With a number of enticing clubs, canals and markets, Amsterdam is well worth a visit, writes Stephanie Mitessen.
OH, AMSTERDAM. Between legalised marijuana, an intense club scene and the ever-so-seedy red light district, tourists tend to view it as a sort of adult playground. And while no doubt these travellers will find an array of ‘coffee shops’, dance clubs, smartshops and brothels to fulfil all of their desires, the Dutch capital really does offer some interesting culture other than what you’ll find in the movie Eurotrip.
Amsterdam is a city steeped in history, especially for those interested in the World War II era. If you want to learn about the culture and history of Amsterdam from the 17th century to the present, a walking tour is your best bet. These tours are far from a dull; while you do see monuments like the Anne Frank house, you also get a great, fun perspective on the city from young and knowledgeable tour guides. They take you through the red light district and past some of the city’s most famous coffee shops. Like in many other European cities, these tours function entirely on tip revenue – so you only pay what the tour is worth to you.
It’s a good thing that the walking tour is cheap, because the must-see Van Gogh Museum will run you a steep €15. Get there early to avoid waiting in a hideously long line, but allow enough time for a pre-museum trip to a coffee shop; if you’re staying in Leidseplein make sure to visit ‘Cafe@’, as their prices and merchandise are both just right.
“Don’t be short-sighted and think that Amsterdam is all about drugs and prostitutes”
When night time rolls around, be prepared for late nights and huge venues. The red-light district is obviously a popular nightlife destination, but the area can be quite seedy, so female travellers especially should be wary around here at night.
There are plenty of enormous dance clubs to choose from (‘Space’ being a particular popular one), but these types of places will charge you an expensive entrance fee (around €15), so you may want to hit up some bars beforehand.
Also keep in mind that these clubs don’t reach capacity until they are packed with over 2500 guests, so you should basically handcuff yourself to whoever you’re travelling with in order to avoid a lonely (and dangerous) walk home.
If you manage to wake up at a reasonable hour after a long night of clubbing, definitely check out some of Amsterdam’s unique markets. The floating flower market is worth a look (and a good place to buy some tulip bulbs for Mum), and shoppers will be in bargain-hunter heaven at Waterlooplein, the huge outdoor flea market.
Don’t be short-sighted and think that Amsterdam is all about drugs and prostitutes. The city is clean and quite picturesque, with beautiful canals and side streets. All types of visitors can enjoy Amsterdam, but one other word of caution: don’t get run over by a bike.
There are over 600,000 of them in this city, so as the tour guides advise – “if you hear a bell, run like hell!”