When I was taking my first Europe trip, my best friend wanted to join in and travel to Amsterdam with me. Unfortunately for us, she couldn’t make it as per the itinerary and eventually Amsterdam got knocked off from our itinerary too.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen someone get excited about Amsterdam.
I am really not the best person to keep up with pop culture and trendy bucket lists. But when it came to Amsterdam, I was well aware of the reputation that preceded this Dutch capital.
Was it all about the reputation?
Or was Amsterdam’s liberal attitude towards marijuana, prostitution and all things illegal that got people excited?
Here was a city with centuries of history written by colonial rulers, artists, and traders. And yet, what it is known for today is the coffee shops in Amsterdam that sell marijuana, and the Red-Light Area where prostitution is legal.
Earlier in 2018, I finally took my first trip to Amsterdam. While there were a lot of pre-conceived notions, my first impression of Amsterdam even managed to take me by surprise.
We were travelling to Amsterdam from Brussels by train. The excitement about this much talked about the city was giving me butterflies. And yet, I kept wondering what would this be like? Would it be just another overrated destination? What will be my first impression of Amsterdam? Most importantly, what would be the one most memorable aspect of Amsterdam for me?
After Berlin and Brussels, Amsterdam was quite a contrast to the two cities. Of course, I am referring to the architecture and street art. Both Berlin and Brussels had been so full of street art and wall graffiti that when we arrived in Amsterdam, the lack of it turned out to be a striking difference. The most notable aspect of Amsterdam’s architecture was the backdrop of water in canals and surrounding rivers that gave a unique look to its buildings.
Honestly, I was taken aback by the Amsterdam Centraal Station and the adjoining bus stop. It was one of the most beautiful train stations that I had seen. To be welcomed into a city with that view was definitely promising.
I Amsterdam Everywhere
Amsterdam’s popularity amongst tourists came as no surprise to us. But what was surprising indeed was the approach from the city’s tourism board. When we went to purchase our travel cards from the Tourism Information Office, we were stunned by the availability of branded merchandise that there was. Even three days later into the city, the same I Amsterdam signpost was a popular installation for tourist pictures outside the Rijks Museum.
Our stay in Amsterdam was brief. With 4 days to explore the city, there was a lot to do in Amsterdam. Especially because there was so much to explore in the Old Town Center of the city which leads to many unopened doors. To explore the same, we took a free walking tour with the Freedam Tours. And we’re so glad we did!
This gave us a better insight and first impression of Amsterdam that we would have absolutely hated to miss!
Amsterdam is full of incredibly stunning architecture. The old buildings and homes stand still with time reflecting the colonial architecture of the Dutch. The city’s infrastructure, connectivity, accessibility was particularly exciting.
We ended up missing the tour of major museums such as the Anne Frank House, Rijks Museum, Van Gogh Museum thanks to their pre-booking policy. (only if we had researched enough on this too!)
But we loved walking around the city. Which was sometimes jarring, because Amsterdam is a city dominated by bikers. Thanks to my poor cycling skills and Parichay’s injured leg, we had to miss out on that experience. But bikers were everywhere. Even in our way. While it was great to see a city rely on bikes over cars, it was also often a nightmare with the fear of ramming into one.
What was funny though were the stories that we found out about missing cycles and their legends around the city!
We did get to explore the city, it’s localities and got an insight into one of the most marvellous cities that I have ever been to.
A special mention to the markets in Amsterdam! Right from the fish to fashion, these markets were friendly and cost-effective. A maze that I’d love to get lost in!
The first impression of Amsterdam was undoubtedly impressive. But it also left me thinking, how much more and how much deeper this city has to be explored and above all understood!
First Impression of Amsterdam
I thought Amsterdam was beautiful. And I thought that Amsterdam was more real than any European city that I had ever been to. After all, every city has some great architecture, monument or aesthetics to boast about. But the beauty of Amsterdam was its ability to breathe. This was the city that didn’t judge!
In a nutshell, my first impression of Amsterdam could be defined in a line-
Amsterdam is a city that lets you be, and still isn’t a snob for all that it is!
Illegal is Legal
Everyone loves illegal; everyone is drawn by the forbidden. But not Amsterdam. Over the years, the city redefined its policies partially legalizing the forbidden. All of this came for a literal cost, but it spared the city of moral policing.
Amsterdam since ancient days was a city of sailors and traders. When the men came back home after long days at the sea, their hospitality was considered a duty. What the men craved were wine, women and weed. Not that the city was going to deprive them of their needs, but sinning came with the cost of atonement. The cost which filled up the treasuries of the church while men sinned for which they had already atoned.
This is how weed, wine and women become popular in Amsterdam, as told to us by our tour guide. The church had but one rule, “Illegal is tolerated in limits. And sins have to be heavily atoned for!”
So, every time you walk into a coffee shop in Amsterdam, you’re consuming well what’s legal.
While smoking weed in most countries around the world could be a big deal, a form of adventure for teenagers & adults. But in Amsterdam, it’s a high school sensation which ends right there! It’s common for parents to take their teenage kids to smoke up, to give them a taste of what could be a temptation. That is right where the temptation ends. The consumers of marijuana in Amsterdam are primarily the tourists visiting from across the globe.
This not just keeps the locals safe, but can also be considered as a masterstroke to increase tourism revenues.
Did you know? Coffee Shops in Amsterdam, selling marijuana have to pay a total of 58% tax to the government!
Now you know what this means!
Another interesting first impression of Amsterdam comes from the way prostitution works in the city. The Red-Light District is one of the most protected areas in the city. Visitors are not allowed to film/ use cameras of the prostitutes at the windows.
The consent and a fair minimum wage policy along with government benefits are given to these sex workers.
Most importantly, they are well-educated women who also practice music, art and other professions that they excel in, demanding equal respect.
When I found this truth about Amsterdam, I was impressed beyond measure and convinced of its exemplary ways. Amsterdam had everything- the architecture, history, art, infrastructure, food that could wow you on your perfect vacation. But what made Amsterdam stand out for me was its extraordinary values of life and living which make the city what it is today!
This one’s definitely an impression that I’d love to remember!
See you soon Amsterdam!
What about you? Have you been to Amsterdam? What was your first impression of Amsterdam like? Tell me in the comments below.