Amsterdam is a beautiful quaint city with a relaxed attitude and wonderful canals. Not that you’re interested in that because everyone goes to Amsterdam for one reason: to get high. It is impossible to get away from cannabis in Amsterdam, there are scores of coffee shops on every street and the smell is everywhere. It’s quite easy to spend days in a smoky haze, see some crazy stuff and meet many characters (which is basically what most tourists do). It is also possible to have a sober time exploring the great city by bike and seeing the vibrant culture. Though one friend described not getting high in Amsterdam as being like going to Disneyland and not going on any of the rides.
I’ll start with what you are probably most interested in, drugs. It is legal to buy and smoke cannabis or marijuana in one of the many coffee shops in the city. There is a huge variety of styles of shops ranging from a hippie’s paradise to places that genuinely look like ordinary coffee shops. The system is quite simple. You walk into a shop and buy a joint as easy as buying a coffee (you actually have to buy a drink as well). There are many different brands and flavours, sold either pre-rolled or in bags. Joints range between 5 and 10 euro, with discounts with buying in bulk and rolling yourself. Obviously you can’t smoke in public or buy more than you can smoke yourself (the limit is 5 grams). You can smoke in the coffee shop and in some hostels. I would recommend saving getting high until the end of the day because it kills your motivation to do anything and it is a shame to miss everything else Amsterdam has to offer.
It is necessary to mention the Red Light District. Filled with tourists, it is even more sleazy, seedy and degrading than I thought possible. Women in the bras and underwear stand behind glass doors like human mannequins. The women are tapping on the doors and if you are interested you open a door and go in. We were a group of young lads and even we were too ashamed and embarrassed to even look at them. It’s like when you pass a beggar on the street; you are too filled with pity to even look at them. It was so degrading it would turn even the most chauvinist man into a feminist.
Amsterdam does unfortunately have a seedy underbelly. They are a lot of dodgy looking fellas hanging around offering sex shows and drugs. I’ve never been offered drugs in my life, but I was offered cocaine three times on my first night in Amsterdam. While it is an absolutely lovely city during the day, just be warned that at night, in certain areas, all the sleazy creeps come out.
Amsterdam is rightly famous for its canals. They criss-cross the city and truly are beautiful. They are tree lined and often cobble stoned which makes them incredibly picturesque. I would recommend renting a bike and cycling along them something you can spend a good day doing. If the weather is good then it’s simply glorious.
If you like bikes then you’ll love Amsterdam. It’s the one city I’ve seen that is covered in bikes. Cycling genuinely seems to be the main method of transport, helped by the fact that it is a compact city with everything in close proximity. However you must always pay attention at all times because neither cars nor bikes seem to obey any rules of the road. Instead it is literally a free for all. Cars seem to go whenever there is an opening or if they feel like risking it. They don’t seem to have grasped the concept of waiting your turn or letting other people go first. I was genuinely surprised I didn’t witness a crash.
If you enjoy history, I would recommend a trip to the Anne Frank Museum. It is located in the house where she was hiding when she wrote her book. It is left completely intact and exactly as it was found after the family had been arrested. I haven’t read the book but I still greatly enjoyed it. It really brought home how difficult it would be to live in such cramped locations, not being able to make noise during the day. It is a deeply moving trip that really brings home the tragedy to you.
On the down side, Amsterdam is a very expensive city. There weren’t a lot of restaurants so all we ate was fast food and it still cost us a lot. There’s not much of a nightlife beyond getting high, we saw hardly any pubs or clubs. It’s a small place, which while that makes it easy to get around, it does mean there isn’t a lot to do, so you might get bored.
Amsterdam is a great city, with beautiful canals and an interesting history. It’s worth a visit even if you don’t want to get high, though that is the main attraction of the city. You’re bound to end up meeting all sorts of people and have crazy stories that people back home can’t hear about. Remember the golden rule, “What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam”. If you go with the right group you will probably end up swearing an oath that you never speak of the what happened ever again. So long as you avoid its expensive and sleazy side, you should have a brilliant time in Amsterdam.