Ah, Amsterdam, the city where just about anything and everything is possible…
So what can you do with only 24 hours in Amsterdam? I recently went on a European Contiki covering 6 countries in a mere 12 days (gasp) it was a race against time, action packed and fast paced. However, I don’t feel as if I was robbed of my experience at all. When I think back and look at all my photos, I realise just how much I did in so little time.
I will write a post on my entire Contiki experience as a whole as well as share my tips for those considering travelling Contiki style.
BUT for now, let’s cover Amsterdam…
Our arrival in Amsterdam took us straight through to our hotel where we dropped off our luggage, filled our bellies with traditional Dutch cuisine and hit the road en route for our evening canal cruise. Amsterdam is home to 165 canals with more bridges than Venice (No joke). During our canal cruise, we possibly cruised underneath a good 20 bridges.
I don’t know about you, but the true beauty of a city is best experienced at night. Every building lit up, and locals filling the streets, it sure painted a beautiful image for us all.
Number 1 – You absolutely HAVE to do an evening canal cruise to see Amsterdam in its true glory. The city comes alive at night luring tourist in to experience all it has to offer – AND boy does Amsterdam have loads to offer.
FUN FACT: 25 000 bicycles fall into the Amsterdam canals each year, and only 8000 are recovered.
Drum roll, please…..prostitution became legal in 1811, so way before our time. The Dutch government controls this law by keeping prostitution within the “red light district”
How it all works? The red light lets passers-by or potential buyers know that the woman in the window is available. You can then approach the woman, and negotiate a price depending on what you desire. If the curtains are shut and the red light is turned off, well then the woman is not available. Blue lights mean the person is transgender or a transvestite.
What can be found in the red light district? Whatever you want! From the famous red-lit windows to kinky sex clubs, brothels to some interesting sex shops, sexy peep shows or a raunchy sex show, and even a sex museum (If you have the time, go and check this out, we had quite the laugh). So essentially anything your naughty heart desires.
BUT hey, if that’s not your thang, then don’t stress Amsterdam has way more to offer your kindred soul…
FUN FACT: Children are allowed to walk through the red light district.
“Blushes profusely” A cheeky evening awaited us after our canal cruise. Each of us had to pay our tour manager cash upfront to attend the sex show. I was hesitant at first, but after the convincing of a friend who had already seen one and said it’s an experience not to miss, I thought “ag what the hell, YOLO”
My friend was not wrong, it sure was an experience, and one I will never forget. When I say sex show, I mean actual sex, as in the penis enters the vagina. I know super-visual, but I need to stress this for anyone who’s curious.
Picture this… You’re flustered from the bottomless wine consumed on your canal cruise, now excited and eyes sparkling with anticipation you make your way through the cobbled streets of De Wallen also known as the red-light district. There you come across women of all races, ages and sizes gesturing for you to come closer to their red lit up windows. After a few bashful and awkward smiles between you and the many ladies of the night, you arrive at the highly anticipated sex show. Posters of women dressed in provocative attire hang outside the entrance, two obscenely large and intimidating doormen stand their guard. On entering through the red velvet rope, you make your way up a few stairs, your arm gets stamped and you receive a welcome treat. Women get a penis-shaped sucker and men get an ass/breasts shaped sucker.
“NO PHOTO’S!” A tall, blonde, and hard-faced man shouts. You nervously stumble to put your phone in your pocket, red-cheeked you slump into your seat. In front of you is a stage, it reminds you of one you’ve seen in a movie, very burlesque style, red draped curtains and gold roping. The show has already started, on stage is a tall, naked dark-haired man penetrating a small petite woman from behind. You turn to your newly acquainted travel buddy for the next 12 days hoping to see some reaction so you know how to receive this. A combination of shock and amazement painted across his face. And that’s when it hits you, you’re watching a sex show, you’re watching a man and woman have sex on a stage, you and 30 other people, sitting, staring.
Number 2–I hope my little visual interpretation got you intrigued?–Attend a Sex Show! I know, I know, BUT just do it. It’s on my list of things you should do when in Amsterdam so add it to yours.
We spent most of our time dodging bicycles, probably because it’s the main form of transport in the Netherlands. I had slight FOMO knowing I never completed my cycle lessons in time to join the bike pack. Especially as I wanted to chase after the gorgeous men (Amsterdam is on my top 5 destinations for having the most beautiful men in the world)
Number 3 – Get on a bicycle, join the pack, be a local, and see Amsterdam the right way.
TIP: There are bicycle lanes everywhere, before crossing the street look right and then left, and then right again, and then left, left, right, up, down, right, left, look into your future, look into your past, look right again, then cross the road… AND still, get hit by a bicycle.
What you need to eat when in Amsterdam: My top two picks
- Stroopwafels – Literally heaven on earth. Having previously worked for a Dutch run company, I was exposed to these delights for years and couldn’t wait for my monthly treats. Nowadays I have to travel across the world to get my hands on proper Dutch stroopwafels. They can be found in SA, but nothing tastes as good as the originals. I stocked up on a few packs when shopping around in Amsterdam, but sadly none of them made it back home.
- Thick Dutch fries – Also known as patat or frites, served in a paper cone drenched in your choice of sauce and toppings. I had the ‘patat speciaal’ curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onions. It was a pure delight and added a whole new sensation to my taste buds. Youll be surprised how well the raw onions compliment the fries.
Number 4 – My only regret, I didn’t eat enough local delights. If you have the time, eat to your heart’s content. Eat! Just eat it all, worry about the weight when you’re home.
Number 5 – SHOPPING, if you’re on a budget, I still suggest walking through the department stores. Window displays like you’ve never seen before (especially during the festive season), not to mention the floors and floors of designer clothing. Walking through a shopping centre in Amsterdam is no Canal Walk, it’s an outing, an event, a must do. And HEY! Bonus if you have the extra cash to spend. South Africa is a good 2 – 3 seasons behind when it comes to trends, so why not take advantage.
I now get semi-depressed walking through the malls back home, as well as irritated with the fact that I can’t find anything I want. Shopping in Europe was incredible, I was spoilt for choice.
Tip – look for “De 9 Straatjes” – Full of designer boutiques, cafés (NOT coffee shops), vintage shops, and speciality shops.
Extra Tip – PACK LIGHT!!! I promise you, you’ll regret overpacking. Anything and everything you’ve had an eye on will be available to you in Europe.
Coffee Shops are where you can smoke and consume cannabis. A Cafe is where you’ll find delicious coffee. So remember when the craving hits, whether it’s for Coffee or “Coffee” be sure to know the difference when asking a local. An experience not to miss. So if you’re curious and or interested, pop into a “coffee shop” and see what it’s all about.
Number 6 – The hash, marijuana & hemp museum – I didn’t make it there myself, but a couple of my Contiki mates did and said it’s a must-see. You can find the museum in De Wallen street (the Red light district)
See you soon Amsterdam – I need my yearly fix of stroopwafels.