Amsterdam | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. With more than one million inhabitants in its urban area, it is the country's largest city and its financial, cultural, and creative center. Amsterdam is colloquially known as Venice of the North, because of its lovely canals that criss-cross the city, its impressive architecture and more than 1,500 bridges. There is something for every traveler's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.

Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important trading centers in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. The city's small medieval center rapidly expanded as the Jordaan and the Canal District were constructed; the latter's cultural significance was acknowledged when it became a... Read more

Amsterdam

Destination:

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. With more than one million inhabitants in its urban area, it is the country's largest city and its financial, cultural, and creative center. Amsterdam is colloquially known as Venice of the North, because of its lovely canals that criss-cross the city, its impressive architecture and more than 1,500 bridges. There is something for every traveler's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.

Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important trading centers in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. The city's small medieval center rapidly expanded as the Jordaan and the Canal District were constructed; the latter's cultural significance was acknowledged when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded in all directions, with many new neighborhoods and suburbs designed in modernist styles.

Amsterdam is not the seat of the government, which is in The Hague. Partly because of this, the city has an informal atmosphere unlike other capital cities its size. In fact, Amsterdam has a history of non-conformism, tolerance and progressivism, all of which come together in its liberal policies concerning cannabis and prostitution. Attractions include the

Rijksmuseum

,

Van Gogh Museum

, Anne Frank House, Magere Brug, Albert Cuyp Market and the

Vondelpark

.

Orientation

The "Amsterdam" that most visitors experience is the city center, the semi-circle with Centraal Station at its apex. It corresponds to the city as it was around 1850. Five major concentric canals ring the Binnenstad: Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Singelgracht, together forming the Canal District. Other districts inside the city center are the Jordaan, a former working class area now popular with yuppies, and Plantage, a leafy and spacious area with botanical gardens and the zoo. The Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade and Mauritskade surround the city center and mark the location of the former city moat and fortifications. Almost everything outside this line was built after 1870.

The semi-circle is on the south side of the IJ, which is often called a river but more exactly is an estuary. Going east from Centraal Station, the railway passes the artificial islands of the redeveloped Eastern Docklands. North of the IJ is mainly housing, although a major dockland redevelopment has started there too.

The river Amstel flows into the city from the south. Originally, it flowed along the line Rokin-Damrak. The dam in the Amstel, which gives the city its name, was located under the present Bijenkorf department store near Dam Square. The original settlement was on the right bank of the Amstel, on the present Warmoesstraat: it is therefore the oldest street in the city. The city has expanded in all directions, except to the northeast of the A10 ring motorway. That area is a protected rural landscape of open fields and small villages considered a part of the Waterland region.

The radius of the semi-circle is about 2 km. All major tourist destinations, and most hotels, are located inside it or just outside it. As a result, a large swathe of Amsterdam is not visited by the average tourist: at least 90% of the population lives outside this area. Most economic activity in Amsterdam—the offices of the financial sector, the port—is near or outside the ring motorway, which is 4–5 km from the center.

The expansion of Amsterdam outside the ring motorway and the expansion of activity outside the city center is redefining what locals consider the 'central area' of Amsterdam. Zuid, especially with the construction of the Noord/Zuidlijn and the Zuidas, is becoming more and more important in the daily lives of the locals. Its significance for tourists has increased by the recently completed reconstruction work on the Museumplein and the adjoining museums.

Attitudes

Many people choose to visit Amsterdam because of its reputation for tolerance and progressivism. Prostitution is legalized and licensed in the Netherlands, so window prostitution is very visible in some areas of Amsterdam. The possession and consumption of small quantities of cannabis and hash, while technically illegal, is tolerated by authorities (the policy of gedogen). Coffeeshops are allowed to sell cannabis and hash for personal use, and Amsterdam has hundreds of these scattered over the city.

This does not mean that you can get away with anything in Amsterdam. In any case, public attitudes and official policy have hardened in recent years. The number of coffeeshops has decreased significantly and new laws forbid the selling of dried hallucinogenic mushrooms. Window prostitution outside the Oudezijds Achterburgwal is slowly but surely being closed down by the local authorities.

Depending on your viewpoint some people will consider Amsterdam an unwholesome city whereas other people will find the relaxed attitudes refreshing. If you avoid the Red Light District, Amsterdam is an excellent family destination.

 


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Amsterdam: Port Information


Cruise ships arrive to the cruise terminal, which is around 10 min walk from the city center. You can use tram, taxis can refuse drive the short trip.

Get around Amsterdam


Amsterdam's city center is fairly small, and almost abnormally flat, so you can easily get to most tourist destinations on foot. From Amsterdam Centraal, most areas in the city center can be reached within half an hour.

By public transit

Public transport within the city is operated by the GVB. The tram is the main form of public transport and there is a metro and dozens of (night)bus routes. Regional buses, and some suburban buses, are operated by Connexxion and EBS.

A new national ticketing system has recently been introduced, based on a contactless card called the OV-chipkaart. Since 3 June 2010, the 'strippenkaart' system has been abandoned on all forms of public transport in Amsterdam, making the OV-chipkaart the only valid way of traveling. To travel with a card, one has to check in at the start of the journey and check out at the end by holding the card in front of the card reader.

Three types of OV-chipkaart are available:

  • a personal card on which you can load weekly/monthly/yearly subscriptions
  • an anonymous card on which you can load money that can be spent on public transport
  • a disposable card that can be used for a limited number of hours/trips only

The first two types carry a fee of €7.50 for the card itself, and you have to have at least €4 on it to be able to travel. The OV-chipkaart can be obtained from GVB vending machines in all metro stations, from the desks at some larger stations (including Amsterdam Centraal) and some shops.

For visitors, the most useful type of travel pass is probably the day or multiple day pass. You can get them for 24 hours up to 168 hours. This allows the holder to travel on an unlimited number of journeys on the tram, metro and (night)bus throughout the validity period of the pass. On a tram, only the one day pass can be purchased from the conductor, so it's better to buy them at tourist offices (at Schiphol Airport and just outside Amsterdam Centraal), AKO bookstores, many hotels and GVB ticket offices. Day passes are not valid on buses operated by Connexxion and Arriva.

Prices as of August 2013: €7.50/24 hours, €12/48 hours, €16.50/72 hours, €21/96 hours, €26/120 hours, €29.50/144 hours and €32/168 hours. If you stay longer in Amsterdam, you can buy discounted weekly or monthly tickets from most post offices or other ticket sale points which are cheaper. GVB tickets are not valid on trains to Schiphol Airport. You can use them on buses to Schiphol but it's quicker to get there by train.

Tram

The tram has 18 lines and is the main form of public transport system in the central area. All tram stops have a detailed map of the system and the surrounding area. You can also get a free public transport map at the GVB ticket office (just outside Amsterdam Centraal).

Most trams these days have conductors, near the rear of the tram. Board by the driver or the conductor. If you have questions, the conductor will be sure to respond to your query. You can buy 1 hr and 24 hr tickets at the conductors.

Metro

There is a four line metro, including a short underground section in the city center, that serves the suburbs. It takes about 15–20 minutes from Centraal Station to Zuid or Bijlmer-ArenA in Zuidoost.

A fifth metro line, the Noord/Zuidlijn, is currently under construction. It's an underground metro line that will connect the north of Amsterdam directly with its southern suburbs, hence the name. This major project started in 2003 and has proved somewhat of a disaster for the local government with big budget overruns and delays. Building in the wet soil of Amsterdam is difficult and some buildings along the line have sustained damage due to subsidence. Visitors to Amsterdam will notice the ongoing roadworks along the route of the metro line. It is now estimated for completion in 2017.

Bus

Just like the tram and metro, local buses are operated by the GVB. There are also suburban buses to nearby towns such as Haarlem and Uithoorn; these are operated by Connexxion or EBS (the company name and house style is prominent on the bus side) and can be used within Amsterdam if you travel with an OV-chipkaart. Enter buses only via the front door.

By boat

There are several ferry services across the IJ river, between the city center and Noord, the most frequent runs every 7 minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern (rear) side of Amsterdam Centraal. All ferries are free of charge and provide nice views of the harbor and skyline.

The nicest one is the 15 min service to the NDSM-werf, a funky, up and coming, industrial neighborhood with a nice cafe-bar (IJkantine), restaurant (Noorderlicht), indoor skateboard park, and the Pancake Boat (Pannenkoekenboot) which sails many times each week. Ferries leave every 30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal and from the NDSM-werf. Double frequencies during rush hours.

You can also hop on the ferry to Buiksloterweg, and then make a short walk to the EYE Film Institute for its architecture and free exhibition in the basement.

By bicycle

A pleasant way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bicycle. There are approximately 750,000 people living in Amsterdam and they own about 800,000 bicycles. The city is very, very bike-friendly, and there are separate bike lanes on most major streets. In the city center, however, there is often not enough space for a bike lane, so cars and cyclists share narrow streets.

Cyclists do not have the right of way even though it might appear like that when observing the typical Amsterdammer's cycling behavior. Be very careful and watch out for other cyclists. Always show other traffic where you're going (e.g. by holding out your hand) in order to avoid accidents and smoothen the traffic flow. If not indicated otherwise by signs, the right-before-left rule applies.

Avoid getting your tire in the tram rails; it's a nasty fall. Always cross tram rails at an angle. When crossing tram lanes, watch out for fast approaching taxis. They have a rather ruthless driving style. Let none of the above deter you from doing it the Amsterdam way. Rent a bike! There are bike rental shops at railway stations and several others in and around the city center. Bikes cost about €9 to €20 per day. (Bring wet gear.)

A good map for cycling (routes, repairs, rentals and also public transport) is Amsterdam op de fiets (a Cito-plan). Bicycles can be taken for free on all ferries across the IJ, on all metros, and on some carriages of tram 26 with a bike supplement fee on the OV-chipkaart (€1.60 in 2013, not allowed in rush hours). Use the special bike racks, locations indicated by a bicycle sign on the outside of the carriage.

Make sure to get a good lock (or two), and to use it. Amsterdam has one of the highest bicycle theft rates in the world. Note also that if buying a bike, prices that seem too good to be true are stolen bikes. Any bike offered for sale to passers-by, on the street, is certainly stolen. There's an old Amsterdam joke: when calling out to a large group of cyclists passing by "Hey, that's my bike!" about five people will jump off "their" bikes and start running.

  • Black Bikes (Het Zwarte Fietsenplan), Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 146 (tram 1, 2, 5, 13 or 17 to Dam), ☎ +31 20 670-8531. M-F 08:00-20:00, Sa Su 09:00-19:00. Rent traditional black bikes. There are no bright red, yellow, blue or orange bikes in their shops. There are three locations throughout the city center and the shops have long opening hours, 7 days a week. Also rents out cargobikes for kids. €9 (3 hr), €13 (24 hr).
  • Frederic, Brouwersgracht 78, ☎ +31 20 624-5509. Bike, insurance, bags, locks, and children seats all included in the asking price. Close to Centraal Station. Bikes are offered "incognito", for the discerning guest who does not want to appear "touristy". €8 (3 hr), €10 (day till 17:30), €15 (24 hr), €25 (2 days), €35 (3 days).
  • MacBike, Stationsplein 33 (tram or metro to Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 625-3845. 24 hours daily. Perhaps the most ubiquitous bicycle rental agency in Amsterdam, their bicycles are painted red with a MacBike sign on the front, everyone will know you're visiting. The bicycles are reliable, and in a good condition. Several locations around the city center for assistance or repairs. Online bicycle reservations at their website. €7.50 (3 hr), €9.75 (24 hr), every day extra €6.
  • Orangebike, ☎ +31 20 354-1781, e-mail: info@orange-bike.nl. 09:00-18:00 daily. Their bikes are not so obviously colored, more discrete, reliable and sturdy. The typical Dutch granny bikes are available. Online reservations can be made. €5 (1 hr), €6.50 (3 hr), €9.50 (day till 18:00), €11 (24 hr), €17.50 (2 days).
  • Rent a bike Damstraat, Damstraat 20-22 (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Dam), ☎ +31 20 625-5029. 09:00-18:00 daily. Daily to weekly rentals. They have promotions in place with several hotels for "discount tickets", ask at the front desk. Offers repairs for your bike and also has new and used bike sales. €12.50 for the first 24 hr, insurance included.
  • Star Bikes Rental, De Ruyterkade 127 (tram or metro to Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 620-3215. M-F 08:00-19:00, Sa Su 09:00-19:00. Classic and solid Dutch bikes for those who want to fit in with the locals. They have the traditional black granny, pick-ups, tandems, bikes for kids and for disabled needs. You can also arrange exclusive picnic and barbecue sets within your rental. €5 (4 hr), €7 (a day) or €9 (24 hr), 2 lockers included.
  • OV-fiets, any Amsterdam train station (except Holendrecht and Science Park), plus other locations. This cycle hire service, run by Dutch Railways (NS), is mostly used by Dutch residents, as a Dutch bank account is required for the yearly subscription. Also an OV-chipkaart is needed. If you manage to obtain these, it's a very good option due to its ubiquity and low cost. €10 per year (subscription), plus €3.15 per 24 hr (usage).

The bicycle is a good way to explore the surrounding countryside. Within half an hour you're out of town. Go north, take the ferry across the IJ and cycle to Waterland. Or go south, into the Amsterdamse Bos, a giant park, or follow the river Amstel where Rembrandt worked. You can also take your bike onto the metro to the end of line station Gaasperplas, and cycle along rivers and windmills to old fortified towns like Weesp, Muiden and Naarden.

Cycle Routes

Amsterdam Amstel Cycle Route (54 or 46 km) - Idyllic rivers, villages and forts.

Marken Cycle Route (51 or 45 km) - Former island on the doorstep of Amsterdam.

By taxi

Taxis in Amsterdam are plentiful but expensive. Hailing taxis on the street is generally not to be recommended unless you are going to a well-known destination (e.g. Centraal Station or Schiphol). The recent liberalization of the taxi market in Amsterdam led to an influx of taxi drivers who have little or no clue of where they are going and who drive erratically and dangerously (e.g., driving on bicycle lanes instead of the main road or ignoring red lights). Tourists are advised to stick to public transport if at all possible. Get into a taxi only if you know the route yourself and are able to give directions to the taxi driver and if you know roughly how much the journey ought to cost so you don't get cheated.

Some drivers, traditionally at Centraal Station or Leidseplein, will refuse short trips or will quote outrageously high fares, even though all taxis are metered. Even if you convince the driver to use the meter, he will often take a circuitous route that racks up €15 or more on the meter. For reference, no trip within the historic center should cost more than €10 or so. In 2012, the car service Uber (using their mobile app) became available in Amsterdam. Although slightly more expensive than a normal taxi, you can avoid a lot of the problems associated with taking an Amsterdam taxi from busy areas (Centraal Station/Leidseplein) and at peak evening hours.

The Netherlands (and Amsterdam) is in the middle of a huge taxi liberalization scheme which has been jarring to all involved. After many missteps, the government has introduced an unusual pricing scheme. First you feel sticker shock as the initial fare is now €7.50. Luckily, that includes the first two kilometres of travel and there is no charge for waiting in traffic. If you need to run in somewhere, you need to negotiate a waiting fee with the driver. 50 cents per minute is customary.

Unlicensed, illegal cabbies operate mainly in Zuidoost. These aren't easily recognized as such, and most certainly don't drive Mercedes cars. They are known as snorders and most easily reached by mobile phone. Rides within Zuidoost (the Bijlmer) range from €2.50 to €5, whereas Zuidoost-Center can run up to €12.50. Snorders have a shady reputation, so consider their services only if you are adventurous.

Tuk-tuks, a Thai-influenced transportation service using three-wheeled, open-air (but covered) motorized vehicles was introduced in August 2007 and may be a more economical and fast way to get around the city center compared to metered taxis. Tuk-tuk pricing is based on a zone system. Within a zone, a ride is €3.50 per person, €5 for 2 persons and €6.50 for 3 persons. If you go to another zone, €3.50 is added (irrespective of number of persons). This service is handy if past the regular tram/bus/metro service hours (approximately half past midnight). They take reservations 24 hr/day (☎ 0900 993-3399) and there is a fee of €0.55 per call.

By car

It is practical to use a car only outside of the historic center; within the historic center, a traveler is advised to stay with public transport. In Amsterdam, a car is generally a liability and not an asset, as traffic is dense and parking spaces are quite expensive and very hard to find. Use a car only if you are going to an obscure location many kilometers out that is not served by public transport, or during the less busy times of the day or week, you may want to park near the Centraal Station and take the tram or walk. Driving here is a pain: many of the streets are narrow, the traffic (and parking) signs are baroque and obscure, and cyclists and pedestrians may get in your way. Plus, petrol is about €1.54 to €1.7 per liter.

You can try parking at one of the secured parking garages, for example under Museumplein, or near Centraal Station, and then walk around the city center, or get on a tram. Car parking is very expensive in Amsterdam and it's often hard to find a place to park. You can choose to pay by the hour or for the whole day. Parking is free outside the center on Sunday—there is always a spot available on the Albert Cuypstraat (which is a market during the rest of the week). From there, it is a 5 minute tram ride or 15 minutes walk to the city center.

You can park for free in some parts of Amsterdam outside the city center though this is slowly changing. Parking is still free in some areas in Noord, and you can take the bus from the Mosplein stop to the city center easily. Plenty of buses run through here. Another option is to park your car far outside the city center at a Park and Ride facility. For €8 you get a full day (24 hr) of parking and a return ticket to the city center. The ride takes about 15 minutes. Look for the P+R signs.

Popular car rental chains operate in a smaller capacity in Amsterdam, including Avis and Budget. Most recently Car 2 Go has all-electric smart cars available within and around the city.

What to see in Amsterdam


Architecture

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centers in Europe, with about 7,000 registered historic buildings. The street pattern has been largely unchanged since the 19th century—there was no major bombing during World War II. The center consists of 90 islands linked by 400 bridges, some of them beautifully lit at night.

The inner part of the city center, the Binnenstad, dates from medieval times. The oldest streets are the Warmoesstraat and the Zeedijk in the Oudezijde of the Binnenstad. As buildings were made of wood in the Middle Ages, not many of this period's buildings have survived. Two medieval wooden houses did survive though, at Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1. Other old houses are Warmoesstraat 83 (built around 1400), Warmoesstraat 5 (around 1500) and Begijnhof 2-3 (around 1425). The Begijnhof is a late-medieval enclosed courtyard with the houses of beguines, Roman Catholic women living in a semi-religious community. Beguines are found in Northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and north-western Germany. House number 34 at the Begijnhof is the oldest home in Amsterdam. Entry to the courtyard and surrounding gardens is free, but be careful not to disturb the local community still living here.

One of the most prominent features is the Canal District, a concentric ring of canals built in the 17th century. The merchant-based oligarchy that ruled the trading city of Amsterdam built canal houses and mansions in the most prestigious locations here, especially along the main canals. Typical for the country are its traditional white draw bridges. The best example has to be the Magere Brug, which is over 300 years old and nearly in its original capacity. It is a beautiful place to overlook the river and take in some traditional Dutch architecture.

The Jordaan was built around 1650 along with the Canal District, but not for the wealthy merchants. For a long time it was considered a typical working-class area, and included some notorious slums. The name probably derives from the nickname 'Jordan' for the Prinsengracht. Apart from a few wider canals, the streets are narrow, in an incomplete grid pattern (as the grid followed the lines of the former polders located here in medieval times). This district is the best example of "gentrification" in the Netherlands, as recently it turned into a hip boutique district.

There are several large warehouses for more specific uses. The biggest is the Admiralty Arsenal (1656-1657), now Het Scheepvaartmuseum at Kattenburgerplein. Others include the former turf warehouses (1550) along the Nes, now the municipal pawn office; a similar warehouse at Waterlooplein 69-75 (Arsenaal, 1610), now an architectural academy, and the warehouse of the West India Company (1642) at the corner of Prins Hendrikkade and 's-Gravenhekje. The city office for architectural heritage 1 has an excellent online introduction to the architectural history and the types of historical buildings available. The website includes a cycle route along important examples.

Windmills were not built in urban areas, since the buildings obstructed the wind. The windmills in Amsterdam were all originally outside its city walls. There are a total of eight windmills in the city, most of them in West. However, the best one to visit is De Gooyer, which is not far from the city centre, and is being used as a brewery. The only windmill fully open to the public is the Molen van Sloten in Sloten, a former village now part of West.

Museums

Amsterdam has an amazing collection of museums, ranging from masterpieces of art to porn, vodka and cannabis. The most popular ones can get very crowded in the summer peak season, so it's worth exploring advance tickets or getting there off-peak (e.g. very early in the morning). Some of the quality museums that you can't miss:

Rijksmuseum — absolutely top-class museum that has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Some artists you can't overlook are Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The must-sees are Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Milkmaid. The museum also boasts a substantial collection of Asian art. The Rijksmuseum was under heavy construction until early 2013, but has re-opened in full capacity on the 14th of april, 2013.

Van Gogh Museum — even someone with little knowledge of art must have heard about Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colours and emotional impact. This museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world. A hint: you can book a ticket online and skip the cashier line.

Anne Frank House — dedicated to Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of the building (known as the Achterhuis). It's an exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, but also highlights other forms of persecution and discrimination. Mind that there could be quite a line in the evening/weekends in summer.

The other museums are described in the district articles.

The Museum Card (Museumkaart). It covers the cost of admission to over 400 museums across the Netherlands and you can buy it at most major museums. It is valid for an entire year, and you will need to write your name, birthday, and gender on it. If you are going to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, this card can quickly pay for itself. Another advantage of having this card is that you can visit the same museum twice at no extra cost (for example Rijksmuseum is so huge you may want to spread it over two visits), or try out museums you're not sure you will like. The tickets to the major museums, including the audio guide, can be bought early from the tourist information desk at no extra cost. Alternatively, for short stays, you can consider buying the Iamsterdam card, starting at €42 per day, which includes "free" access to Amsterdam museums, public transport and discount on many tourist attractions.

 

Churches and synagogues

Since the Middle Ages and throughout the 17th century, the Netherlands was a country with a relatively high degree of freedom and tolerance towards other religions and cultures, especially compared to other countries in Europe. Between 1590 and 1800, the estimated foreign-born population was never less than 5 percent, many of them settling in Amsterdam. This led to a large diaspora of Jews, Huguenots (French protestants), Flemish, Poles and other peoples in the city. The Jewish people especially have always had a large presence in Amsterdam, notably in the Old Jewish Quarter (though this quarter has been in a status of decay since World War II). The most prominent synagogue is The Esnoga (or The Portuguese Synagogue) , built in 1675 in an austere Classicist style.

As the Netherlands was a protestant nation, most of the churches are from this branch of Christianity. Some of the most notable churches:

Oude Kerk (1306) Located on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in the red-light district. The oldest of the five main churches in the historic centre. You can climb the tower from April to September on Saturday & Sunday, every half-hour - but make sure you either do that early or stop by to book a climb in the morning, it could be sold out by the end of the day. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people).
Nieuwe Kerk (15th century). Located on Dam Square. Used for royal coronations, most recently the crowning of King Willem-Alexander in 2013, and royal weddings, most recently the wedding of crown prince Willem-Alexander to princess Máxima in 2002. Today, the church is no longer used for services but is now a popular exhibition space.
Zuiderkerk (built 1603-1611). Located on Zuiderkerkhof ("Southern Graveyard") square. Now an information centre on housing and planning. You can visit the tower from April to September Monday to Saturday (with guide only) every half-hour. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 15 people).
Noorderkerk (built 1620-1623). Located on Noordermarkt on the Prinsengracht.
Westerkerk (built 1620-1631). Located on Westermarkt near the Anne Frank House. The church is open (free) for visitors from Monday to Friday, 11AM-3PM, from April to September. You can also climb the tower (with guide only) every half-hour, Mon to Saturday. This is 6-person-at-a-time journey, thus the amount of visitors per day is limited - make sure you do the climb (or book it) in early hours. The tower is also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people). In good weather you can see all of Amsterdam, and as far as the coast.

The late-medieval city also had smaller chapels such as the Sint Olofskapel (circa 1440) on Zeedijk, and convent chapels such as the Agnietenkapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 (originally 1470), now the University of Amsterdam museum. Later churches included the Oosterkerk (1669) in the eastern islands, and the heavily restored Lutheran Church on the Singel (1671), now used by a hotel as a conference centre. Catholic churches were long forbidden, and built again only in the 19th-century: the most prominent is the Neo-Baroque Church of St. Nicholas (1887) opposite Central Station.

Also, investigate some of the "hidden churches" found in Amsterdam, mainly Catholic churches that remained in activity following the Reformation. A prominent hidden church is Amstelkring Museum (Our Lord in the Attic Chapel). Well worth the visit. Two hidden churches still in use are the Begijnhofchapel near the Spui, and the Papegaaikerk in the Kalverstreet (both Catholic).

Modern architecture

Since there was little large-scale demolition in the historic city center, most modern architecture is outside of it. Immediately outside the Singelgracht (the former city moat) is a ring of 19th century housing. The most prominent buildings from this period are the Amsterdam Centraal railway station (1889) and the Rijksmuseum (1885), both by Pierre Cuypers. De Pijp is a textbook example of 19th century revolution-build, cheap construction housing. The most prominent in architectural history are the residential complexes by architects of the Amsterdam School, for instance at Zaanstraat and Oostzaanstraat in West. The Amsterdam School is a style of Expressionist architecture that arose from 1910 through about 1930. Examples can be found in De Baarsjes in West and the Rivierenbuurt in Zuid.

A completely different approach to architecture has been followed in the Bijlmer, a huge architectural project undertaken in the 1970s. A series of nearly identical high-rise buildings were laid out in a hexagonal grid with a strict separation of pedestrian and car traffic. It has been a revolutionary way of thinking in the architectural world, but within a decade the district started to make headlines with crime and robberies. As these high-rises are being torn down, the safety situation has improved, and now modern office buildings are taking their place.

The 1990s and 2000s also left its mark as a revolutionary time in architectural design. The Eastern Docklands is the largest concentration of modern residential buildings. The zone includes three artificial islands: Borneo, Sporenburg, and KNSM/Java-eiland. The latter has been designed as a modern re-imagining of the old Canal District. Across from it is the brand new Piet Heinkade and some adjoining projects. The largest concentration of box-like office buildings is in the Zuidas and in Zuidoost. Some spectacular buildings are Amsterdam ArenA stadium and the new Bijlmer-ArenA railway station.

Parks

The locals spend their summer days in Amsterdam opening a red wine in the Vondelpark — and so should you. Every district in Amsterdam has at least one park, but the Vondelpark in South is notable for its size and convivial atmosphere. The neighbourhood best known for its greenery is the Plantage. Besides its leafy boulevards and grand mansions, it also features the botanical gardens of the Hortus Botanicus. Finally, Artis Zoo is a good attraction for the kids.

A more recent tradition is the opening of so-called city beaches. Yes, it's now possible to lie in the sand far from any natural coastline! Amsterdam has three of these beaches, which are located in West, East and South. The one in the east is probably the best, and you get the fine architecture and atmosphere of the IJburg neighbourhood thrown in for free.

Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. Known as 'De Wallen' (the quays) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and some adjoining streets (such as Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk). The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums — this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by window prostitution. The area has many sex shops and peep show bars.This section of town is a common attraction for bachelors celebrating a stag night, if you ever get hassled, a firm and loud "Leave me alone" will work most of the time.

What to do in Amsterdam


Amsterdam/Old Centre

  • Jewish Amsterdam Tour. Guided visit of Portuguese Synagogue, Jewish Historical Museum and Holocaust Memorial. With professional Jewish guide.

Amsterdam/Canal Ring

  • Pathe Tuschinski, Reguliersbreestraat 26, film theater worth a visit if only for its Jugendstil interior. With the exception of some animated movies (and even those are usually available in the original language as well), all movies are subtitled and not dubbed, so you should be able to enjoy all the standard Hollywood fare in the original English.
  • Boom Chicago, Leidseplein 12, ☎ +31 20 530 7300. The Amsterdam comedy institution since 1993. English language sketch and improv comedy show with extensive use of video, music and the internet. The troupe is sharp and skewers current events, trends and life and local events in Amsterdam. Perhaps the best comedy show in any city. Good food is served before the show and drink service continues all night. 
  • De Poezenboot  Singel 38 G. You really like cats? The poezenboot (cat boat) is an refuge for cats awaiting adoption.
  • Holland Casino Max Euweplein 62, 1017 MB, +31 20 521 1111. Hours: 12pm – 3am, every day. For many people, the 5€ entrance fee will be a big downturn but once you're inside, it's actually quite nice. The location is close to Vondelpark. It is worth it if you are going to stay a while, if you are a keen gambler but not otherwise. Do not expect anything special but I found the casino to be quite big in fact and offer a wide range of games. The minimum on roulette was €5 while the cheapest blackjack was €10. The staff was fairly nonchalant, not super friendly.
  • The Red Light District is certainly one of the major tourist attractions because it honors one of the oldest professions in the world. Everyone, from men, young and old, to couples holding hands and pointing in shock of it all, and giggling groups of women who are curious about the rumors surrounding this area, will have fun and will not be disappointed. You have got to check it out for yourself.
  • De Dam square is where the royal palace is located. All roads lead to Dam Square, the real heart of Amsterdam, where The Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and the War Memorial overlook this vast and bustling open space. It is a great center point if you get separated from your group during this trip, or any other trip you may take in Amsterdam!
  • Vondelpark Right next to their Vondelpark Hotel. It is free. In the summer this is the place to meet up and picnic, read a book in the sun or play a game of football with your friends. A friendly buzzing atmosphere which is close to the Museums so after an intense visit a great place to relax and recuperate for the next adventure! It has the loveliest gardens to wonder through in Amsterdam. In the winter still a great place to go for a run in the chill weather.

Amsterdam/Jordaan

  • Theater Amsterdam, Danzigerkade 5, ☎ +31 20-7055000. Anne the play. A new theatrical adaptation of Anne Frank’s unedited diaries is being played at the new, specially built modern venue Theater Amsterdam, to host the critically acclaimed monumental play entitled Anne, created in close collaboration with The Anne Frank Fonds Basel, the universal heir of the family, founded by Anne’s father Otto Frank as a charitable organization, and the Dutch National Theatre. The play has been written by acclaimed Dutch authors Jessica Durlacher and Leon de Winter. The play features a unique hi-tech innovation the Multi-Lingual Translation System that allows visitors from around the world to enjoy the show. It is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and Dutch.


Several companies offer private tours by car, van, or mini bus for groups of up to 8 people. Bike tours are also available at a more affordable price, and offer a more authentic Dutch experience.

Other companies offer canal cruises, usually lasting from one to two hours. Departures from: Prins Hendrikkade opposite Centraal Station; quayside Damrak; Rokin near Spui; Stadhouderskade 25 near Leidseplein.

The Canal Bus. Runs three fixed routes, stopping near major attractions (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's House, etc.). You can get on or off as often as you like, but it is expensive. The first boats start between 9.15AM. and 10.45AM. depending on which stop you get on. The last boats start dropping off at around 7 p.m.

Lovers Canal Cruise start opposite the Rijksmuseum. You cannot get on and off. The cruise is about 1 hr.

Amsterdam Boat Guide. Local company offering private boat tours in classic boats. Canal cruises, dinner cruises etc.

Amsterdam Jewel Cruises offers an evening dinner cruise. It is the only classic boat offering a private table for a romantic dinner cruise. A la carte dining, but not cheap! The cruise starts at 7.30 pm and lasts just under three hours.

You can cruise the canals yourself, without the commentary with a canal bike (pedal boat) or rented boat.

Boats4rent Boat Hire. At Boats4rent you can rent and drive your own electric boat for max. 6 people. Boats4rent is located at the Westerpark, very close to the Brouwersgracht and the other main city center canals. You don't need a license, nor experience to rent a boat.

Boaty Rental Boats. Boaty offers rental boats (max. 6 persons) for your own private tour: decide where to go yourself or choose one of Boaty's free canal routes. These rental boats are electrically driven which means they are silent and free of exhaust fumes. They are charged with renewable energy every night so you can enjoy your time on the water as long as you like. The boats are very stable, unsinkable and of course the rental is accompanied by free life vests in different sizes.


Venetian Gondola. You can also rent a gondola, hand made by an Amsterdam girl who traveled to Venice to learn the craft and build her own Gondola which she brought back to Amsterdam.

Watch a movie at one of the over 55 cinemas.

Cruise around Amsterdam in a vintage sidecar motorcycle with Amsterdam sidecar tours. They have several tour options, starting at 45 eur a person for an hour.

What to eat and drink in Amsterdam


Eat


There is a large diversity of restaurants in Amsterdam, especially if you are looking for Asian cuisine, and although some of it is tailored to the fairly bland local tastes, it is possible to find quite fiery food if you look for it. The influence of the Dutch colonial past is apparent, as can be seen in the wide array of Indonesian and Surinamese restaurants. As in other cities with a large number of tourists, better value can often be found in streets that are not main tourist corridors.

Most Asian restaurants are clustered at the Zeedijk near the Nieuwmarkt and it is often dubbed as Amsterdam's Chinatown. It's also home to many tokos, small Asian grocery stores that sell Eastern food and spices. Chinatown offers plenty of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants, usually good value. Indonesian restaurants are usually of excellent quality, but Indian ones can be expensive. For a budget meal, check out the various Middle Eastern restaurants around the Damstraat and Muntplein. The numerous falafel bars have a good value, often sporting an "all you can pile" salad bar.

Surinamese food is widely available and worth a try. The highest concentration of Surinamese restaurants can be found in Zuid, especially in the Albert Cuypstraat. Locals recommend the roti met bonen, moksi meti, petjil and bojo as dessert. Try the dawet as well; this typical drink is made from milk, coconut milk and rose sirup and has sago balls in it. Most kids like it.

The Lange Leidsedwarsstraat (just off Leidseplein) has about five Italian restaurants that sell pasta or pizza for €5. Many restaurants of all kinds can be found in the Haarlemmerbuurt. Also worth trying is the Van Woustraat in De Pijp, or continue to the Rijnstraat in the Rivierenbuurt. Exquisite but expensive restaurants can be found in the Utrechtsestraat. While there are exceptions, in general avoid restaurants along Damrak and be cautious around Leidseplein—they are well known tourist traps.

Local specialties

Cheese can be bought at the Albert Cuyp Market, or at specialist cheese shops found around the city center. Dutch cheese is traditionally firm, made in large wax-covered wheels, and falls into two main categories—young and old. There is a rich variety within these categories. Among the more unusual young cheeses is cumin cheese (komijnenkaas), which is particular to the Netherlands. Sheep cheese (schapenkaas) and goat cheese (geitenkaas) are also common. Old cheese can be made of any sort of milk, and is often reminiscent of Italian Parmesan in consistency and sharpness of flavour.

Check out bitterballen, fried breaded ragout balls, and kroketten (the same, but shaped like a cylinder), but take care not to burn your mouth. Also don't forget to try a traditional herring or a broodje haring (herring sandwich), available from fish stalls around the city. Herring in Amsterdam is usually served with onions and pickles. A good try is the fish stand on the Koningsplein near the Bloemenmarkt. Syrup waffles (stroopwafels) are made fresh at the Albert Cuyp. If you're visiting in late November or December, you can enjoy oliebollen, which are round blobs of sweet fried dough embedded with raisins (sultanas) and dusted with powdered sugar.

Drink


Amsterdam's famously wild nightlife caters to all tastes and budgets. The archetypical Amsterdam watering hole is the bruine café ("brown bar"), a neighborhood bar of sorts with gorgeous dark wood panelling—hence the name—and booths. Grand cafés are more grand and spacious, and also serve small food portions. These usually have at least one long table with newspapers and magazines. Lounge and designer bars have recently been popping up across the city catering to the city's younger and more trend susceptible crowd. If you're a beer lover consider visiting a beer shop or tasting room in the Binnenstad or the brewery in Plantage. There are some excellent beers you can get from this part of the world such as wheat beer (witbeer).

The nightclubs in Amsterdam are not as rough as one might think. Many of them congregate around Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein in the Canal District. You can't go wrong at Melkweg, Sugar Factory and Paradiso, three live music venues that usually have large queues in weekends. Paradiso has the best interior, as it used to be a church, while Melkweg feels more like a nightclub. Sugar Factory is a little more intimate and is a multidisciplinary platform for young talent. Jimmy Woo is an impressive VIP-room, and a strict dress code applies. There are also some nightclubs in Oost, such as Panama, and near the Westerpark. Amsterdam's gay nightlife is not as vibrant it used to be, but there is still an active community in the Reguliersdwarsstraat in the Canal District. The annual gay pride in August is a fun event that can be attended by gays and straights alike.

Coffeeshops

Amsterdam is renowned for its liberal drug policy. Coffeeshops (in English, but written as one word; not to be confused with coffeehouses or cafes) are allowed to sell cannabis and hash for personal use (not more than 5 grams). While technically still illegal, mostly to comply with international treaties, personal use of (soft) drugs are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under an official policy of gedogen; literally this means to accept or tolerate, legally it is a doctrine of non-prosecution on the basis that action taken would be so highly irregular as to constitute selective prosecution. The city council of Amsterdam allows coffeeshops to operate only with the provision of set, non-transferable licenses as shown by an official green and white sticker on the window of a coffeeshop. Coffeeshops are to sell only soft drugs (such as cannabis), selling of other drugs is not allowed. Also selling of dried hallucinogenic mushrooms is not allowed.

There are about 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, most of them in the Binnenstad. Marijuana is mostly sold in one-gram increments with a maximum limit of 5 grams per transaction. Prices hover around €7.50 for 1 gram, with the average joint holding around 0.33g. Most coffeeshops are happy to recommend varieties and prepare your joint for you. Some offer vaporizers/inhalators for people who don't want to smoke. Smoking paraphernalia (grinders, rolling papers, bongs, vaporizers, etc.) is usually available upon request. It is common practice not to smoke at a coffeeshop without purchasing something from the establishment first, be it coffee, a Coke, or marijuana. All coffeeshops do, indeed, sell coffee as well. ID is requested upon entrance to each establishment, and more often than not the only acceptable ID (except for Dutch citizens) is a passport.

Many coffeeshops offer a 'smoking lounge' where soft drugs may be used. Also note that despite the confusion on the subject, the country-wide smoking ban applies only to tobacco. However, since the Dutch commonly smoke tobacco mixed with their marijuana or hash, many coffeeshops, especially those unaccustomed to tourists, may require all smoking to be done in a separated smoking section or outdoors. Most central coffeeshops with large tourist clientèles will allow marijuana or hash smoking in their entire space, requiring you to smoke in the separated section only if your joint contains tobacco. Many coffeeshops also provide a non-tobacco herbal filler for those who find pure joints too strong. You may usually smoke joints containing this herbal filler anywhere within the coffeeshop although individual house rules may vary. If in doubt, always ask the staff.

Amsterdam hosts the Cannabis Cup, the most important marijuana related event in the world every year during the week of Thanksgiving. The Cannabis Cup is organized by High Times magazine, and offers both tourists and natives the chance to enjoy 5 days of consuming and judging marijuana in different forms. Participants are eligible to pay $199 in advance or €250 at the door to obtain a "judges pass", which allows entry to the event for all five days, admission to numerous concerts and seminars held during the event, the ability to vote on numerous awards that are handed out, and free bus tours to and from the event. Day passes are available for €30 for each day, and certain concerts sell tickets at the door provided they are not already sold out.

Coffeeshops are increasingly being controlled by the Dutch government. The number of coffeeshops has decreased significantly since 1995, and no alcohol may be sold inside a coffeeshop. As of 1 January 2013, non-residents (e.g. all tourists) are legally banned from entering a coffeeshop in the Netherlands. However, municipalities have wide freedom in implementing this law, and Amsterdam currently does not have any plans for implementation, but future plans are uncertain.

Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Centraal Station and east of Damrak. It is known as De Wallen (the quays) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and some adjoining streets.

The area has many sex shops and peep show bars. This section of town is a common attraction for bachelors celebrating a stag night; if you ever get hassled, a firm and loud "leave me alone" will work most of the time. The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums.
 

Shopping in Amsterdam


The main central shopping streets run in a line from Centraal Station to the Leidseplein: Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, Heiligeweg, Leidsestraat. The emphasis is on clothing and fashion, but there are plenty of other shops. These are not upmarket shopping streets, and the north end of Nieuwendijk is a bit seedy. English-language books can be found in the shops around Spui, and a used book market is held there every Friday. There is a concentration of Chinese shops in Zeedijk and Nieuwmarkt, and flowers can be bought at the Bloemenmarkt. Other concentrations of shops in the center are Utrechtsestraat, Spiegelstraat (art and antiques) and Staalstraat (specialty shops).

Interesting little shops and boutiques are located in the side streets of the main canals (Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht) and especially in the Jordaan. The Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk are claimed as best shopping streets in the Netherlands. The area around Museumplein in Zuid has Amsterdam's upmarket shopping streets. The P.C. Hooftstraat and the Cornelis Schuytstraat have the finest designer shops in the city. You can find designer shoes, health and well-being specialists, massage parlors, fashion boutiques, designer interiors, designer florists and specialist shops. The partly gentrified neighborhood of De Pijp—around Ferdinand Bolstraat and Sarphatipark—is slowly becoming the 'second Jordaan'.

Street markets originally sold mainly food, and most still sell food and clothing, but they have become more specialized. The Albert Cuyp Market is the largest in Amsterdam, and the best-known street market in the country. The Waterloopleinmarkt is partly a flea market, partly an alternative and second hand clothing and accessories market. It is more oriented towards tourists than to locals. If you're looking for authenticity, visit the Dappermarkt in Oost or the Ten Katemarkt in West. Both have food, households, flowers and clothing, and have a multicultural flavor.

In the areas surrounding the city center, the main shopping streets are the Kinkerstraat, Ferdinand Bolstraat, Van Woustraat, and the Javastraat. The most ethnic shopping street in Amsterdam is the Javastraat. There are some toy stores and clothing shops for kids in the center, but most are in the shopping streets further out, because that's where families with children live. Particularly IJburg has a good set of shops for families.

Safety in Amsterdam


It might surprise some visitors, but Amsterdam is one of Europe's safest cities. It has an overall easy-going, laid-back feel and crime is not common. Amsterdam is female friendly, women can easily travel alone here and feel comfortable and safe. Gay and lesbian travelers also have little to worry about. However, you should take normal precautions against scams, pickpockets and baggage theft, especially in the main shopping streets, in trams and trains, at stations, and anywhere where tourists congregate.

What looks like a footpath, especially along a canal bank, may be a bike lane. Bike lanes are normally marked by red/purple tiles or asphalt, and a bike icon on the ground. However, the color fades over time, so you might miss the difference. Don't expect cyclists to be kind to pedestrians: some consider the side-walk an extension of the road, to be used when it suits them. Never stay or walk on the bike path or street for extended periods of time, as you will be greeted only by angry bell ringing. Keep in mind that for many Amsterdammers, the bike is their main means of transportation.

Watch out for trams when crossing the street. Taxis are also allowed to use some tram lanes, and even if not allowed, they often use them anyway. If you're driving, always give way to trams unless you're driving on a priority road.

Canals

Amsterdam's canals are picturesque and full of fun - but are also (by far) the single biggest cause of death to tourists in Amsterdam. On average about 25 people drown every year in the canals, almost all of them tourists. Invariably the victims are male and fall in while attempting to urinate in the canal - often the bodies are found with open fly. Typically there is a lot of alcohol involved, sometimes mixed with other drugs. There is some speculation that fainting due to dropping blood pressure caused by the combination of relaxation from relieving oneself and sudden exposure to cold may be involved, but generally being blind drunk and completely unstable is a perfectly adequate explanation. So: peeing in a canal is not only unhygienic and antisocial, it's also potentially lethal if you're under the influence. Please pee in the place you are drinking or failing that at an outdoor urinal. If you really can't find one, do it against a tree (risking a fine) rather than in a canal (risking your life).

Neighborhoods

The city center is generally safe, but there are differences between the neighborhoods. Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are the tourist traps of Amsterdam, so prices are relatively high and there are lots of scams. Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat had a reputation for gang violence and riots in the 1970s and 1980s, but the security situation has improved strongly and now it is safe to visit.

Be cautious in the Red Light District. All kinds of people walk around there during the day, including families with children, but the area does attract seedier visitors and vagrants after sunset. Do not take photographs of the prostitutes, you will be yelled at or worse. Groups of women visiting the Red Light District at night might feel harassed in the aggressive environment, though this is said to be the safest area because of the police presence. Keep to main streets and groups. Although not really dangerous, women might want to avoid the narrow lane north of the Oude Kerk after dark as the atmosphere can be quite intimidating.

Other areas in the city center are mostly safe, but can get pretty much deserted after midnight, so you might want to avoid walking alone there at night. This is also true for the Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk, even though shops are lit all night.

The outer boroughs have profound differences in safety levels. Nieuw-West and Zuidoost still have a bruised image regarding violence and harassment. Recent urban renewal projects have improved conditions in the last few years, but you should still be aware of the situation. Noord also has some rougher neighborhoods, but the rural parts are safe. Oost is largely safe, but there are some neighborhoods east of Oosterpark where some travelers might not feel comfortable. Zuid is perfectly safe, even at night.

Neighborhoods with a bad reputation might still be worth seeking out, but be cautious at day and avoid at night. As most tourists only visit the city center and Zuid, they do not have much to worry about except for the usual precautions (e.g. scams and pickpockets).

Cannabis and other drugs

It cannot be denied that many tourists come to Amsterdam for the coffeeshops. If you're not a smoker, and you really want to try it, start with something light, make sure you don't have an empty stomach, and don't combine it with any other drugs or intoxicants, including alcohol. Be forthright with the counter person about your inexperience, they see it all the time. Go with an experienced person if you can. Regardless of the strength, your first experience can be quite a sensation at first, but will quickly decrease in intensity. You may want to plan to return to your hotel and "hole up" for a couple hours until you become comfortable with the feeling. If you do find yourself too strongly under the influence—feeling nauseated, woozy or faint—drink orange juice or eat something sweet like cookies or candy, and get fresh air. Dutch-grown nederwiet (a.k.a. super skunk) is much stronger than you might expect, even if you are experienced. The THC level can be as high as 15%, twice the norm.

Quality varies. Coffeeshops aimed at tourists are more likely to have overpriced and poor quality products. A simple rule of thumb is: if the place looks good and well-kept chances are their wares will be good as well. Don't just enter a coffeeshop being overwhelmed that it's possible at all to buy and consume cannabis openly: be discerning as to the quality. Coffeeshops sell only soft drugs such as marijuana and hash—asking for other drugs is pointless because coffeeshops are watched closely by the authorities, and nothing will get them closed faster than having hard drugs for sale.

There's a small chance you will be approached by people offering to sell you hard drugs in the street, especially as you are walking through the Red Light District. Ignoring (or failing that, a firm refusal) is enough—they will not pester you. The selling of drugs in the street is illegal and often dangerous; moreover the drugs sold to strangers are usually fake. When they invite you to see the goods, they can lure you into a narrow street and rob you.

The usage of magic mushrooms has been forbidden since December 2008. So-called smartshops do not sell any illegal products, but a range of dietary supplements, including 'herbal exstacy'—a legal attempt at an ecstasy pill alternative which is a complete waste of money with various more or less obscure psychedelic herbs and, despite the change in the law, one type of magic mushrooms. It is the latter which causes problems as people often underestimate their strength. Magic mushrooms have few physical risks attached to them, but can have a very strong short-acting psychological effect, which can either be great or very distressing, depending on your own mindset (e.g. if you are relaxed, have any serious worries, history of mental illness, etc.) and your surroundings (e.g. if you feel comfortable and safe in them).

The first time you try this should always be in a familiar and trusted environment, not on the streets of an unfamiliar city. If you do decide to try it please get informed first. Conscious Dreams, the company that invented the entire concept of a 'smartshop' back in 1994 does this clearly and responsibly (without downplaying the possible risks just to sell more like some other shops do). Also plan well ahead, make sure you have thought out where you will be. Most recommended is going to a large park like the Vondelpark, the Rembrandtpark or the Amsterdamse Bos where it is quiet, and there is no risk from traffic. Make sure that being intoxicated will not endanger your safety, or that of anybody else. Be sure to make your purchase in a smartshop rather than a coffeeshop. They are better regulated and information is available from the attendants that work there. They are also of better quality and stronger potency than at the coffeeshops.

If you're not sure of how much to take, take a small dose. Then you'll know what your "tolerance" level is. People who have bad trips are those who take a dosage over their own tolerance level. Never take more than one packet of mushrooms—usually half is good for your first time. A good smart shop can give you more information about this.

Pharmacies

It might be surprisingly difficult to find a pharmacy in the center, especially one open in the late afternoon. The Leidsestraat Apotheek in the Leidsestraat is open daily until 11pm. Remember to take medications with you. Some basic OTC drugs can be bought e.g. in Kruidvat (convenience drugstore) and Albert Heijn (supermarket).

Language spoken in Amsterdam


National: Dutch. The municipality of Amsterdam also recognises English as an official language but on a lower status than Dutch, meaning that communication with the municipality can be done in English, but Dutch remains the language of publications, meetings, and administration. 
According to a Eurobarometer report in 2012, 90% of the population speak English as a second language.

LOCAL TIME

6:35 am
December 15, 2018
Europe/Amsterdam

CURRENT WEATHER

-1.07 °C / 30.074 °F
sky is clear
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5.2 °C/41 °F
snow
Mon

1.1 °C/34 °F
light rain
Tue

5.44 °C/42 °F
light rain
Wed

8.1 °C/47 °F
moderate rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

EUR

1 USD = 0.88 EUR
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1 CAD = 0.66 EUR

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Top-10 landmarks in Amsterdam by CruiseBe

Top-10 landmarks in Amsterdam by CruiseBe


Cozy streets, lively canals, the world’s known museums, colorful houses, bicycles, and tulips… What city are you imagining right now? Of course, it is the capital of the Netherlands with its unique atmosphere and indescribable charm! Are you ready for a virtual tour of Top-10 landmarks in...

Most of the travelers visiting  Amsterdam  tell us the same story: ah, Amsterdam, this romantic city standing on the canal network. The number of canals here is even bigger than in Venice; and it's so nice to wander slowly along their banks, plunging from time to time...
We arrived in  Haarlem  after Amsterdam . I wanted some peace and quiet, so we went to the information center and asked where we could find such a place. It turned out that there was such a place :) We immediately went there... On our way, we saw this memorial and knew that we...
We couldn’t omit  Amsterdam . We had to make sure that it was the same city that we imagined. We parked in the underground parking lot near the central railway station.  There were  museums  with rather strange themes . . .  We decided to try the famous local herring...
Amsterdam  is a compact city. The Old Town is one of the most visited towns and also the oldest, dating back to the 13th century. West of Old Town is New Town Amsterdam which was built later but also dates back to the Middle Ages. Both towns form the center of the early coastal...
When traveling to Amsterdam, it is worthwhile to take the whole day to explore the beautiful city  . The Netherlands is located along the North Sea, its coast lined with bays and estuaries. Its history is full of conquests of distant lands and spectacular travels. In addition to the...
One of the most famous museums in  Amsterdam is  Rijksmuseum : The park in front of the museum in  Amsterdam provides a peaceful disconnect from busy city life. Many people take part in Qigong gymnastics in the park: Parents push their children...

Amsterdam shore excursions