In Amsterdam the water is the mistress and the land the vassal. Throughout the city there are as many canals and drawbridges as bracelets on a Gypsy’s bronzed arms.
– Felix Marti-Ibanez
From life’s simple stuff to grandiose pleasures, bring it on!
Whenever I am off for vacation, days before the trip I’d normally google and read articles about my next destination. This time however, I didn’t do much. I was less excited. I only had few expectations. Perhaps I was influenced by what I heard (about the Dutch) and what the trip is primarily intended (for a conference).
Four days hence in Amsterdam, all I can just say is, “Bitin!” Amsterdam, I haven’t had enough of you. I involuntarily stucked myself in the hotel for two days, and understandably, enjoying the city overnight was not enough. It was a one-night stand but you left me hanging and it’s actually, my fault. Wow, this does sound like a heart break alright. Well, most especially, it is undeniably tough for me to move on when I failed to visit Van Gogh museum (sigh).
To know more about visiting Amsterdam, check out the city’s official travel site, www.iamsterdam.com.
1. Canal Cruise
No visitor should miss out on a water-borne tour of the splendid canals of Amsterdam. The canals, which were declared a UNESCO monument in 2010, aren’t just a picturesque attraction, but were essential to defense and transport in 17th-century Amsterdam. With the arrival of the automobile, hundreds of canals were filled in nationwide to accommodate the new mode of transport, but Amsterdam has retained 165 of its historic canals, more than any other Dutch city. Definitely a canal tour makes for a wonderful first impression, as the tour boats take in much of the monumental architecture that lines the Canal Belt, the four concentric semi-circles that loop around the the historic Center (reference: goamsterdam.about.com).
2. Amsterdam architecture
Throughout the years Amsterdam is one of Europe’s foremost architecture and design city, not only because of 17th century rings of canals. Amsterdam is where modern architecture developed organically between facades of historical buildings. Since it is not a very big city, all sites of interest are within acceptable distance, this is why Amsterdam is so popular with lovers of architecture. Read more here.
3. Amsterdam bikes
Upon arriving in Amsterdam you can’t help noticing that the Dutch like bikes. In fact, the 750,000 people who live in Amsterdam own over 600,000 bicycles. In a city built for pedestrians – sporting such car-unfriendly features as narrow streets and canals, far too few parking spots (at premium fees), and single-lane one-way only traffic mazes – a bicycle is the most logical form of transportation.
In Amsterdam, just about everyone bikes. It is not unusual to see mothers, grandmothers, business people, police officers, hippies, and so on happily bike along. Some people walk their dogs by bike. Others use it to bring home groceries, flowers, furniture, children, girlfriends or anything else one can think of. Read more here.
4. Dutch wooden shoes
Wooden shoes have been popular in the Netherlands for about 700 years. Wooden shoe wearers claim the shoes are warm in winter, cool in summer and provide support for good posture. The wood also absorbs perspiration so that the foot can breathe. Wooden shoes, as icons of Dutch culture, appear in customs such as the practice of young Dutch men presenting their fiancees with a pair of carved wooden shoes. Read more here.
5. Amsterdam windmills
The Netherlands is synonymous for its windmills, clogs, tulips, canals, cheese markets… practically everything that you would expect to find in a charming and utterly picturesque country. But, whatever image you associate with the lowlands, the first thing likely to come to mind is the windmill (molen). Such is the importance of these living monuments that there is even a National Windmill Day (11 May), and on festive occasions or national holidays molens are decked out in flowers, garlands, figures of angels or the Dutch flag. For centuries, windmills have helped the Dutch fight water shortages so it is little wonder that they were the first to develop ‘windmill technology.’ In the glory days, the Netherlands boasted more than 10,000 mills but the molen population today stands at a mere 1,000. Many of the remaining mills are open to the public and a couple have even been transformed into homes, but a word of warning, these are not museums! Read more here.
6. Amsterdam public transport
Amsterdam is a wonderfully walkable city with most major sites located in or near the city center. Public transportation is excellent and driving is strongly discouraged within the canal ring. Read more here on how to get around Amsterdam.
7. Amsterdam restaurants
Whether it is Argentinean, Indian, Thai or typical Dutch fare you are after, look no further. Amsterdam has over 1000 restaurants catering for the tastes, needs and budgets of even the discerning tourist or Amsterdammer. Unlike in the rest of Europe, vegetarians are well catered for. Dining in this diverse and vibrant city can range from fast food to haute cuisine with every nation faithfully represented. The city boasts stylish and top quality restaurants as well as traditional Amsterdam cafés, Dutch pancake houses, steakhouses and seafood outlets… the list is simply endless. To satisfy the palate, wherever and whenever, try one of the many eateries down Leidseplein, the Spui, Jordaan, Chinatown, the Pijp, IJburg, Haarlemmerstraat, Nieuwmarkt and you will undoubtedly leave Amsterdam saying lekker (Dutch for ‘delicious’). Read more here to see some popular restaurants in Amsterdam, as well as a few dining tips.
8. Red Light District
The Amsterdam Red Light District covers a large area of the oldest part of the city. The buildings are tall, thin and crowd together, overlooking the tree lined canals. The Red Light District Amsterdam is a beautiful area and the later it gets, the busier it gets. And the darker it gets, the more obvious the glow of the fluorescent red lights above the many windows in the area becomes. Read more here.
Stroopwafels are thin waffles with a syrup filling. They were first made in Gouda in the Netherlands during the 18th or 19th century. The stiff batter for the waffles is made from flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, milk, and eggs. Medium-sized balls of batter are put on the waffle iron. When the waffle is baked and while it is still warm, it is cut into two halves. The warm filling, made from syrup, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, is spread in between the waffle halves, which glues them together. They are popular in Belgium and the Netherlands and sold in pre-prepared packages from local supermarkets. Source: wikipedia.org.
Yeah, the city bikes in Amsterdam inspired me to have one for myself. Then I also thought of having a Vespa too, so that’s why it’s on my list right now…