So. You wanna go to Amsterdam, but don’t know anything about it, or don’t know what to see and do there. You’re in luck. I went twice within 6 months of each other.
There is much more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District and legalized marijuana. While many people equate these vices with the city, the truth is that Amsterdam is steeped in a rich history and culture that transcends its somewhat gritty stereotypes.
Some things you need to know:
If you enter Amsterdam within the EU or the Schengen area, you won’t get a stamp upon entry.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a 20 min train ride to the heart of the city. There is an express train that takes your from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal station.
Coffeeshops and cafés are two VERY different things.
If you’re looking to get an actual cup of coffee, you aren’t likely to find what you’re looking for with signs that say “coffeeshop.” Coffeeshops in the Netherlands are pot shops. If you want a cup of coffee, head to a café instead. Coffeeshops may serve food and non-alcoholic drinks as well, but their primary purpose is to sell cannabis in small quantities for personal consumption.
Do NOT take photos of the ladies in the Red Light District.
In the Red Light District, you’ll notice some blue lights. Those signify transgender prostitutes.
There are more bicycles than residents there. Seriously. I’m not making that up.
Don’t healarmed at random urine stalls in the middle of the city. That’s normal.
Most hotels and hostels offer free walking tours of the city. Definitely do that. Your guide is a local, and they know what they’re talking about.
Amsterdam has the highest concentration of museums in the world. Definitely check the Rikjsmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
Nightlife is pretty awesome. Everything closes at around 2 a.m.
Try a stoopwafel! It’s 2 thin waffles stuck together with syrup. Pretty delicious.
Go to the Anne Frank House if you want a powerful history lesson.
Although overrated in my opinion, do the Heineken Experience. I’m not a beer drinker, but it’s just one of those things you HAVE to do.
Amsterdam is a very walkable city, and narrow streets with lots of traffic make the bus tours less efficient. Go for the Amsterdam equivalent; canal taxis. They take you all over the city with much better views than those from the bus. You can even rent your own boat if you prefer to traverse the canals at your own pace.
Don’t Rent a Car. Seriously. Don’t.
With all of the bikes and foot traffic, getting around in a car is extremely inefficient. Your best bet is renting a bike if you plan to cover a lot of ground or just enjoying the footpaths along the historic cobblestone pavement.
If you get a chance, take the train to Rotterdam to get away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. You’ll love it.
Although beauty is subjective, I consider Amsterdam one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to!