Visit Amsterdam for sex, drugs, and Vincent van Gogh
Sex, drugs, and Vincent van Gogh. Not your usual trio - unless, of course, you are in the city of Amsterdam, the land where high and low culture collides.
'Coffee shop' is a familiar phrase that will take on a whole new meaning once you've visited this city, where 'let's find a coffee shop' is synonymous with 'let's smoke drugs and eat space cake.' Even if drugs aren't your thing, the vibrancy of coffee shops will draw you in. With their bright, graffiti daubed walls, curious pieces of décor, and surreal paintings and mosaics, they're scruffy little works of art in themselves.
Yet they don't have to be a substitute for more traditional art forms. Just by taking a walk along one of the many canals that criss-cross a watery thoroughfare through the city, (and let's face it, you probably will want to walk off that cake), you can be witness to some stunning Dutch Renaissance architecture.
Also, Vincent van Gogh, easily the Netherlands' most widely-known artist, spent a year of his life in Amsterdam. Accordingly, they have a gallery dedicated to him where you can see some of his best-loved paintings alongside works by his contemporaries, Toulouse Lautrec and Steinlen.
And don't worry, Rembrandt hasn't been forgotten. The Rembrandt House Museum is a reconstruction of his rooms and workshop where you can see original paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including works from Rembrandt's own teacher, Pieter Pieterszoon Lastman.
That covers the drugs and the art. But what about the sex? Having spent an afternoon being cultured, you may feel entitled to indulge something a little more seedy, so get down to the red light district where you can watch a 'show' (another word that starts to take on a whole new meaning). The shows in Amsterdam's red light district are light-hearted, bawdy affairs, where, yes, performers have sex before your very eyes, but also put on a bit of a pantomime, so the overall atmosphere tends to be one of fun rather than one or eroticism.
This only scrapes the surface of what Amsterdam has to offer. There's also the cannabis museum, the sex museum, the sex workers, and of course, the rather more sobering house of Anne Frank, assuming you're prepared to take a huge step back from present day hedonism for a while and revisit the grimness of wartime Europe. What can't be denied is the diversity of the city. Experiences and attractions that should be incongruous work together to create one of the strangest, most memorable holidays you may ever have.