Why Amsterdam is such an underrated city!
Ever since I first landed here in Europe, I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam. Everyone loves this city and talks great things about it. There are always great reviews about the Netherlands, but Amsterdam was supposed to be even more special. My 3 days visit was splendid. The trip not just met my expectations, but blew it away completely. It really felt like I was Alice in the wonderland. There are a lot of things to do in Amsterdam and a single trip to the city will never seem adequate enough. Apart from being a lovely port city with a wonderful history, I sincerely believe that the Dutch are too modest about their accomplishments with the city. While Italian cities of Rome, Milan and Venice are consistently rated as top visited European cities, Amsterdam seems to be getting more popular every year for good reasons.
Happy to have spent 3 days in Amsterdam spending much lesser than expected. The best thing was I got a great Hotel deal at the Park Plaza which is located near the Airport. We did have to do a little trip to reach the city, but there is so much to do in the day and I wanted to be well rested at a good place.
Hostels are great, Airbnb is awesome, but a nice hotel room available at a great discount is even better.
So why did I like Amsterdam so much and what did I exactly do there.
Too many things to mention. The best way is to write down a list.
13 reasons to visit Amsterdam for an Amazing Holiday Break
#Reason 1: Forget Disneyland and get lost in an Amsterdam Holiday
The beautiful city center of Amsterdam is fortunately not too big in size. I did not need a map on my very first day as I was willing to lose my way in this magnificent city. Amsterdam with its 100 kilometers of canals, 90 islands, and 1500 bridges is similar to Venice with its 56 kilometers of canals, 118 small islands, and 400 bridges.
Though I enjoy road trips, I particularly enjoy exploring new cities on foot. Amsterdam is not exactly small enough to cover on foot and hence the popularity of bicycles in the city. The more compact the city the better it is for me as a tourist.
The magnificent city segregated with canals and passages is brimming with travelers all the time. But the city will however always have a quiet romantic spot somewhere. I don’t know if the canals help with noise pollution in some ways, but they do help keep tourists trapped in this wonderful maze. There seems to be no single path to get to a place. Hence a visitor can bustle through the city discovering new shortcuts and paths every time.
#Reason 2: Amsterdam is absolutely aesthetically beautiful
If you are wondering what to visit in Amsterdam then you are most probably attracted by the liberal culture of the city right now. But a trip to Amsterdam will make you also discover a really beautiful city that invites all kinds of tourists from around the world.
Living in Milan, I have been to Venice a couple of times. Though Venice is popular as a romantic city, I honestly found Amsterdam to be more romantic. Maybe because I stayed for a longer period in a nicer Hotel. Also because the Amsterdam is bigger than Venice with more international diversity in restaurants. Moreover, I have been living in Italy for the past 7 years and hence the grass literally looks greener on the other side.
Amsterdam vs Venice: The Battle of the Canal cities
I would still enjoy the 4th visit to Venice and not succumb to diminishing returns of marginal utility so easily. But I would still prefer an Amsterdam Holiday. There are a lot of fun things to do in Amsterdam and definitely much more diverse commercial activity. Venice is great for a visit with Gondolas and Nice Italian seafood, but it can get a bit congested in peak seasons.
My Amsterdam break from Milan, Italy was planned for 3 complete days. Before I write on what to do in this marvelous city in 3 days, I would only ask you to extend your stay for at least another day.
That is the impact this incredible city left on me. I had spent most of the time in the city up early in the day till late evening in the city. But there are also many fun things to do in Amsterdam at night.
The vibrant city is full of bars, cafes, coffeeshops and clubs around the city center. The areas around Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Jordaan are popular while many also enjoy the vibes of the Red Light District area. A visit to Amsterdam’s neon lit Red Light District can actually be uplifting and allow you to become more mature about topics deemed a taboo in many parts of the world.
Amsterdam has an honest frank approach to conservative cultural hypocrisy and hence wins my heart as a Beautiful city!
#Reason 3: Less vehicular pollution and great Public transportation
With Canals and bridges mapping the whole city, vehicle traffic is kept at bay. The only pollution is from the boats, but the boats offer a splendid view of the city. Moreover, everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam. For Indians reading this, I am talking about a cycle and not a motor bike. The city is ideal for bicycle use. Though you will find too many people biking around and this can be little irritating as a pedestrian. But it results in lesser pollution.
Amsterdam is truly a developed city as there is so much activity going on with countless tourists arriving every day. But somehow you could still imagine yourself living and working there with enough privacy and space. Public transport officials have great customer service and most locals are nice and speak great English.
The public transport does cost a bit though. But the city center deserves to be explored on foot or a bike anyway.
CAUTION: KEEP YOUR FEET SAFE FROM BICYCLE TYRES!!!
#Reason 4: Amsterdam is Asian Tourist’s Food Paradise in Europe
You can walk into alleys where you can find restaurants serving food from all over the world. In comparison to other European cities, Amsterdam definitely felt very international with a happy and prosperous immigrant community. A visit to the Sex Museum led us to discover the street of Zeedijk which is full of restaurants. If you are hungry near central Amsterdam, you should definitely head out to this street.
I did know about Indonesia being a former Dutch colony, but nonetheless, it was delightful to find many Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam. I had never tried the Indonesian cuisine before but I knew that it was like Thai a mix of Indian & Chinese cuisine.
Fortunately, we entered this wonderful little Indonesian family run restaurant called “Bunga Marwa” which had authentic great value for money Indonesian food. As a family run establishment, visit the place for authentic food without expecting a fancy restaurant with several waiters and helpers.
Masala Dosa at Saravana Bhavan, Amsterdam
My favorite meal in Amsterdam was however at the “Saravana Bhavan” in Stadhouderskade. After a wonderful morning of sightseeing in Amsterdam, I was eagerly hoping to enjoy a nice lunch in Amsterdam. As an Indian expat living in Milan, I do not have much access to delicious Dosas and other exotic Indian food. A visit to a more international city was bound to surprise my taste buds. And there can be no better way for this to happen. We found ourselves standing right in front of an unexpected Sarvana Bhavan, a popular South Indian restaurant chain all over the world.
The last time I had a meal at Sarvana Bhavan was in Dubai about 5 years back. The earlier meal was in Delhi about 8 years back. I am sure my Parents took me to a Sarvana Bhavan during my childhood in Bangalore. South Indian food is a cuisine that can take you to a totally different world. Renowned for popular breakfast and light meals like Dosa, Idli, Sambar, Rasam etc, the food is mainly lentil and vegetarian based. The chutneys or sauces served with the Dosa or Idli can be very addictive with a natural taste.
My visit to Sarvana Bhavan was very pleasant as the Chef himself came out to serve my huge Paper Masala Dosa. A food expert like him must have been curious to have a look at the face of a fellow Dosa connoisseur. Enough about Dosa but I have to say that it was one of the most memorable meals I had in Amsterdam.
Thai Wok Meal in Amsterdam
Apart from grabbing some quick Amsterdam Potato fries with sauces in a conical shaped container for on the go, you can also grab a quick Thai wok meal. I already love Thai wok meals in Europe, but this place in central Amsterdam had a big assortment of ingredients including some crushed peanut seasoning for my noodles. You could very well see all the components of a balanced meal. As a traveler, the meal of Noodles or Fried Rice with generous wok toppings costing around 7 € is a holistic a meal for cheap trips to Amsterdam.
With more flights to Amsterdam connecting the world with the beautiful liberal city, the cuisine of the city is definitely going in the right direction.
#Reason 4: Festivals, Carnivals, and Concerts all the time in Amsterdam
There are over 300 festivals happening every year in Amsterdam with a bulk of them in the Summers. You really can’t miss a fancy event during your Amsterdam sightseeing trip. So if you visit in the right season you will always get to see many events around the city. When I was there for 3 days, there was a major Gay pride event across multiple locations in the city. Amsterdam is really a fun place as you can walk around and find yourself amidst happy dancing people in the city squares. There is a lot of activity even in Milan on the weekends, but it is nothing compared to other European cities in Belgium and the Netherlands.
I remember even Liegè in Belgium is really wonderful on the weekends with over 4 street concerts happening around the city center.
#Reason 5: Meet familiar people because no one visits Amsterdam just once
I would really like to travel much more in my life. I haven’t even been to the United States or the American continent as of yet. So in spite of having a long travel check list to fill in my life, I am sure to definitely return again to Amsterdam one more time. And a lot of people also think the same. Ranking high as one of the top favorite cities in my peer group, everyone keeps returning to the lovely city to take refuge.
You can thus meet familiar people in Amsterdam. Everyone loves the place so much that they are visiting the city all the time.
#Reason 6: Visit over 50 different Amsterdam Museums!
So what to visit in Amsterdam? You could start with the Museums as there are so many of them. Museums are wonderful but underrated tourist spots. But honestly, if I was visiting Amsterdam for 3 days, I would really not want to spend more than half a day inside a Museum. I knew there were several interesting ones in Amsterdam. But a Google search tells me that there are over 50 different Museums in Amsterdam.
While there are the famous Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum (Museum of the Netherlands) there is also a new age Science Museum and a Heineken Beer Museum.
So many places to go in Amsterdam, but from where do you start?
Planning cheap trips to Amsterdam may seem difficult if you plan to visit many museums. However there is an interesting new initiative called the I amsterdam City Card. Apart from allowing you to visit several Amsterdam Museums for free it also works as a public transport card with several additional features.
#Reason 7: Feel the energy of the wind
Get some fresh air below the Windmill. The Netherlands is famous for its Windmills and a visit to Amsterdam should include a Selfie with the Windmill. There are supposedly 8 surviving windmills still in the Amsterdam, though I had seen only one of them. Not all of them are accessible inside, but you could see them from outside.
#Reason 8: Take lovely pictures with the Tulips
Take pictures posing with the pretty flowers during your Amsterdam breaks. The Netherlands loves Tulips and the country remains the largest player in floriculture worldwide. With a 52% share in global exports of flowers and plants in 2015, there is a lot of beautiful nature and sights to see in the Netherlands.
Instead of heading out searching for wild Tulips, just head to the Bloemenmarkt, a Floating Flower Market.
#Reason 9: Coffeeshops in weekend breaks to Amsterdam
If you work in Europe, definitely visit the famous Coffeeshops in your weekend breaks to Amsterdam. I would rate this as one of the top things to do in Amsterdam. Did I forget a space there between Coffee and Shops? Oh no I did not. There is more to that subtle difference in spelling. A place so cosy, no chaos filled with the coolest like minded people. What happens in this city stays in this city.
Sale of Marijuana also rolled up as a joint is allowed in the Netherlands at certain establishments. You can order a cup of Green Tea and smoke it inside. Sale of Alcohol and smoking cigarettes is not allowed in these establishments. Hence there is a very relaxed vibe with cool people just having friendly conversations and leaving the place early to grab some munchies outside. I honestly don’t see why this culture is not encouraged in other countries.
You not only regulate a black market of Marijuana sale but the unadulterated supply of quality Marijuana would also be a medicine for depression, appetite, and a thousand other things. This year in 2017, the Italian government has legalized the sale of Marijuana of low THC levels. I believe this to be the first step to gradual deregulation of Marijuana sale. The currently available stuff goes by the name of Easyjoint. Unfortunately, it only has some CBD that may help you sleep. Not the same stuff though available at a great price of 8 gms for 17 €.
#Reason 10: Make new friends in the Amsterdam Parks or have a siesta on green grass
Need to relax after a visit to the Coffeeshop? Head over to Vondelpark. A popular retreat visited by over 10 million people in a year. Located near the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum, the large park has a lot of fun stuff to do. WIth vast ponds, birds and beautiful statues the park also has an Open air theater. As long as there is an activity going around, you are always going to make new friends in Amsterdam.
There are parks and a lot of trees in the city. Moreover, these days there is a new trend in architecture that involves planting trees on buildings. Otherwise, the Netherlands is scenic with the beautiful lush green countryside. A perfect getaway for you Amsterdam break.
#Reason 11: Meet the women working in the oldest human profession
Amsterdam as an important port city has had a tradition of accepted Prostitution. The hard working women modeling as mannequin behind the glass are really friendly and may call you over inside. But don’t, you need to be investing that money in stocks.
The Red Light District in Amsterdam attracts a lot of tourist attention. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city. The idea of walking through the smaller passages of the city to discover quite alleys filled with the ladies continuing the oldest human occupation till date is a big turn on for many tourists.
Moreover, there are several Museums and theaters catering to the sex and erotic theme. The city throw liberalism all over your face.
Red Light Secrets: World’s only Museum of Prostitution
I had been to this place called the Red Light Secrets. It seems to be the world’s only Museum of Prostitution. As weird a theme it was, I found my visit to be very insightful. Understanding the “behind the scenes” part of the lives of female prostitutes educates visitors about all the preparations done. From safety issues to the use of exotic sex gadgets, the Museum in Amsterdam aims to educate a lot about the tiring and challenging profession. It also highlights the personal lives of some of the women who had worked earlier in the city.
The visit may help tourists to empathize more with the ladies who engage in prostitution. Most of all, the visit to the Red Light Secrets may help people learn to not objectify the women behind the glass. The issue of abuse may not seem significant in Western Europe, but it is a lingering concern in the rest of the world.
With the rise in Human Trafficking, there is a concern on the legalization of prostitution. But at least in Amsterdam, the Women are protected and are even empowered to operate independently.
#Reason 12: Sip a Beer at the home of Heineken
Nightlife in Amsterdam definitely begins with a beer. You dont have to worry about where to go in Amsterdam after that. Even if you haven’t had time to visit the Heineken Museum, you should grab a Heineken during your trips to Amsterdam. I remember a lot of fun times I have had with the beer that originated from this place. Would be very relaxing to rent a boat and sip a Heineken in the canals of Amsterdam.
I am pretty sure that there are many people who do this in weekend breaks to Amsterdam. Of course you don’t have to drink only Heineken as there are over 50 breweries in the Netherlands.
Remember relishing a Pilsner in Prague and I make sure to order some Sake with my Sushi every time. I somehow strangely relish a Tsingtao with my Chinese food and a Kingfisher with my Indian food. This is what happens when you pour yourself a glass of wine every time you have a meal in Italy.
Otherwise, I am not much of a drinker but I do remember drinking several bottles of Heineken over the years in my life. Can’t wait to visit Copenhagen and make a Tuborg and Carlsberg cocktail in my guts.
#Reason 13: Cheap Amsterdam flights and hotel for weekend city breaks
My trip to Amsterdam was very economical. Apart from finding a great deal on Ryanair from Milan, I also found a great deal at a wonderful 4 star Hotel located a bit away from the city center. But it is right near the Airport and hence is ideal for weekend travelers. To reach the city center you would have to change two trams. But for the same amount you pay for 2 people in a city center Hostel, you could actually book a nice big room here.
But the Hotel not only has a beautiful quiet location, but it also has large comfortable rooms and beds. They also have a shuttle service to the nearby Airport.
You could actually travel to Amsterdam, drop your bags at the Park Plaza and head straight to the city to have your day of fun. You could party further late in the city but then you would have to rely on a Taxi to get back.
The capital of Netherlands is a place for everyone. There are many things for couples to do in this city. Just too many reasons to make Amsterdam the best city for tourism.
My travel in mid-July was at a perfect time. It, fortunately, happens to be the favorite time for tourists.Though visit from mid-April to Mid October should be good. Season is very important for European travel. I can totally vouch for that based on my experience visiting Venice throughout the year in all seasons.
Read about more travels on MilanKaRaja.com