Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, the city where dreams come true and life seems easy, magical and slightly hallucinogenic. For most people, the city holds one major appeal- clue: it starts with ‘W’ and ends with ‘D’ and no its not because of its fine collection of wood…

I visited Amsterdam a while back and although the weather was not the greatest (it rained almost every day) I found that there was a lot more to do besides sitting in a cafe and and getting horrendously high. I would recommend visiting during the Spring/Summer months when there are more outdoor activities available and the city is a lot more picturesque.

Markets:

Amsterdam is a great place for low-cost shopping and is home to an abundance of markets like the Albert Cuyp market where you can fill your basket full of delicious food for next to nothing. The Noordermarkt is also a great place to find all things healthy and organic and they hand out so many free samples that you could probably just skip lunch all together and head right there. My favourite market was the Waterlooplein flea market though. This place had everything from antique furniture to cheap souvenirs and so many sweet cakes and cheese, literally, so much cheese everywhere! (the edible cheese, not the other one).

Museums:

There are so many museums to choose from in Amsterdam, all offering something completely different to the next. One of my favourites was the sex museum not just because it made for some really uncomfortable silences amongst its visitors but also because it was informative and demonstrated just how much societies’ view of all things ‘sex’ has changed and progressed over the years. Admission is only € 4 and the museum is open from 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m every day. So I didn’t really understand why there were huge crowds of people queuing up to go in throughout the afternoon, try going later on in the evening when it is generally quieter. The Anne Frank museum is another must-see, especially if you’re as fond of the book as I am. Anne’s original diary and other notebooks are displayed here as well as photographs and original objects belonging to those who lived with her. You can also do a virtual journey of annes house which really brings the book to life but is quite emotional when you see just how tiny the secret annexe was. Finally, the Van Gogh museum has recently been renovated and is home to the worlds largest collection of his work, if you like his weirds and wacky work (the one of the screaming person really freaks me out) then I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Red light district:

What is it that makes the red light district so fascinating? Why do many of us feel so compelled to see a real-life hooker? I have no idea but I definitely wanted to see one, so I did. The Red Light District is known locally as De Wallen and is a well-known tourist spot. However, the city authorities are trying to cut down on the number of ‘ladies’ and ‘coffee shops’ in the area resulting in a slightly tamer district (but not quite district 12 just yet). Nonetheless, when I visited I still saw plenty of half naked women gyrating against thin air in windows and guilty looking men doing a sort of pre walk of shame into a softly lit red room. Maybe they thought they were going in for a candlelit dinner? I’d like to think so.

Rent a canoe (don’t get high before-hand)

This may seem a little random but during the spring and summer months, rowing along the Waterland, the beautiful nature reserve in the north of Amsterdam is so peaceful and relaxing. The views along the waterline and all the quirky little houses make for some great photos showing a very different and dainty side to Amsterdam that you just don’t get in the centre. There are several companies that offer canoe rental at a reasonable price and most of them include extra activities such as barbecues and group adventure packages. Check out iamsterdam.com for more information.

Rent a bike

Like canoeing, renting a bike is a great alternative to getting around the city and feeling more like a local. There are so many different bike trails to chose from but I recommend taking one that will bring you a little out of the city to a more rustic and serene environment. Again, there are an abundance of rental companies to chose from and the prices are relatively cheap but I preferred rentabike.nl as they were easily located in the centre of the city and were a bit more relaxed about the time limit i had on the bike. Just be careful you don’t break or damage the bloody thing as you will incur a fine.

And of course, once you’ve done all of the above, you can always pick up a pack of double chocolate chip cookies from the nearest bakery, find yourself a nice cafe and get yourself so high that you start to question the meaning of life and wether you really are you or just an alien impersonating you.

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