Make Your Next Trip To Amsterdam An Even More Unforgettable One!!!
Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands!
Amsterdam is probably one of the most interesting cities I had ever been to. Before visiting the city, the only impression I had of Amsterdam was Red Light District and Coffee Shops. But now it's fair to say that the city offer so much more! I will be sharing some interesting ways to explore the city and some attractions you must visit before leaving the city!
1) Join a Walking Tour!
The way to familiarise with a city is to get lost within the city. Spend a day (or at least half a day) to walk around the city and explore unfamiliar routes and places.
Being below sea level, it is important for Amsterdam to have many canals which helps to ensure the city does not flood. One fun fact: Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and is often dubbed as the "Venice Of The North". Does anyone wonder why don't they call Venice " The Amsterdam Of The South"? Hahaha~
P.S. Just make sure not to wander into dark alleys or deserted areas if you are alone, especially during night time.
P.P.S Keep your valuables safe. If not you will be the next target for pickpockets. (Sigh, that's what happened to me!)
We opted for the "free" walking tour by 360 Amsterdam Tour, which we felt was the best way to start off our stay in Amsterdam. We had a very humorous local guide who showed us around the city centre for 2 hours tour by foot. We loved how we got a good understanding of history, culture, values and beliefs of the people of Amsterdam. Some of the highlights included learning about the squatters culture, the rights of women in Red Light District and the walk through Trompettersteeg, the narrowest street in Amsterdam located at the Red Light District. I would definitely recommend it!
P.S. Read more about the ethics behind free tours . You can make your own judgement call about whether or not to join the tour thereafter. I do give a good tip if I find the tour a fruitful one.
P.PS It's okay to look at the ladies standing in the window panes along the Red Light District. Respect them by not taking any photos. If not, you may be in for a scolding!
|Dam Square: the very centre of Amsterdam!|
|Squatter zones are a stark contrast to the other houses of Amsterdam. |
They are marked with unique graffiti art. Sadly, they are now cordoned off with barriers.
|One of the most iconic Squatter houses in the city centre.|
|One of the most iconic Squatter houses in the city centre.|
The Amsterdam government legalised the use and personal consumption of cannabis, which is a banned drug in many countries. It's interesting to learn the success of this creative way of curbing the drugs issue . Most locals lost interest in it because it's so readily available.
Everywhere around the city, we spotted city logos or flags bearing the iconic XXX (Spot them at the picture below). The XXX are notoriously mistaken to symbolise Sex, Drugs and Alcohol, the vices of Amsterdam. However, from our guide, we understand that it represents Fire, Floods and Black Death (Plagues!), the 3 main natural disasters which Amsterdam faced in their early times.
Pick up unique and special souvenirs to friends who are able to take a good joke at Condomerie! You find condoms of all shapes, sizes, smell and texture.
|Even some handpainted ones!|
2) Admire the Houses Of Amsterdam!
One iconic thing about Amsterdam city is the architecture of their houses. It's built in such a way whereby it's tall in height and short in width. The buildings are taxed by the amount of land they occupy. So the only way to pay lesser tax is to build higher floors. Therefore, you can tell how rich a family is just by looking at how many windows they have on their building.
|Look closely and you will be able to find the smallest house in Amsterdam! =D|
Another interesting thing to observe is that the houses looks kinda... tipsy? All houses are leaning to the front at a slanted angle, with a hook at the top of their building. When houses are so narrow, the only way to transport bulky furniture into the house is through the big windows. A pulley system is used with the hook to move the furniture up and the slant prevent the goods from smashing into the windows. Brilliant idea, isn't it?
|Notice the hook that is attached above the highest window of every building!|
Since housing prices are extremely high in the capital, the next housing alternative is to live in houseboats. It may seem like an ultra mess but all these boats, big or small, have their own fixed parking lot. Just walking along canals and admiring the different houseboat designs could take up some time!
|Take a stroll along the canals!|
3) Choose Which Museum To Visit, Wisely!
Just Amsterdam itself, there are almost 90 museums for you to visit. The most famous and classic ones (the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum) are all located near the Museum Square. One of the classic "I AMSTERDAM" sign is also located there. Be prepared for crowds. Alternatively I would also recommend going to Anne Frank House or the Heineken Experience for something different.
|Amsterdam is the birth place of Heineken~|
|The old brewery!|
|How can I miss out on this one?|
|During winter, Museum Square has a skating rink for public to skate.|
4) Cycle Or Tram Around! Just like how the locals do it!
The city also amazed me with their transportation system. Imagine trams, cars, bicycles and pedestrians all using the same roads harmoniously! I'm most impressed by how everyone can adhere to the rules of bicycle lane, car lanes and tram lanes. In Singapore, we have cyclists on pedestrian walkway and vice versa.
For peeps who decided to cycle, remember to lock your bicycle well . The rate of stolen bicycles in Amsterdam is extremely high!
For peeps who decided to tram, consider getting a day pass because it's more worth it! =) It cost about €7.50 for a 24 hours pass but €2.90 for a 1 hour pass.
|Bicycles for sale at Albert Cuyp Market|
5) Go for day trips. Do not just stay within Amsterdam!
Go to Amsterdam Central Bus Station and hop on a bus out to the outskirts. During our stay, we went for 2 day trips. For one day, we went to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills and traditional houses. Just get on Connexxion bus 391 from Amsterdam Centraal bus station. Ticket cost us €10 each. Alternatively, you can opt to take the train to Koog-Zaandijk station. (Read : A Day Trip To Zaanse Schans From Amsterdam!!)
On another day, we took the bus that goes to Edam, Volendam and Marken where you get to see a different side of Holland - the fisherman village, quaint towns and a cheese factory. We got the Waterland day Ticket that cost us €10 each. (Read: A Day Trip To The Waterland (Edam -> Volendam)!! )
6) Savor some great food, at the most unexpected places and prices!
FEBO, the Dutch style of automated fast food. You will see ready cook and piping hot food locked in the little counters. All you need to do is to slot in your coins and get your food! The only challenge would be everything is written in Dutch. Nonetheless, we managed to get ourselves a delicious fried potato croquette!
De Bakkerswinkel, a nicely decorated little cafe that serves great scones, quiches and bread etc. This place was recommended to us by our tour guide from the walking tour. It's a favourite amongst the locals and unknown to many tourists. We came here for some tea.
Manneken Pis, simply Holland Fries and sauce. Grab one cone filled with fries while you walk along the streets!
De Bijenkorf Kitchen (Located at the top floor). This mall is great for people shopping for their favourite luxury brands. It's located just beside Dam square and my favourite place to get free Wifi and clean toilets!!! One thing you should know is the food court sells one of the best steaks I have ever eaten so far. It's flavourful and well cooked to a perfect medium. I would definitely eat this again when I come Amsterdam!
|I really miss this!|
Some other food places you can consider is Bar Spek (offers great Western food at cheaper rates because it's located further off from City Centre), Omelegg (supposedly the best eggs ever but I didn't had the opportunity to try) and restaurant in Hotel Larende (We are so impressed with their pizzas and good prices).
7) Enjoy A Stay At Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam, one of Europe's most luxurious hotels!
Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam is the flagship hotel of the Intercontinental group and one of the grandest one too. Since we had our wedding at Intercontinental Singapore, we felt that it would be a sweet touch to have a stay at this hotel! So there we are on our last day in Amsterdam. It is just a 2 minutes walk from Weesperplein Metro Station (2 stations from Amsterdam Central Station).
|The beautiful lobby|
|Thank you for the strawberries and champagne. Lovely surprise for us.|
Afterthoughts:Before I went to Amsterdam, I was thinking how are we going to spend 5 days in that city. But then, Amsterdam offers alot more than just Red Light District, Space Cakes or Cannabis lollipops. There are a huge depth of history, belief and culture behind every architecture and development. Our 3 best takeaways from Amsterdam is still the mind-blowing stay at Intercontinental Amstel, the Free Walking Tour by 360 Amsterdam Tour and the amazing steak I savoured at De Bijenkorf food court. I still grumble about being being a victim of pickpocket but I am not going to let one negative incident spoil the great impression I had of the city.
One cultural difference to note: In Singapore, "Coffee Shop" sells coffee, tea and local food delights of all kind. In Amsterdam, "Coffee Shops" are places you go to buy cannbis for personal consumption. If you need food in Amsterdam, look for "cafes" or "restaurants".
If you are touring at Paris, consider travelling up to Amsterdam via Rail Europe. The journey would be approximately 4 hours.
In our next 2 posts, we will be sharing more about the 2 possible day trips which you could take if you want to experience a quiet and quaint day out at the countryside.
Note: We visited Amsterdam in February 2016. All photos are credited to Mr and Mrs OOPS. Follow @mrandmrsoops and @djoops on Instagram for more photo works. Not sponsored or affiliated.
Lost in our windmills,
Mr and Mrs OOPS
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