My final post on Amsterdam will be a run down of all the other places we checked out during our trip. As I’ve mentioned before, we were only there for three days and so didn’t get to see everything the city had to offer. We didn’t, for example, explore the big museums, or see any tulips, or windmills (magnets don’t count, I suppose). However, here are a few places that we did visit, so if you have an hour or two to kill, some of these might be a good start. I’ve also included links at the bottom of this article for other famous touristy stuff you might want to have a look at. Have fun!
My Story: I have to admit that shopping isn’t really a large part of my itinerary when I go on holiday, seeing as I have enough shops back home to keep my wallet very fit. But that’s just a personal preference. If shopping is your thing, then Kalverstraat is where you want to be. It’s a very long street that has got all the shops that you could possibly want and more: international chains like H&M and Nike, music shops like Fame, as well as little tourist stores with postcards and fluffy clog-shaped slippers. Here’s to spending to your heart’s delight! There usually are a lot of people though, so be prepared to do a bit of jostling.
Noorderkerk Market (map)
My Story: Out of several markets in the area, Noorderkerk wins my very personal award for being the most boring one. It’s quite quaint I suppose, but it wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Because we went on a Saturday there was a food market there, but do I really need a carrot? Probably not. There were also stalls selling things like old stamps (my Dad would’ve loved that) or shaggy rags that were pretending to be coats (maybe my taste in fashion just isn’t up to par). I guess you could say it caters for a more specific and mature audience. No doubt an antique-junkie’s heaven.
Albert Cuyp Market (map)
My Story: The Albert Cuyp Market is much better than Noorderkerk, although it’s perhaps a bit unfair to say so as this is also the largest market in Amsterdam. Still, you can find practically everything here, from fresh sea food to shoes to old vinyls. Good waffles too – not as good as the ones at the Leidseplein Christmas Market, but a bit cheaper and they’ll be here all year round. It’s basically one very long street, but the walk was really quite pleasant as it wasn’t a particularly busy day. Worth a visit.
The Sex Museum
Address: Damrak 18 (map)
Phone: 020 622 8376
Website: www.sexmuseumamsterdam.nl/index2.html (English)
My Story: Before you say anything about what bright young things get up to these days, trawling round museums dedicated to the dirty act of coitus, let me explain. Not because I think it needs much of an explanation (come on guys, you know you’d have gone too), but just because the last time I came to Amsterdam, I was nine and my parents very deliberately shielded my eyes when we walked past the Sex Museum. And I was quite adamant that I should stand up for my belief of anti-censorship – so in we went.
The thing is, though, it really wasn’t that exciting or stimulating (ha!). It was more about ‘nude’ than ‘naked’, in the sense that many of the items on display were either historical or artistic. A bronze statue. A sword with a penis-shaped hilt. Some old black and white photographs that Verloc might have sold at his shop in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Sort of interesting I guess, but it was a bit out-dated, very cheesy, and completely non-erotic. I was hugely disappointed considering I had waited more than a decade for this, but never mind, we did have a giggle. Plus of course, it was the fact that I made my stand and pulled the wool from my eyes that mattered.
Canal Tour (with Tours and Ticket)
Phone: 020 420 4000
My Story: I know getting on a canal tour is just about as touristy as you can get, but hey, it had shelter and I wasn’t, at that point, confident enough to get on a bike (I have since improved drastically and had my first fall – so I’m invincible now!) But looking back, we shouldn’t have done it because it was actually quite a terrible way to waste our time. I do, however, have to point out that our experience was particularly marred by two main factors. Firstly, most of the boat was taken up by a huge group of Jews – all adults, mind – who spent the entire time running around, shouting, or shushing each other really loudly. Their tour guide also rudely insisted on talking over the English presentation, and so we learnt absolutely nothing about the city. I’m not being funny and I’m certainly not being racist, but it was extremely disturbing. And the second reason was that the woman in front of us insisted on having the window wide open despite the cold. She said she was going to take photos but her camera disappeared from view after one shot.
I therefore admit that my review of the tour is extremely biased, and it might be worth doing further research before you make your decision about whether to go or not. Other people have probably had much better experiences (like the Jews, perhaps?) but do, if you’re still keen on going, make sure that you go on a nice day, sit near the front where the speakers are located, and be prepared that it could potentially turn out to be the worst thing you’ve ever had to pay for.
That said, I did spot a boat named ‘Viagra’ along the way, which cheered me up for a good few minutes.
Red Light District (map)
My Story: Not much of a story to tell here really, although I’m sure others will have plenty. The thing that struck me most about this infamous district, incidentally, was how pretty it looked as the sun set and the windows’ lights were reflected in the canal. Of course, that’s not what most people go there for, but I just thought I should mention the other side that gets less attention. Yes there were red lights, yes there were skimpily dressed girls licking their lips seductively from behind glass windows, yes there were a lot of ads for various shows and more sex toys than you ever knew existed. And yet I just couldn’t help but feel like it was all for show. It was Amsterdam trying to flaunt how badass and liberal and hot a city it is, but the result just seemed a bit tacky and fake. It’s just another tourist attraction – albeit one with a bit more flesh on show. Aside from that, your needs will most probably still be satisfied if that’s the kind of fun you’re looking for – and you are willing to haggle for it.
It’s also worth pointing out that you’re not allowed to take photos of the girls or their shop windows under any circumstances, or else your camera may be confiscated, so don’t do it.
Alto Jazz Cafe
Address: Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115 (map)
Phone: 020 626 3249
My Story: Having spent a good full day floating in various coffeeshops, I really wasn’t in the mood for a night out. I concluded, however, that I must see the city after dark if I were to truly experience it, and so grudgingly stepped out into the cold. I’m happy to report that it was definitely worth it.
A friend of mine recommended Alto as being the best and most authentic jazz club in the city, and it turns out that he was not alone in thinking that – I met a lovely hippy couple from Sweden who told me that they used to live in Amsterdam and have been coming to Alto for more than ten years. Plus it was packed on a Sunday night, which is always a good sign. It’s easy to see why everyone loves this snug little place though, as the lights were low, the bartenders were hot, and the small stage provided a very intimate setting for both the live band and the crowd. After a few drinks some people even got up to dance (or ‘dance’ in the case of one particularly jolly gentleman, who spent the evening waving his arms around like a very energetic imitation of Her Majesty). The atmosphere was perfect – fun, relaxed and sociable. I would therefore conclude that Alto was by far the most enjoyable part of our trip, and I’d love to visit again some day.
The live band performing that night consisted of local trumpeter extraordinaire Saskia Laroo and her fantastic boys Maarten (bass), Will (drums) and Daan (piano). My interview with them will be coming soon so watch this space!
Other Touristy Things You Might Fancy…
Van Gogh Museum: Home to the largest collection of the renowned artist’s works, including ‘Sunflower’ and ‘The Potato Eaters’.
Rijksmuseum: Apparently better than the Van Gogh Museum according to locals, the Dutch National Museum houses many great works by artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Heineken Experience: An interactive way to learn about Heineken – free beer included, I hear.
Anne Frank House: The house in which Anne Frank and her family lived and hid until they were discovered by the Nazis.
Molen van Sloten: The only functioning windmill in Amsterdam that is fully open to the public.