Amsterdam is the city of many things: weed, bikes, water canals, red lights districts, flowers and many other cultural details.
I have visited Amsterdam for the 2nd just a week ago for three days with my girlfriend. I was there 6 years ago, but just for a few hours, but even then it left a very good impression to me 🙂
This time we visited Amsterdam for 3 days and tried to do as much as we can 🙂
Actually, on the first day when we got out from the airport (I came there by car, my girlfriend flew to Amsterdam), we went straight to the seaside as I saw that there is a huge national park. We had some free time, because the hotels usually accepts guest just from 2 am and we had plenty of time.
So this national park which is right next to the sea is called “Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland” which is very nice, quite big, have lot of nice paths and even bisons in it 🙂 It has few lakes in it, wood and massive amount of sand dunes which looks really extraordinary. If you reach the sea, there are many restaurants to enjoy right on the beach which is very enjoyable. As well, from the shore you can see offshore wind mills which generates clean power to Netherlands which I think is amazing thing to do.
So if you have some free extra time in Amsterdam or in Netherlands, go and visit Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland, have a run or a hike which is a perfect thing to do there.
After visiting Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland we went to Haarlem 🙂 And yes, it’s not the one in New York, BUT the district of Harlem in New York was actually named after this place in Netherlands. Isn’t that cool?
Haarlem is a very very nice small city next to Amsterdam. Haarlem is like little paradise: many canals, many boats and ships, many small coffee places, many nice old architecture buildings, churches, small streets and many other things 🙂
We had breakfast in Haarlem in a small coffee place right next to the canal which offered a very nice view 🙂
Getting to Amsterdam
First thing to consider, if you come to Amsterdam by car, that parking can be pretty expensive out there, so you better do your investigation before coming there. Good thing that the first hotel we stayed in offered parking place for 15 euros a day. It’s a quite good price as parking your car in the street for whole day can cost up to 50 euros. You may find some free parking places in residential areas, but I think it’s huge waste of time if you do not really know the place.
After settling in the hotel we took a tram to the centre of Amsterdam. One hour of tram services costs 2,9 euro.
Amsterdam is pretty popular city in Europe so there are big amounts of tourists there, so be patient to move very slowly in popular streets. It’s like New York in rush hours 🙂
First thing we wanted to do was to visit a very beautiful district of Jordaan which has plenty of canals, beautiful buildings and is not as crowded as city centre. Streets are full of flowers and bikes. Very cosy and charming.
Anne Frank house is actually right next to Jordaan, but it is usually very crowded, plenty of people getting into that quite small historic house, so we just passed by.
As well, in daytime we walked a little bit through red light district which is not as alive as it is in night time, but we just wanted to get information what could we see next day.
Actually on the first day we came back to hotel at maybe 6 – 7 pm, we walked all the way from city centre to our hotel which was maybe 5km, but as well we got to know more of Amsterdam walking back than just sitting in a tram. We decided to spend more time in Amsterdam next day.
Second day in Amsterdam
On the second day we had to switch hotels as we couldn’t find any hotel for three days before our trip so we had to split.
Our next hotel didn’t offer any parking so we parked our car in city’s parking space in one of many garages under supermarket which costs 10 euros a day on weekend. Work days are 30 euros. So as this was Saturday, it was a good deal.
We decided to have our breakfast in a city and found a very very nice place using trip advisor which is called Greenwoods. It had a very high score on trip advisor so we gave it a chance.
This place is pretty small, it has maybe just 6 tables inside and you have to wait a little outside until you get a table, but it’s really worth doing so.
Food was great, pretty fast served, place is very cosy and comfy. As well the price was pretty good.
After having our breakfast, which we loved, we went to a flower market which is quite big and offers an amazing variety of flowers. I think you can almost find any flower you want. It’s really worth visiting this place which is next to Jordaan.
After flower market we went back to our new hotel which was pretty bad for a price of 150 euros a night. I understand that it is Amsterdam, but you have to be self aware as well. Everywhere else in Europe I would pay max 50 euros for such hotel. It was cold, internet was very bad, it was under construction at the same time (all hallways were covered in plastic), sound isolation was terrible, room was extra small and the bathroom had no lock. But ok, we came to Amsterdam not to sit in the hotel.
Night life in Amsterdam
On Saturday evening we decided to explore more of Amsterdam’s “sinful” side.
So let’s have a look.
Amsterdam is maybe best known for his (did I just assume the city’s gender :DD?) legal marijuana. So where to get it? At first I thought that you can buy weed anywhere you want, like shops, bars or even kiosks. But it’s not like that and it’s quite strictly regulated. The only place you can buy marijuana legally is in coffee shops (which has nothing to do with coffee). Most of those coffee shops would have a green sign with “coffee shop” written on it. So if you see such place, just go inside, buy what you want and enjoy your evening 🙂
Most of coffee shops will have quite a big variety of options from marijuana to hashish. Those products/options will have different names and the strength of the product will be shown as well. If you are used to marijuana those names may make sense to you, but for me it didn’t. I run, I do sports, I hike, so my knowledge of marijuana is pretty limited. So sorry, here I do not have any story of crazy drugs kicking me hard, seeing Jesus or white horse on water and so on 🙂
But to put it very simple: marijuana is legal just when you buy it from coffee shops. If some dude offers you some strong good shit in the middle of the street – avoid it. You may get in trouble. Cocaine, LSD, heroin and other drugs are not legal in Netherlands so don’t fall for it if someone offers you that.
I heard some people saying that you MUST smoke marijuana inside the coffee shop you bought it, but you won’t believe how overcrowded those places are 🙂 And when you walk in Amsterdam, you constantly smell marijuana in every street, so I do not know the rules, but I think you can smoke it where ever you want.
Next thing to see in Amsterdam is red light district. And, oh yes, it’s alive and full of people and attractions.
So first things first.
What we wanted to see was the “real sex show” as they call it. In the red light district you may few places offering that, but most popular is Moulin Rouge and Casa Roso.
The ticket price is around 45 euros for one person. The show goes on for 7 hours (or more) up to 2-3 am (maybe in some places even to later times), but one cycle of the show is around 1 hours 20 min and then repeats again for 7 hours or more. So when you buy a ticket you can stay in a theatre as long as you want, but I don’t know if you want to do that for 7 hours and watch the same thing again and again.
So what can you expect in such a theater?
Simply put: striptease, striptease with some toys the girls play with and actual real sex (men with a woman, woman with a woman). Maybe in some places they offer something more advanced, I do not know 🙂
And the last thing to see in the red light district is actually the girls in the windows. These are actual prostitutes, but as it is legal in Netherlands, it’s a normal job, they pay taxes and so on.
As far as I know, there are around 400 such windows in Amsterdam. Usually you will see a woman (just with underwear) dancing and teasing the men walking around. If you are interested, you just have to show that you are willing to come in, they will open the door and let you in. As far as I read about it, the rest is business and service. You have to be very clear and specific with a lady what you want from her and she will tell you the price. You shake your hands and go to that secret chamber of hers.
When you walk around in red light district you are going to see variety of woman: fat, thin, black, latino, young, old, fake and so on. So everyone will find what they like.
One of the most popular street is so full of tourists that it actually to us 10 minutes to walk 200 m. It is so overcrowded so I don’t know if any men are brave enough to enter the prostitutes “bureau” in front of so many people 🙂
I don’t know, this place looks really exotic and I don’t know if there are any other places like this in the world. Maybe in Thailand? But it’s really one of a kind.
On the third day for breakfast we decided to have some famous Amsterdam/Netherlands pancakes. We chose one of the most popular places, but I would say that we were quite disappointed. The taste, service and everything was quite good, but 8 euros for just one thin pancake? That seems a little bit too much even for Amsterdam.
After breakfast we have planned to visit Van Gogh museum which is pretty cool. I would say I enjoyed it as I didn’t know too much about Van Gogh before (except that he cut of his ear and was ginger). Museum is pretty crowded, but as it is very big, it’s not a problem to walk around, read text information and see all the paintings. It’s definitely not like Louvre.
So if you love or don’t mind some art, give it a go for Van Gogh 🙂
Afterwards I decided that on the last day in Amsterdam I just wanted to relax and do nothing, so we bought those hop on hop off tickets which are valid for 24 hours and you can use the boats and buses. I know I know, it’s a huge cliche to use such thing in any city, but as Amsterdam has so many canals, I thought it will be very nice to swim in those with a big boat 🙂
And I actually really enjoyed the boats tour as they as well offer some other free tours on the ground (next to the stops) and you get very nice historical explanations of Amsterdam while floating in the boat.
The ticket price is 28 euros for 24 hours and as well it’s pretty good for transport as our hotel was not that far from one of boat stops.
Conclusions and suggestions
Maybe some other people who have better knowledge of Amsterdam would suggest you otherwise, but I think the MUST list of Amsterdam is:
Visit at least one coffee shop and if you enjoy marijuana, buy it there;
Visit a red light district, it’ really one of a kind;
Visit at least one museum;
Enjoy Jordaan and all those canals;
Rent a bike (which we didn’t).
My suggestion would be if possible to visit Amsterdam on a week day, not weekend, as it is pretty crowded on weekends. I don’t know if Amsterdam offers less attractions on weekdays, but I think it’s not a case there.
Be very aware of bikes. Amsterdam is maybe the capital of bikes in the world, but as there are so many of them and the lines between pedestrians and bikes lanes are quite blurry sometimes… just be sure to look both sides even on sidewalks as you may get knocked out by a fast going biker 🙂 It didn’t happen to me, but I was very close many times.
And better rent a bike and be a part of this great bikes culture. There are thousands and thousands of bikes, plenty of rental places, so it won’t be a problem for you to get along 🙂
I usually do not really enjoy cities and almost never come back to the same city (as you know, I am more a nature guy), but Amsterdam is really in my Top 5 cities so far and I don’t really think that some other city can knock Amsterdam from this list 🙂
I hope you liked my short story, if you have any questions, please let me know and do not forget to follow me on Instagram: @golookexplore