Where I’m living in the North of the Netherlands, Amsterdam gets a lot of stick. When I told my Dutch friends I was heading south to the Dam for the weekend to catch up with some friends from home I was catapulted with comments such as, “Ugh, I really don’t like Amsterdam”, “Too many tourists!” or “You’re better off staying in Groningen“. True, it is touristy and busy and seriously tacky in parts but it sure does have A LOT to offer.
First off, let it be said that my friends and I weren’t your average ‘Amsterdam tourists’; we weren’t on a stag or hen party; we weren’t a group of young lads looking for a bit of… and we did not even step foot inside one darkened coffee shop. On the flip side we also did not make it to Anne Frank Huis, The Van Gogh Museum or the Heineken Experience. In fact if we had not been staying in a hotel, you would hardly have guessed we were tourists at all.
We went shopping, we rented bikes and weaved our way down the canals, through the Vondelpark and everywhere in between. We lounged around enjoying cold glasses of rose wine while bathing in the sunshine, took long lunches and late dinners and just took in the general buzz and atmosphere of one of Europe’s smaller Capitals.
It is that ‘buzz’ that makes Amsterdam so special in my eyes. Everyone walking around at night with eyes wide open, taking in the bizarre sights of the red light district as mobs of guys and girls maneuver their way through the streets in an array of crazy fancy dress costumes, kilts and blow up dolls. Everybody feels at ease and chats to total strangers, laughing and cringing at the site before them. Everyone seems pretty chilled out and relaxed, nobody too drunk or too wasted, as far as I could see anyway.
36 hours in Amsterdam is way too short to do all that the city has to offer, but just enough time to get a feel for the city; to watch the boats maneuvering their way down the canals, take in a waft of smoke as the door of a coffee shop opens and closes as you pass by, enjoy a cold Amstel beer in one of the quiet bars away from the centre and of course to get a glimpse of the ladies of the night in the famed red light district.