What Not to Do in Amsterdam


By Steph Cardy

Amsterdam might be infamous for it’s red-light district, pub-crawls, canals and cannabis cafés however there’s much more to this historic Dutch metropolis then it’s mischievous reputation would have you believe. With a cosmopolitan flair, extraordinary art scene, tremendous architecture and avant garde musical landscape, the city really offers up a variety of unique experience if you’ll willing to peak behind the tacky tourist façade.

So if you really want to absorb Amsterdam’s cultural landscape, don’t waste your entire time high-as-a-kite, ogling prostitutes with a Heineken strapped to your hand. Read these tips to avoid the tourist traps and really get the best of one of Europe’s leading ladies.

1. Don’t: Spend all your time in the Red Light District

As much as we’d like to, no ones gonna tell you to go cold turkey on the Red Light District- you’re in Amsterdam and you want to see what all the fuss is about. But do limit your time there, one loop is more then adequate (unless you’re planning on using the services, then sure- choose wisely) then get out of there! There are much better and less tacky places to drink and linger without rowdy tourists and (bad quality) drug offerings where you won’t spend all your money on exorbitantly priced food/beer/less then inspiring sex shows.

Try: Spend some time doing some research on Amsterdam’s best bars and clubs (Check Party with a Local's pick of Best Bars or clubs). Or failing that, Leidsplein and Rembrandtplein still top the Red Light District.

2. Don’t: Go to Dam Square

Tacky, busy, expensive, touristy, pigeony… the list of negative adjectives for Amsterdam’s so called “heart” goes on. There is really nothing to see here folks and if you’re thinking “oh but I really want to go to the Amsterdam dungeon and the sex museums and oh!… Madam Tussauds!” then I suggest you take a good, hard look in the mirror and rethink the person you’ve become.

If you must go- pass through on your way to somewhere else. Anywhere else.

Try: Strolling round the Jordaan area

3. Don’t: Go to the Bulldog

If Macdonald’s and Pablo Escobar had a love child it would be the Bulldog. As the first coffee shop in Amsterdam you may be tempted to check out one of these franchised establishments and perhaps try and convince yourself that you’re doing something “cultural” and “historic” whilst getting high. Sure that’s a reasonable thought- but don’t think you’re the first tourist to have it. Also don’t expect any sort of quality product- you’ll be disappointed with the dull, sub-par weed and lackluster hash.

Try: Something a bit more unique and of a higher quality: Grey Area, Barneys

Hangin' at da dog. Cool.

4. Don’t: Drink Heineken

While Heineken may be the Netherlands most notable beer export it’s certainly not the best, and considering you can get it just about anywhere in the world, why not try something a little special and hit up one of Amsterdams atmospheric breweries or specialty beer bars?

Try: Going to one of these places renowned for the selection and quality of beer: Brouwerij’t IJ, Arendsnest, In de Wildman

5. Don’t: Eat at Macdonalds/KFC/Greasy Fast food Franchise

With over 20 Macca’s and many more KFC’s, Burger King’s and fast food franchises packed into tiny, little Amsterdam, you really don’t have to walk far to grab a Big Mac, and, lets face it- there’s a good chance you’re stoned so you won’t want to. But believe it or not, Amsterdam’s cuisine is not solely munchies and with a little patience you’ll find that the city offers up a delectable smorgasbord of delicious and gratifying bites.

Try: Some of Amsterdam’s traditional food such as Herring, Bitterballen, Stamppot or Stroopwafel, or check out one of these cafés for a great meal:

6. Don’t: Go to Shop “Museums”

A shop by any other name would definitely not smell as sweet, so don’t be fooled by the title. So called tulip and cheese “Museums” are just retailers dressed in monumental clothing and offer nothing extraordinary except perhaps some pretty great cheese testers.



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