By Colt Kesselring
Amsterdam has a reputation for being the city where anything goes. It is known as the capital of hedonistic indulgence. The Las Vegas of the European Union. These cliché descriptions don’ t prepare one fully for what Amsterdam is. Most simply, it’ s a city with something for anyone.
The first thing that gets lost in most descriptions of Amsterdam is how beautiful the city actually is. Outside the red-light district, the canals lined with bike paths and quaint old houses are somewhere between Venice and Paris. The Venetian canals alive with activity and the Parisian skyline, all mixed in with something distinctly Dutch.
There is also what most Americans think of first when they think of Amsterdam: Lots and lots of coffee shops. Now, in Amsterdam, when you want coffee, you go to a café. When you are looking for something a little stronger, seek out a coffee shop. It won’ t be hard, pretty much wherever you are down town, you are only about a five minute walk from a coffee shop.
The first time you enter a coffee shop, it may be a lot to take in. Walking into the smoky haze and seeing everyone smoking marijuana so openly can be quite the shock, and the list of products can be overwhelming. Don’ t panic, ask for a recommendation from whoever is behind the bar and remember to not go too crazy, their products are much stronger than anything accessible in the States. There are dozens and dozens of coffee shops, all with different atmospheres and products, so don’ t spend all day in just one. Don’ t spend all day in any really, there is more to Amsterdam than just that.
Be sure to stop by the Anne Frank house. It is a powerful and memorable experience necessary for any Amsterdam visitor. The museum leads you on a tour through the actual house Anne and her family hid from 1942 to 1944. The museum is nine euro for adults, four-fifty for kids 10-17 and fifty cents for children under ten.
Also very much worth seeing is the Van Gogh museum. It contains a very comprehensive collection of the work of the great Dutch painter, as well as many other 19th century pieces by contemporaries and friends of Van Gogh, both his influences and those he influenced. The museum contains everything from his very earliest drawings to his landscapes, portraits and still life’ s, all while telling the story of his life through his paintings. A must-see for any art fan. It is fourteen euro for adults 18 and older, and free for kids.
Another stop worth your time in Amsterdam is the Heineken Experience. For only 15 euro (or less for children under 12), one can tour the world-famous Heineken factory, learning all there is to know about Heineken and how to enjoy it. The tour concludes with a beer tasting (included in the price), where visitors over the age of 16 get to enjoy a Heineken or two.
For the adventurous there is the red-light district, the only metropolitan area in the world where prostitution is legal. Girls stand in floor to ceiling windows and show off their ‘ products’ , trying to lure in any man who is willing to pay. It can be an unsettling experience for those who wander in unsuspectingly, something like a cross between a strip club and a haunted house. An Amsterdam experience for sure.