Amsterdam is not just about weed, the Red Light District and partying. I found that out last month on my work trip to Amsterdam! Not only was it my first time there, but it was my first time travelling to Europe. Boy, was I excited!
After a few hold-ups, I finally boarded a KLM red-eye to Schiphol Airport with my colleague. We reached Amsterdam in the morning and were greeted by pleasant weather, a beautiful airport and most of all, greenery (which, if you live in Dubai, will get you excited). Taking a cab to our hotel was quite an experience because the driver had a suit on and drove a Mercedes! The roads, brownstone buildings and tram lanes were all fascinating. While my first two days were filled with work and just an outing in the nights, the third day was one that we spent walking across probably 3/4ths of Amsterdam.
Here is a low-down on what all you can do in that one day!
Take the tram, bike or walk
Amsterdam has three lanes – the road, the cycle lane and the walking lane – and God forbid a walker walks into the biking lane.
Cabs are expensive – buses are not as frequent as the trams. The inter-connectivity of Amsterdam Trams is as user-friendly as Mumbai’s local trains. You can buy day passes for a nominal rate if you intend to travel a lot within the city. Bicycles are easily available on rent and are the best mode of transport in my opinion (although I didn’t rent one).
Walking is the easiest. On the last day, I walked from my hotel across Leidseplein, took a tram to Jordaan, walked around there, took a tram back and walked back to the hotel and didn’t feel a thing because of the 8 degree rain and cold weather.
Leisure at the parks
One of the best things about Amsterdam is its vibe. There is a sense of freedom in the air, and people all around are either on cycles or on foot or just spending time in the huge open parks across the city. With the weather being cold throughout the year, its ideal to wear warm clothes and sit on the grass under the trees, snack and have fun!
Check out the canals and the lanes
Amsterdam is called the Venice of The Netherlands, and for good reason. There are canals everywhere with quaint bridges that overlook the water from both sides. The lanes within areas like Dam Square and Leidseplein are amazing – narrow, surrounded by lights or restaurants or simply trees and brownstones. They are a delight if you have a thing for lanes (which I do).
The most happening place in Amsterdam – this is where you have rows and rows of restaurants. It is full off people with lights, trees and small souvenir shops. The canal is the most beautiful thing here – you can take a boat ride along the canal – or sit at small restaurants or bars lining the canal-side. This is also where the Red-Light Area (that Amsterdam is so famous for) is.
Leidseplein & Jordaan
These are the shopping districts of Amsterdam. Leidseplein is filled with the best brands of clothing and other stores. It also has streets completely dedicated to lines and lines of restaurants that are choc-a-bloc! Leidseplein also has the beautiful flower market filled with seeds, pots and flowers of all varieties!
Jordaan is most famous for Anne Frank’s house. Please make sure you buy tickets much earlier, because the queues there are serpentine! Apart from this, it is the hippest area in town and has some amazing shopping brands. I also found a cute shop selling Delft pottery – gorgeous blue and white ceramic pottery.
Go on a Beer Bike
If you drink and are with friends or want to meet new people – definitely go on the Beer Bike. We saw a couple of people on this when we were in Jordaan, and it looked like so much fun.
Gouda is the national cheese of The Netherlands. It is made of Cow’s Milk, and artisanal cheeses are available at various stores. I bought a beautiful package of Truffle Gouda and Smoked Gouda (OMG) from Henry Willig and a block of Paprika from Albert Cuyp market.
Visit Albert Cuyp Market For me, to feel the real vibe of the city, I need to go to the market. We visited the biggest market in the country – Albert Cuyp market, and it was all I could do to keep myself from splurging on stuff. The market is amazing – it is open throughout the year and has a variety of things – from clothes to food. Some of the stuff we saw was fresh Gouda cheese, charcuterie of different kinds from salamis to chorizo, fresh vegetables – those tomatoes were to die for and artichokes (eeps! I almost considered buying a few to take back home!), baked items of all sorts – pies, croissants, sandwiches, waffles!
Amsterdam is a foodie city – there are ice cream shops around every corner. Small shops sell frites – the Dutch version of French Fries and so much better – especially on a cold day. Apparently Southern American food is a hit here – every corner has an Argentinian Steak House. Other cuisines available are Thai, Chinese, Italian, Pakistani, and Turkish for the Doner Kebabs. Every other shop is a bakery filled with baked goodies like croissants and pies and waffles! Pizza stalls on the roads have some amazing flavours.
Amsterdam is also known for its Stroopwaffles – thin round waffles that are sandwiched together with a sticky caramel (too sweet for my liking, but still delicious). Taste the Gouda cheese samples at specialist stores and the Farmers’ Market. Sadly the most authentic and easily available dutch food is the cheese and the frites. It was not easy to find restaurants that served authentic Dutch food – although we did find one just to escape the cold at Rembrandtplein. Unfortunately, the name escapes my memory. We had a beautiful Stamppot, Frites, Tomato-Basil Soup and a Club Sandwich.
Overall, I loved the vibe of Amsterdam – 10:30 pm sunsets, walking around the city, the beautiful canals, people cycling or walking or lazing around in the parks and eating all that this beautiful city had to offer!