Amsterdam isn’t renowned for its shopping but there is definitely enough to keep you occupied. There are well-known brands and retailers as well as a few niche stores too.
Surrounding the Rembrandt Square area there are quite a few bespoke, antique-y and quirky shops selling jewelery, Dutch-related items and other curios and knickknacks.Seeing as most streets and winding alleyways in Amsterdam are closed to traffic it makes shopping and enjoyable and leisurely activity.
There are plenty of chain restaurants, such as Hard Rock Cafe, McDonalds and Garfunkels, if you want to stick to what you know and a variation of foods from different countries – Italian, Mexican, Chinese and so on. Although traditional Dutch food is also available in the city but it’s not a particularly exciting cuisine and takes influences from elsewhere in the globe. One thing to definitely avoid would be the machines dispensing mainly fried meat and cheese snacks called Febo Snackbars – they’re not worth the risk.
Not so surprisingly, the Red Light district is a definitely must-see. The “RLD”, quite literally comes alive at night and although through the actual walkways where the women are standing in their windows there are no bars or clubs there are plenty in the neighbouring roads and areas. A lot of these are also casinos and sex clubs where people can watch live sex shows and strippers. Although this side of the city can sound too explicit it can also be enjoyed in jest as long as one can explore the area and its sights lightheartedly.
However, due to the Red-Light district’s bustling atmosphere, loud music and throngs of tourists you have to be careful with your possessions as it’s an ideal opportunity for pickpockets. Along with prostitution, the liberal and free Dutch people of Amsterdam have also legalised Cannabis so this, if you want it, is readily available – especially in the busy streets at night time.
So, if getting high is your idea of a good night you’ll certainly be catered to, and it’s worth it experiencing one of the many ‘brown cafes’ named so because of the discolouration of the wallpaper due to tobacco stains.
If you’re not the indulgent type then there are ‘normal’ pubs, sports bars, high class clubs, quiet night cafes and chilled out hang-outs throughout the city too. But quite honestly, it’s worth obliging your wilder side, even just a little bit, while you’re in exciting Amsterdam.
Things to do
You can’t visit Amsterdam without exploring it via the canals that are threaded throughout the city. You can hop on and off them as you would public transport or you can take a leisurely cruise from one side to the other and take in the sights and atmosphere. There are different cruises mapped out and the boat rides are inexpensive and you don’t have to book – simply find a cruise trip starting point and buy a ticket.
It’s most likely that you’ve already experienced a zoo elsewhere but Amsterdam zoo is a brilliant one where you can get up close and personal with the animals as well as experience the incredible butterfly centre where the beautiful creatures are fluttering above your head and even landing on you as walk around.
There are three other exciting departments other than the zoo itself; the Botanical gardens, the Planetarium and the Geological and Zoological Museum.
Making your way around on a bicycle is a popular activity throughout Amsterdam and Holland as a whole and being a very flat country it makes for an easy ride. There are many different places and companies you can use to hire your bike and cycle paths and lanes are woven into the city. It’s a wonderful way to see the sights and glide through the streets amongst the locals.
Anne Frank’s home
Tourists can visit the young girl’s home where she penned her famous diary and account of her experience of the Second World War after she fled from persecution. In the building there’s also an interesting exhibition about the discrimination and genocide of the Jews during this period. A chilling and humbling experience.