As a youthful city, Amsterdam holds the key to travelling stereotypes. Legalised weed, hectic hostels and city bike tours are just a handful of Amsterdam’s divinities, but these all lie on a pretty beaten track. Whether you get around on bike, foot or tram, there is a quirky side of Amsterdam that some backpackers stray too far away from upon their travels.
It’s no hidden secret that Amsterdam is a highly populated city, attracting the masses as they arrive in hen-dos and rugby tours. One thing that stands out to many upon arrival is that the city is surprisingly small. Behind the congregated pavements and the never-moving queues, the city can be cycled around in just a couple of hours, offering a plethora of open spaces to compromise the compact and busy centre. On the topic of bikes, the first destination to visit is commonly done with a partner and a trusty two-wheeled vehicle.
Vondelpark doesn’t bury itself hidden in the Dutch capital, but its purpose can certainly be misinterpreted. Sure, these idyllic, London style gardens host the perfect spot for spliff-sharing teens to relax and wind down, but for the activity driven individual, Vondelpark can be put to better use.
Take your bike away from the stampeding streets and pedal your way through the welcoming gates to a canvas of green. When looking at your map, you will be sure to notice that it prides itself in being the largest city park in Amsterdam, so be certain to get lost at least once along your journey. To offer one of the best tips about these vast grounds is to voyeur through them with no plan in mind. Vondelpark plays host to free open air concerts all year round, and so navigate yourself in correlation to a cheerful crowd and the sound of mellow guitars.
As you cycle through, drowned in the shadows of imposing birch trees, you’ll notice an urban buzz about this park that doesn’t seem to sleep. No matter if you visit in the frosty hours of the morning, or for fiery evenings as the sun lays to rest, the atmospheric thrill will always be present. In a mixture of local roller skaters and romanticised couples enjoying a glass of red by the lake, you can fit in by adding a bit of both clichés to your routine. Cover every blade of grass and stony path by noon, then settle down with a Dutch-inspired picnic and laze in the sun to the sound of eclectic jazz.
If you love beer as much as the next man, then Amsterdam has you in very good hands. One thing that seems to slip under the radar for shorter trips to this city in the Netherlands, is perhaps one of the more eccentric tours one can enjoy. Located just a short cycle away from our previous activity in Vondelpark, the Heineken Experience is the perfect excuse for a free beer or five.
The Heineken Experience is surely one of the sweeter ways to enjoy a relaxed drink whilst learning about culture and history. Take a tour through the brewery and learn how this Dutch beer is crafted and has been since its birth in 1873. If, like me, you feel that drinking beer would be your choice of topic on Mastermind, then think again. This experience takes a turn for the better as you’re taught the proper way to drink your beer, and yes, whoever is reading this is probably doing it all wrong…
The development of the bottle, Heineken’s historical figures and even the horses who carry the marvellous ingredients will all be available in an hour long voyage through the factory before getting the chance to customise your own Heineken glass. This can only surely be topped by one last ‘experience’.
Take off your wristband and hand over the tokens to the final bar to receive yourself a chilled pint of Amsterdam’s golden nectar. Kick back and swig beer the proper way, and hope your partner can’t handle all of their tokens… and repeat.
Like any hipster’s guide to this European city will say, it wouldn’t be a trip to Amsterdam without snapping the classic canal picture for your Instagram feed. Like you, I’m guilty of this old chestnut, but it can be quite intriguing to take a stroll down those streets parallel to the blooming Red Light District. As much as the Bulldog café may be pulling you in, it’s wise to risk the temptations of completing a fairly traditional Amsterdam trip. Sure, visit the countries first coffee shop, but on another day of your travels, step outside of that classic comfort zone.
On either side of the canal banks, keep your eyes peeled for the open terrace café shops that don’t necessarily stand out in stature. These are the city’s hidden gems that make Stroopwafel and Mayonnaise chips taste that little bit sweeter. These delicacies along with frozen yoghurt and the world’s largest cheese variety can be purchased from hectic street markets, but when eaten on the canal, hand in hand with the ambience from the café’s live band, there isn’t a better place to be than one of Amsterdam’s hidden coffee shops.
The cobbled streets of Holland’s most popular location may well lead you to the hazier parts of town to enjoy your trip. After all, the stereotype of laid back, urban Amsterdam is what lure’s its millions of visitors every year, but don’t necessarily just follow the pack. Travelling is all about uncovering hidden places and bragging to your friends that you’re the first to discover something in the remote part of town, so here is a small guide to the least obvious activities this picturesque, unconventional city has to offer. Oh, and if you like learning the language, then remember this: eruit te komen van het fietspad… it means “get out of the cycle lane!”