Amsterdam Travel Guide
Updated: Mar 4, 2018
People around the world travel here for 1 thing: the smoke behind the red light.
They are absorbed by the spectrum of activity seen on the streets of this 12th century town – they’ve heard the stories and dreamed about the sour tang in the air. It’s a place where relaxation comes to relax; it’s Amsterdam, ‘The Venice of the North,’ equipped with much ado about everything and nothing at all. Here you can stroll through the streets bike-side along Vondelpark, explore the Heineken Experience and venture to the top of the A’Dam Tower for panoramic views of the merriment. You can take a tour through history and visit the Anne Frank Huis to relive the emotional story of the hopeful girl from the bones of WWII. Or you can chill with the peace-members of the world in a snug coffeeshop somewhere off the beaten cobblestone path.
Or, you can live like the Dutch do.
It’s easy to get swallowed by the theatrics of Amsterdam; there’s much to do and much excitement swimming through the canals, littering the streets. But outside this tourist hub, there’s an entire country ready to be explored. In the 4 days that I spent throughout the Netherlands, some of my best moments came from places completely distinct from the A’Dam fortress. Here are my top 3:
1. Noordwijk Beach, Noordwijk, Netherlands
National Geographic has ranked this beach as one of the top shoreline destinations in the world, along with Australia, Cambodia and Curacao. The grass grows beneath the sand here. The waves crash a bit more serene, and at night the beach is lit by the green and red of its the 15th century lighthouse, and the violet hue of Blu Beach bar. Not feeling the beach? Stroll along its restaurant strip opposite the shore and get a taste of your heart’s desire: sushi, Mexican food, Italian, you name it (***Chicoleo Boulevard makes a mean Nachos Grande). There’s everything here for a peaceful getaway.
2. Vi-Kings Sports Bar, Leiden, Netherlands
Almost more beautiful than Amsterdam itself, Leiden comes equipped with all the amenities of Amsterdam for a fraction of the cost. Take a stroll in the open quarter around the corner from Leiden Central Station, relax near the canals and take a trip to one of the many bars lining the streets. I recommend Vi-Kings Bar – they’ve got an upstairs smoke-room (if you’re in to that sort of thing) and a coffeeshop just 5 minutes walking distance away from the station (with prices a little less intimidating than the many tourist traps disguised in Amsterdam).
3. Flying Pig Hostel, several locations, Holland, Netherlands
The only time I ever clapped with a crowd of plane-goers upon landing — the only time I found plane-goers who weren’t drained from the dull humdrum of plane travel —was in descent to the Amsterdam Schipol Airport. When you come to Amsterdam, you come to party. And there is no other place in Amsterdam that offers its millennial travelers the Project X experience without the Las Vegas price like the Flying Pig Hostel. With multiple locations throughout Holland (two in Amsterdam, one in Noordwijk), the Flying Pig offers a consistent party 365 days a year, rain or shine. At the Flying Pig Beach Hostel specifically, happy hour starts at 22:00 and pint-size beers are only €2.50.
**Honorable Mention** Bulldog Coffeeshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands
In true Bulldog fashion, it matters less on what you speak and more on how you’re able to connect. I had an entire conversation with an Italian whom I could not understand, and who could not understand me. But the conversation flowed, simply, because we were open to understanding one another — language be damned. Bulldog is the oldest coffeeshop in Amsterdam and the world’s first known coffeeshop in existence, with an upstairs lounge area and a downstairs coffeeshop-bar open to any and every one until the wee hours of the morning, regardless of participation. Hang here just to talk, to get out of the constant cold weather, or just to participate. It’s one of the most reliable Coffeeshops in the Red Light District and incredibly easy to find (thanks to their ostentatious neon sign). You're not allowed to take photos inside the coffeeshop (because duh) so you'll just have to visit their website and venture there on your own. Trust me, it'll be worth it.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice booking that EasyJet flight to the Netherlands without venturing into the land of good times; but if you have the opportunity to stay in the country for more than a day – more than a couple hours, even – take a page out of Dorothy’s book and follow the yellow-brick road to somewhere else in this magical land.
You won’t be disappointed.