Amsterdam is known the world over as party central and it sure is. For those who haven’t been there bear in mind that there is a whole lot more to Amsterdam. It is a very beautiful city filled with greenery, classic architecture and dream inducing canals. Most tourists visit Amsterdam to party and to indulge in activities that are deemed “illegal” in most other countries. Agreed, that is a perfectly good reason for many travellers but do try to make the most of all the other things this pulsating city has to offer.
On one hand the city offers a variety of extremely relaxed pubs, several microbreweries and of course the all too famous “coffee shops” which dish out various kinds of marijuana and other hallucinogenic substances. There is also the Red Light district which is located right in the heart of the city.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum that is filled with glorious architecture, museums and art galleries. The city also hosts several music festivals over the course of the year that attracts visitors from all over the world.
‘On the streets in the old city’
The Cycle City:
I’d call Amsterdam the Cycle City. I was amazed to see the number of people using bicycles as their preferred mode of conveyance. I have so many interesting images that still come to mind; men wearing suits and cycling to work, mothers biking around the city with their kids and even couples holding hands and cycling about town nonchalantly. The Dutch ride their bikes in the rain, the heat and during the bitter winters. Even the police here ride bicycles!
‘Shop selling Magic Mushrooms’
Go beyond the centre:
Amsterdam is not a very big city and the centre is just a tiny part of it. The main city square is called the Dam Square. It is filled with clubs, bars, cafes and yes, also the sex district. Most visitors for a variety of reasons live in the city centre and never go beyond it.
‘Entrance of the famous Red Light District’
I’d recommend taking some time out away from centre and exploring the rest of the city. The best way to travel around Amsterdam is (no second guesses for this one) by renting a bicycle. It gives you the ability to navigate and explore the canal bridges and narrow alleys which would not be feasible were you on a bus or a tram.
‘Chocolates of different shapes size and colours sold in the market’
However if you do not intend to cycle or walk, the trams are quite cheap and efficient.
The Bright Red Lights:
Amsterdam’s famous Red Light district also known as Rossebuurt (red neighbourhood in Dutch) is massive and quite overwhelming. It is also one of the main tourist attractions and is a must visit when you are in Amsterdam if only for its eccentricities. You will see women of all nationalities standing in red-lit windows and they are literally on display for the tourists.
‘Netherlands is famous for its variety of Cheese, one of the many cheese shops in Amsterdam’
Given the novelty of the situation and the women, it’s easy to miss that Rossebuurt is one of the oldest and most stunning parts of the city. It has appealing 14th century architecture such as an old Gothic church and long meandering cobbled streets. It is a very charming location but it becomes harder to admire these old buildings given that they lean at odd-angles over the canals.
The Indian Connection:
Amsterdam is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. The city is home to almost 180 different nationalities. But when you visit the city you will notice that many locals look Indian in their appearance. However I learnt from a friend that these are individuals who migrated from Suriname in South America. Suriname was a Dutch colony until 1975, after which the Surinamese were offered Dutch citizenship which led to their migration to the Netherlands.
‘The famous flower market’
In the 19th century, a vast number of contract workers from India moved to Suriname. According to the census almost 37 per cent of the Surinamese population consists of the descendants of these contract workers from India which is what explains why so many Amsterdam locals appear to be from India. These people still retain names of Indian origin but they normally speak only Dutch and some may speak English as well.
‘Heineken brewery museum through the tram’
Bear in mind food is really expensive here. A meal for two would easily cost you at least €50 but on the brighter side alcohol is cheaper when compared to other European cities.
‘Local Beer – its a must try’
Don’t forget Holland is famous for its cheese so if you are a cheese lover then Amsterdam is your Mecca. Dutch Edam is famous all over the world but it doesn’t just end there. The list is endless and the prices are extremely affordable.
‘People waiting at the train station’
All in all Amsterdam is a city filled with experiences. Keep an open mind and a flexible schedule and Amsterdam and you will get along just fine.
‘Cops making rounds of the city on their horses’
Written and photographed by:- Mithila Jariwala