I’d be lying if I told you that you can discover Amsterdam in three days. You can merely scratch the surface, if that. But if you do only have three days, I have three pieces of advice for you.
Walk the history
Walking tours are all you need. Start with a free walking tour around the city. It takes three to four hours with a break in the middle, but you’ll end up knowing more than if you just read a city guide back to back. Like, did you know that the first multinational corporation in the world was set up in Amsterdam? It was the Dutch East India Company and it traded spices.
The tour guides are very enthusiastic and will tell you stories and recommend places only locals know. You can even take a compulsory trip to the world’s first condom shop.
Amsterdam really is a walkable city once you get used to the trams coming at you from all directions. You’ll be better off spending your 20 euros on a pair of clogs rather than a tram pass.
– Flower market for amazing cheese, souvenirs and flowers
– One of the many, many museums: Rijksmuseum, Museum of Prostitution, Heineken Experience
– Anne Frank’s house
Don’t stare at the ladies in windows
Visiting the Red Light District is a must. No, not like that. Take a cultural tour to learn about one of the oldest parts of the city. Working girls posing in windows are a surprise if you come from a less liberal place. More shock awaits when you learn about the way the local authorities—if not support—don’t stand in their way. They have an info centre and everything.
In the middle of the Red Light District, there’s a huge church. It initially seemed random, but at a closer look, it made perfect sense. Amsterdam is an old city and it’s a port city. Wretched men of the sea needed the girls for a bit of comfort, but not for a price of going to hell. Not if they could pay to have all their sins erased in a conveniently located house of forgiveness. The Red Light District: sin and salvation for desperate sailors.
– What has been seen cannot be unseen.
– Working girls might kick your ass if you take a picture of them.
– Staring is rude.
Amsterdam is a hugely photogenic place. Look up, and there are gorgeous, but wonky buildings, which is what you get when you build on a swamp. See the funny hooks on top of each building? There is no way a king size bed can be taken up the narrow staircases inside. People used to pay taxes based on the width of their houses, so why waste space on stairs? The hooks were used to move furniture inside the houses. Look down, and you have beautiful canals, boats, and random sculptures. Everything is soaked in history and walking around the town is pure joy; every corner hides something pretty.
Some more ideas:
– Walk up to Dam Square for the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Royal Palace, and to take a selfie in a giant yellow clog.
– Sit down on the Homomonument near Anne Frank’s house.
– Wander over to the beautiful Vondelpark and take a compulsory picture with the I Amsterdam sign.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Tell us about your must-visit place at @litdarling!
Monika is from Southampton, a town in southern England known for sending Titanic off on its maiden voyage. She is a languages geek and suffers from an incurable travel bug; her dream destination right now is Argentina. She loves bacon, owns too many pairs of boots and is rubbish at cooking. She runs a little travel blog: mktravelling.wordpress.com