Amsterdam: The Vice of the Netherlands


Let's be honest, when one thinks of Amsterdam, two things come to mind: prostitutes and weed. It's a party destination, mostly for out-of-towners looking for a place to get drunk, stoned, and wander De Wallen with their friends, not actually intending to purchase any "services". In terms of being overrun by tourists, Amsterdam is comparable to Venice.

However, taking time to wander the medieval streets around the Oude Kerk or riding a boat through the canals in Jordaan, one can see just how beautiful and unique Amsterdam actually is. The old buildings throughout the city seem to lean over the sidewalks down below. They come in different shapes and sizes, all crammed right up against each other. Narrow streets, bike lanes, and bridges connect a series of islands that make up the entire town. It's a tight squeeze, but they've somehow made it work for almost eight centuries.

As the final stop on our European journey, Amsterdam was quite the sendoff. Yes, we drank lots of beer. Yes, we peeked at scantily-clad women. And yes, we spent time in a "coffeeshop". It was quite the experience, and a not-so-gentle reminder that we were ready to go home.

Warning: Some of these photos might be NSFW, especially the ones taken in the Red Light Secrets Museum.

Day One

We purchased our train tickets from Frankfurt to Amsterdam via Rail Europe. When we went to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof for our departure, we had some trouble printing them out. Rather than fumble around and miss our train, we hopped on our assigned seats and took off.

The agent on the train told us that we had to present a ticket or we'd be forced to pay for another. This was no cheap ride, so we were a little bit distressed, trying hard to explain our printing issue from before. He was patient with us and told us to jump off the train in Cologne, a stop on our route, to print out our tickets.

When we arrived in Cologne, we had a total of five minutes to jump off the train, run to the kiosk, and figure out how to print. As soon as the train stopped, I rushed out, shouldering through groups of tourists, and hastily printed our tickets! The agent let out a cheer of excitement with us as he scanned the tickets. We relaxed the rest of the way to Amsterdam!

We arrived at Amsterdam Centraal in the middle of a Friday, one of the busiest days for the city. It was quite crowded, but we managed to find our way out and over to the tram station just across the street.

We took the tram to the stop closest to our hotel in Rembrandt Square. As soon as we got off the tram, we were surrounded by bars, coffeeshops, and nightclubs. Our hotel for the weekend was a place named Hampshire Hotel. It was very sleek and modern. For the price, location, and amenities, I highly recommend this hotel!

After settling in and unpacking, we ventured out into the streets. Our plan was to head to the western part of town for dinner, while exploring and wandering along the way.

Amsterdam is a tight squeeze! The buildings are very narrow and cramped.

Tulips are very popular here! In fact, in January, Amsterdam has a National Tulip Day!

The buildings are crammed one after another. Despite the cramped look, the city is very beautiful!

Along the way, we stopped at a bar in one of the alleys by our restaurant. I asked the waiter his recommendation for a good, local beer. He looked at me funny and said, "Heineken, of course!" I totally forgot Heineken is brewed in Amsterdam!

After our drinks, we made our way to the restaurant!

Our dinner reservations were at a small, traditional Dutch restaurant named Haesje Claes Restaurant. It was extremely busy and the staff was very lively!

We started our dinner with buttered bread and another beer from the Netherlands named Texels.

Our appetizer was salad with croquettes, a very nice way to start our dinner. The salad was very refreshing.

And for the main courses: lamb shank and a meat sampler, each served on top of stamppot, a traditional Dutch potato dish.

After dinner, we made our way down to the infamous De Wallen, or Red Light District. I didn't take any photos here because I've heard the bouncers are notorious for tossing cameras into the canals. Either way, I didn't want to be "that guy" taking photos of prostitutes...

We stopped and took a quick tour at Red Light Secrets: The Museum of Prostitution. It provided a little bit of a backstory to the neighborhood and the history of prostitution as a profession. It's not exactly the Rijksmuseum, but it was still informative and fun.

Visitors could sit and see what it was like to be a prostitute looking out into the street.

The "guest rooms" were a little bit creepy.

Some guest rooms were fancier than others.

And some were... extreme.

When we walked out of the museum, we saw just how crowded the entire neighborhood was! It reminded me of New York City during Christmas, with crowds of tourists shuffling along the narrow sidewalks, shoulder-to-shoulder.

After escaping the crowds, we took a quick subway ride back to our hotel. We weren't tired quite yet, so we sat outside and had beer at a bar named Three Sisters Pub. It was fun sitting and people-watching, seeing other drunk tourists stumbling out on the streets.

We hopped across the street to another, less crowded, bar named The Old Bell. The bartender recommended a local beer from a craft brewery named Brouwerij 't IJ. More on the brewery later!

I ordered an IPA and it was very good! Nice and hoppy, just like an IPA should be.

Drunk, and in the mood for fast food, we made our way around the corner to a snack bar named Emmanuel Snackbar. They specialize in frites, especially large cones of frites topped with creamy mayonnaise.

It was every bit as disgustingly delicious as you could imagine!

Day Two

On our second day, the hangover from the night before wasn't too bad, but we were noticeably sluggish. We grabbed a couple of coffees at a shop right next to our hotel named Coffee Company.

It felt like an American coffee shop, with people working or studying at the tables.

We hopped on a tram back towards Amsterdam Centraal, the launching point for our small-boat canal cruise!

We bought our tickets from the visitor center close to the station. The cruise was run by City Sightseeing Amsterdam.

As we rode through the canals, the captain of the boat played an English tour-guide recording on the speaker system. It was an impersonal tour, but it was cool seeing and hearing about the different landmarks along the way.

We got some good views of Munttoren and De Sluyswacht. The Munttoren was once the house of the country's treasury during French occupation in the 15th century.

De Sluyswacht was the former house of the lock-keeper of this particular part of the canal. Both buildings were very well-preserved.

It's so amazing to see just how dense the housing units are in this city!

There were several bridges we cruised under. Each with a unique history.

This is the iconic Magere Brug, or "Skinny Bridge." It appeared in the 1971 James Bond thriller Diamonds are Forever!

Some canals were very narrow, but the captain was really good at maneuvering through them!

Cruising through the canals on a boat was a great way to see the city!

Since we skipped breakfast, we were very hungry after the boat tour. The original plan was to find pancakes, but it just didn't seem like it'd be enough. Instead, we decided to eat at a small joint named Burger Bar.

It was very reminiscent of Little Big Burger in Portland, Oregon. Each burger is made-to-order, with various options of meat, bread, and toppings.

When we finally got our burgers, I was astounded at just how big these burgers were!

We were full, but we were still craving something sweet after our burgers. So, we stopped at a pastry shop named Cakes and Bakes. We shared a butter and sugar waffle as we walked back to our hotel.

To our surprise, there was a little art sale going on in Rembrandt Square. We walked through to look at various displays of local artwork.

Due to our food coma, we hung out in the hotel room for a bit before heading back out.

After we a quick rest, we made our way back out into the city. By this time, there was a little bit of a drizzle.

We hopped on the tram over to the neighborhood of Jordaan. It's a former working-class neighborhood in the western part of town. Now, it it's quite unaffordable. Some of the most expensive homes in the city are in Jordaan.

It's a quaint and quiet neighborhood. Small shops and restaurants line the red-brick roads. It's very beautiful!

While wandering around, we walked into a small gift shop named Unicorn Boutique. The shop owner was very friendly and outgoing. He told us stories about how much Amsterdam has changed over the years and how long his family has owned the boutique.

Eventually, he helped my wife pick out a wallet to take home as a souvenir!

We continued exploring the neighborhood, occasionally seeking shelter under cover because of the rain.

Beer in the middle of the day? Why not?! Seems to be a common pattern on our European adventure. We stopped in for more local Heineken at a small bar named Cafe Wester. They played a pleasant selection of R&B music as we enjoyed our drinks.

The rain started to come down a little harder as we continued to walk around. We ducked into a another neighborhood coffee shop named Cafe de Barones. The decor was very nice, the Jimi Hendrix portrait made us feel right at home!

After leaving Jordaan, we stopped by the Royal Palace. We didn't get to go inside, but we admired is grandeur from the outside. Just across from the palace is the National Monument, a tall pillar commemorating the lives lost during Dutch resistance to Nazi occupation.

Continuing north, we found ourselves exploring more of the Red Light District. Yes, even in the day, there are prostitutes working the windows.

Though it was closed, we found this Hangover Information Center quite interesting!

We also happened to walk through Trompettersteeg, the narrowest street in Amsterdam!

We continued to wander over towards the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam. It's been standing tall since 1306 and is right in the middle of the Red Light District. It's a bit strange to find a church completely surrounded by windows of prostitutes.

Since we had a bit of free time and no real schedule, we hopped on the tram towards the eastern part of the city. It was a bit of a trek, but we were in no hurry. Our destination: Brouwerij 't IJ, a local craft brewery built next to an old windmill.

It was definitely a "hip" establishment, with many young people sampling the different beers they had to offer. Brewery tours were done for the day, but we were able to try out some of the local-only offerings.

Once we were finished with our beer, we took the tram back to our hotel and took a short nap before heading back out. By then, it was dinner time. We made reservations at a place named Indrapura, an Indonesian restaurant close to our hotel.

However, before having dinner, we stopped at Coffeeshop Smokey. It was a very chill cafe, very dark with neon lights decorating the inside.

We hung out a bit before heading out to make our dinner reservations next door. It was very relaxing.

Indonesian food is actually quite popular in Amsterdam. Indrapura serves up some of the best traditional dishes in the city.  We sat up on the second floor, overlooking the rest of the restaurant below. 

On the first floor of the restaurant, a pianist played classic popular hits from the 70s and 80s. He had some of the guests singing right along with him!

I don't remember what this appetizer was called, but it was very good!

While in Amsterdam, we decided to order the ever popular rijsttafel. It is a Dutch-Indonesian dish that translates to "rice table." It's basically a mini-buffet of several different side-dishes served with rice. It was a very fun meal to share and enjoy!

While it looked intimidating, it was actually a decent amount of food. Not too much, and definitely not too little!

For dessert, we stopped at a late-night pastry shop named Suffren. We were after yet another popular food item from the Netherlands named stroopwafel. It's basically two thin waffles held together by a layer of syrup in the middle.

The thing was huge and extremely sweet! Sharing a giant stroopwafel was the perfect way to end our last night in Amsterdam!

Ending the Party

By the end of our visit in Amsterdam, we knew we were ready to go home. The crowds, the booze, the weed, and the naked ladies were a strange and exciting way to end our European adventure. It truly signaled the end of a long, exhausting journey.

However, if we ever want to party it up in Europe, we know at least one destination we could visit. Maybe we'll meet again, Amsterdam!

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