Amsterdam

Anyone who has come back from extended travels will be familiar with the ‘so where’s your favourite country’ question.

It’s not that simple! You try and explain.

While I could never choose my favourite destination overall, in regards to the top city I visited though Amsterdam was the clear winner for me.

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I spent three days here and really could’ve stayed a few more, or like forever.

The first thing on everyone’s mind when you mention Amsterdam is the weed and yes while it’s pretty weird just walking into a ‘cafe’ and seeing menus offering a wide variety of marijuana, there is so much more to it than this and its famed Red Light district.

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You couldn’t take pics of the ladies in the windows, so enjoy this instead

I’m not sure exactly what I had in mind when it came to the Red Light district. I was of course aware that there’s scantily clad women on display but I guess I only imagined it was more of an after dark occurrence.

So when I wandered down a street at around 12pm trying to figure out where I was and came face to face with a woman chilling on a stool in the window of a shop with nothing more than her underwear I was admittidely a little taken a back!

Talking to locals they seem to agree that the weed is more of a tourist thing and everyone here seemed pretty naturally relaxed (or maybe it was the weed after all who knows!)

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I’m a pretty crappy bicycle rider but despite this city being all about bikes, I chose to walk a lot of Amsterdam and loved it. Whether you ride or explore on foot though, I challenge you to capture a picture here that doesn’t include a bicycle or a ridiculously scenic canal.

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The view from my hostel room

There’s a lot of both of these and to enjoy the canals from a different angle I’d recommend taking a cruise. Many companies offer them but have a look around since the price can vary pretty significantly.

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A party boat goes past during my canal cruise

Besides the ubiquitous bicycles (of which there are more in this city than there are people) Amsterdam has A LOT of museums. There’s even one dedicated to house boats. Seriously.

The most well known one is at the site of Anne Frank’s house and the location in which she and her family famously hid from the Nazi’s, writing her life and thoughts in the diary which would be shared around the world.

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I first read her story when I was about 12 years old and it was a very powerful experience walking around the small interior of the annex, hidden behind a bookcase in this building.

All the other tourists there were silent too as we glazed our eyes over the same walls that held her from freedom and a childhood she missed out on, simply because of her religion.

The line is always long to get in but you can reserve a ticket online. I managed to get one the day before I wanted to visit since they sometimes release extra ones once the allocation is exhausted so keep an eye out.

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I also checked out the Cheese ‘Museum’ or basically just a shop that sells cheese and the Sex Museum, which I doubt has been updated in any way since its creation and is hilariously outdated but a good way to kill an hour and have a little bit of a laugh.

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The Museum of Bags and Purses however, I genuinely enjoyed. It’s situated in an beautifully old building and the collection dates back a few hundred years.

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There’s exquisitely beaded clutches, hand stitched purses, novelty bags and there was an exhibition at the time I went of travel luggage circa the 1920s. Think the baggage Kate Winslet would’ve taken onto the Titanic. Pretty cool stuff!

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For those who appreciate the fine art kind of museums then the Museum Square area of town is where you want to be. The Van Gogh Museum is a must see and the Rijksmuseum, which has over a million items on display and the building itself I think is quite grand from the outside.

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Rijksmuseum

Right behind the Rijksmuseum is the commonly seen Iamsterdam sign and taking a photo with it is obligatory when in Amsterdam. There was an indie kind of festival on in the grass area here while I was there which was a nice bonus too.

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Vondelpark is a short stroll from this location too and is a large area where locals and tourists alike enjoy relaxing. I’d recommend perhaps going after a visit to the Heineken brewery but I can’t tell you what the experience was like personally since while I love beer, I don’t do Heineken!

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For shopping and just in general strolling amongst nice surroundings, the Jordaan neighbourhood is worth a look also and when it comes to nightlife, Amsterdam needs no introduction.

The sheer amount of bucks parties that surge upon the city over the weekend says it all really and the choice of bars and clubs is infinite.

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Closest thing I saw to real tulips

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Love the wares available, sadly couldn’t fit in the backpack

On my flight to Amsterdam from Valencia I happened to be sat next to two fellow Aussies who I got along with crazily well and we ended up catching up a couple times here.

They convinced me to join them on the Invasion pub crawl which has apparently been featured on MTV and begins with an hour of unlimited shots so needless to say it made for quite a night. Taking a 6am bus the next morning was even more fun let me tell you.

To sum it up, I could easily live in Amsterdam because it really has everything you want or ever need from a major city without feeling like it’s very big at all. There’s cuisine of every description and boundless amounts of things to do yet tranquility is never far away when there’s those amazing canals at every turn!

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