Amsterdam: Cycles, Canals & Cannabis

Amsterdam is truly a prime example of resourcefulness and lateral thinking. Space has always been at a premium in Amsterdam, where much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea.
But the city turned this to her advantage:
Now, Amsterdam’s canals soothe rather than imprison or mess up the city. They provide its order, its calm and its character. (Featured pic courtesy: baltana.com)
That calm is regularly disturbed by the trill of bicycle bells, but as long as you give the cyclists a wide berth, it’s the perfect city for pedestrians.
You haven’t been to Amsterdam if you haven’t had at least one near collision with a cycle.
Where else can you see coffee shops that serve cannabis, legalized prostitution that’s kinda in your face, canals that serve as highways, a train station that’s as much a museum, functional, yet characteristic windmills, and beer?  Ya, they do have a knack for good beer. Just go to one of the many breweries and you will know. No wonder this was the birthplace of Heineken that beat the Eiffel tower in a competition as the most innovative.
This is a city that has so many things to do that every ‘to-do’ list seems woefully incomplete. But these are what I found completely unmissable.

Must see and Must dos in Amsterdam

1. Visit the surreal Rijksmuseum: The Rijksmuseum first opened its doors in 1800 under the name ‘Nationale Kunstgalerij’. At the time, it was housed in Huis ten Bosch in The Hague. The collection mainly comprised paintings and historical objects. In 1808, the museum moved to the new capital city of Amsterdam, where it was based in the Royal Palace on Dam Square.After King Willem, I’s accession to the throne, the paintings, and national print collection was moved to the Trippenhuis on Kloveniersburgwal, while the other objects were returned to The Hague. The current building was put into use in 1885. The Netherlands Museum for History and Art based in The Hague moved into the same premises, forming what would later become the departments of Dutch History and Sculpture & Applied Art.

The building was thoroughly modernized, while at the same time restoring more of Cuypers original interior designs: the Rijksmuseum has dubbed the venture ‘Verder met Cuypers.  The Rijksmuseum is now a dazzling new museum able to satisfy the needs of its 21st-century visitors! The collection includes jaw-dropping paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and countless more Dutch greats. Its an absolute must anyway you look at this city!

Read more here…

2. Take a Walking or Cycling tour: Very few places in the world can claim to have such amazing sights cramped in such close quarters that a walking tour or a cycling tour does more than just justification. Ths would surely be one of the highlights if your tour with the great insights that come along. We took a tour with these guys…26994108_1569399436430530_3784105813668583498_n

These guys were pretty good. They took us around the Dam square (which is also the starting point) and covered Anne Frank house, the Begijnhof Convent, Multatuli’s giant head, the Jewish Quarter with snippets about the history, coffee shops and prostitution in Amsterdam. All in all, it was pretty interesting the cold notwithstanding (we were here in January)!

3. Giethoorn: I haven’t been to Venice, but they say Giethoorn is more peaceful and picturesque than Venice. Which is a pretty big statement to live up to. Giethoorn is at the center of Overijssel’s canal system. The little village is so dependent on its waterways, many of the houses cannot be reached by road. When the postman delivers the mail he travels by boat. Giethoorn always makes it into most Europe bucket lists due to its pure individuality.

Giethoorn’s name originates from the first inhabitants’ discovery of hundreds of goat horns (gietehorens) in the marshland, remnants of a 10th-century flood. Its just a few hours drive from Amsterdam and could well be the highlight of your trip. This place is another one for fairy tales. The best way to explore Giethoorn and the myriad of canals is obviously by joining a canal cruise. Local skippers will be able to guide you through the place and show you the most important places in this quiet village. We took a guided tour and it was as awesome as pleasant.

4. Windmills: For centuries, windmills have helped the Dutch fight water shortages so it is little wonder that they were among the first to develop windmill technology. In the glory days, the Netherlands boasted more than 10,000 windmills and today around 1,000 still stand. Many of the remaining mills are open to the public and a couple have even been transformed into homes, but these are not museums. Many are functional and a sight to behold.

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There are many of them that you can see. We visited the ones at Zaanse Schans at dusk and it was pure delight especially for the little one. You will see a few in the city too. Try and check out the wonderful brewery in a windmill. The Brouwerij ‘t is not just for beer connoisseurs but its a visit just by itself. You cant claim to have had a beer under a windmill anywhere else. Naamloos5De-Gooyer-Windmill

5. Keukenhof Gardens: The Keukenhof in Lisse is Europe’s largest flower garden! It is the most beautiful spring garden in the world. The Keukenhof park is almost 32 hectares filled with 7 million tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils. We couldn’t see it for ourselves as it was closed during our visit. here are a few pictures from when my brother traveled there. No more words needed. Just scroll down!

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6. Coffee shops: Don’t let the broad term ‘coffee shop’ take you by surprise. From psychedelic to hipster-ish but also from very local ones to more touristic places, each of Amsterdam coffeeshops has its own atmosphere. You will surely find one that suits you perfectly. They are not only to smoke weed. They are real social places where you can easily meet people and spend some good times with friends. Watching TV, playing chess or card games and much more can be done here. And always in a very relaxing way.

Due to the allowance of cannabis consumption, the Netherlands is very well reputed to be a very liberal country. This is true but you should be aware of the Dutch law and the rules inside a coffee shop. The menu too gets really confusing. Just ask the bartender if unsure.

easy-times-coffeeshop-amsterdam-2017-december

7. Other museums: Though Rijks is the trump card; there are a lot more museum all located conveniently within cycling distance. Do check out Museumplein for a dedicated Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk museum of modern art, FOAM photography museum and of course the Anne Frank house. I felt the Anne Frank house to be kinda over-rated unless you are a huge fan of the book. But its worth a look if you have time to spare.

8. Vondelpark: It’s not just a park. Its a huge island of completely serene greenery with ponds, play areas, swans and more. Ideal for an afternoon brunch. Take that wine along. Website

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9. Heineken Experience: The jury is out if it should be on this list. But Heineken experience, a boat tour, and the ADAM tower is a decent package. It’s well worth the money. We got three free beers each with the tour and they do work into making the tour a full experience. However, it is quite superficial if you are looking for something more in depth. The boat tour was relaxing but not a lot of information was given about the city during the trip. The tower was worth checking out and there is a free ferry to get back across. The trip is one way from the Heineken experience to the tower or vice versa. Website

I’m pretty sure I missed a few. But you will need to spare a week just in the city to see more. Guess its worth it too!

Practical Tips:

  1. Amsterdam accommodation has always been in short supply. Some of the best hotels in Amsterdam cluster around particular districts: the Museum Quarter and the Canals district have plenty, whereas the Pijp and Jordaan, alas, contain only a few hotels. A general rule of thumb has been to avoid those Amsterdam hotels near Central Station, but this may soon become a thing of the past: see the arrival of the swanky new art’otel just across the tracks. The interiors are unmissably whacky in most places.
  2. The economy hotel sector has been just as creative. After all, it’s had to face some fierce competition from the likes of Airbnb and Couchsurfing which both proved popular in this town where its residents are both relaxed and hospitable
  3. Unlike elsewhere in the Netherlands, it is not necessary to present a certificate of residence in order to be able to enter a coffee shop. The locals have a relaxed attitude to soft drugs, but smoking isn’t accepted everywhere, so use discretion. Outside of Amsterdam, public consumption of cannabis is largely unacceptable.
  4. Foreigners found with harder drugs should expect to face prosecution from the authorities.
  5. Indian Consulate: Address: Buitenrustweg 2, 2517 KD The HagueTelephone Numbers: 070-3469771 (General), 070-3469771 Extn : 208/211/213 (Consular Section) Telefax Numbers: 070-3617072
  6. Service charges are included in hotel, taxi, bar, café and restaurant bills. However, it’s polite to round up to the closest euro for small bills or the nearest five for larger sums, although tipping 10 percent is becoming more common (leave the extra in change rather than filling in the credit card slip). In taxis, most people tip 10 percent.
  7. Visa for Indians: As a part of the Schengen countries; you will need a pre-approved visa to get in. I used VFS global. Takes about a week.
  8. Whether you’re visiting for the great shops and markets, stunning music and nightlife or the city’s best restaurants, finding your way around Amsterdam is very easy: there are efficient, cheap and integrated trams, metros and buses, and in the centre, most places can be reached on foot. Locals tend to get around by bike, and there are also boats and water taxis. Public transport provision for those with disabilities, however, is dire.
  9. An OV-chipkaart (‘chip card’) system operates across trams, buses and metros. An OV-chipkaart has a one-time cost of €7.50 and can be purchased at ticket vending machines at stations, various tobacco specialty shops, at many supermarkets and at GVB Tickets & Info. The card is valid for four to five years. You can load the card in the ticket vending machine, paying with cash or a cash card, and use it immediately. You can also load the card in a yellow add value machine you’ll find at tobacco specialty shops and various other shops. An unlimited 24-hour chip cards for one day cost €7.50. You can also buy unlimited 48-, 72-, 96-, 120-, 144- and 168-hour cards (ranging from €12 to €32). With any type of OV-chipkaart, you have to check in or check out when boarding or disembarking a tram, bus or metro, using the card readers in the trams and buses, at the entryway to metro stations or on the metro platform. Hold your card in front of the reader and wait for a beep and green light to flash. Follow the same procedure on the way out.
  10. An alternative to the OV-chipkaart is the I Amsterdam City Card, which includes unlimited use of the public transport system and free entrance to 38 museums and attractions. It can be purchased it at several shops and newsagents across Amsterdam, or at one of the Amsterdam Tourist Offices. Cost: €42 (24 hours), €52 (48 hours) or €62 72 hours). Don’t even think about travelling without a ticket: inspectors make regular checks, and passengers without tickets are hit with €35 on-the-spot fines.
  11. Most taxis are operated by the central office TCA. They’re hard to hail on the street, but ranks are found around the city; most central are the ones at Centraal Station, by the bus station at the junction of Kinkerstraat and Marnixstraat, on Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. Cabs can be ordered on 777 7777.Getting a taxi in Amsterdam is relatively straightforward, but check that the meter starts at the minimum charge (€2.80). Even short journeys are expensive: it costs €2.03 per kilometer) and ask the rough cost of the journey before setting out. You can also ask for a flat rate. If you feel as though you have been ripped off (cases are relatively rare), ask for a receipt and contact the TCA (650 6506, 24 hours) or the police.
  12. Uber works well here too!
  13. To drive a car in the Netherlands, you need a valid international driving license and many car hire firms to favour photocard licenses. Car hiring and driving are great in the whole country. There are well posted English signs everywhere.
  14. Parking is a nightmare: the center is metered from 9am until at least 7pm (midnight in many places), setting you back up to €5 an hour; ticketing is very common. Parking passes for daytime (9am-7pm, €30; 24 hours, €45) and weekly passes (9am-7pm, €180; 24 hours, €270) can be bought at Cition service points or online via www.cition.nl or at parking ticket machines (day passes only). Bear in mind that after controlled hours, parking at meters across the city is completely free, and prices can vary between neighborhoods.
  15. Always, always walk on the sidewalk and avoid the bike lines. They get preference everywhere.
  16. While biking, be on the right side of the street. Stay on the right as possible to ensure that others can pass you.
  17. Don’t take photos in the red light areas.
  18. Tap water is perfectly drinkable
  19. Download an offline google map for better navigation
  20. Everyone speaks English fluently. So you are good there
  21. Try and allot at least ten days for Netherlands
  22. In spite of all these Amsterdam can actually be a pretty kid friendly destination.
  23. What I Read: The Diary of a young girl is a simple yet seminal work by Anne Frank that’s an absolute must. 41CxgI8GeqL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_
  24. What I Saw: The movie Soldier of Orange is a story is based on the autobiographical book Soldaat van Oranje by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. Its takes you into surreal Europe that it was during the World War II. 220px-SoldierOfOrange.jpg
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72 thoughts on “Amsterdam: Cycles, Canals & Cannabis

  1. I’ve never been to Amsterdam, but I have an acquaintance who lived there as a young girl. The stories she would tell! You gave a really good write up about the places to visit and cautions about traditions and laws. It sounds like an interesting place to visit.

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  2. I’ve been to Amsterdam twice. My favorite was the house of Anne Frank. It’s so interesting, and it’s amazing to think of all that went on there. And the canals and flower markets are pretty, too! 🙂

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  3. I have never been to Amsterdam. But, your post makes me want to go. I am surprised that there is cannabis there but I live in a country that hates any type of drugs.

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  4. I think I’m the only one who hasn’t been yet. Sigh. I’ve seen pics of Giethoorn and I legit wanted to go through my screen. So serene and picturesque. That weed menu…goooolllyyy!! Lmao!.

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  5. It really does seem like a city that has used the canals to its advantage. It always looks so pretty in pictures. I’m glad to know there are coffee shops for everyone. I’d love to take the kids on a trip here someday.

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  6. I have only been to Amsterdam once and it was a short trip. I always say I’d like to come for a few weeks and rent out an Airbnb in one of their neighborhoods. Then I could really experience everything.

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  7. Your photos of Amsterdam are amazing! Been seeing a lot of stories about Amsterdam lately and I think it’s where I want to go for our next vacation. My daughters would love the artsy vibe there. 😀

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  8. I’ve never been to Amsterdam but seems a very intriguing place to visit. I really love the guide history for that place.

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  9. Amsterdam was one of the stops on our honeymoon 10 years ago and I’m dying to go back! I’d love to bring my daughter and explore a different part of the city. Looks like you had an awesome trip, bummer that you couldn’t see the tulips in person!

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