What do you think about when you hear someone is traveling to Amsterdam? Is it the tolerated prostitution? The public usage of marijuana? Crazy bikers around every corner? Lucky for you, I was able to experience each of these and educate myself even more on this unique city.
Aside from Amsterdam being a city that tolerates public prostitution and the usage of marijuana in coffee shops, it has so much more to offer. Before coming to Amsterdam all I ever heard about was the party scene and abnormality of the city to the US. No one ever told me how beautiful the canals were, how vibrant the flower markets were or how the city would change my ideology forever.
Anything goes in Amsterdam as long as it is able to pass three tests. Those three tests are is it deniable, is it unharmful and is it good for business.
No one actually knows where the coffee shops came from, but they are still able to operate today because they abide by the three rules. They’re deniable, I mean they’re “coffeeshops,” not marijuana shops. Marijuana isn’t deemed as harmful and it is undeniably good for business. There are coffeeshops on every corner in Amsterdam. It’s GREAT for creating jobs and keeping people off the streets. I will say in all of the cities we have visited thus far, Amsterdam had the lowest amount of homeless people and after spending a few days there I can understand why.
The tolerance of prostitution was the biggest eye opener for me. Growing up in the U.S. we don’t portray prostitution in the best light. It is illegal, but other than that we view those women as promiscuous and dirty. In Amsterdam, it’s a way of life. There is a whole district dedicated to prostitutes and honestly I think it’s awesome. It was really cool for me to see how normal prostitution is in Amsterdam. Families live in the Red Light District. Parents walk their kids down the streets of the Red Light District everyday without a second thought.
I was lucky enough to do a Red Light Secrets tour during my time in Amsterdam and I am so happy I did. The Red Light Secrets tour takes place in an old brothel that was shut down after one of the girls was murdered. The tour consists of the everyday life of a prostitute living in Amsterdam and their connection to the local store owners. You get to see how they live, how much money they make on average and the ins and outs of the job.
Prostitution is a great way for making money, however, it is also one of the most dangerous jobs to have. Every year hundreds of women die from this line of work and some of the crimes even go unsolved. The Red Light Secrets tour is so interesting because it is home to one of those unsolved mysteries.
One of the girls stories I followed really opened my eyes to this new ideology I mentioned. I got to see just how normal her life was day-to-day. She had a husband. She woke up everyday just like you and I to head off to work. She grabbed coffee and breakfast in the morning from the local coffee shop. She tidied up her work area and then she completed a full day of work.
When you start to understand that prostitution isn’t the act that we normally think about, you start to take away that ugly persona you’ve created and you begin to appreciate these women. More than half of them are married and have children of their own. They are not only making money for themselves but the rental properties along the Red Light District.
I think it’s so awesome how respected the prostitution culture is in Amsterdam. Being able to create a specific area where these women are able to work without judgement is fantastic and Amsterdam is clearly reaping the benefits from it. After visiting I definitely understand why prostitution is tolerated in Amsterdam. That doesn’t mean I am 100% supportive but I respect their decision to do it as they find it beneficial for their country.
Okay, enough mushy gushy stuff. Aside from the obvious Anne Frank House, Van Gogh, Heineken Beer Museum, there are other must sees in Amsterdam. Obviously, the only reason I’m not talking about Anne Frank, Van Gogh or the Heineken Museum is because I couldn’t afford to visit any of them.
ANYWAYS, Amsterdam is beautiful! As I said before, the canals are amazing! They’re everywhere and each one looks a little different from the next. The city is strung with bikes all along the canals and flower pots hanging in between. I recommend just taking a day to get lost in the city. The city is so vibrant, with hanging lights everywhere and unique little shops everywhere. There is no possibility of being bored when you’re there.
While you’re walking through Amsterdam be very careful of bikers. They are EVERYWHERE! I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t almost lose my life to a biker about a thousand times during the 3 day span we were in Amsterdam. Before coming to the city, I was all about doing a bike tour around Amsterdam, trying to get my fitness on you know. The moment I got to the city and took a look around at the 25 rows of bikes surrounding the train station that want of mine quickly disappeared. I am and never will be as talented of a biker to ride through the streets of Amsterdam.
A must see on your walking tour is the flower markets. Ugh, the flower markets. Tulips are HUGE in Amsterdam. If you can, definitely visit in the spring, when these little beauties are blooming. We unfortunately didn’t get to see any tulips in the fall, but we did get to see the wonderful flower market. It has any flower you could ever want and especially tulips! They have every single color of tulips, yes, even black and you can ship the bulbs all over the world for pretty cheap. The flower market is a must see, even if just to walk around, it’s beautiful and definitely won’t disappoint.
Wow, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to mention anything about food. The must eats while in Amsterdam are fries, stroopwafel, pancakes and cheese.
Fries are done differently in Amsterdam and I definitely did too much of them. They are served in paper cones with sauce squirted on top. The sauce variety is my favorite! Amsterdam has this particular sauce called “Joppie,” which after ordering five times I’ve come to the conclusion it contains a mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise, onions and curry powder. I am obsessed with it. But if you aren’t a little hot head like me, have no fear. They serve about 15 other sauces that I am sure you’ll be able to find something to suit you. Recommendations for fries places? I have none, literally go anywhere. You can’t really ruin fries, you literally throw them in the fryer and fry them. The sauce variety is what makes the fries here and for the most part every place has a similar selection.
If you’ve never tried stroopwafel before I want you to go to the top of your screen and exit out of this blog right now. I love stroopwafel and have for two years now. Ever since the international markets on Sundays in Florence, ugh, I fell so hard in love. Stroopwafel is a flat waffle smothered in caramel and smushed together by another flat waffle. It is delicious! Now they do sell stroopwafel in grocery stores, but that is not what I’m talking about people. We need the fresh stuff. I will admit they are a little hard to find in Amsterdam, but our favorite spot is by the “I am Amsterdam,” sign. You have to go during the day, but believe me it is so worth it.
Dutch pancakes are where it’s at! This was my first experience trying them which means I had to have three different kinds just to make sure I really did like them. The Dutch aren’t big on coming up with clever names for their restaurants or anything for that matter, so we got our pancakes at Pancakes! Bianca and I split two different savory pancakes. One set had pine nuts, spinach, feta cheese and olive oil. The other set had bacon, chili pepper and mushrooms. They were both amazing, amongst the best foods I have ever had. The apple dessert pancakes on the other hand were mediocore but still worth the try.
Cheese, the bane of my existence. I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that cheese is huge in Amsterdam, however, I will admit it was a surprise to me. A pleasant one at that I might add. I love cheese, all kinds of cheese, I don’t discriminate. The one thing I love about Amsterdam cheese shops is the free samples. Yes, I am that poor that I can’t even buy cheese while in Amsterdam, but did I try every cheese there is to offer, yes. If you’re on a budget just like me, you can walk into about five cheese shops within a block and try all their cheeses free of charge. I personally think this is the best way to get your cheese fix while in Amsterdam, because let’s be honest, who can choose just one cheese anyway?
After eating such fattening foods in Amsterdam, Maggie and I spent our last day at a little hidden gem called CT Coffee and Coconuts. CT Coffee and Coconuts is a vegetarian friendly restaurant that serves all kinds of fresh juices and little plates. Their claim to fame is their breakfast menu, more specifically their infamous avocado toast and acai bowls. Maggie and I split both and were pleasantly surprised at how fresh and delicious they both were. All the food is made directly infront of you and you can see all the fresh ingredients the staff uses for each order. I have visited many vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants all throughout the U.S. and Europe and CT Coffee and Coconuts ranks pretty far up there for me. If you have the time to head to the outskirts of town, put CT Coffee and Coconuts on your list, you won’t be disappointed.
The point I have been so horribly trying to make in this blog is that Amsterdam has so much more to offer than what meets the eye. Amsterdam truly has something for everyone and I believe everyone should experience this amazing city. I can’t put into words the complexity of this eye-opening experience for me but I am so happy my life has been changed forever. This is just another reason why I love traveling so much and being able to experience different cultures. I am constantly opening my mind to new ideas and new places to see things in a new light. I encourage everyone to do the same, starting with Amsterdam.
Stay innovative, Amsterdam. I can assure you I will be returning multiple times in the future to have my world rocked all over again.
Next stop, Belgium!