Passing the Dutchie in Beautiful AmsterdamSex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Okay, substitute the rock ‘n’ roll with a combination of canals, museums, historical architecture, fashionable shops, cool cafes and thousands upon thousands of pushbikes, and you have one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.
We stayed in the uber cool area of Jordaan, which incorporates nine canal cross streets that make up the charming shopping area of this perfect location.
Next door to our apartment was a very retro looking café, which appeared to be a very successful little business. It was always full and everyone inside looked incredibly chilled out and happy.
Upon closer perusal of the extensive menu, and with a familiar smell wafting from the premises, we soon realised our neighbours were the proprietors of a very successful licensed ‘coffeeshop’ (cannabis selling café). There were more than a few of these establishments to choose from in this very diverse, quirky, cool city.
The canal belt area of Amsterdam is the most beautiful part of the city. Cafes, restaurants, shops, galleries and a vibrant kaleidoscope of eclectic houseboats line the canals.
All day a constant flow of canal traffic ensures they take centre stage, as locals going about their daily business vie for space with the tourist vessels that seem to be operating non-stop.
We did a canal tour courtesy of the fifteen-day Avalon River cruise from Budapest that we had just alighted from. This was our last complimentary tour as part of that journey and it gave us a great perspective of the city. I would highly recommend any first time visitor to do a canal tour.
The canal area is a magical part of Amersterdam, and it features an extensive range of architecture that is very unique to this historical city. They certainly have the knack of utilising small spaces, as most of the buildings in the canal area appear to all be leaning on each other and morphing into one.
Working out what to do on our first night in Amsterdam was a no-brainer. The red light district has such worldwide notoriety that a visit there is compulsory, and we were not disappointed!
The streets ooze sleaze, with prostitutes displaying themselves shamelessly while unsavoury looking pimps hang around relatively conspicuously. Like everyone else, we gawked unapologetically. The voyeuristic nature of most people ensures that the red light district of Amsterdam is one of the liveliest and most popular tourist attractions in Europe.
The walk around the district was quite surreal, with woman gyrating and sensually luring customers from behind their private glass display units wearing very little (I did have a quick peek on occasion, but never touched – I promise). It is very interesting, to say the least.
The vibe around the colourful red light district felt like a combination of a burlesque show mixed with a Cirque du Soleil performance.
The next day we were back to reality, and we spent it visiting the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Dutch Post-Impressionist paintings and other contemporary works. It’s a must-do visit if you love art and the history of Van Gogh.
Afterwards, while on a walk around the canals, we passed a long line-up of people waiting to visit the house where Anne Frank and her family were incarcerated during World War II. It’s definitely worth doing this tour as it paints a picture of the suffering that this poor young girl lived through during this period of time.
One of my favourite things about Amsterdam was its bicycle culture. Nearly everyone cycles. There are designated lanes everywhere and the cycle traffic on them is literally non-stop. Sydney could certainly learn a thing or two from them.
Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly capital city in the world, and with an urban area population of over 1.1 million people, a massive 60 per cent of trips are made by bicycles in the inner city. Pushbikes are a way of life and the main way to get around. There are also 140 bicycle shops in the city.
Beware, though, when crossing roads that you don’t accidentally veer into a bicycle lane, as cyclists get very angry when you encroach on their space as they whizz pass at high speed. Trust me – I know from experience.
HOW TO BOOK:
HOW TO GET THERE:
Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166