Given its proximity to the UK, Amsterdam is an easy city to visit for the Londoner looking for a quick weekend getaway. Amsterdam is famous for its practical and uninhibited approach to what many other cities and countries would consider vices. Prostitution is legal here, as is different types of drugs – although this city is mostly known for its weed. If you’re headed to Amsterdam for the first time and aren’t quite sure how to fill your time there (beyond hours lost at the local weed joint), check out these 5 absolute must-dos for your journey to this gorgeous metropolis.
- Visit the coffee shops
First things first; let’s get the real reason for why you went to Amsterdam out of the way. Don’t act like you aren’t there for this, because we all know that one of the main draws to visiting is to test how it feels to consume weed in an environment where, not only is it 100% legal, but that embraces it as a part of the local culture. You can find a wide variety of coffee shops in the central part of Amsterdam and in the surrounding areas (although they are fewer in number the farther you go from central Amsterdam). A coffee shop will have two menus: one will show the snacks and drinks, and the other the types of weed you can choose from. You’ll have a choice between pure weed and weed mixed with tobacco, and they’ll come with impressive names like ‘White Widow’ and ‘Haze’. Coffee shops in Amsterdam don’t serve alcohol as it’s considered dangerous to consume drugs and alcohol together, but you can order pastries and coffee which, to me, is the perfect chaser after a joint. What I love about the coffee shops in Amsterdam is that you can smoke weed in a safe and relaxed space. It’s a very pleasant experience to smoke then drink a cappuccino or two while laughing off the high with your friends.
- Visit the cafes
In Amsterdam, cafes and coffee shops are two VERY different things. While coffee shops sell marijuana and space cakes (weed brownies), cafes are your run-of-the-mill eateries where you can by a variety of hot beverages, pastries, and small dishes like soup and salad. Amsterdam has a very strong coffee culture, which is something I really enjoyed about it.
There are tons of cool and quirky cafes where you can have reasonably priced breakfasts and coffees while basking in a lovely ambiance. During spring, summer, and early fall, a lot of these cafes will set up tables outside so patrons can enjoy the great weather. You can’t go wrong with cafes in Amsterdam. Remember, any time is a good time to stop and have a cuppa!
- Visit the markets
Amsterdam is home to some of the loveliest markets in Europe and you’ll definitely want to come with an empty bag to fill up and take home. Bloemenmarkt is perhaps Amsterdam’s most famous, and the only floating flower market in the world! Here you can pick up all the tulip bulbs your heart desires so you can carry them home to plant in your garden. If you’re hailing from the U.S. or Canada, don’t worry there are bulbs sold specifically for import back to North America. Keep an eye out for bulbs that come with a health certificate that allows for importation into the U.S. or Canada within six weeks of purchasing the plants. For elsewhere in Europe taking Dutch tulips back with you is perfectly okay.
Another great market to visit in Amsterdam is the less well-known Noordermarkt. This cool market has a variety of items for sale ranging from fresh strawberries, to antiques, to organic and handmade goods. There’s also many fun cafes and restaurants in the area, so you can get a good lunch after a morning of browsing the eccentric odds and ends of Noordermarkt.
- Walk the canals
There’s a reason why Amsterdam is at times referred to as ‘the Venice of the North’. This practical city is built around miles and miles of canals. You can walk almost anywhere in Amsterdam and I would recommend spending a day ambling along these waterways. On weekends you’ll see local Dutch out in their boats, young people sitting along their walls, feet hanging over the water, and cafes and coffee shops setting up tables and chairs in close proximity of the gorgeous canal views. Seeing the canals in the fall is a must as the trees are all changing colors and it lends a magical feel to the city. Trust me when I say this is one panorama you’ll never grow tired of.
- Visit the bruin cafes (brown cafes)
For a true taste of Dutch culture, you should definitely make visiting a traditional pub known as a bruin café a priority during your trip. These pubs are usually quite old and each one has a personality that’s completely unique.
If you’re on a pub hop (or bruin café hop), don’t miss out on stopping in at Café Chris. Built in 1624, Café Chris is one of Amsterdam’s oldest, if not the oldest, bruin café. This quaint watering hole comes complete with a friendly bartender who is more than happy to take the time to explain this season’s beer, and a funky bathroom with a toilet that can only be flushed from outside. Café Chris also has a pool table in case you really feel like wiling away an afternoon at the best bruin café in town!
Have you been to Amsterdam? What are some of your tips for the future traveler? Share them in the comments section!