When you tell people that you are going to Amsterdam for the weekend they automatically assume the next couple of days will entail hard partying, boozing binges and a weekend of weed. However, I have never been this type of traveller so when I was due to make my return to the Dutch capital at the start of 2019 for the first time as an adult, I was determined to see more of the infamous party city. With a whirlwind weekend spent in Amsterdam now behind me, these are my top tips to consider when visiting the city.
The transport links from Amsterdam Airport Schipol to the city centre are great. They really need to be considering the airport is the 3rd largest in Europe in terms of passenger volume. Many websites advise you to buy travel cards which can be beneficial depending on how much time you plan to spend there, although with some cards needing a €7.50 payment before even adding credit (similar to London’s Oyster Card system) this was not money I wanted to spend. Given that I was only in the city for 48 hours, I found it to be cheaper to buy a return ticket from the airport to a station called Zuid, which was on the way to my hotel, and then at Zuid, purchase a GVB multi-day ticket which provided me with unlimited travel on all GVB routes, regardless of distance or time of day. The ticket is validated the first time you check in and can be used on metro trains, trams and buses. This was €13.50 for 48 hours. Purchasing this ticket in advance meant that we were not constantly looking for ticket offices/machines on our only full day in the city. You can find out more about travel plans to suit you, here.
Coffee Shops vs Cafes
You do not have to be in the city long before the smell of weed wafts its way into your nostrils. As you are probably aware marijuana is legal in The Netherlands and this is celebrated in the country’s capital. It is important to know the different between cafes and coffee shops and it is vital you do not get them mixed up. A Coffee Shop is somewhere you can buy and smoke weed. A cafe is a regular sort of place you can pick up your flat white. Cannabis based products are abundantly available throughout Amsterdam, from the ‘Happy Shops’ to the regular supermarkets selling the infamous hashcakes and chocolate brownies.
Seeing the City on Foot and Dodging the Cyclists
Visiting in January, we were very lucky not to see any rain, the whole weekend regardless of the ever brooding, dark grey skies. I took a few thick jumpers and t-shirts to put under them, a thick woolen scarf and a down filled coat to my knees. I wore leather gloves the whole weekend, my super comfy Ugg boots and some thick, semi-thermal leggings. We walked around the city for OVER EIGHT HOURS in 3’C temperatures, on the Saturday and I never suffered to the cold. I cannot actually ride a bike so was not able to partake in this, however cyclists are all over the place and have a hard job dodging oblivious tourists coming from all directions. Many cyclists ring bells to warm you not to cross the road, others just yell when they are behind you, which can come across as very rude, but I do not think it is intended this way.
One of most photogenic cities in Europe, Amsterdam has lots of sites that are good for Instagram. From the world famous canals and riverboats to a plethora of architecture from across the ages and stroopwaffles and crepes being sold on the streets, there really are endless photo ops in Amsterdam. One of the most popular tourist areas is the Red Light District. With a very liberal and tolerant attitude towards sex, Amsterdam embraces the fact some people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. Since 2000 prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets which is why, in Amsterdam, women stand behind windows, under red lights. (Hence the name). The city actually has three different Red districts with the most popular one being in the city centre. However, do not take pictures of the sex workers. It is illegal and very disrespectful to take pictures of the women working in the area, after all they are tax payers too, (yes, really) so just don’t do it.
There are famously over 75 museums and galleries peppered in and around Amsterdam with new ones popping up all the time. There is literally a museum for everyone, covering topics like erotica, weed and condoms (all separate ones) to cheese, handbags and cows as well as the more traditional ones focusing on art and history, such as the Rembrant and Van Gogh museums. With many being free and lots being under €10 it is definitely worth checking some out and stepping outside your comfort zone. Some of the more typical museums or exhibits do tend to sell out in advance so definitely look at booking online first. We just wanted to see where the city would take us, so purposely did not book anything, which is how we ended up in the cheese, cow and sex museums on our trip. (All of which are great!)
Other Things To Consider
- Like many of the cities in Europe, keep your possessions safe at all times. Keep your bag closed/zipped up and know where your valuables (phone, passport etc) are at all times. It goes without saying, but being sensible can go a long way.
- Know where your umbrella is. The weather can be changeable, even in the summer months.
- Buy some tulips at a traditional Dutch flower market, especially if you are there in the tulip season, between April and June. Being there in January, I sufficed with looking at the wooden ones sold all over the city which was not quite the same!
- Pick up some souvenir clogs. Still very popular as footwear in much of Europe, in the UK they are more of a gimmick but they do look nice on Instagram.
Have you ever been to the Netherlands and did you visit Amsterdam? Or maybe it’s a place you would like to explore one day. Let me know in the comments below.