Amsterdam is a very popular destination for a European city break, and with good reason. It may not be the cheapest city in all of Europe, but it is not as expensive as other places such as Paris or London, and you can get a lot for your money.
If you want to see some fantastic art and architecture, have some delicious food and drink, and then blow away the cobwebs by whizzing round the city on a bike, Amsterdam is the place for you.
Dutch Words and Phrases
There is a very high standard of spoken English in Netherlands, and many Dutch people speak more than two languages. According to some sources, over 80% of the Dutch population can speak English, so in a big city like Amsterdam you are not likely to encounter many language barriers if you are an English speaker.
What’s more is that Netherlands has a very multicultural society, so whatever your native language, you might find somebody who speaks it! However, as in every country, one of the best ways to show that you are a polite person is to learn how to greet people in their own language.
To say hello, say hallo
To say bye, say dag
To say thank you, say bedankt
To say please, say alstublieft
Food and Drink
Or as the Dutch would say, Eten en Drinken. Keep an eye out for these words if you’re hurrying to find somewhere to eat. There is no shortage of great places to find some delicious food and drink in Amsterdam. Dutch specialties include delightful dishes such as croquettes and bitterballen. These are often served as bar snacks, which are popular and plentiful, especially in bruin cafés.
Bruin café is the name given to a casual bar, similar in style and clientele to a British pub. Their name is rumoured to come from the brown hue that has developed on the walls after years of tobacco smoke – even though smoking in bars is now illegal in Amsterdam.
If you would like to sample some Dutch cuisine in a more structured setting, search for Moeders or De Blauwe Hollander. Moeders means mothers, and the restaurant itself is covered floor to ceiling with pictures of customers’ mothers. You might even try taking along a small framed picture of your own mother dearest – they could put it up on the wall! De Blauwe Hollander has been serving up fresh, comforting food since the late ‘70s, but was refurbished in 2010 to keep up with modern trends.
While many people think of dining out as a great experience to incorporate into their trip, some might see it as a waste of time and an inconvenience. These people are in luck, as Amsterdam has loads of great fast food outlets, so they can quickly grab something and eat it as they make their way to the next must-see thing on their list.
If you are truly dedicated to the fast food experience, find the nearest FEBO and order up some hot food from a vending machine. As well as being a novelty to anyone who isn’t Dutch, the food from these machines tastes pretty good too.
Another popular chain is Chipsy King, where they serve up huge portions of Belgian-style fries to hungry locals and tourists alike at reasonable prices. Overall, there is no need to plan where to go for fast food in Amsterdam. Just take a walk around the city and you will find something you fancy.
If all else fails, there will always be McDonalds, just like most other cities.
Boats and Bikes
When you think of Amsterdam, you might think of a city whose residents travel everywhere on their bicycles. You wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Amsterdam is a very flat, compact city compared to some other capital cities, making it a perfect place for cycling. Don’t worry about taking your own bike, as it is very easy to hire one while you are there.
If you don’t feel comfortable making a solo excursion, it won’t be hard to find a cycling tour to join. If there’s a certain area of the city you would like to explore, see if there is a specific tour that will take you through that part of town. Keep your wits about you while cycling, and if you’re new to biking, ask for tips and advice when you hire your bike. They should be happy to help – after all, they want you to return the bike safely to them at the end of the day!
Boats may not be the best way to get around the city, but it is fun to take a canal cruise. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, there is the option to treat yourself and your loved one to a sumptuous meal while cruising along Amsterdam’s waterways. There is even an all-you-can-eat pancake boat, for a more laid back canal dining experience.
If the idea of spending a long time on a boat does not appeal to you, there is also the boat equivalent of a city sightseeing bus, which allows you to get off the boat and then get back on a little later.
Museums and Galleries
Amsterdam is home to countless great works of art, and is a prime destination for fans of all kinds of artwork. From the old Dutch Masters to exciting modern art, there will be something to suit every art fan.
Dating back to 1876, the Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ oldest and best-loved museum. It has been closed for renovations, but will be opening again on Saturday 13th April 2013, allowing visitors to once again take in a vast array of art and historical artefacts. For those who don’t have enough time to spend in this impressively large museum, there is a small branch at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.
To see the work of one of the world’s most famous painters, head to the Van Gogh Museum in the city’s Museum Quarter. This museum houses famous and lesser-known works by Van Gogh, and provides information about his short, troubled life and its tragic end. Until Thursday 25th April 2013, the Van Gogh Museum itself will be closed, and a temporary exhibition will be housed at the Hermitage Amsterdam.
The house at Prisengracht 263 harbours a dark past. It is the house where the Frank family hid during the Second World War, as is told in The Diary of a Young Girl. The house has now been transformed into a museum called the Anne Frank Huis, which is a fascinating and moving look at life during the war, and the eventual capture of the Frank family.
This museum is a very popular choice among tourists, due to its incredible historical importance, so try to get there early in the morning to avoid long queues. You might want to plan a relaxing few hours after leaving the Anne Frank Huis in order to process and decompress.
The Red Light District
Rather than just a salacious detail of a liberal city, the Rosse Buurt actually illustrates some important historical and social points. Unlike in some other countries that have a large prostitution industry, sex workers in Amsterdam are working legally, and many even pay tax on their earnings. There is a common argument that legalised prostitution helps to keep sex workers safe, and reduces social stigma around being involved in sex work.
Unfortunately, the Red Light District may not be the arena of female empowerment that some would imagine it to be. Make what you will of the Red Light District, but make sure you treat the women with respect. Do not stand outside their windows to point, laugh or take photographs.
Whatever your opinion on the Red Light District, it is a relatively safe area to explore, especially during the day. If you don’t want to see anything at all, then find it on your city map and avoid it. Otherwise, you might find yourself simply strolling through it on the way to somewhere else in the city.
Marijuana is legal and regulated in Amsterdam. There are many establishments around the city set up for the express purpose of smoking or eating marijuana. Perhaps confusingly for some people, these places are called coffee shops. While some of them may serve a good cup of coffee, don’t go to them if coffee is all that you want.
The best coffee shops will offer the option of selling you marijuana pre-rolled, on its own, or baked into a space cake. Many tourists visiting Amsterdam will have come specifically to seek out a legal high that is not so easily obtained in their own country, but if you are not used to smoking marijuana make sure you are with someone you feel safe with and trust.
At the time of writing this article, to the best of the author’s knowledge, marijuana was legal in Amsterdam for both residents and tourists, as long as it is consumed within licensed premises. YouQueen and the author hold no responsibility for the way in which the reader uses this information.