nightclubs in Oost, such as Panama, and near the Westerpark. Amsterdam’s gay nightlife is not as vibrant it used to be, but there is still an active community in the Reguliersdwarsstraat in the Canal District.

The annual gay pride in August is a fun event that can be attended by gays and straights alike.

Coffee shops

Amsterdam is renowned for its liberal drug policy. Coffeeshops (not to be confused with Cafes) are allowed to sell cannabis and hash for personal use (not more than 5 grams).

While technically still illegal, mostly to comply with international treaties, personal use of (soft) drugs are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under an official policy of gedogen; literally this means to accept or tolerate, legally it is a doctrine of non-prosecution on the basis that action taken would be so highly irregular as to constitute selective prosecution.

The city council of Amsterdam allows coffeeshops to operate only with the provision of set, non-transferable licenses as shown by an official green and white sticker on the window of a coffeeshop.

Note: Coffeeshops are allowed to sell only soft drugs (such as cannabis). Selling of other drugs are strictly forbidden, including dried hallucinogenic mushrooms.

There are about 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, most of them in the Binnenstad area.

Marijuana is mostly sold in one-gram increments with a maximum limit of 5 grams per transaction. Most coffeeshops are happy to recommend varieties and prepare your joint for you.

Some offer vaporizers/inhalators for people who don’t want to smoke. Smoking paraphernalia (grinders, rolling papers, bongs, vaporizers, etc.) is usually available upon request.

All coffeeshops do, indeed, sell coffee as well. ID is requested upon entrance to each establishment, and more often than not the only acceptable ID (except for Dutch citizens) is a passport.

Many coffee shops offer a ‘smoking lounge’ where soft drugs may be used. Also note that despite the confusion on the subject, the country-wide smoking ban applies only to tobacco.

However, since the Dutch commonly smoke tobacco mixed with their marijuana or hash, many coffee shops, especially those unaccustomed to tourists, may require all smoking to be done in a separated smoking section or outdoors. 

Most central coffee shops with large tourist clientele will allow marijuana or hash smoking in their entire space, requiring you to smoke in the separated section only if your joint contains tobacco.

Many coffeeshops also provide a non-tobacco herbal filler for those who find pure joints too strong. You may usually smoke joints containing this herbal filler anywhere within the coffeeshop although individual house rules may vary. If in doubt, always ask the staff.

Cannabis Cup

Amsterdam hosts the Cannabis Cup, the most important marijuana related event in the world every year during the week of Thanksgiving.

The Cannabis Cup is organized by High Times magazine and offers both tourists and natives the chance to enjoy 5 days of consuming and judging marijuana in different forms. Participants are eligible to pay in advance or at the door to obtain a “judges pass”, which allows entry to the event for all five days, admission to numerous concerts and seminars held during the event, the ability to vote on numerous awards that are handed out, and free bus tours to and from the event.

Day passes are available each day, and certain concerts sell tickets at the door provided they are not already sold out.

Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Centraal Station and east of Damrak. It is known as De Wallen (the quays) in Dutch because the canals were once part of the city defenses (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals and some adjoining streets.

The area has many sex shops and peep show bars. This section of town is a common attraction for bachelors celebrating a stag night; if you ever get hassled, a firm and loud “Leave me alone” will work most of the time. The whole area has a heavy police presence and many security cameras. Nevertheless, it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums.

Other Places To Visit

Almost any place in the Netherlands can be reached within 3 hours of rail or car travel.

A day trip can be planned for places close to the city (about 30 minutes by public transport). You can also rent a car or take a train to visit some far away destinations.

By Public Transport

  • Alkmaar — historic town with a cheese market
  • Enkhuizen — interesting small town with the Zuiderzee Museum that shows how people used to live with the persistent danger of the sea
  • Haarlem — the closest of the historic cities, just 15 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal by train
  • Muiden — formerly a small port at the mouth of the Vecht, it has the Muiderslot, the best-known castle of the country
  • Naarden — surrounded by a complete ring of 17th-century fortifications
  • Hilversum — an affluent town known for its magnificent town hall, also offers cycling tours through forests and the heath
  • Waterland — picturesque countryside villages that can be reached by bicycle
  • Zaanse Schans — historic windmills, tradesmen workshops and an open-air museum
  • Zandvoort — closest beach resort to Amsterdam

By Car Or Train

  • Delft — well known for its traditional blue and white ceramics
  • Gouda — historic town famous for its Gouda cheese and the cheese market
  • ‘s-Hertogenbosch — traditional southern city that goes crazy during carnival
  • Keukenhof — blooming flower gardens, a seasonal attraction in spring
  • Kinderdijk — an authentic network of windmills that shows the Dutch countryside at its best
  • Leiden — vibrant student town with the country’s oldest university and several museums
  • Rotterdam — has a history of rivalry with Amsterdam and a completely different atmosphere with modern architecture
  • The Hague — political heart of the country with Madurodam, Binnenhof, and beaches
  • Utrecht — historic city with a somewhat less-ambitious canal system

How Safe Is Amsterdam

It might surprise some visitors, but Amsterdam is one of Europe’s safest cities. It has an overall easy-going, laid-back feel and crime are not common. Amsterdam is female friendly, women can easily travel alone here and feel comfortable and safe.

Gay and lesbian travelers also have little to worry about. However, you should take normal precautions against scams, pickpockets and baggage theft, especially in the main shopping streets, in trams and trains, at stations, and anywhere where tourists congregate.

What looks like a footpath, especially along a canal bank, may be a bike lane. Bike lanes are normally marked by red/purple tiles or asphalt, and a bike icon on the ground. However, the color fades over time, so you might miss the difference.

Keep in mind that for many Amsterdammers, the bike is their main means of transportation.

Watch out for trams when crossing the street. Taxis are also allowed to use some tram lanes, and even if not allowed, they often use them anyway. If you’re driving, always give way to trams unless you’re driving on a priority road.

Cuisine Of Netherlands

There is a large diversity of restaurants in Amsterdam, especially if you are looking for Asian cuisine, and although some of it is tailored to the fairly bland local tastes, it is possible to find quite fiery food if you look for it.

The influence of the Dutch colonial past is apparent, as can be seen in the wide array of Indonesian and Surinamese restaurants. As in other cities with a large number of tourists, better value can often be found in streets that are not main tourist corridors.

Most Asian restaurants are clustered at the Zeedijk near the Nieuwmarkt and it is often dubbed as Amsterdam’s Chinatown. It’s also home to many tokos, small Asian grocery stores that sell Eastern food and spices.

Chinatown offers plenty of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants, usually good value. Indonesian restaurants are usually of excellent quality, but Indian ones can be expensive. For a budget meal, check out the various Middle Eastern restaurants around the Damstraat and Muntplein. The numerous falafel bars have a good value, often sporting an “all you can pile” salad bar.

Surinamese food is widely available and worth a try. The highest concentration of Surinamese restaurants can be found in Zuid and Zuidoost, especially in the Albert Cuypstraat. Locals recommend the roti met bonen, moksi meti, petjil and bojo as dessert.

Try the dawet as well; this typical drink is made from milk, coconut milk and rose sirup and has sago balls in it. Most kids like it. Dawet can also be found in many Indonesian restaurants.

The Lange Leidsedwarsstraat (just off Leidseplein) has about five Italian restaurants that sell pasta or pizza for €5. Many restaurants of all kinds can be found in the Haarlemmerbuurt. Also worth trying is the Van Woustraat in De Pijp, or continue to the Rijnstraat in the Rivierenbuurt.

Exquisite but expensive restaurants can be found in the Utrechtsestraat. While there are exceptions, in general, avoid restaurants along Damrak and be cautious around Leidseplein—they are well-known tourist traps.

Local specialties

Cheese can be bought at the Albert Cuyp Market, or at specialist cheese shops found around the city center. Dutch cheese is traditionally firm, made in large wax-covered wheels, and falls into two main categories—young and old.

There is a rich variety within these categories. Among the more unusual young cheeses is cumin cheese (komijnenkaas), which is particular to the Netherlands. Sheep cheese (schapenkaas) and goat cheese (geitenkaas) are also common.

Old cheese can be made of any sort of milk and is often reminiscent of Italian Parmesan in consistency and sharpness of flavor.

Check out bitterballen, fried breaded ragout balls, and kroketten (the same, but shaped like a cylinder), but take care not to burn your mouth. Also don’t forget to try a traditional herring or a broodje haring (herring sandwich), available from fish stalls around the city.

Herring in Amsterdam is usually served with onions and pickles. A good try is the fish stand on the Koningsplein near the Bloemenmarkt. Syrup waffles (stroopwafels) are made fresh at the Albert Cuyp.

If you’re visiting in late November or December, you can enjoy oliebollen, which are round blobs of sweet fried dough embedded with raisins (sultanas) and dusted with powdered sugar.

October 1, 2016 12:28 am Published by

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