We arrived in Amsterdam, the city of lust, bridges, canals, and even more bikes. This place has quite the reputation; if you’re anything like me, when you think of The Netherlands it’s an odd mixture of images that spring to mind. On one hand its taboo tourist attractions with X-rated themes, along with some very “relaxed” and progressive attitudes. On the other, it’s green grass, beautiful brick architecture, and a whole lotta delicious cheese. Over the last few days we’ve scouted out the cool spots and tourist attractions this eclectic city is famous for.
Hopping off the coach from Bruges, I eagerly checked into the infamous ‘Worst Hotel in the World’, the Hans Brinker hostel. This party hostel has a very unique way of marketing themselves, claiming to have terrible service and unsanitary living spaces, with guests leaving looking worse than when they arrived. But that wasn’t the case at all; it wasn’t flash, but it definitely wasn’t a bad hostel by any means. In fact they ticked all the boxes for decent facilities! It seems they’ve gone with the whole “under-promise, over-deliver” idea, so that guests are pleasantly surprised. Strange? Yes. But hey, it worked.
On our first full day we decided to get off the roads and ride the canals instead. Jake and I rented out a mini paddle boat to make our way through the waters for a few hours. They gave us a map that included info on some of the buildings and figures we passed, which gave us a really great perspective of the city. Things did get a little crazy as we tried to vlog, ‘gram, direct the map, steer the boat and paddle at the same time, but we made it back in one piece after a few bumps to the wall and driving into a couple of unimpressed ducks. A few thousand turns of a paddle later, and we came out with quads of steel.
Now to be honest with you, I hadn’t biked properly around a city for about 5 years, and was a little nervous about getting amongst these insanely quick Dutch cyclists. But once I had gotten into the swing of things, my oh my, did the tables turn. Hopping on that bike, I felt like I ran the town. I was in control of the roads. I was the captain of my ship. Not only did it get me from point A to B faster then all the peasantry walking I’ve been doing, but I realised why the Dutch loved it so much – the road system of the city is just made for this kind of transport.
I’d be happy getting lost walking down the pretty canals all day, but my biggest recommendation for Amsterdam if you have the time would be to escape the city for a few hours, and wander the countryside. A highlight of the trip was our tour with Busabout’s recommended Mike’s Bike Tours. Our hilarious British guide Karl cycled with us around the Dutch landscapes, showing us one of the last standing windmills, the fields and forests, and guiding us to a traditional clog and cheese factory. Here we visited an old barn to learn about the creation of the conventional wooden clog, and the process of making their super tasty homemade cheese.
And what would an experience in Amsterdam be without taking a visit to the Red Light District? A laneway museum of sex workers posing behind windows, misty “coffee shops”, peep shows and rowdy bars. Amsterdam is the kind of city where anything can happen. Prostitution is legal and licensed here, and window prostitution has turned into one of Amsterdam’s largest attractions. It’s both an intriguing and strange experience walking down those lanes, with some women posing to grab your attention and others awaiting their next client looking painfully bored. It’s almost impossible not to stare, even when you feel like you should look away.
If you’re all about the guilt-inducing food experiences, around every other corner in Amsterdam is the famous fast food joint Febo. I fell in love with some deep-fried cheese, coated with a thick, crummy batter and it was nothing short of life changing. I went back four times in two days and only have slight regrets. But it’s too good to miss. Some other delicacies we tried were the deep fried fish kibbeling with tartar sauce, and stroopwafels – two wafers smacked together with a caramel filling in between.
Amsterdam is a diverse and exciting place to visit. Culturally, historically and socially, it’s just plain cool. I’m gonna miss seeing all the weird characters, pretty gables and leaning houses as we venture to the alternative capital of Europe and our next destination, Berlin. Gotta make sure I bring a pack of stroopwafels for the road.