I was honestly a bit hesitant to visit Amsterdam because it’s known to be a liberal city and when I think of the word ‘Liberal’ I sort of equate it with the word ‘dangerous’. In the country where I came from, the people are fighting this so called “war on drugs” and it has brought both good and bad effects in society. And here I am about to visit a country where drugs are allowed and tolerated by the people.
I had to ask a Girls travel group on Facebook about their thoughts on Amsterdam primarily because I have no idea what to expect. I was surprised that most of them said that the city is one of their favorites in Europe and I was amazed by the number of replies and the flooding of suggestions to try and do in the city. They all seemed so excited for me!
I was only with a friend when I visited Amsterdam and we only had 3 days in the City ( yessss, trying to squeeze in travel goals in between duty days). I know it’s just a short time but me and my friend just love to go out of London and get a breather from nursing life. Travelling has helped me become sane while working abroad away from home and family. It also serves as a breather from the craziness of hospital wards so I don’t mind taking short holidays like this one.
I initially thought Amsterdam would be very boring but I underestimated it. Just the plain activity of walking along the streets of Jordaan made me fall in love with it. I never knew Amsterdam would magnetize me so much. Normally, I would like to go in a city where I can see grand palaces and unique architectural designs but Amsterdam has none of these so I am just amazed as how it attracted me so easily. Thinking deeply, I realized maybe I am partly jealous of it. Unlike most of us who live in our own hidden secrets, Amsterdam stands quietly in the center because it knows it has nothing to hide. Everybody knows what everyone is up to. Amsterdam opened its arms to me like it has known me for so long. And I ran towards it like a girl who has not seen her father for years. Then, I realized, if it there was one city in Europe I’d love to get stuck in, it would be here.
There are hundred of things to do in Amsterdam and it’s such a shame we only managed to get to try a few things. But that just gives us more reason to come back! I have listed below the food we tried, the places we went to and the tours we took in Amsterdam.
The first thing we did after checking in at our hotel was to find for a good place to eat. Before going to Amsterdam, me and my friend have already listed down restaurants to eat at in the city. We went to try Winkel 43 first in the Jordaan. It is best known for their Apple pie. Most reviews on the internet said that the place sells the best apple pie in the world. The waitress lead us to our table and gave each of us a yellow colored menu with a list of sandwiches and other breakfast food but, to my great surprise, there was no apple pie. I really thought we were in the wrong place. Funny thing is, everyone in the restaurant had apple pies on their tables so I just went ahead and ordered for an apple pie. To my relief, the waitress responded “for two?”. (YES! WE WERE IN THE RIGHT PLACE!) Apparently, the apple pie isn’t on the menu and now I regret not asking the lady waitress for the reason why.
There is truth to the hype and I can say that it is the best Apple pie I have tasted so far! It was soooo good, we went three times to this place just to eat the pie. If only I could get one whole pie and bring it back with me to London!
We joined a free walking tour around the city with Freedam Tours. This is the first time I joined a free walking tour in Europe and it was definitely a good decision. The tour gave us a gist of Amsterdam’s history and our tour guide was a university student so he really knew the modern culture of the Dutch people. He shared a lot of fun facts with us such as the fact that teenagers actually smoke their first joint with their parents – either at home or at coffeeshops. This came to me as a shock because parents would normally be the first to forbid their children to take drugs. Apparently, this is how they educate their children. The tour guide also said that if you smoke too much weed or get addicted to it then you’re actually considered as a loser – which is the exact opposite in countries where drugs are illegal. It’s amazing how culture is different from one place to another.
As someone who grew up loving bicycles (probably to blame for all the scars on my legs), I was really looking forward to this bike tour. Amsterdam is one of the bike friendly cities in the world and, when I say Bike friendly, I mean having a larger lane than cars on the main roads. I didn’t expect what “Bike Life” in Amsterdam meant until I got there. I have never seen so many bikes my entire life. It is basically the people’s main mode of transport. There are vast network of cycling paths in the city and they can be quite confusing for tourists. The cycle paths are clearly signed and they have their own traffic lights and rules.
The Bike tour is a must but just make sure you know how to bike properly and adjust gears (it’s easy as 1 2 3, literally!). I asked the tour guide why safety gears are not being used when riding a bike in Amsterdam and he said that they just never thought of wearing them and it’s not actually written in the law that you have to. Biking is relatively safe in Amsterdam as long as you know where you’re going and you know the road rules. Bike accidents normally happen not because of reckless biking but because of walking tourists who don’t know where they are going.
They said your Amsterdam experience is incomplete if you don’t get to taste the traditional dutch Herring. We initially went to Volendammer Haringhandel near Amsterdam’s shopping street at 5pm but the seller said that they have finished their stock of herring for the day. He said the Herring is always on demand so it’s better to buy early in the day. Good thing is we still had the next day. We went to Frens Haerringhandel which is near the flower Market. It is very obvious that the Herring is very famous with the tourists. My friend and I ordered the traditional herring in a bun topped with pickles and fried cod fish with tar tar dip. The Herring was good and I liked it but it wasn’t really something i’d crave for. My friend didn’t like it and preferred the fried cod fish. Food is part of a country’s culture so I believe that it is always a duty of a traveller (naks! :))) to try traditional food. Food is experience.
Food is layf, actually.
Grab your traditional Dutch Pancake here! Their servings are generous and one order is good for two to three people.
If you are a fan of sausages and mashed potatoes then I would highly recommend that you to The Pantry. The restaurant is roughly 15 minutes walk from the “I am Amsterdam” sign at Rijksmuseum. I tried the “Combination of hutspot, boerenkool- and zuurkoolstamppot served with a smoked sausage” This is the best deal because you get to taste the three types of mashed potatoes in one dish. And because it was so delicious, I had to order for extra sausage (like how a typical Filipino would order for extra rice :P). My goodness, my stomach does not know how to get full, really.
I absolutely love cheese, If it wasn’t too fattening I’d have cheese in every dish and in every meal. We saw the Henri Willihg shop by accident when we were at the flower market. Curious as how their cheese tastes, Jane and I went inside the shop and took free tastes of their different cheese flavors. They all tasted good but what really hit me was the Fenugreek flavored cheese. I didn’t even know what fenugreek is before that but it was just so delicious I did not hesitate to buy one.
The red light district is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam. This is my first time to visit a place where prostitution is legal. I was shocked to my bones. Prostitution is alive day and night with female of all shapes, colors and sizes. Prostitution is normal in the city. It is considered a job and a job that must be respected by all. It is also very safe in the red light district. There are camera everywhere and there are police patrolling the area. Everything seemed so orderly aside from a few tipsy tourists.
I highly recommend that you pay a visit to the prostitution museum. It will educate you on how the industry works and what the women are going through eveyrday. It can also give you answers to questions such as “how much do they earn?” and ” how many customers do they get?”
When you are in Amsterdam, their soft drugs can be bought and smoked only (as by law, I Believe) in coffeeshops. Please know that this is not your usual shop that sells coffee. When you want coffee, you go to a cafe. When you want cannabis, you go to a coffeeshop. They said that if you would want to smoke a joint, don’t be ashamed to ask the sellers. They are there not to get you stoned but to help you get the right experience.
Unfortunately, those are the only things I can share with you for now. What I truly love about Amsterdam is how the city is so bustling but still so laid back. There are quaint places every corner – cafes and vintage shops. Amsterdam was beyond welcoming. The dutch people are nice, too. It is so easy to ask them for directions when you’re lost or they even initiate to help you when look like a lost tourist. I will surely visit Amsterdam next year and will tell you all about it. I know I missed the museums but, again, we were only there for three days and an accident happened on our second day so there really isn’t much to tell.
P.s. After visiting 7 cities in Europe, I have to give the looks to the dutch men. There is too much Robin Van Persie happening around me.