Over the past two years I have spent a total of two weeks in the city of Amsterdam, here are my thoughts and observations on why it is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I cannot wait to go back.
Naturally, a city where smoking weed is legal will lead to a variety of amazing food choices. Even if you are not a smoker, the place is still amazing for the food and experience alone. There are waffle and crepe shops absolutely everywhere throughout the city, better yet none of them are ever disappointing, Nutella and banana was my go to topping and better still they are open all the time.
If you are a cheese enthusiast there are Cheese shops all throughout the city, you can just walk through the store and pick at whatever cheese is on offer, we spent a lot of time sampling just about every cheese in the shop. Most shops also carry stroopwafel for you to taste, it is a small syrupy waffle shaped Dutch biscuit, I ate way too much and never got sick of it.
Every type of food you can want is on offer in restaurants, there are Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, burger places, French, Italian, and all the fast food chains. I actually have no idea what traditional Dutch traditional cuisine even is, apart from stroopwafel. We went to a KFC while in a slight state and the line was out the door, the place had about 10 registers for ordering, I have never seen a KFC like it and in classic KFC fashion they stuffed up my order, I didn’t mind too much because chicken.
One type of food I have only really seen in Amsterdam is frites, basically potato chips with mayonnaise and you get them in paper cones. They are the perfect snack no matter what time of day. In the red light district you come across all the kebab, pizza and hotdog shops typical for anywhere there is a possibility of late night alcohol/weed induced food cravings. The pizzas are enormous and topped with all sorts of great things. Some shops offer hot dogs packed full of extra toppings like Mexican ingredients and cheese and pizza toppings. If sweet is what one is craving there are many kinds of donuts, pastries, cakes, crème eclairs in all the food shop windows. Looking at the food while sober you realise just how extreme it is but when slightly inebriated all of a sudden it’s enticing.
The canals are a very unique and iconic feature of the city. Along with being incredibly picturesque they are also great fun to cruise down in a boat. Lots of people do it all the time throughout the main canals in the city and it is a great way to spot places you may not have noticed whilst walking. The streets that follow the canals have the same name, straat on the end is ‘street’ and gracht on the end is for the canal. Our apartment was on Herenstraat which was near Herengracht. You would think it makes navigating easier but I still managed to walk around in circles most of the time.
One of the funniest things we saw on the canals was a group of posh looking middle aged men stretching out along the deck of a fancy white cruising boat through the red light district. We could not stop laughing as they went past blasting Rihanna out of a huge stereo whilst casually sipping champagne and posing.
Another thing about the canals is people often fall into them. One morning after a Saturday night we watched a drunk man being fished out of the canal by a rubbish boat which is a common occurrence apparently, many guys fall in through the night while taking a leak in the water.
There are either really small metal barriers on the sides of the canals or none at all and you see lots of cars parked diagonally next to them, they have to carefully judge that they don’t pull in too far and lose their car over the edge, which is not uncommon. That would never be allowed in Australia for a multitude of safety reasons, I found Europe is much more laid back and really trusts its people.
The overall feel
There is a calmness to the city that you don’t find in a lot of other places, I am not just saying that because of the weed. There are barely any cars in the city centre and most people get by on foot or bicycle, I have never seen so many bikes in my life as in this city, the three storey bike parking facility is a tourist attraction in itself . The bike lanes can be dangerous if you don’t look before crossing but you just have to be aware of them and have your wits about you.
There are also trams in the city centre which we never bothered figuring out how to use as walking was more interesting. There is a more relaxed feel without cars and unlike other cities, things aren’t too spread out so it’s easy to get by on foot without becoming too tired, and you don’t get the noise/ pollution of motorbikes and traffic, just bikes and bells ringing which is very tranquil, especially when it’s raining.
This guy was just randomly standing in the street making these enormous bubbles and it still shocks me how I managed to snap a picture at just the right moment…this is the type of weird coolness that gives Amsterdam it’s relaxed vibe.
The houses are incredibly narrow and unique to the city, they are all different heights and don’t line up symmetrically, some are on an incredible lean and you wonder how they’re even standing. Inside, the staircases are narrow, steep and sometimes winding as the houses usually have about three floors, with a shop on the ground floor. It is a very different style of inner city living and all the back courtyards are next to each other. One of the houses we stayed in had a giant tree in the middle off all the courtyards facing each other and was a peaceful oasis away from the street. Speaking of which you get hardly any street noise given the lack of traffic and the place has such a calm and peaceful vibe of people going about their days that has been matched by no other city I have ever visited.
The people, tourists included
The people in Amsterdam are all very friendly, most speak or understand English so there really is no language barrier. Even though red light districts generally have the potential to be seedy we never noticed any dodgy behaviour in the city, I put that down to both the availability of marijuana, and the calm laid back vibe of the place.
I can’t say much about the tourist attractions because we never managed to get to very many of them, lets not go into why. The only one I visited on my third trip to the city was the Heineken brewery. The tour was pretty interesting and had a lot of interactive activities along the way. We also got two free middies on our way out which was an added bonus. 11/10 would recommend.
Koffee shops may have had something to do with the reason I haven’t gotten around to seeing any other main attractions in the city, but they shall be saved for another blog post…
One day I will get to the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum, fourth time lucky.