Allen John Lira
15 Cool Things To Know When Visiting Amsterdam, Netherlands
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
The Netherlands is famous for its cheese, tulips, windmills, wooden shoes, and liberality – to name a few – but there’s a whole lot more to this country than what’s commonly seen on Instagram. WTVN has listed 15 cool facts to help plan your visit.
1. BIKE CULTURE
Do what the locals do. Every Dutch owns a bike. There’s statistically more bikes than people in Amsterdam. Keep your eyes on those cycle lanes because you’ve got higher chances to be hit by a bike than by a car, same as in other bike cities like Copenhagen.
Why not set off on one spontaneous afternoon, take a stroll along the interlocking #Amsterdam canals and just let your feet lead you wherever? No itinerary at hand. When I did this on my first Amsterdam visit, I eventually discovered more appealing streets with lesser tourists which makes a perfect location for your Instagram photos. Start in Bloemenmarkt, world’s only floating flower market, where dozens of fresh tulips are on sale.
Other common forms of transportation: Trams, Buses and Metro (1 to 7 day passes can be purchased)
2. CLEAN TAP WATER
Tap water in Amsterdam is one of the cleanest in Europe. Maybe that’s the reason why the Dutch are the world’s tallest people (LOL). Best thing to do when attending festivals/events in Amsterdam is to keep in hand a bottle of drinking water and once emptied, refill in any of the available taps. Worry not because it is entirely safe for drinking. You save Mother Earth and a few euros.
3. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS LOCATIONS
Amsterdam city has always been a famous choice as a movie location for film producers but the sensational TFIOS (in 2014) bequeathed the city a more prominent identity in the international movie-scene. Who can ever forget that tear-jerking bench scene by Augustus, Hazel and the portable oxygen tank?
The exact location of the featured bench is ‘Leidsegracht 4’ where Herengracht and Leidsegracht meet. In total, six locations were used for this movie based on John Green’s best-selling book.
4. BEST TIME TO VISIT
Koningsdag/King’s day – The Dutch national holiday is held every 27 April. A million of visitors and locals alike wear orange as they hit the streets to celebrate the world’s biggest birthday party, in honor of their king. On King’s Day Carnival, you must-try Tompouce (a sweet pastry with cream on top) sold by hundreds of street vendors. Plus, boat parties everywhere!
Tulip Festival – Amsterdam is home of the ultimate spring flower - the tulip. Each spring season, from 31 March until end of April, numerous tulips are in gorgeous display all throughout the canal city. See these tulips and the city in full bloom. Participate in the famous Keukenhof Flower Parade or fly with a helicopter over the tulip fields. Interesting Fact: Tulip maybe a popularized branding for Amsterdam but its roots originally came from Turkey.
Museum entrance fees range from €15-20 for adults and €9 for students (need to show ID/proof of enrolment).
WTVN Top 10 Museum Picks:
Anne Frank Huis
Van Gogh Museum
Nemo Science Museum
Museum Our Lord in the Attic
Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum
The city has the highest museum density in the world. I couldn’t think of another city I have visited that can come close to the “variety” that Amsterdam museum list has.
IAmsterdam sign – fight your way through a mob of tourist warriors. Go very early in the morning or very late at night if you want a photo with the sign without annoying photobombers.
6. DAYTRIPS OUTSIDE AMSTERDAM
48 hours is all you’ll need to visit majority of Amsterdam’s attractions. For those who would spend three days or more, the ideal itinerary is to use at least one day to plan a trip outside the city.
Cities accessible from Amsterdam:
Countries close to Amsterdam:
Belgium – you can visit Brugges, Ghent, Brussels, or Antwerp
Germany – you can visit Dusseldorf
7. GASTRONOMIC RECOMMENDATION
Gouda (How-da) cheese – popular in Netherlands and worldwide. The younger the cheese, the softer.
Stroopwafel – another delicacy originating from Gouda. Two thin layers of waffle with caramel filling. Perfectly paired with a hot drink. Did you know there’s a proper way to eat it? Place the waffle on top of your mug of hot drink. Leave until soft. Turn over to warm other side. Eat with the caramel syrup dripping. Enjoy.
De Ruijter Chocolate Sprinkles (Hagelslag) – spread butter on bread then put sprinkles on top. Easy.
Rijstaffel – although a popular Dutch dish, it is essentially Indonesian-inspired. The feast was adapted from West Sumatra initially when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. It consists small servings of several tasty dishes. Restaurant Puri Mas in downtown Amsterdam serves authentic Rijstaffel and other Indonesian cuisine.
Omelegg – this country’s first omelettery serves brunch allday
Pancakes Amsterdam – where I had my first Dutch pancake. American pancake is also served.
The Avocado Show – for a greener option, try an all-Avocado restaurant located in Daniël Stalpertstraat 61
Café-Restaurant Stork – a place for seafood lovers on the northern banks; open only starting from 11 am
Amsterdam has dozens of trendy food hubs of all types. Visiting the cosmopolitan city isn’t only a culture trip but also an awesome gastro trip.
8. CANAL CRUISE TOURS
The most comfortable way to explore Amsterdam is from the water. The cruise navigates you through the thriving canal districts of Amsterdam since the Golden Age. The 17th century Canal Belt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which served as defence, water management system, and local transportation.
9. COFFEE SHOPS
Tourists know they are no regular coffee shops. Amsterdammers live an organic life. Around 200 coffee shops spread across the city legally selling joints, space cake, and pot brownies. Muffins and brownies take longer to kick in so you better go slow. Popular advice is not to take more than one. When unsure, always ask for recommendations from waiters because they certainly know what to safely give you. Don’t get too experimental on your own.
10. FAMED RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The De Wallen district used to be a place for docking sailors, thus creating the kind of reputation it has now. While ladies behind red windows is a popular attraction, taking photos of them for touristic purposes is not allowed. Prostitution is a legal profession in Netherlands. These workers have lawful rights and deserve respect. Some argue it’s a revolutionary approach for sex tourism, while some people are still debating its social aptness from the opposing side.
Drop by the popular Rene’s Croissants on your way home. WTVN Reminder: Look after your valuables as it is a bustling area.
11. EASY ACCESS FROM THE UK
Going around the city, I have noticed a good number of travellers from the United Kingdom. Getting to Amsterdam is fairly easy for Brits which constitute a big percentage of visiting tourists. Flights from London (or any major UK airport) takes only a little over an hour and a direct train service to Amsterdam can be taken from London St. Pancras for 3hrs 50mins. Once there, Amsterdam Centraal is roughly an hour away via train or bus from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. WTVN note: Schiphol has one of those airport designs that requires a lot of walking so give yourself ample time to reach the boarding gates.
12. LIVING BELOW SEA LEVEL
A country emerging from the sea. Most parts of the country is either below sea level or reclaimed from sea. 1/3 of the whole country lives below sea level including the area of Schiphol airport. Around 17% has been reclaimed and the Dutch people are still continuing to take back land from the North Sea through efficient dike system.
13. IS IT HOLLAND OR THE NETHERLANDS?
Holland is a region west of the The Netherlands, which is the country. Furthermore, #Holland can be divided into two – North (Noord-Holland) and South (Zuid-Holland). These two names have been used interchangeably in many confusing ways, even by Dutch people.
14. GENEROUS SCHENGEN VISA
Netherlands has been the most generous in granting visa among all of the countries I have applied Schengen visa with. France comes second. Irrelevant of how many Schengen visa you’ve acquired before, these two countries considerably give longer validity compared to others. To give an outlook: 5 people I know (including me) were granted visa by Netherlands for 2-3 years, multiple entry. France typically grants first-timers a 6-month visa validity, and re-appliers with 1-2 years, multiple entry.
15. WORLD’S BEST DJs
Ever since Electronic Dance Music (EDM) grew big worldwide, Dutch DJs mercilessly dominate the top spots in the worldwide Best DJ List year after year. I’ve always thought to myself, “How come The Netherlands seems like a prolific breeding ground for brilliant and hip disc jockeys?”
I’ll share to you two of the main reasons…
First, Dutch were among the pioneers of EDM so they technically got ahead of everyone. While others were only beginning to hear it, Dutch talents were already serving ground-breaking music tastes to the table. Hundred subgenres are buried deep for exploration in the electronic music world and Amsterdam is a proud haven for those less popular beats. Producers see an immense potential on this craft, therefore, millions are invested in campaigns and massive support is given to all their aspiring artists.
Secondly, this small and seemingly innocent country has laidback laws pertaining to recreational drug use. The Dutch capital has a perky nightlife. Hence, drugs and rave parties make a hugely lucrative business altogether. In fact, the Netherlands is globally known in the underground synthetic drug economy as top producer and manufacturer of excellent-quality MDMA.
Dutch DJs who frequent the top charts:
Armin van Buuren
Many thanks to The Netherlands for honing the world’s best DJs! ➳