When one of your pals goes to Amsterdam, you tend to hear about the drugs. Let’s face it, a lot of tourists are drawn to the city for their liberal take on marijuana so it’s common for people to tell you about smoking in ‘coffee shops’ or eating ‘happy’ pizzas. I’ll be honest it’s not really my scene. I was much more excited to explore a new city and see what Amsterdam had to offer.
But I hadn’t really heard anything else about it…
So my trip to Amsterdam felt very original. You know, like I hadn’t really got many tips, I didn’t really know where I was going, but it made it my own experience. I like this approach to travel, it’s more exciting and spontaneous. And it meant I picked up a lot of tips, pretty much from doing things the wrong way but hey it’s an adventure!
So here are 5 things I learnt on my trip to Amsterdam, that I really wish someone had told me beforehand…
1) So many steep steps.
I’d seen the Instagram photos of the skinny houses before my visit, but it didn’t click that it meant steep stairs. But it does. Very steep. The steepest. Like seriously guys, I was touching the steps in front of me as I was climbing.
And there’s usually a lot of them. In the Airbnb I was staying in, we were on the fourth floor which meant 4 flights of very steep staircases with luggage. I mean it’s cool, it won’t massively affect your trip, but I was too scared to wear high heels on nights out, purely because it meant making it down those 4 flights of stairs in one piece before even going anywhere. I opted for ankle boots with a small heel FYI.
2) How trams work.
I’d heard on the grapevine that Amsterdam was a small city and you could get everywhere on foot. And that’s true it is a small city. But if you’re exploring all day it can be super tiring if you want to go from one side of the city to the other. And as we was staying down near Vondelpark, my pals and I decided to jump on the tram to get into the central part of the city.
But the thing is, trams aren’t all that clear. There’s a conductor in the middle of the tram you can buy a ticket from but you need to touch in and touch out with it like an Oyster card in London. But the tickets were for one hour. So we didn’t really know if that was like an hour of time that would pause when you touched out, or just meant you could be on the tram for an hour. It turns out it’s the latter and is mainly for people changing trams which is why they touch in and out on the same journey.
But what I didn’t realise is that there are 24 and 48 hour cards. That would have been a lot cheaper than paying for the hour card every time we got on a tram. But you know, shoulda, woulda, coulda, right?
3) The red light district is weird AF.
My boyfriend was told that the girls in the windows in the red light district looked like models. But much to my enjoyment, he was bitterly disappointed! That sounds mean but seriously, I mainly saw women in their underwear looking bored in a window and giving everyone massive dirty looks every time they looked up from their phones. It’s not sexy, gentlemen.
Overall, the red light district was actually nothing like I thought. I imagined it to be a bit seedy but figured it would be swarming with tourists like me checking it out and would be a bit more prominent. In fact it was quite difficult to find at first as it’s split over a couple of streets and there aren’t as many neon signs as I thought there would be. And in terms of seediness, it was mainly shifty looking middle-aged men and lads-on-tour on a stag do in the red light district. I mean, it’s definitely worth a look but then you’re done and should leave immediately.
4) It’s impossible to get a good photo in front of IAmsterdam.
You know you see bloggers and models that get these shots in front of the I Amsterdam sign with no-one else in sight? I think they go at the crack of dawn. I’m obviously missing a trick. Because it’s rammed full of people all trying to get a photo. The only thing I could do was get a close-up shot with my pal Lauren in the ‘d’.
5) It’s not a massive party city.
Amsterdam was a lot more casual than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous night out at a pub then a karaoke bar, but it was mainly students and locals and felt very casual. I mean, maybe that’s because all the shouty Brits are in the red light district perving over prostitutes, but I just felt like everything was quite laid back in terms of the nightlife.
To be fair, I’m not into clubbing and prefer bars so I think Amsterdam has big clubs where you would get that kind of night, but I still felt like the bars were quite low-key. I wore a casual tee with a skirt and boots and was at the right level of dressiness I think.
Quick tip, I visited a bar called Hannekes Boom one night and it’s really chilled with lots of fairy lights and comfy sofas and it overlooks the river. Definitely check it out if you’re near Central Station.
What do you think? Do you have any more tips for Amsterdam or things you wish you’d known before you visited? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!