Amsterdam – a Weekend Away in the Venice of the North?

Amsterdam – where to start? I’ve just got back from a long late November weekend there – if you’ve been before or if it’s your first time, I hope this review can enlighten you and provide tips on the highlights of the city. From my perspective, it was my second time in the city and I still rate it as one of the top weekend getaways for anyone in Europe. If you’re looking for a truly all-year-round cosmopolitan destination, look no further.

 

Setting the scene:

 

Amsterdam is lined with around 100 km of canals and 1500 bridges, there’s rarely a spot you’ll find without being close to a scenic, photo-ready water-edge. This means you’re never far away from the typical 17th century Amsterdam canal houses or gratchtenpand, fully equipped with rustic pulleys for trading supplies and a sense of history that sits within all their glory.

 

A typical Dutch sunset across the Amstel river. Source: lonelyplanet.com

 

One of the best things about Amsterdam is that it’s walkable. You could easily cover the city in all directions by foot. It feels as if it has been crafted extremely well – you can tell the Dutch engineered and designed it well throughout the centuries. There’s an abundance of options for metro, tram, bus, boat or bike. The airport sits less than half-an-hour away by train, taking you to Centraal Station which sits at the head of the city. Before you even enter the main street of Damrak, the tapestry of colour hits you.

 

Watch-it!

 

You need to watch your step in Amsterdam. It’s a cyclist’s city with an emphasis on the “c”. They even have their own lanes which are easily mistaken for pavements. Before long you’ll probably be on the receiving end of a tourist-intolerable local. You can almost imagine how chaotic the streets can become. Once you’ve had a walk around and visited the different districts, you may want to grab a coffee and pre-book some museums and galleries because Amsterdam has a true plethora of “ticklist-able” things to do. In one small pocket of space to the West of the city you’ll find the Von Gogh and Rijksmuseum. Check here for the best tips and tricks for buying tickets there > https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g188590-i60-k545843-Buying_tickets_for_van_gogh_museum_rijksmuseum-Amsterdam_North_Holland_Province.html

 

A typical view across the city. Bicycles are everywhere – you need to watch-out! Source: Iamsterdam.com

 

You must also pay a visit to Anne Frank’s house, and find some smaller, more exotic museums located around the canal-sides you will inevitably come across. For those daring enough there are museums of Cannabis, Prostitution and Sex that may be worth a glance to add to the novelty of the city. See here for a list of Amsterdam’s top museums and galleries > http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/netherlands/amsterdam/articles/Amsterdams-best-museums-and-art-galleries/

 

The city of red:

 

The Red Light District makes to be one of the most unique and open experiences you can find across any European city. Legalisation of prostitution and marijuana pulls in younger crowds looking for a thrill, that blends with older couples and groups in awe of Dutch impartiality and typically disparaged topics.

 

But what really marks Amsterdam as special is its ability to transform at night. As the sunset draws down upon the city, the distant red lights begin to flicker and reflect across the canals and streets. Slowly, the city forges a warm fire-like glare across the pavements and faces of those who occupy them. Bars quickly fill as the smell of the freshly made stroopwaffle satisfy the demand of hungry customers. At night it’s clear that Amsterdam has the ability to combine a beautiful past with a rough and rebellious contemporary city-feel. It feels immortal, almost verdant and accompanying to the changing times.

 

The red glare mentioned above. Source: Entouriste

 

Tourism and Looking ahead:

 

I could feel the greased wheels of tourism in every clean street and every tram or metro station which are either fully gentrified or being worked on. Clearly the city tax is working well (get ready to pay about €12 per person), but it did lead me to think of the consequences of Amsterdam’s year-on-year growth (5% average each year) in tourism since 2008. It was until I saw the fury and stress of cycling locals bumping into tourists that made me question where the city is heading. Could it be the next Barcelona, with flocking tourists almost becoming uncontrollable and the launch of a “war on tourism”? A beautiful city coupled with a temperate climate can equate to that tourist haven we all know and hate at times. And with streets stretching just 18 feet between house and canal, you can understand why tourism could get out of hand in Amsterdam – it’s a true threat.

 

However, it’s clear the local government encourages tourism as seen in their widely publicised 2040 masterplan. Amsterdam is set-up to become a smart city. One with new building developments which will “densify existing communities”. Building works are already sprawling across the city and wider suburban areas to cater for the expected 150,000 additional inhabitants by 2040. Is this the correct way forward for such a unique city?

 

Typical views of tourists flocking the Dutch streets. Source: citiesintransition.eu

 

Other articles, such as those written on politico.eu are suggesting the locals are battling against the influx of tourists and even proposing limiting the amount of days residents can rent out their Airbnb homes for. Beer-bikes like that of the below are already being banned and Amsterdam’s marketing bureau has already been cut down 20% from last year. All promising signs that the projected 30 million tourists visiting by 2025 (in a city housed by only 850,000) will try to be curbed as quickly as possible.

 

Beer-bikes are already being banned across the city. Source: roadcc

 

Conclusion:

 

Amsterdam is truly a unique city. I highly recommended this city for any traveller, couple or family alike and I now feel more inclined to go beyond to others parts of Holland and the Netherlands. Clearly there’s a divide across the future of Amsterdam and where it’s expected to land from a tourist boom of recent times. Please feel free to comment and share with your views of this article with us and others.

 

Thanks from the CTS team.

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