When our overnight coach pulled into Amstel Station early Friday morning, I knew I was in for a cultural treat. Amsterdam has always been near the top of my European bucket list.
When our overnight coach pulled into Amstel Station early Friday morning, I knew I was in for a cultural treat. Amsterdam has always been near the top of my European bucket list. With its pretty canals, narrow cobbled roads and Dutch pancakes, it seemed like a city that would appeal to me.
As soon as we arrived at our hostel, we made our way to get some brunch at a local café. (N.B. Café = somewhere to buy food/drink. Coffee Shop = somewhere to legally buy and smoke cannabis. Mixing these two up might not end well.)
A city with distinction
We kicked off our trip with a Dutch breakfast of pancakes, a boiled egg, a croissant, thick bread that tasted like ginger and probably one of the strongest coffees I’ve ever had. Looking back, it turns out I shamelessly had pancakes at least once or twice per day. My personal favourite was a pancake which had three rashers of bacon in it. Topped with maple syrup, it was unexpectedly delicious.
Business Insider named Amsterdam the most bicycle friendly city in the world and within a mere half an hour, after a few close encounters with cyclists, we could see why. Despite their difficult task of dodging ignorant tourists, many people in the city get around by bike. The picturesque streets and bridges over the canals with very few cars must make for quite a pleasant cycle.
I’m sure we weren’t the only group of foreigners there who couldn’t speak a single word of Dutch, but luckily for us it didn’t matter. Everyone we met spoke near-perfect English, ensuring that we were never lost, confused, or ordered the wrong food off the menu. In the evenings, we went to two of the busiest squares, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, in search of the best bars and clubs.
One of our stops shamefully happened to be a pub named The Old Bell, which was full of British tourists downing pints of beer. Quickly remembering we were in the Netherlands, we left in search of a different place that didn’t make us feel we were having a quick drink at the local watering hole.
Culture at its heart
An hour later, we were singing our hearts out to Dutch karaoke in a gay bar down the street. Unfortunately, I don’t think we ended up convincing the masses that we were fluent in their language.
There are plenty of museums and art galleries in the city to get your cultural and historical fix. We visited the Amsterdam museum for a history of the place, which was quite interactive and interesting to Amsterdam “through the ages.”
My personal highlight however was visiting Anne Frank’s house. We were actually able to go up into the annexe her and her family hid for two years during World War Two. After learning about her story and reading her diary many years ago, actually going to the house was a very surreal experience.
Amsterdam actually claims to be the most cosmopolitan city in the world, believing to have the biggest range of nationalities. Despite this, it was clear to see that the city maintains its distinctive Dutch culture.
There was never a lack of shops to buy your clogs, Dutch cheese or traditional Delft pottery. Unfortunately, I only did two of the three—the clogs were far too uncomfortable.
What do you think? Have you been to Amsterdam? Have your say in the comments section below.