Chances are, you’ve heard one or two things about Amsterdam already: seventeenth century buildings and readily available hash, the Van Gogh gallery and erotic museums, a laid back atmosphere and a liberal tolerance, eccentrics and slick business types; Amsterdam blends history and urban flair unlike any other city in Europe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been around the world twice, you’re a first-time traveler, or you’re somewhere in-between, Amsterdam offers something new at every gabled corner, and to suit all tastes.
The capital of the Netherlands is a lively juxtaposition of cobbled streets and pretty canals, with an easily accessible underbelly of fascinating quirks. Whether you’re here for a weekend break or as part of a longer Europe trip, there are many superlatives to describe Amsterdam, and boring is never one of them. Explore concentric horseshoes of canals by bike – navigating the compact warren of heritage buildings studded with offbeat shops and bars. Stop cycling to traverse the city’s waterways, flanked by boats and barges, the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon and to understand Amsterdam’s seamless diversity. Museum-hop by foot; echoing the Dutch Eco-spirit whilst choosing a handful from hundreds of cultural centers and galleries to expand your knowledge.
Amsterdam, of course, has a striking reputation. Many people feel intimidated by the idea of visiting, and shouldn’t feel bad about that – however, this is a city filled with alternatives, both for those uninspired by the tolerant attitudes, and for those not sufficiently challenged by Rembrandt and the Rijksmuseum. Everything you’ve heard about Amsterdam is true, and it isn’t true; some justified, some blown up. There are layers of understanding to this city which you can peel back and give you new insight visit after visit. Over the past couple of decades or so, Amsterdam has softened its edge. Though you can still find groups of blokes on the prowl in the Red Light District, along with backpackers and sixties throwback crowds here solely to get stoned, the small-city segmentation by its canals means you can just as easily find your way to cosmopolitan shopping districts, boutique bars, and peaceful parks within a city utterly brimming with culture.