Top 10 Tips to Fully Enjoy Life in Amsterdam
By: Dana Marin
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles. If you know how to ride a bike, you have to get one and ride it everywhere. From the beginning you'll be amazed by the great biking infrastructure, the overcrowded parking spots, the way locals are riding their bikes and how they manage to use them to carry anything – from shopping bags to children, dogs and even furniture. Just drive carefully and try not to get in their way!
If you don't know how to ride a bike, learn! In the meantime, you can still ride a... water-bike. These can be rented for a few hours and ridden along the most beautiful parts of the canal belt. It's a great way to see the city from the water, it can be done at your own pace and you're doing some exercise at the same time.
You can't say you really know Amsterdam until you've experienced a boat ride on the canals. There are many companies that offer all kinds of experiences – smaller or bigger ships, day or night rides, romantic cruises, lunch or dinner time – all you need to do is choose the one that appeals to your taste. Find a good spot at the window and enjoy the view over the old, charming canal houses seen from below; smell the fresh air over the Ij river, enjoy the city lights at night and take a lot of pictures. If you don't like the idea of a cruise, rent (or, why not, buy!) a small boat only for you and your friends and have a ride on a sunny day.
Amsterdam's best kept secrets can only be discovered by walking around, with no destination in mind, leaving your thoughts to wander. So, hide the map in your pocket, put your feet into some boots that were made for walking, go to Dam Square and start walking – in any direction you like. Let yourself be distracted by one thing or another, follow your instinct and your eyes, walk, walk, walk! The entire city centre is a treasure and deserves to be seen, but there are beautiful and interesting places outside the centre as well, such as the Amstel riverside for example. Packed with lovely houseboats and open-air restaurants where one can enjoy a drink and watch the sunset over the river, it is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon.
It's easy to make new friends in Amsterdam: go out, explore, meet new people. There are several expat groups in the city (international or catering to specific nationalities) that organise meet-ups, social evenings and other kinds of activities that someone living away from home may enjoy. Even though it can be difficult in the beginning, chances are that you will find people with similar interests and build new friendships. But don't limit yourself to the expat groups – make Dutch friends as well. Don't let yourself be dissuaded by the myths about Dutch parties and classic expat scares such as the ”Dutch birthday party circle”; instead, dive right into the Dutch society head-first.
Amsterdam has a vibrant night life: pubs and bars, many of them offering live music, like Melkweg and Paradiso; nightclubs (Jimmy Woo, Panama, Westergasfabriek) waiting for party people to dance from dusk till down; and after-parties to enjoy in the early hours of the morning. The main spots to spend a night out in Amsterdam are Leidseplein, Rembrandplein, the Jordaan and the Red Light district, although this last one can be very crowded and invaded by tourists at times. If one night of dancing is not enough for you, there are famous dance events that are held in the city every year: Amsterdam Dance event, Dance Valley, Awakenings, 5 Days Off, Sensation and Mysteryland, where the dance doesn't stop for a few days in a row.
Although Dutch cuisine is not renown for its subtlety, there is a plethora of international restaurants in Amsterdam and a multitude of markets offering fresh local and exotic products.
A great variety of restaurants invites their customers to experience exotic foods: Indonesian, Surinamese, Indian, Italian, French, Japanese and everything in between including African, Turkish or East-European. Just do your research and get all the information before going out in search for a good dinner, as the quality of food and service varies greatly. Even if it's not obvious at first sight, all foodies will find something to enjoy, no matter if they're vegetarian, meat-eaters or raw-foodists. The ones who are ready for a special experience can try dining in the dark or the ”insanely tasty food” served up by former psychiatric patients. It wouldn't be a bad idea to try some old Dutch specialties as well, like raw herring with pickles and onion (if you dare), or go to a market (Noordermarkt, Pure Markt) to join the locals in their oyster feasts; after all, it's a part of the culture you're trying to adapt to.
Falling into a romantic mood in this city is quite easy, given the nostalgic beauty of the old centre with its many canals, mysterious narrow streets enlightened by lamps, flowers hanging everywhere and bridges that offer a fantastic view towards the special Dutch sunsets. Head over to the Flower Market and get a huge bunch of flowers for your loved one, book a romantic canal cruise dinner or a horse-drawn carriage ride, go to a small cinema (The Movies) for a romantic film or just enjoy a pancake together. Whatever you do, make sure you don't miss a walk after dark to admire the way in which the lights are transforming the city at night and how the moon reflects into the canals.
Amsterdam has over fifty museums, there is a lot to choose from. From the famous Dutch Golden Age art to most modern contraptions, from serious and sobering museums like Anne Frank House to the funny Cat Cabinet, the city caters to a wide variety of tastes. You can expand your horizons learning about Dutch history and culture in the Rijkmuseum, Van Gogh and Amsterdam Museum, or just go and have fun with family and friends at Nemo, Het Scheepvaartmuseum and House of Bols.
Go outside Amsterdam for a day or two – it's certainly worth it. You may visit one of the picturesque fishermen villages like Volendam, Marken and Monnickendam, with beautiful little ports full of ships, or head to Edam, Gouda or Alkmaar for the weekly cheese market. The charm of small Dutch villages is quite enchanting and would make anyone fall in love with the country in a heartbeat.
There are wonderful beaches, dunes and forests waiting to be discovered towards the coast; picture-perfect green fields with windmills and grazing cows, flower fields in the spring, frozen canals to skate on during winter and a lot of other activities to be done outside Amsterdam – why not try a hot air balloon ride, for example?
Not far from Amsterdam, in the Province of Flevoland, there is an amusement park: Walibi World. Built originally under the Six Flags banner, the park is now independent and offers an eclectic mix of roller-coasters (from a classic wooden frame to the modern 50 metre high ”Goliath”). An entire day can be spent there, either enjoying the roller-coaster rides or the other varied attractions – from a Ferris wheel to go-karting. The truly brave can even experience the thrill of a simulated ”SkyDive” which includes a few seconds of free-fall from high above the ground.
- Last, but not least (actually, the most important rule): do as Amsterdamians do – relax, enjoy, live life on its easier side and be happy you are in one of the most beautiful cities of the world!
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Contest Comments » There are 4 comments
VERY NICE DANA! CONGRATULATIONS
this makes me ride, float, walk, mingle, dance, eat, love, visit, travel, play and relax :D
I LIKE IT ,VERY NICE DANA! CONGRATULATIONS
I can really see Amsterdam through your eyes!!! I must visit it soon!