Last year I went to Amsterdam – a choice that baffled some of my friends who couldn’t understand why I’d want to go when I don’t smoke weed. “Will you try it? You have to while you’re there and it’s legal,” people said.
Yes, Dam is known for its liberal nature, but it if often overlooked as one of the most beautiful European cities. I wanted to go on a girly city break for a nice holiday, to see the sights and explore. I was tempted to try my first spliff but I thought if I’m not interested in it at home, then why should I be on holiday? (Plus I figured it’s not the best time to try it in a strange foreign place – I know some first timers who have had bad experiences! Plus it’s not as easy as buying some weed, there’s whole menus and different ways of smoking or eating it and it’s just too complicated!)
While many Brits heading for the Dam only visit for one obvious reason, there is so much more to do in this city than sitting in coffee shops and getting high. Yes there’s weed everywhere and the red light district but it is in fact a city steeped in history and unique culture, and surprisingly has a romantic atmosphere. There is so much to see and do that sometimes a ‘short break’ simply isn’t enough. For people who aren’t interested in getting high, here are the absolute must-dos in Amsterdam which don’t involve smoking weed:
Get On Yer Bike
Bicycles rule the road in Amsterdam (along with the streets, the parks and the canals) so travel around the city like a local on two wheels. The bikes chained up everywhere are permanent features which add to the allure of the gorgeous cityscape. You’ll come across a bike rental shop every few minutes in the city so no need to worry about finding a bike – just enjoy the ride! If you feel apprehensive about joining the army of cyclists in the street, enjoy a leisurely ride around Vondel Park instead.
Visit Anne Frank Huis
Amsterdam is full of interesting museums, but if you only have time to squeeze in one then the Anne Frank House is a must. Bringing the story of Anne Frank and her diaries to life, the museum gives an unparalleled emotive experience like no other. Imagine visiting a museum about the First World War located in a real life trench on the frontline – this is the immersive experience achieved at Anne Frank Huis. As the very building the Frank family hid from the Nazis in for two years, and the same location Anne wrote her world famous diary, this museum puts you in the shoes of the girl who became the symbol of the Holocaust.
The museum has a set route for visitors to follow, telling the story along the way with quotes, photographs, videos and artist impressions of how the top secret hiding place used to look. One of the most harrowing moments is stepping into Anne’s old bedroom, which still has intact the original posters and drawings Anne decorated the room with herself. The Anne Frank Huis is an unmissable part of Amsterdam, but be prepared to queue – average queue time is 2 hours!
See the Sights by Boat
Amsterdam boasts more canals than Venice, and what better way to see them and the beautiful sights of the city than by boat or barge. There are countless boat tour companies to choose from, all offering similar tours around the veins of the city. Decide whether you’d prefer a day or night time cruise as these will both offer a different perspective. Sit back, relax and enjoy the smooth ride whilst learning about the history of Amsterdam and its canals. Alternatively, you can event rent your own boat and have a go at navigating the canals yourself.
I have nothing against tourists taking advantage of the marijuana situation in Amsterdam – in fact it really adds to the vibe of the city rather than spoiling it. (For example it transforms the usual binge drinking Brits-on-tour into mellow holiday makers having a cool time). But it certainly isn’t the first and only reason to visit the Dutch capital, and I hope it doesn’t mean people overlook it as a romantic or charming city break destination.
This blog is a revised version of an article I written originally for BBM Live magazine here: http://www.bbmlive.com/visit-amsterdam/