Amsterdam Travel Guide
The city is a popular short stay destination and although spending just a couple of days in Amsterdam is fine, you will really only scratch the surface. The city is made up of 90 islands linked by 400 stone bridges across 62 miles of canals. There are 40 Museums ranging from world class to down right bizarre and boasts 150 venues presenting 614,000 theatre performances per year. The Concertgebouw alone stages 600 concerts every year and has an astonishing 700,000 people pass through it's doors making it the most visited concert hall in the world. There are over 400 Coffeeshops where you’re welcome to get absolutely bombed out of your brains. There are more cafes here than Rome and myriad bars ranging from cool and trendy to positively seedy. It has shopping to rival Paris. It has the best public transport system in Europe, though the most popular means of transport by far is the bicycle, and (this is the best bit) 90% of the population speak English!
Lets not beat about the bush… Most tourists from the UK and USA come for the sex and drugs. The predominantly middle class American tourists enjoy the liberation more than anything – being able to indulge in pleasurable vices without the paranoia instilled by drug-war propaganda. Guilt free overindulgence at a fair price is the name of the game. The Brits however are entirely different animals. They’re from all social tiers and come more for the convenience than any inherent shame or fear of the law. You’re certainly more likely to see a guy in a Man U tee shirt puking outside a Febo fast food dispenser, than a guy in a Boston Red Sox cap. The golden rule is never buy anything on the street -you will get ripped off! The coffeehouses all sell a wide range of good quality grass and hash (locally grown is best) and will supply you with papers for rolling or a pipe if you prefer. Smoke your reefer in the coffeeshop, not on the street and only smoke the stuff in places where they permit it. There are plenty of bars and cafes that are marijuana-free zones.
OK. That’s the hedonists dealt with! What about the cultured amongst you? You really are in for a treat. The Rijksmuseum is amongst the very best in the world. It contains the most important collection of 15th to 19th century art in the Netherlands including Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ and masterworks from Van Dyck, Vermeer, Potter and Hals to mention a few. There is also a print cabinet containing approximately 1 million prints and drawings, as well as sculptures, furniture, a 16th century dollhouse, Japanese pottery and Dutch History department. The Van Gogh Museum is sensational with 200 of his paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters written to his brother Theo. There is also a comprehensive collection of work by his peers, including Monet, Gaugin and Toulouse Lautrec. Rembrandts House is a must for all art lovers. Home to the artist between 1639 and 1658 it contains almost all of his 250 etchings as well as an excellent audio visual exhibition that documents his life. For a truly emotional experience you should pay a visit to Anne Frank's House – a fascinating if sobering reminder of mans inhumanity towards man
Always worth a visit is the Heineken Brewery where for a few guilders you get to learn about the process of brewing the world’s second most popular beer. The best part though is at the end of the tour when you get about an hour to drink as much of this delicious brew as you want. Afterwards you might clear your head with a spot of shopping. You can do it in style at the amazing super deluxe Magna Plaza or wander down the Leidsestraat between the Leidseplein and Spui, or the Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk in the centre. Even better is a visit to one of Amsterdam’s famous markets – Niewmarkt for antiques, old books and objets d’art, Noordermarkt for second hand clothes, hats and shoes or Waterlooplien which sells every thing from bric a brac to Indian trinkets, tee-shirts to records and tapes. And we mustn’t forget that most important of Dutch exports, flowers. A visit to one of Amsterdam’s glorious flower markets will prove a far more colourful experience than smoking or ingesting any amount of xxx strength herbs!
In the evening you can stroll to your hearts content around picturesque Jordaan with its impressive merchants houses; wander, stoned, through the red light district and window shop or dine on authentic Indonesian food (or any number of foreign dishes for that matter). There are hundreds of bars selling over-strength beers, deadly sounding liquors and superb draught lager. The club scene rocks and there’s always a party going on! But what really makes Amsterdam so special is the people. I would challenge anyone to find a city of this calibre where the locals are so universally friendly, helpful and courteous. This is a country where tolerance and kindness are part and parcel of the native culture, where forward thinking is the only way. And everything and everyone is of value. A visit to Amsterdam will open your mind in ways you could never imagine.
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