Have you ever been to a place that is famous for one thing and then you get there and you realise that there is so much more than just the “tourist attractions” or the must do things? That was my encounter with Amsterdam. It’s known for it’s legal and accepted use of certain narcotics and the open sex industry. However, when we got to Amsterdam, J and I realised that there is a lot more to this place than just those two things.
Firstly, their food scene is unreal. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a place and have been wowed by the quality of food in the restaurants. The fish and chips at the Seafood Bar were the best fish and chips I have had in a really long time. Brunch at Bakers & Roasters brings a taste of what the Kiwi life is all about. I definitely recommend the B&R Special as you don’t have to choose between toast and pancakes which to me have equal standing on a plate. J tried their aubergine and feta pancakes but I don’t think he particularly liked it. If you end up in Central in the evening, may I suggest going to Hemelse Modder which has the best dark and white chocolate mousse that will have you thinking you were in heaven? Most importantly if you are looking for a great caffeine hit and are close to Museumplein then go to Bocca where their Ethiopian coffee will prove to be more than worthy. Don’t go in there expecting a latte or cappuccino because that’s not on the menu. Just have a white regular and you'll be good to go. There’s also Envy which was recommended to me but we didn’t manage to go there, but if the other places that we went to were an indication of how good everything else would be, then you’ll be in good company
Culturally, Amsterdam has a few places that will leave you wanting to spend the entire day at their museums. We didn’t manage to go to the Anne Frank museum, but I’d suggest booking your tickets before you go there to avoid you spending a long time in the queues. Same for the Van Gough Museum only for the Van Gough due to their exhibit on Van Gough and Japan which is worth a visit - it’s the only way to get in. Make sure you visit their website to book your slot and give at least 15- 30 min to allow for busy times, but they do let you in.
The Rijksmuseum on its own needs at least a day to visit it. I was overwhelmed by the amazing collections that they have in there and I only managed to see one floor. They do have an audio guide app which will help you understand the history behind some of their collections such as the High Society one that they currently have on.
Once you’ve had your fill of the art, head to the gardens and go into the fountain which is dry in the middle. Just remember to be watchful where your feet are.
Whilst you are here don’t forget to take a mandatory shot of the “iamsterdam” sign and the selfie zone.
On the other side of town, a 10-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station is the Nemo Science Museum. If you are a child at heart or are travelling with children then this fully interactive museum is the place to be. On all of their floors, there is an activity to get involved in and learn about the world around us. Don’t forget to head up to the 5th of where they have a roof terrace.
One of the best ways to explore and learn more about Amsterdam is to do a canal cruise. Here you will be taken through some of the canals and learn that Amsterdam takes its name from the River Amstel and because they built a dam in the river, this gave the area the place Amsterdam. You also have an opportunity to see the famous houses and canals from a different perspective which to me takes the prize.
So you must be wondering.. did we go to the red light district? We did… and it was interesting, to say the least. What surprised me was how busy the area was. Couples, single men, hen dos and children were walking along the streets with the famous red doorways. It made me realise that in general what other places deem as taboo, in Amsterdam it’s the norm, part of their culture. Even at the NEMO museum, there was an exhibit about sex which was available to children from the age of 12. To be honest, I admire them. Being transparent like that can potentially curb a lot of the things that happen due to curiosity. Knowledge empowers and it can even change an entire generation.
I love Amsterdam. It's the first place that I have booked to go back to to explore more of the city and two nights didn't cut it this time. So I will be back. Hopefully next time, I will have more time to explore more of it and discover some hidden gems.
Till next time