At the end of my stay in London during the summer of 2014 my girlfriend and I planned a trip through some neighboring countries. Our main destinations were Berlin and Paris but we wanted to visit a tattoo artist working out of Amsterdam, and to be honest that was the only interest in Amsterdam for both of us. I had this image of Amsterdam in my head from stories and movies and media that I was exposed to throughout my life, in this image Amsterdam was dirty, full of drugs, prostitutes, raves, techno music and more drugs. So when we planned our travels, we gave ourselves only about 30 hours in Amsterdam and that was the biggest mistake we made all summer. I just 30 hours we fell completely in love with the city, it wasn’t anything of what we expected, it was like downtown Disneyland for adults.
Everyone is happy and helpful, they don’t hesitate to say hello while passing complete strangers while riding bicycles down cobblestone roads. Multiple times we were stopped on the street by a local just so they could give us suggestions or directions without us even asking. There is no noticeable graffiti, the streets are clean of trash, mostly because the locals do a great job of not littering and even picking up others litter. Yes, there are “drugs” being sold in nearly every coffee shop, and by that I mean Marijuana, but it is so accepted that joints are served along side your espresso without a wince. The shops are clean and full of everything from traveling tourists to businessmen relaxing after work, the inside of each cafe looks similar to that of a pub or a normal cafe, but instead of loud chatter and sports being displayed on massive televisions, everyone is mellow and either engaged in deep conversations or just simply staring off into the distance, probably contemplating their very existence.
Since leaving Amsterdam I have promised myself to return one day and enjoy it for a longer period of time, I feel as though I was only exposed to a small glimpse of an amazing unique city. In the spirit of hoping to get back, I have compiled a list of facts and reasons for anyone thinking of visiting Amsterdam or just wanting to learn more about it.
There are 165 canals throughout the city, making up a total of 60 miles in overall waterways. There a plenty of ways to get around the city, but one of the best by far is a private boat tour through the canals. You could also ride your bicycle around town, but be cautious as more than 25,000 bicycles sink to the bottom of the canal every year. If you really want to explore the canals, you can rent out a houseboat and stay a few nights right on it.
With more than 1500 bars and cafes in Amsterdam it is a great place to grab a drink. Most places are relatively cheap as far as Europe prices go, and a lot of them have a great view of the canals. You’re also allowed to drink in the streets as long as you’re not causing a ruckus.
Amsterdam is widely known for being one of the greatest bicycling cities on the planet. With over 880,000 bicycles in the city, they out number the 800,000 people living in the city. Even though Amsterdam has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, about 100,000 bicycles are stolen every year, most believe that tourists and intoxicated locals are to blame for this.
4. Living Under the Sea
Most of Amsterdam is actually below sea level, and the ground that its built on shouldn’t be able to support a city, but use of over 11 million wooden stilts are used throughout the city to support the buildings on the loose muddy foundation. The houses in the city are unusually narrow due to the fact they used to be taxed on width.
5. The Redlight District
The red-light district is known far an wide for its prostitutes of course but little known is that its one of the safest places in the city, and if you’re into that sort of thing, it homes the safest prostitution in the world. Amsterdam offers free STD treatment from special public health clinics throughout the city. Even if not partaking in the events, its an interesting spot to check out and walk through, it’s a big part of the culture and history and i believe any real traveler should be open to at least taking a look into everything a city offers.
Amsterdam is more culturally diverse than any other city on the planet, housing more than 175 different nationalities as permanent residents. That is one of the greatest parts of the city, there is a little piece of everywhere and it shows in the food, the art and the culture and maybe this is the reason everyone is so open and friendly.