Seven Reasons Most Visitors Come To Amsterdam

Amsterdam wasn't not my first choice when it comes to visiting places in Europe, I just happened to catch a free overnight stopover in ...

Amsterdam wasn't not my first choice when it comes to visiting places in Europe, I just happened to catch a free overnight stopover in mid-August last summer. But I can now see why so many people worship Amsterdam and pilgrimage there from all over the world: Amsterdam, similarly to Las Vegas, is a sin city where a few universally forbidden pleasures are easily accessible and totally legal. However, as it often happens, Amsterdam is not only about getting high or strolling around the Red Light District at night. It also seems to be a very livable city with a rich history, uncustomary architecture, and excellent food options. And besides traditional public transit and your own feet, you have at least two more wonderful ways to explore the city: by taking a boat and riding a bicycle.

Obviously, there are lots of reasons to visit Amsterdam, but according to my observations, the following seven make the most common ones.

1. Canal Cruise.  
With over 100 kilometres / 60 miles of canals, Amsterdam earned itself a nickname "Venice of the North".
Canals have been in operations since the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The three major canals - Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht - are jam packed with boat traffic, while others looks very secluded where one can escape with hustle and bustle of a big city.
Remember, those old times when Amsterdam's canals were dug, preceded motorized vehicles for a few hundred years. You can imagine how big of a deal it was back then and how much it helped navigating the city.
Canals in Amsterdam isn't a mere tourist attraction. They still play a pretty important role for locals to get from a place A to B.

2. Riding a Bicycle.  
I'm a big fan of bicycles in general, but if you happen to be in a new city like Amsterdam, riding a bicycle gives you a huge advantage: you get to see more over a given time period.
The Netherlands is a bicycle paradise with over 1/3 of a total population using their bicycles on a regular basis. In all fairness though, the Netherlands is mostly flat, not too cold and not too hot which creates perfect conditions to ride a bicycle. As someone who used to commute using a bicycle for three out of four seasons, I can tell you that these factors make a huge difference.
Bicycles in Amsterdam are everywhere. It's a commodity, not a luxury. And I have seen zero expensive bicycles in Amsterdam.
Having said so, I would be very cautious to ride a bicycle on the busiest roads in central Amsterdam. With so many people walking around, it's inevitable that some people would step in on bike lanes which is dangerous and very frustrating for those riding bicycles. Next time in Amsterdam, just listen to bike bells.
It's amazing how people manage to find their bicycles in those typical parking lots.

3. People Watching.  
Amsterdam gets busy, especially on summer weekends. Comparing to other places in the world, Western Europe is very accessible thanks to its compactness and a great public transportation including high-speed trains, low cost airlines and even cheaper buses.
So no wonder Amsterdam gets busy, especially on summer weekends. 
As a photographer, people watching is one of my favourite things to do in a city.
Taking a picture of a stranger can be intimidating.
Telephone lens gives you a big advantage as you can shoot your picture from far away without disturbing your object of interest.
This guy is about to be bitten by a huge swan. 

4. Architecture.  
After Rotterdam has lost much of its architectural heritage during the World War II, Amsterdam reclaimed its status of the prettiest big city in the Netherlands.
Old gingerbread houses dotted along canals is my favourite part of Amsterdam when it comes to its charming architecture.
Different colours and shapes, but almost always quite narrow - about three windows wide. As you can guess, climbing a steep staircase would make a bit of a challenge let along moving furniture up and down. To solve this problem, many houses have a metal hook at the top.
Dam Square features larger buildings including the Royal Palace Amsterdam where royal receptions are held since 1808.
Contemporary buildings complement a traditional Dutch architecture.
And, of course, my article would not be complete without a classical Dutch windmill. Meet De Gooyer, the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands. It was once used as a flour mill, but now hosts a brewery and a restaurant.

5. Coffeeshops and Recreational Drugs.  
Alright, unlike the previous reasons, this one is completely off my interest. But frankly speaking, thousands of people come to Amsterdam to get high on recreational drugs.
The whole industry is working day and night to please a demanding crowd.
From traditional coffeeshops (not to confuse with koffie huis or cafe) where you can buy soft drugs to entire stores specialized in space cakes, tea, jelly beans, ice cream and many other edibles based on cannabis.
Unfortunately, I've seen quite a few young people who smoked cannabis on the street, and this is very sad. 
Cannabis has two main components - THC and CBD. The latter is successfully used for medical reasons, while THC causes a psychoactive effect known as “feeling high”. THC negatively impacts brain development and results in impaired thinking, memory, and learning functions. For those who  start using cannabis under the age of 25, the impact is permanent. 

6. Red Lights District (De Wallen).  
Another activity in Amsterdam which I didn't fully appreciate is strolling the Red Light District. I've only walked past it during the day, but it was enough to feel very uncomfortable.
Basically, there are two types of "activities" one can find there - peep shows and prostitutes. The later starts with a window shopping where ladies pose in underwear and lure their potential clients with erotic moves.
I suppose this exists everywhere in big cities, but the Netherlands decided to legalize this kind of business. 
I've heard the Red Lights District gets pretty hot at night. That's all I can say about it. 

7. Bloemenmarkt.  
If you want to buy fresh tulips or tulip bulbs - Bloemenmarkt is the place to go. Remarkably, I only realized that it's a floating market while I was preparing this article.
I think it'll be unnecessary to say that the Netherlands is a tulip capital of the world. Dutch tulips are sold by millions literally everywhere. Canada's capital hosts an annual tulip festival featuring over 10,000 tulips received from the Royal Dutch family since 1953.
Most tulips that you can find at the Bloemenmarkt are either bulbs or artificial. But a selection is huge.
Besides flowers, there are a few cheese outlets where you can taste and buy a traditional Dutch cheese. Gouda, Edam, Maasdam, Limburger - just to name a few.
Yummy!

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