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Amsterdam: Beyond Sex and Coffee Shops

Updated on September 29, 2011

As my second hub in this series on traveling a bit off the beaten path in Europe, I chose Amsterdam(for my first hub on Prague, check this link). Why Amsterdam? Well, because for a many travelers, the city is only worth visiting because its idiosyncratic laws and loop holes that allow (or at least don’t penalize) cannabis and prostitution. But, whether or not you plan to hit the Red Light District or one of the cities famous Cofee Shops, Amsterdam is SO much more.

Where is Amsterdam?

A markerAmsterdam -
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
get directions

Off to Amsterdam!
Off to Amsterdam!

Amsterdam is a vibrant, interesting and very quirky city that has something for all tastes. So, if you hadn’t thought of making a trip because you didn't know what the city had to offer, keep reading! And trust me, even if Coffee Shops do sound appealing, you can´t spend ALL day there.

While this article focuses on the lesser highlighted attractions in Amsterdam, here are a few Hubs to give you general information on tourism and a few fun facts about the city.

Biking in Amsterdam
Biking in Amsterdam

Ride a Bike

While I always recommend walking a city to get to know it, there may not be a better way to get to know Amsterdamthan by bike. To give you a couple of facts on the matter, while there are about 700,000 residents in the city of Amsterdam, there are over 1,000,000 bikes. And those canals? Filled with bicycles. No, you didn’t read that wrong. It’s called Dutch Bike Suicide.

Plus, you are far less likely to be trampled by the fearless bikers who speed down streets without regard for pedestrians. Seriously, watch your surroundings. I saw a number of bike-pedestrian accidents, one of which was accompanied by a very angry, yelling Dutch cyclist.

Chill Out at the Begijnhof

Tulips at the Begijnhof
Tulips at the Begijnhof

The Begijnhof is a lovely cloistered courtyard that once was once, well, a cloister for a Catholic sisterhood. While there isn’t much to do, just enjoy the quiet relaxation that you won’t find anywhere else (at least in the center of the city).

Also, don´t forget to check out Vondelpark, the city´s biggest park. Near the museum district, Vondelpark is a great and free way to spend a day or an afternoon if you have seen one too many museums (by the way, the city´s museums are excellent, although crowded and expensive. My suggestion is to only choose one or two).

Take a Free Walking Tour

Our free walking tour guide
Our free walking tour guide

Amsterdam has a number of very informative tours. Many are free, as the guides work only on tips (Sandeman´s New Europe Tours). I learned a lot about the history of the town, did my cursory walk through the Red Light Disctrict, and got great tips for the rest of my stay in the city.

Explore the Jordaan

Canals in the Jordaan
Canals in the Jordaan

The Jordaan district inAmsterdamis probably my favorite area of the city. It also happens to be where I stayed during my trip. Out of the tourist-packed center, the wafting scent of cannibis doesn’t quite make it out to Jordaan, and many of the tourists don’t either (except to see the Anne Frank House). But strolling along the canals here is a quiet and interesting way to spend an afternoon. Enjoy the architecture, the boats along the sides of the canals, and the windows that the Dutch seem to always leave open for passersby to see. If the weather’s nice, you may even catch the locals dragging their couches outside to soak up the rays on a rare sun-filled day.

I amsterdam
I amsterdam

Find all the I amsterdam sculptures?

An alternative walking or biking tour, you could attempt to find each of the I amsterdam sculptures. I´m not sure where all of them are, but they are scattered about the city. This city definitely knows how to promote itself...

Weird Amsterdam

The narrowest house in Amsterdam
The narrowest house in Amsterdam

There are plenty of quirky, odd or unique things to see in Amsterdam. The narrowest house was one they happened to show us on the walking tour, but if you look, you can find almost anything. Yes, you can find the drugs and sex that the city is famous for, but the city´s allure goes way beyond just its lax regulations. So go out and find your own Amsterdam. Happy travels!


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    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you! I´m honored that you think so.

    • Nils Visser profile image

      BOOK REVIEWS 6 years ago from The Low Countries

      Well described and selected, even from the eyes of a near native.