IAmsterdam: red lights, smokey air and long canals

Beautiful yet rough around the edges. Not as grand as Berlin nor as sophisticated as Paris, but Amsterdam has been one of my favourite European cities. It’s unique, interesting and full of character. Whether you come for the art, the history or the pot, the city doesn’t disappoint.

However, the notorious Red Light District was, to be honest, a bit overrated. It’s commercialised and touristy. The alleyways were packed and crowds of people just shuffled passed the red lit windows staring, pointing and giggling. It seemed more like a show for the tourists. At the same time it’s definitely a great area to have a night out. The bars and clubs are pumping, smoke is pouring out of the coffee shops and the streets are full of people having a good time (and that was a weeknight!).

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Aside from that, there is a lot more to Amsterdam than the legal weed and red lights. The city is absolutely beautiful. We got lost walking around the canals and wondering how an earth some of the buildings haven’t leaned too far yet. There are cute little cafes (of the food and coffee type), trendy market stalls, cool bars and plenty of cheese shops. If only it wasn’t one of the most expensive cities in Europe!

I jokingly said there seems to be more bikes than people but it turned out to be true. Apparently there are 881, 000 bikes for the 811, 000 people living in Amsterdam and at least 12, 000 bikes end up at the bottom of  the 165 canals in the city every year. It was nice to see so many people riding around with the wind in their hair and bike lanes as wide as car lanes, as we saw in Copenhagen as well. That, coupled with the amount of wind turbines around,  really shows how progressive Europe is compared to back home.

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Anne Frank was an important part of my childhood as the book that initiated my interest in history. So one of my aims was to see her house, but it wasn’t to be. Completely sold out online and a three hour line for tickets at the door, I didn’t bother waiting and so just got a photo of her front door from the outside. An amazing legacy for a young girl who died far too soon.

Amsterdam also has some of the best art museums in the world. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the Rijksmuseum, looking at Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Even if you don’t know who the painters are it’s worth having a look to admire the work and detail in the paintings. It didn’t take too long to find the more famous ones anyway because they were constantly surrounded by people taking photos of them. There were plenty of small galleries around the city as well and we even stumbled across a small Banksy exhibition, which was a nice change from the classical oil paintings.

It was only a brief visit to the city and only a snapshot of the whole country but there was a vibe in the city that I liked and it only left me wishing I’d left time to see more.

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*post adapted from my trip here in July 2015 and from my previous site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com

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