When you hear the word Amsterdam, you’d picture a utopian city where there’s a smile on every face, little bridges over serene waterways where cyclists go about town minding their business, quaint little corners that come alive after sundown, and everything else that Hollywood has conditioned us to believe. Yes, Amsterdam is just that, but so much more.
Not many know that the capital city of The Netherlands used to be a humble fishing village in the 13th century. Being situated by a river bed has its advantages and that's what saw the rise of the most ‘happening’ destination there is. Today, it is a major business hub in addition to being a cultural and tourism hotbed for travellers. The Dutch Royal Family still resides in the Royal Palace, which is situated in this city. King’s Day, Amsterdam’s biggest annual festival, is celebrated by locals with much gusto.
Known as the ‘city of makers’ to many, you will be surprised to see the remnants of the industrial revolution still prevalent in the mindset of artisans and other masters of their crafts. Small-scale businesses line the major thoroughfares and are promoted and supported by the administration. This is one of the reasons tourists find things to shop that are bespoke and one-of-their kind.
To give you a glimpse of Amsterdam from a viewpoint-less-explored, we’ve curated some experiences and destinations that truly set it apart from being just a party destination. You could have a great time with your business associates and family too!
What to do
The canal belt of the city is protected by UNESCO and offers one of the most picturesque scenes of the city. You wouldn’t want to miss a ride along the dreamy sceneries. The guided tours let you in on the little secrets and trivia of the land.
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Travel back in time
Drop by at the Prinsengracht House where the legendry Anne Frank and her family hid during the Nazi occupation. It has become a museum and a telling piece for many. You can also visit some of the most famous museums in the world while you’re here. Be it the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum, all containing some of the greatest pieces of art ever created. A visit to the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood opens up a portal of exploration for art lovers, especially those who indulge in open exhibitions. For shutterbugs, a visit to the FOAM photography museum is like a must-do pilgrimage. For films and film history buffs, the Eye Across The IJ is a treasure-trove of Dutch and international film posters, trivia and memorabilia.
Sack out in a park
Once you are tired of all the walking, sailing and cycling, you should head straight to the massive 47-acre Vondelpark. A tourist magnet of sorts, you could be in time to watch one of the featured presentations on the outdoor theatre, or a live concert in summer.
Shop, shop, shop
Bargain hunters confident of their power moves, there is no place like Amsterdam's markets. You can help yourself to antique collectibles, books, art pieces, music collections, and what have you, at any of the city's markets. Most of the popular markets are open through the week, save Sundays, so the chance of you coming across one is pretty high.
Be a sport
Amsterdam is home to some of the finest sporting competitions in Europe. You could witness and participate in ice skating events in winter. In mid-October, the TCS Amsterdam Marathon is a great spectacle to witness. During football season, Ajax Amsterdam can thrill you in their home stadium with some spectacular youthful football, inspired by Johan Cruyff’s total football. Or, you could find yourself in one of the Escape Rooms that challenge your survival and thinking skills.
What to eat
Before we get to the eating, how about a little exploration into the whereabouts of our favourite morning beverage? While the coffee shops of Amsterdam are known for their openness to indulgence in the good things, they do cook up some mean brews. However, entry into coffee shops requires patrons to be over 18 years of age.
Or a grand café, maybe
The grand cafés of the city come alive with vibrant lights and patrons from all ethnicities. Café Americain lives up to its reputation of being the oldest and grandest café, not for its opulent styling and interiors, but for its history of over 100 years. Café De Jaren is known for its terrace that overlooks the canal.
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Get behind bars
Amsterdam’s thriving bar culture is what tourists often carry back home as their best memories of their trips. And why not? As a culture that embraces self-made products, there are a number of breweries and distilleries in this beautiful city, each with their own nuances. Among the most popular ones are the canal-side terrace bars, watching tourists sail by with awestruck expressions on their happy faces.
Also famous are the city’s brown cafés, named so because of their interior colour themes. When it comes to alcohol, the city is a beer-lover’s dream, with some of the best home-brewed beers up for grabs, all over.
Blend right in
It takes some energy to cycle through many parts of India. However, Amsterdam promotes the pedal culture and you can fit right into the scenery of bustling denizens by hiring a bicycle and exploring the many things that the city has to offer
Eat your heart out
With a wide variety of restaurants spread all across Amsterdam, you’ll never find yourself getting bored by the cuisines. The legendary herring carts serve sandwiches with raw fish, with pickles and onions to go with it. Westergas is another culinary destination that hosts several other attractions, in addition to alluring restaurant and bar options. You should head to Food Allen if you love dining in the outdoors. It’s here that you’ll taste street food that would rival some restaurants in India’s top suburbs.
Attend a food event
With everything from the Origin Chocolate Event to the Little Italy Taste & Travel fair, Freedom Feast to the Homemakers’ Fair with delicious home-made delicacies, you can enjoy food in its most scrumptious varieties.
Where to stay
Check-in to unique experiences Amsterdam has over 350 hotels, many of which are known for their historical relevance and inspiring architecture.
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Bunk with a stranger is a unique concept any solo traveller must experience: You can stay at one of the famous B&Bs of Amsterdam or even the hostels. You can opt for either dormitories or private rooms, as per your preference. These are often highly affordable and located at prime locations.
For all of you who don't believe in well-done hotel beds while travelling, try camping in the outdoors. You may not get to camp in the wild here, but you can pitch your tent with some unfamiliar-but-friendly folk in a manner that isn’t too different from a music festival. Good vibes and great company are assured.
Or live on the water
Ever imagined living on the Amstel River? Houseboat accommodation isn’t something you would experience in many places other than Amsterdam. It’s a great release from the bustle of city life.
Live like a local
The city welcomes tourists to stay in their short-stay apartment facilities, which is the best way to experience the city like a local. Apartments range from luxury abodes to student chambers and even river-facing condos
What you can do outside Amsterdam
hile Amsterdam has plenty to offer you even on a long stay, you could also use the country’s impressive public transport to discover more around the city. The picture-perfect windmills of Kinderdijk will light up your Instagram profile, the university town of Utrecht mirrors the architectural beauty of Amsterdam, but without the crowds, while the town of Gouda will satisfy all your cheese cravings. For history buggs among you, a trip to Rotterdam will give you unique insights on the horrors of the WWII atrocities inflicted on the beautiful town.
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In conclusion, it is safe to say that Amsterdam leaves you with a memory that is so mixed with emotions, experiences, and perspectives of life that you wouldn’t find it anywhere else. Whether it is the history, the openness and inclusiveness of the local culture or even the splendour of art that is so willingly appreciated, there aren’t too many places on earth where you can find these. The Dutch people are a friendly lot, and many speak English fluently. Which is why Amsterdam remains one of the best places to visit in Europe, whether you’re a bachelor, with a family or even on a business trip