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Top Tips for Discovering the Real Amsterdam
August 6th, 2020 | By: Matthew Williams
If you want to avoid the crowds and explore Amsterdam beyond the tourist tat, then you are reading the right article. Amsterdam has grown increasingly popular as a tourist destination, but the focus has been on the small area around the city centre. This is a shame as there is so much more to the city than just the Red Light District! With our top tips on tours and the best parts of the city you have never heard of, you are guaranteed a fantastic experience in Amsterdam. So read on and start planning your trip to the Venice of the North!
#1 Join a walking tour
Amsterdam is rich in beautiful architecture, fascinating history and intriguing stories and one of the best ways to experience it is on foot with a knowledgeable local guide. That Dam Guide is just the ticket, providing private walking tours of the city that are catered to your interests and needs. Unlike the many free tours you will find across the city, these guides will provide you with in-depth knowledge of the city’s sights and history and will be able to answer your burning questions. With small groups of up to 8 people (reduced to 4 at time of writing due to Covid-19 restrictions) you will learn about Amsterdam’s trading past, alternative culture, Liberalism and Dutch Design and see many of the main sights. Tours take around 2 and half hours with a café break included for you to rest your feet! If you are curious about the Red Light District, That Dam Tour also provide a 1 and half hour tour that explores the area with in-depth explanations about the law, feminism and how sex work is conducted in Amsterdam.
During the Covid-19 pandemic That Dam Tour has also introduced a private virtual tour for those who are not able or willing to travel at the moment. It is a fantastic way to experience Amsterdam without having to leave your sofa! Founder of the company, Mark Law will take you on a live-streamed tour of the city and reveal its secrets and stories over an hour and a half. The tour is via Zoom, is for up to 10 people and can also be tailored to your interests.
#2 Explore the Jordaan
Also know as the 9 Streets, the Jordaan is a pretty area of Amsterdam running east from the Prinsengracht canal. This sprawling area of canals and typical Amsterdam brick houses is well known for its independent shops, traditional bars and cafes, art galleries and some of the quaintest corners of the city. Many Amsterdammers still live in this quarter, as it has a great charm and experiences far fewer tourists than in the centre. The Jordaan is a great place to sit and watch the world go by on one of the many outdoor terraces with a beer or a cup of coffee. Watch bikes zoom past, boats make their way up and down the canals and listen to the locals chatting in Dutch. You can also explore the Lindengracht market which takes place every Saturday and has a typically local character. Here you can find cheese stalls, fishmongers, florists and more in a colourful display of local Dutch produce. If you fancy a bit of retail therapy, then make your way to the Westerstraat on a Monday morning for a huge market with around 200 stalls selling a variety of new and vintage clothing.
#3 Join a bike tour
You cannot get a true feel for Amsterdam unless you hop on a bike and explore the city on 2 wheels. The city is estimated to have more than 800,000 bikes with most Amsterdammers making the majority of their journeys by ‘fiets’. If you want to join them, there are plenty of bike rental companies across the city, as well as a host of great cycling tours. If it is your first time cycling in the city, make sure to brush up on the cycling rules with number one being – give way to your right (even to cars)! Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world for cycling with dedicated bike paths everywhere in the city. They make it simple to get around, make it easy to explore further afield. You can head to the Sloterplas urban beach to the north-east where you can enjoy a swim and relax, check out the Muiderslot fairytale castle or head further south to the charming historic village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.
#4 Visit the Amsterdam Museum
If you want an insight into the city’s past, then pay a visit to the Amsterdam Museum. This institution is often overlooked in favour of the larger Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, but offers a fascinating overview of Amsterdam’s past. You can find out all about the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company and the famous people who inhabited the city, such as Rembrandt and Johan Cruijff. Amsterdam has bee an important trading city for over 1000 years and the museum allows you to explore this history through interactive exhibits and a useful audio guide. Through sight and sound you can learn about the city’s activities up to the present day with the Amsterdam DNA exhibit telling the story of ordinary Amsterdammers. It is located right in the centre of the city in a former 16th century orphanage on the Kalverstraat, just a short walk from the Central Station.
#5 Hang out at the Westergas
Relatively unknown amongst tourists the Westergas complex and the surrounding Westerpark to the west of the city centre is a green and cultural hub. The Westergas is a collection of independent shops, galleries, cool restaurants and atmospheric venues in buildings formerly used as the city gasworks in the 19th century. It is a lovely place to visit for regular events, including food festivals and live music, especially during the summer when the terraces are open and full of locals. Here you will get a sense of modern Amsterdam with its re-creation of historic industrial spaces as cultural hubs for artists and entrepreneurs. While you enjoy your beer, make sure to order some bitterballen (deep-fried bread crumbed meaty goodness) and kaastengels (think cheese spring rolls deep-fried) for a true Dutch bar experience. Head on over by bike, metro or bus and enjoy the quirky side of Amsterdam!
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