Over 14 million people travel to Amsterdam every year and this does not come without its gaffs. I visited again back in August, and despite us opting to visit in summer this year, it chucked it down (see my point in #5). Amsterdam is a city proud of its individualism and rich heritage and often this comes across in an array of cultural norms, whether it be the fact there are more bikes than people, or the do’s and don’ts of the Red Light District. Here are 10 things you should know about Amsterdam in order to become a local…
1. Mind the cyclists and rent a bike yourself – Everywhere you go there will be cyclists, going in all different directions and at different speeds. Before crossing the road, look both ways, and walk quick. They cycle at great speeds in Amsterdam. Or, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them, hire a bike for the weekend. It is the easiest and quickest way to see a city, and can hire a bike from many of the shops in the city.
2. Try Dutch food – Last time I visited Amsterdam I wrote a great post about Dutch food, you can find it here. The Dutch are famous for lots of food, including cheese, beer and sweet delicacies. Make sure you head to the Cheese Museum, and grab a pint of one of their 100’s of local beers. You can even take part in a private tour of the Heineken Museum, where there is beer tasting and cheese involved.
3. Amsterdam is a maze – It’s likely you will get lost, Amsterdam is built around an intricate canal system, with winding streets, and buildings that look identical. Make sure you grab a map of the city, or like I did, grab a Marco Polo Travel Guide for your trip; with it’s pull out map and pin points, you are unlikely to go a step wrong.
4. Explore other neighbourhoods – The great thing about staying with Yays is that they are located outside of the main circle of the city, meaning you have time to explore the local neighbourhoods. They even give you information on cute cafes, great pubs and interesting places to visit you might not have visited in the centre of town.
5. Be prepared for all weathers – Amsterdam actually sits on par (latitude wise) with Norwich, and we all know if rains a lot in Norwich. It’s basically the same weather as the UK, so pack the brolly, rain coats, shorts and flip flops. Be prepared for all weathers!
6. Buy beer by the ½ pint – Say what? I know it’s hard not to get carried away but in Amsterdam they’ve got so many different and wonderful local and national beers that you should give it a go at trying them all. Therefore, unless you want to be shitfaced by 11am, I’d recommend going for the ½ pint option, so you can try multiple beers.
7. Learn the difference between coffee shops and cafes – It is really important to learn the difference, so not to embarrass yourself like many do. Coffee shops are where you can grab a joint or hash, whereas cafes are where you can grab a latte. And coffee shops that sell weed, tend not to sell beer too, however if they don’t sell, and only let you smoke, they may sell beer.
8. Don’t photograph the girls – It is actually illegal to photograph the girls working in the Red Light District, not to mention very disrespectful. Just don’t do it, or expect someone to chase you down the street. No matter if you agree with what they’re doing or not, they’re still someone’s mum or daughter.
9. Visit one of the museums – Amsterdam has some amazing museums including the best three I have visited; Anne Frank Museum, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. All are worth a visit, but I’d advise to book your tickets in advance and arrive early. The queue for the Anne Frank Museum can often reach down the road and around the corner.
10. Wait for ‘that’ shot – You are never going to get a great shot of you at the iamsterdam sign outside the Rijksmuseum unless you get there for 6am in the morning. The crowds surround the sign and you end up photographing the backs of people’s heads instead. Or as I found out last week, wait until the end of the trip, and grab a photo at the iamsterdam sign at departures are the airport. There was no one around and I got a photo of me on my own!