As part of my recent European Tour, I stopped off at the eclectic city of Amsterdam. With its elaborate canal system, gabled narrow houses, 17th Century European architecture mixed in with cool bars and chic restaurants, it’s a city that blends history and modern urban flair effortlessly.
This was my third time in Amsterdam but one of the first things I noticed the first time I visited was that everyone speaks English. There are people from all over the world living and working here which is reflected in the fantastic array of international food available everywhere.
The next thing I noted was that cycling is the main mode of transport, particularly for locals, which probably strongly contributes to the city’s very breathable air and clean environment. It also has a very navigable public transport system which includes metros, buses, trams, ferries and trains, making it easy to get around the capital.
Luckily for me, it was summer time. And there is no summer like the European summer and Amsterdam makes the most of the long days with numerous events and parties, or festivals in one of the many parks.
Since it was my third visit, I didn’t include the usual tourist attractions on my itinerary so here are some of the places and experiences I got to enjoy during my Amsterdam holiday this time around.
Europeans love to hang out in squares and in Amsterdam, Dam Square is the best-known. It is always jam-packed with people and animated with buskers, mimes and street performers or those who are simply happy, like these children busting out in hip hop dance.
There are food stalls, restaurants and shops galore as well as a plethora of cafes and bars. The famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds is located here as well as the Royal Palace.
De Hallen at Amsterdam Oud West
De Hallen in Amsterdam’s hip neighbourhood of Oud-West converges food, film, fashion, craft and architecture all under the roof of a converted industrial building. The locale used to be a tram depot but is now a popular cultural hotspot. It’s very atmospheric and buzzing with activity.
You will never be bored here; not with the likes of the cinema complex, De Filmhallen, an independent cinema with nine screens, and the Food Hallen with around 20 street food vendors offering everything from pizzas to Vietnamese food. There is also a library and hotel housed here. De Hallen was such a fun place to be and should be a part of any Amsterdam holiday.
Pllek Man-Made Beach
When you think of Amsterdam, beaches don’t usually come to mind. Pllek Amsterdam is changing that! This bar set on a man-made beach invites guests to hang out along the river, enjoying the beachy vibes. Once night falls, bonfires and drinks set the atmosphere for a blithe way to pass the evening. I took a 20-minute ferry ride from Centraal to Pllek and watched the sun set over the River Ij, reclined on the make-shift lounges as day turned to night.
The highest quality organic produce is used to serve homemade sandwiches and fresh juices here. Pllek also hosts Amsterdam’s largest disco ball at night but just don’t forget that the last ferry back leaves at midnight during the week and at 1am at the weekends.
A’DAM Lookout – Europe’s Highest Swing
Thrill seekers rejoice. Located on A’DAM Tower, A’DAM Lookout is Amsterdam’s first and only publicly accessible observation deck. The Skydeck provides unrivalled, panoramic views across all of Amsterdam. Atop the tower is Europe’s highest swing, where you can dangle your legs at a terrifying 100 metres above the ground for a special Amsterdam holiday experience like no other. I marvelled at it from a very comfortable position on the ground!
Only in Amsterdam!
Among the chic and trendy, amidst the rich history and ingenious design, Amsterdam is brimming with quirky oddities. Like the Beer Bike Party where you can work off all the calories found in your beer while seeing the sites of the city in style.
Amsterdam is full of delightful surprises like this tiny little car on the street that bears the brand of Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum for the strange and unusual (nothing unusual there).
Quick, convenient and, most importantly, tasty! Isn’t that how all fast food should be? Amsterdam has it covered with their food-in-the-wall concept and, as you can see, it is also clean and very moderately priced.
Most people get around in bicycles and, as I’ve mentioned, the public transport is highly functional. But if you have far to go, an alternative mode of transport is an UberX. UberX in Amsterdam is stepping up the Uber game. Get to where you need to go in style, like in this Jaguar, or in a Mercedes if that fits your style better.
I loved strolling the streets dotted with flowers, hovering at unique boutiques, appreciating the architecture that’s sometimes striking and at other times unassuming but always interesting. Amsterdam is a city, unlike many cities, where you can just relax and feel chilled out even when scheduling in the many must-see landmarks. The Dutch are such easy-going people who make you feel right at home in a sort of ‘help yourself’ type of way, very different to say, South-East Asia where you feel waited on hand and foot (although there’s nothing wrong with that). There is just a vibe about this city (that has nothing to do with its many ‘coffee shops’) that’s simultaneously exciting and laid-back.
I think the Beach Boys said it best, ‘we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow’. They weren’t talking about Amsterdam of course but the same goes.