“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
Cliché as it sounds, John Green’s quote perfectly describes Amsterdam. It is notoriously known for being the ‘sin city’ of Europe. I was actually hesitant to come here as I might find their ways too avant-garde for my conservative beliefs. But our visit and experience of the city have proved that Amsterdam is more than just pots and prostitutes.
Is there sex for sale? Yes! Is marijuana legal? Sure! There’s even a place called Cannabis College. Are there half naked girls on window displays? Yes, along the Red Light District! There are drugs and there are sex (just like all other cities, but I guess only Amsterdam is honest about it) but if you ask me if it’s reflective of Amsterdam, the answer is NO.
Remember Anne Frank, the girl who documented her life in hiding during World War II? It happened in Amsterdam. How about Vincent Van Gogh and his famous paintings we grew up learning? He lived in Amsterdam, too. And the labyrinth of canals, picturesque houses, bicycle-friendly streets and beautiful cafes – these are all the other parts of Amsterdam.
The part that exhibits what Amsterdam really is – matured. Different yet historic, beautiful and matured.
With only two and a half days in the city, we skipped the touristy ‘things to do’ and explored Amsterdam the best way we know how… on foot.
Here are 10 things I observed about the city of Amsterdam.
1) Like Singapore, Amsterdam is a multicultural city. There are a lot of different nationalities to meet – Europeans attending your table, Indians in grocery stores, Australians in cafes, and Asian tour guides, too.
2) The houses have uniform architecture with almost identical style and colour palette.
3) The city centre is very walkable. You can easily explore neighbourhoods just by wandering around.
4) If you’re planning to check out Anne Frank Museum, be sure to buy your entrance tickets in advance. We passed by this museum in our two days and the queue is always loooong.
5) Dutch love to let the sunlight into their homes. Curtains aren’t commonly used so it’s like IKEA showroom behind those glass windows.
6) Bicycles are everywhere! Like everywhere! There’s even a huge, several floors of parking space intended for bicycles.
7) With that said, be mindful of the bike lanes. Locals will be mad at you if you obstruct their tracks. Like we did! :)) Thankfully, the guy noticed that we’re just clueless tourists and pointed us to the right lane.
8) Dutch are fluent English speakers and the language is widely used in the city.
9) Cafes and coffee shops are different in Amsterdam. If you’re looking for your daily caffeine fix, head to cafes. Coffee shops, however, are alcohol-free places but where cannabis or marijuana are legally sold and consumed.
10) Skip the covered canal boat tours. It’s a major waste of time and money. Go for boat tours offered by locals instead like this one. They seem to be much more engaging and real. I wish I had known this before.
I rocked almost 50,000 steps in this time frame. Hopefully, enough to burn all that calories I took in during our fun food tour.
What do you think of Amsterdam?