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Amsterdam is one European city that should be on your bucket list. It not only a city of canals, historical buildings, windmills and ‘magic brownies’, but is one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world. Cycling in Amsterdam is a way of life for most Dutch people and is the best way of getting around. There are dedicated bicycle paths and cycle parking lots throughout the city and very few hills to conquer.
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of The Kingdom of The Netherlands and is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The river Amstel terminates in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders or embankments (barriers) known as dikes.
During a whirlwind three days in this Dutch city, we undertook several activities so that we could take in the best of what Amsterdam has to offer, and that was a lot! So here is what I would suggest you do:
Amsterdam is home to more than one hundred kilometres of canals, most of which are navigable by boat. A canal tour is extremely relaxing and is a great way of seeing a lot of the sights of Amsterdam. By night the canal tour is very enchanting with many of the houses and bridges along the canals illuminated.
The Dam is the very centre and heart of the city, and features the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) which dominates the square. The palace was originally used as the town hall and its classical facade and fine sculptures were intended to glorify the city and its government.
One of the best ways to see the sights of Amsterdam is to take a guided bicycle tour of the city with an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide. The guides takes you around the city to all the points of interest for a half day and even into the large Vondelpark for a rest stop.
The main Amsterdam tourist attractions are museums with over fifty in the city. The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and the Stedelijk Museum are the most popular choices.
For kids there is an impressive NEMO; a hands-on science and technology museum housed in the unique, boat-shaped building.
This old church with little houses clinging to its sides, remains a calm haven at the heart of the frenetic Red Light District.
The famous red window lights of the Red Light District are striking against the quaint, old canal houses and even the fairy lights that line the bridges at night are coloured red.The Red Light District is somewhat a sexual amusement park with bars, sex for sale, sex shops, sex shows and a party atmosphere. The ‘ladies of the night’ are displayed in shopfront windows scantily dressed, like shop mannequins. Once the customer enters the shop the curtains on the window close which indicates that the ‘lady’ is busy!
In Amsterdam coffee shops, not to be confused with cafés, it is legal to purchase and smoke Cannabis or Marijuana and these establishments have been a part of the city since the 1970s. Official Dutch coffee shops have a green and white licence sticker in the window. Most coffee shops also offer cannabis-laced foods – brownies, cookies, shakes etc. Hence the term Amsterdam ‘Magic Brownies’!
The most popular centre for nightlife attractions in Amsterdam, Leidseplein, has many restaurants, clubs, coffee shops, cinemas and theatres in the area. We sat at one the square’s pubs with outdoor seating and indulged in a long, lazy drink and some people-watching.
Vondelpark is the most famous park in the Netherlands. Free concerts are given at the open-air theatre or in the summer at the park’s bandstand. Other attractions are the statue of the poet Vondel, the cast iron music dome, the Groot Melkhuis with playground for children, and the historical Pavilion with its restaurant Vertigo, a popular terrace.
There are over 300 stalls at the Albert Cuypmark markets on a Saturday with goods ranging from fresh produce and flowers, to clothes, to odds and ends. The market is located in the Pijp district, surrounded by many pleasant cafes and small shops.
Amsterdam was one of the highlights of our European trip. Although we packed a lot into three days, we still kept it to a manageable itinerary and got around to most of the sights in the city. I was fascinated by a city that has licensed venues to smoke weed, legal prostitution and an eco-friendly transport system. It made me wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t take on some of these attitudes.
What do you think? Should Australia legalise Marijuana and prostitution and make our cities more cycle-friendly?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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