The Truth About Amsterdam
Amsterdam. Known for it's erotic Red Light District, coffee shops where you can smoke weed "legally", and beautiful canals that carve through the city.
I arrived in The Netherlands with low expectations; I was not overly excited for this particular leg of my Eurotrip. Of course I was thrilled to be across the world in an unfamiliar city, but I did not think Amsterdam would have much else to offer than it's taboo tourist attractions. I had also heard mixed reviews about the city from friends and other travelers, claiming it to be "dirty" or "boring". Regardless of my doubts, I was eager to form my own opinion on the place.
I was surprised when Amsterdam became one of my favorite cities. Here's why:
I was quick to discover that Amsterdam does boast more than just cheap thrills. Although it seems like a "coffee shop" covers every corner, the city is also sprinkled with a variety of museums, monuments, and memorials. When I was in The Netherlands, my main focus of study was on World War II.
I learned a lot about the World War II era through Amsterdam's historical attractions — a Dutch Resistance museum located in the Jewish quarter of the city, a memorial in the theater house where many of the Dutch Jews were transported to Auschwitz, and a monument erected in the center of the main square depicting the feeling inside the gas chambers were some of the most impactful. At times, being up close and personal with this heartbreaking period in history was overwhelming.
My favorite of the many museums I visited was the Anne Frank Haus. The museum is a self-guided tour through the depressing story of Anne Frank and her family, and was by far one of the most emotionally captivating excursions. Walking through the house caused the water to swell in my eyes with every step. By the time I reached the last exhibit, the tears were ready to overflow.
Aside historical significance of World War II and The Holocaust throughout Amsterdam, the city also has many other, more cheerful ways to get in touch with it's history:
Take a canal tour through the city, one of the quickest and thoroughest ways to take in all of Amsterdam's architectural beauty. My group did this on our first day in the city and it was relaxing, historically educational, and inexpensive!
Browse through the Van Gogh Museum, which hosts a beautiful collection of Van Gogh's work from his early days as an artist. The infamous Rijksmuseum is also worth a visit.
Visit De Drie Fleschjes, the oldest tasting room in Amsterdam. “Three Little Bottles,” has been open since 1650! Enjoy a drink and take in the antique ambiance of barrel-lined walls and burning candelabras.
You have probably seen photographs of the tall, charming gabled facades that line the canals of Amsterdam. If you haven't, look at the photo above and start planning your trip. As I took a canal tour through Amsterdam, I admired the houses and shops that surrounded the boat.
The city's layout accompanied by the repetitive architecture can make navigation a bit confusing, but discovering the unique aspects of each area is what makes this city so exciting to explore!
The Hidden Charm
I had one week to trek through Amsterdam (Next time I visit I'm renting a bike; it's the local way). Although I could not scavenge through each corner, I did dodge some of the tourist traps and instead stumbled upon a few local delights:
Blue° Amsterdam: If it were not for an overly kind Dutch couple who suggested this secret spot, I would not have discovered the trendy cafe resting above the entire city. Blue° is located on the third floor of shopping center Kalvertoren, which is in the center of Amsterdam. The glass walls which construct the restaurant provide guests with a stunning 360° view of the city below, while they enjoy delicious drinks and lunches.
Zeppos: Located in the oldest part of Amsterdam, Zeppos is a restaurant with a menu of simple tastes (I highly recommend the cheese fondu appetizer), archaic charm, and beautiful surroundings. It's location down a narrow alley nicknamed "Prayer Without End" can cause it to be easily missed, so I was grateful when we accidentally encountered it. I felt like a local as we ate outside underneath the ivy and colorful lights that coated the building's exterior.