Amsterdam - to coffeeshop or not to coffeeshop
January 1, 1970
by Vladislava Genova
First time in Netherlands – train, please
So it’s my first time in the Netherlands. We’ve got five days here and we have decided to spend two of them – can you guess where? – yes, of course in Amsterdam. High expectations all over us and we are so excited to start exploring.
The first day started early as we’d spent the previous one in Maastricht but we wanted to make it as early as possible to Amsterdam not to miss a minute in this special place. So we woke up at around 7 in the morning and got ready for our first train ride in Holland. Woohoo! Great experience! If you go to the Netherlands (of course make some calculations if you are on a budget but) do use their trains! They are so convenient – they leave every five minutes for every direction possible and I am almost not exaggerating. Yes, not the cheapest thing for sure but in our case it was cheaper than renting a car and I would definitely say comfortable and convenient. The schedule is super smartly done, they are really fast and there is wifi on the trains – what else could you expect from a train ride?
While on the train we were planning our stay in Amsterdam, checking some places on the internet and making decisions about what we want to see and what we can skip this time. We are big fans of beer so one of the topics we had was the Heineken Experience Museum which we finally did not visit first because it was outside our route and secondly because we felt that it was not worth the ticket price. But maybe next time 😉
We became even more excited when the train entered the city and started approaching the train station – we had a quick peak towards some of the kanaals (you know the water canals that Holland is so famous for) and although the weather was typical for the country (cloudy and rainy) we could not wait anymore. When the train stopped at the central station we were the first ones to line up next to the door with our backpacks on (we usually travel with backpacks only to make our experience easier and to be more flexible).
And here we are in Amsterdam. The train station was so crowded we really wanted to go out as quickly as possible. So we headed towards our hotel which was super conveniently located on Rembrandt’s Square – a twenty-minute walk from the train station. The station itself impressed us with its magnificence and beauty.
We didn’t stop anywhere on our way to the hotel as it was a bit cold and we had our warmer clothes in our backpacks so we really wanted to get rid of the backpacks, change clothes and that’s exactly what we did. After checking into the hotel we decided to start by entering the first coffeeshop we saw – it was right under our hotel so even if we had not planned it it was just calling us.
Exploring Amsterdam on foot
After the coffeeshop visit the city had become a completely different place – we were very relaxed and we decided to walk around by ourselves before joining a free walking tour to explore the city with a local guide. We passed through the Flower Market which is so colourful that your eyes almost hurt. Did you know that you can actually buy seeds for blue tulips? I was so surprised to find out that these even existed.
And it was time for our free walking tour in Amsterdam. The guide was not actually local as we expected but the tour was still very good – it was lead by an Italian girl who had been living in Amsterdam for 2 years and before that she had been travelling all over the world. She had even lived in Australia for a while. So we met her on Dam Square – the most important meeting point in Amsterdam and we started the tour. We got to know a lot of interesting facts about the history of the city. Did you know that most of the houses have hooks on the upper part – they were designed like this to make it easier for the traders to lift up their goods to the last floor through the big windows as the bottom ones were often full of water and a lot of rats – still a problem for the city as well.
Of course she told us the stories about coffeeshops and the Red Light District but I will keep them for myself as you really need to go there and see and hear by yourself. Only one tip from me for the Red Lights – there is a club over there where you could actually sit and talk to the ladies and get to know better how they think and why they have decided to pursue this particular career. Really interesting!
After the tour, we spent the rest of the day walking around by ourselves, enjoying the bridges, the kanaals, the leaning houses and everything. What is not so nice about the city is that it is constantly crowded – especially in the evenings and especially at the most touristic destinations. Not really surprising but very exhausting – at least for me.
Parks and boats in Amsterdam
On the next day we decided to take it a little bit more slowly so we went to Vondelpark – the largest one in town and so beautiful! All the raining in the Netherlands obviously has at least one positive outcome and it’s the greenest green in the parks and all over the country. If you need a place to relax – the parks in Amsterdam are welcoming you the best possible way. They are so tidy and clean, quiet and green – you can see a lot of different birds, you can walk around or sit on a bench and enjoy.
We spent half a day there and after that as the sun was shining (surprisingly) we decided to go and join one of the many boat rides in the kanaals. Definitely a must-do! Exploring Amsterdam in the streets is completely different than doing it from a boat inside the kanaals.
Tired after two days of almost constant walking in this hectic place, we had a beer on Rembrandt’s Square and got to sleep and to prepare for our next adventure in the Hague and Rotterdam.
And if you want me to finally answer the question from up above – to coffeeshop or not to coffeeshop in Amsterdam is exactly like seeing the Vatican in Rome – definitely not the most amazing thing to do but cannot do without it when you first visit the place.