Amsterdam marked our first journey to Europe- it was also AS’s first time leaving this continent! We flew with KLM and it was sick. For someone that has a fear of flying I had no problems with this airline. It is way, WAY, better than Air Canada (which is garbage!), and almost comparable to EVA (my favourite!) and JAL.
Where to Stay
Or where not to stay, rather. On a budget, we stayed 2 nights at Hem Hotel Amsterdam (now West Side Inn Hotel) which was outside of the canal belt. I wish we had taken pictures of this hotel, if you could even call it that. This ‘hotel’ was filthy– there were stains everywhere with a looming cigarette stench. Our room was tiny, cold, and depressing. The bed was rock hard, walls were paper thing, and we were only given a tiny table lamp for light. Service? Non-existent. We also felt unsafe at night walking back to the hotel from the tram station. It was honestly the worst horrific hotel stay we’ve ever had. We told ourselves that we’d never again stay at a place with a rating lower than 4 again. You get what you pay for, I suppose!
I’d recommend staying in Rembrandtplein or Leidseplein where there are lots of good restaurants and bars. It’s also bumpin’ at night so there’s plenty to do. If you’re down to get rowdy and don’t mind the vibe, Red Light District is also an option but the establishments in this area tend to be on the low end. Regardless of where you stay, Tripadvisor ratings are your best friend!
What to Do
De Wallen – Red Light District
Ah, the infamous network of alleys with scantily-clad working girls behind glass cabins illuminated with red lights. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, with most of it concentrated in the Red Light District. Coming from a culture where prostitution is illegal, it was both interesting and sad to see these girls at work. Fun fact! These girls have to pay income tax just like every other profession.
We had read not to take pictures of prostitutes as you risk getting your camera tossed in the canal. Yikes! On top of the brothels, prostitutes, sex toy shops and sex museums, there’s also Condomerie that’s worth checking out: the world’s first condom specialty shop. It was closed when we stopped by but we had a few giggles from peering in their window display. Their products come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, designs, and flavours. You name it and they’ve got it!
The Heineken Experience
Something we really enjoyed in Amsterdam was the Heineken museum. I don’t even like beer, but the interactive tour and exhibits were pretty neat. Sure, it’s all advertising but it was educational and fun!
They taught us how to pour and drink Heinekens properly. Apparently it’s down to a science? and gave us personalized ‘Certified Pourer’ certificates afterwards (lol). The best part? All the beer tasting along the way!
Check out their toilets?
This was a culture shock. You have to pay to use public washroom in Europe? Fees ranged from 0.50 to 2 euros- but toilets are usually kept extremely clean. The see-through stalls with glass doors that frost over when you lock them were cool! But I’d imagine it’d be pretty embarrassing if you forget to lock the door… everyone can see you taking a leak! Or more!
Get lost along the canals!
The iconic “I Amsterdam” letters in Museumplein in front of Rijksmuseum are a must visit! No doubt it was crowded, but it made for a great photo opportunity and the letters were fun to climb.
We’re not big on museums so we skipped out on them since our stopover was so short. We we were, however, quite amazed by this dude when we were at Vondelpark. It was freezing cold in late March (it even snowed!)- how did this guy not feel the chill?!
What I liked most about this city was its renaissance architecture along the canals. It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful city even though it was dark and gloomy. We’d love to come back and visit one day in the spring or summer!
What to Eat
Food in Amsterdam was surprisingly good! So good that it deserves its own post. Honorable mentions are Broodje Bert, Cafe De Klos, Greenwoods, and Van Kerkwijk. Don’t forget to try some stroopwafels and raw herring too!
Next stop, Rome!