Amsterdam is a city of parallels – the loud and quiet compliment each other like night and day. However, the bustling night life in the heart of the capital does make it easy to forget the peaceful neighbourhoods and their wholesome pockets of creativity.
That is not to say that the bold sides of Amsterdam are overrated – it is the heart of the city’s tourism for a reason. Walking around the Red Light District at night is like entering a new world, and it opens your eyes to an environment that many are not accustomed to. As soon as the sun sets, the district comes to life – neon signs shine and crowds wander the streets deep into the early hours of the morning. If you are craving a new experience, peep shows are an exciting way to immerse yourself in the Red Light District – often only €2 each time, you and a friend can jump in and watch models of all varieties, dance to you and a selection of other strangers.
Another stand-out attraction of Amsterdam is the coffee shops. The legalised weed brings in a type of tourism that focuses on the party side of the city, which is understandable – the clubs there are incredible! Those who work at the coffee shops will talk you through what is best for you, and I find that the city allows you to try brand-new experiences safely and with support. An honest tip for a trip to Amsterdam is to travel with friends you are comfortable with – there is nothing worse than feeling peer pressure, and when trying new things, you need to have a support system around you.
If you are in the city for the nightlife, then you will not be disappointed. Clubs such as Shelter and Warehouse Elementenstraat are perfect for techno fans, but if that isn’t your scene, the Gay Village has some great places (NYX is a favourite of mine – they’ll pour a shot into your mouth for free!) that play more well-known music. Another great spot is Disco Dollies – a student club with cheesy tunes and even the occasional foam party. The last thing I expected when interrailing was to be covered in foam dancing with three Dutch freshers, but alas, there I was. Equally, you don’t need to have a specific spot in mind – just check out who is playing where on Resident Advisor. The potential of fun Amsterdam has under the stars is endless, so music lovers of any genre are almost guaranteed to have a great time.
However, these wonderous, chaotic elements of the city have a more relaxing counterpart, meaning there is opportunities outside of partying when visiting the city. My favourite neighbourhood is Jordaan – covered in beautiful plants, scenic buildings and a multitude of small businesses, the area allows for a picturesque afternoon of absorbing the daily life of the Netherland’s capital. The best store I encountered on my strolls here has got to be The Mouse Mansion – I thought I was entering a craft store, but ended up inside an entire village of felt mice.
There are also some great food options in Amsterdam, and I would 100% take advantage! One of my favourite restaurants I visited during my European travels was Mister Meatball, a small, independent place ran by one woman. We sat down, and with no menus to be seen, we realised that the woman running the store would also be choosing what we had. It was authentic, fresh, and made with love. And if you fancy something sweet afterwards, you will not be short of options. Winkel 43 has apple pies practically the size of the moon, but be prepared to queue for a space (it’s worth it). Equally, another authentic sweet treat is their stroopwafel – but don’t be tricked into buying them at the supermarket. We found an incredible flea market near Sarphatipark that served them warm, but you’ll also be able to find them fresh in many cute cafés and bakeries.
Boredom is not an option in Amsterdam – with an abundance of museums, there is always somewhere else that needs to be seen. Whilst you need to book the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museum quite far in advance, they are cultural monuments well worth the pre-planning. If you wish to spend a whole day learning, then the Rijksmuseum should be on the top of your list. Filled with art and history, you’ll most likely leave feeling as though there is still so much to see. However, if you fancy something a little less intense, then there are multiple sex museums you can check out! Whilst still insightful, they provide a little more active entertainment for you and your friends.
Amsterdam even has its moments of exhilaration, like the A’DAM Lookout. Over 100 metres above the nightclub Shelter you can find a swing that overlooks the capital’s skyline. Despite the fact we had a swing in the rain, it wasn’t any less incredible – I may have screamed, but it was a sign of joy. It is another one of the activities that requires a booking, but planning ahead for any trip usually means you will have a better time there, so I would recommend having a think about all the incredible things you want to do when in Amsterdam.
Overall, Amsterdam is a city that generates excitement. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful, but it provokes an energy in its visitors that few places can replicate. There are endless things to do and see, and I have always boarded my flight home feeling bittersweet: sad that it is over, but eager to return.
Featured image: by Aquiles Carattino via Unsplash