Last March, I took on a travel challenge of sorts: Experience all things Dutch in the capital city of the Netherlands within 32 hours. Challenge accepted!
Amsterdam is a great, small European city packed with world-class museums, sinful indulgences, and cheese! I had no trouble filling in the hours with great experiences.
- I amsterdam
Just right behind the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, these ten large letters in red and white have become a modern tourist landmark. If you’re serious about getting a decent and clearly visible photo with all the ten letters, best come very early in the morning when there’s hardly anyone around.
- Anne Frank’s House
The home of this young Jewish girl who kept a diary of her experiences during the war, is a must visit. Visitors get a glimpse of Anne Frank’s tragically short life. Also, if you’re a fan of ‘The Fault in our stars’, you can walk the footsteps of Hazel and Gus, while discovering this house’s rooms and secret nooks. No kissing here though!!
- Cyclists rule!
Bikes and more bikes! Watch out! These two wheeled vehicles rule the city. I realise that the Dutch are characteristically tall people, which might explain why their bikes are larger than the usual ones I see in other cities.
- Coffeeshops and cannabis
Stoners and curious travellers somehow find their way to Amsterdam’s notoriously famous coffeeshops, where the main offering is not a caffeinated drink (Wink wink!). Fellow travellers have told me that the treats sold in these coffee shops are not for the faint hearted. They’re pretty strong and recommended to be enjoyed with good company who are up for the ‘trip’.
Other cannabis by-products can be found in the most wholesome and populous tourist shops. Only in Amsterdam! (… and maybe a few other parts of the world).
- Cheese and Kroketten
Just like the French, the Dutch have a special love for cheese. Cheese wheels of Gouda are ubiquitous in shops and open air markets. In the 32 hours I was in Amsterdam, I managed to consume some quantity of cheese over most meals. Typically cubed, or mushed and deep fried into a kroketten, the Dutch version of a croquette. A close cousin of the kroket is the bitterballen, which is a deep fried ball of beef ragout.
- Red light district & Sex Museum
If there are is one thing you definitely need to see with your own eyes in Amsterdam, it’s the red light district. Shutterbugs need to restrain themselves because taking photos is strictly prohibited! Shop after shop offers a wide array of women, displaying the scantily clad ‘live merchandise’ in floor-to-ceiling individual window displays. All shapes and sizes. All races. All ages. These ladies are apparently available 24/7, as we walked the red light district at noon time and some of the shops were open! I dare not ask what the transactional procedures are.
Want to see a metal bowl lined with penises? Or a 155 year old photo of naked people? Visit the Sex Museum for four euros. It’s good fun and surprisingly educational (to some degree).
This pair of chewy, thin layers of dough, married by the goodness of a healthy serving of gooey caramel, is sheer perfection. Freshly made ones, which I managed to sample from the open-air Albert Cupymarket, gave me a great sugar rush. The perfect prelude to brunch. Store-bought ones are pretty good too!
- Old and new architecture
Amsterdam is a place of contrasts. The city is a couple of hundred years old, the narrow streets lined with so many beautiful old buildings. But not a hop and a skip away from the old part of town is new town, where wider streets are lined up with slick and visually impressive buildings.
Amsterdam’s canals are over 400 years old! The winding, cobblestoned streets, narrow alleyways, and connecting foot bridges give the city such a distinct personality. Our local Dutch friends empathically reminded us weekend tourists not to jump into the canal for safety and hygienic reasons.
- Van Gogh museum
I adore Vincent Van Gogh. His work and life continue to inspire and amaze us to this day, 125 years after his death. His paintings, through furious brush strokes and bold choice of colours, capture raw emotions. Somehow, when I look at his work, I’m overwhelmed with so many feelings. This museum is excellent! Five floors showcasing nearly 200 works of art by the artist himself. The queue to purchase the ticket and enter the museum is massive. So buying the ticket online ahead of time is a must!