I believe Amsterdam is a Europe´s top choice, maybe because of its boat houses fixed down those charming channels, its ridiculous houses which look like they are about to fall down (but won´t), or its “taboo” touristic attractions… if you know what I mean…
Spent there 4 days, small city with a lot of things to do! You can easily get anywhere by tram, bike or just walking! Choose as your prefer!
My first advice is: WATCH THE BICYCLES. Be careful! They are everywhere! I have never seen so many bikes riding around… So watch your steps, and avoid walking across the bike paths.
Quick, cheap and moreover: convenient. Amsterdammers use their bikes to get anywhere around town… go to work, to the market, event to the nightclub!
Let me get this straight… (Just in case you are THAT naive) Amsterdam is flooded with “Coffee Shops”: Actually not only they serve coffee but also marijuana and mushrooms. So if you are only looking for a cup of coffee better head to a “Coffee House”.
A curious fact is that marijuana isn´t legal here, but decriminalized: This means that you can have small quantities in your pocket, smoke, but not sell it in an industrial level nor make any kind of marketing.
You will notice XXX flags everywhere, but it has nothing to do with the adult industry, red light district, drugs… at least I was told so… The meaning is a bit confusing, not even the Dutch know how to explain it with certainty: Saint Andrew and his crucifiction, X as the meaning of compassion, resolution and heroism, three crosses for the three pest plagues which infested the city, are some of the theories behind the symbol.
What to do?
Walk along the canals and the city
In my opinion every canal is worthy! Amsterdam isn´t call the Venezia of the north for granted. Its main three canals are: Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizergracht were built in the 17th century, Dutch golden age. Just follow is trail and you will get to many historical attractions.
Many houses and inclined to the canal with a hook on top in order to get big furniture or home appliances through the window up to the higher floors. Moreover, the inclination to a side is because of its unstable muddy foundations… This is fixed with big wooden sticks on boths sides. Don´t be scared they won´t fall apart, remember that the Dutch are maginificient engineers!
Take your time to appreciate this unique kind of architecture.
You cannot miss Amsterdammers houseboats! Boats turned into residences fixed to the canals… Renting them to stay overnight to live the experience is an alternative, but another one less adventurous is pay 4,50 euros to visit the Houseboat Museum.
As I told you before, this is a city to walk (or ride) all over it! Get to the Dam Square and the Royal Palace, Rembrandt Plein, the hidden church, the Central Station, among others…
Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)
The most important fair in Amsterdam has its shops fixed to the Singel canal. Here you can buy not only plants and flowers but also seeds to take back home and plant yourself.
Beware, check that they all have the golden security stamp! Avoid trouble in airport customs!
Next to the Museum District, this park is a great are to enjoy a picnic, jogging, having some fresh air around. Nothing from outer space but… give it a try!
Van Gogh museum
The biggest Works of Art of the world-famous painter is here. Entrance fee is about 17 euros!
Between Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum there are hordes of tourists! The “I AMSTERDAM” letters are there! Jump on top and snap a picture!
Dedicated to art, crafting and history. It may have Egyptians and Asian collections, but the rocking starts are Rembrandt most famous paintings!
Even if you aren´t in the mood of visiting its inside, my advice is to appreciate every cm of this building, it´s astonishing… walk around the block and delight yourself.
Red light district
Located in the center of Amsterdam, this district may be one of the most famous worldwide, either because of its history, culture or position against prostitution, drugs and sexual diversity.
Walk all along the vivid alleyways to find the girls showing off through the windows, everyday since… centuries ago! Believe me or not… Even negotiated with the Catholic Church to let them work without any kind of retaliation!
Prostitution is legal: ladies receive social security, pay for their taxes, declare assets, etc, just like every other worker.
The district can be visited both day and night, but for obvious reasons the action starts when the sun goes down.
WARNING: DO NOT take pictures, film or mock the girs! I repeat! DO NOT take pictures, film or mock the girs! Avoid having a hard time. Just… DO NOT.
In this area coffee shops are everywhere!
This is an option for those who want to do something a bit different. This old factory/brewery worked for more than a century and nowadays was turned into an interactive trail through the process of brew, from fermentation to bottling.
You are going to be part of it!
Ticket is 16 euros online (18 in the ticket stand… always big queues) with 2 Heineken pints included… so how bad can it be? Give it a try!