Netherlands: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a beautiful city with more canals than Venice, and a laid-back down-to-earth feel. It is arguably most well known as the home of the Anne Frank house, a touching tribute to a young girl who still believed, despite all the terrible things going on around her, that people were still truly good at heart. Amsterdam is also a cultural center with two world-famous museums, countless artists, and quaint old cafes. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it has a dually opposing reputation as a free society where anything goes. Many things considered socially unacceptable in the US (prostitution, smoking marijuana, taking “herbal” drugs) are legal and in-your-face out in the open. In the Red Light District, call girls stand in their windows in lingerie trying to entice clients, you can have a casual discussion with a merchant on the different levels of hallucinations their products will cause you, and you can walk down the street smoking marijuana and no one will even look your way. However, all of that is beginning to change, and new laws which will take effect in Amsterdam starting on January 1, 2013 will make it illegal for Amsterdam’s coffee shops to sell marijuana to anyone other than residents of the Netherlands.  (Coffee Shops are what the Dutch commonly call shops where you can buy marijuana.)  Even residents must be an enrolled member of that coffee shop to purchase it, and numbers will be limited. How this will affect Amsterdam’s tourism remains to be seen, but many worry about the ramifications.


How long should you spend in Amsterdam?

This is something I struggle with all the time when planning a trip, so many things depend upon a person’s personality and interests.  The major sights (Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and a quick stroll through the Red Light District–if desired) could easily be covered in one day, if you book your tickets ahead (and therefore don’t spend your day waiting in lines).  However, seeing the city would definitely be more relaxing (and ideal with all of the canal strolling you’re bound to do) with 2 days and 1-2 nights.  If you plan to do side trips (Haarlem,  Aalsmeer Flower Auction, The Hague, etc), add time accordingly.  I personally spent 2 days and 1 night and wished that I had made it a 2 night stay instead.

Where to Stay

  • There are various locations within Amsterdam that are worth noting as a good location to make your home base.  We personally stayed at the Hotel Pulitzer near the Anne Frank House.  It’s located on a quiet side canal built out of a block of 25 restored 17th and 18th century canal houses converted into a hotel.  We loved it (and the fact that we were able to stay with hotel points through Starwood’s points and cash option for $90/night–making a luxury hotel an economical choice).  It was a loooong walk to our room, though, with all sorts of up-and-down staircases.  So, if you have trouble with stairs I would make sure the hotel knows this and can accomodate you when you book.  The location was on the quiet side (which we liked) but within walking distance of everything we could want.  My husband on a previous trip during college stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel Amsterdam, and he thought that location was a better spot for a younger crowd (closer to bars and restaurants, more in the center of the action).
  • On the map below, I have outlined the area in which you probably want to concentrate your hotel search.  If you feel the need to stray a little more east or westward or in the direction of Vondelpark, I wouldn’t say any of those were a bad decision, either.  Just know that you will be a long walk from most of the sights (or you could opt for public transportation).  I would not venture too close to the Red Light District and the surrounding area, however, as that area can be very seedy at night (and even during the day).

Getting from the Schiphol Airport to Downtown

  • By Train:  The station is just below the airport. After you get out of customs, go straight and then turn right. Look for the big signs overhead.  One way fare: €3.80 (2nd Class).  (Round-trip tickets are only good on the same day of purchase, buy a single/one-way ticket.)  About 6-7 trains/hour from 6am-midnight.  Trains run about every 30 mins between midnight and 6am.  Ticket vending machines at the airport require a credit or debit card with a special PIN (most Americans can’t use them).  There is an extra €0.50 charge for using the ticket windows, but if you are an American, you probably have no other choice. The trains either go directly to Centraal Station in 19 minutes, or they make 2 stops at suburban stations first and it takes about 23 minutes.  (Centraal Station is all covered and almost everyone will leave the train at that stop.)  Our hotel would have been a 1 mile walk from the station, and the concierge said a taxi would cost about €15 from there (with the new taxi rate system–described under City Transportation Options below–I’m not sure if that cost would still be the same).  For specific train schedules and departure times, go to:  www.ns.nl
  • By Taxi:  Taxis directly from the airport to the city center should cost about €45.  (The ride takes 30-50 minutes depending upon traffic.)  (We took the trian/taxi on the way from the airport and a taxi back to the airport.)
  • By Shuttle:  I don’t have any personal experience taking the Connexxion shuttle from the airport, but it runs to most hotel neighborhoods.  Oe way €16, round-trip €26 (children receive a discount).  The shuttle runs from 6am-11pm from the airport and to the airport starting around 6:30am and concluding around 11:30pm depending upon your hotel.  Tickets are available at your hotel, the TI and at the Connexxion desk at the airport on Schiphol Plaza near Arrival Hall 4.  Busses leave every ten minutes from platform A7, situated immediately outside the Arrivals Hall. You should never have to wait longer than 30 minutes.  Reservations back to the airport are a must (the company requests that you do so at least 2 hrs prior to departure).   More information can be found at their website:  www.airporthotelshuttle.nl

City Transportation Options

    

Taxis:
  • Historically, Amsterdam has not been known as a good taxi town; the drop-rate has been high, and fare costs has been confusing.  Most places are walkable and for others there is a good public transportation system.  There are more bikes than cars in the city.  If you do need to take a taxi, Amsterdam has recently introduced a new taxi rate system that can be a little bit complicated.  There are 3 parts that now make up the cost of your ride:  For 1-4 passenger taxis, the maximum start price is €2.66, max price per km €1.95, and max price per minute is €0.32.  For 5-8 passenger vans, the maximum start price is €5.40, max price per km €2.46, and max price per minute is €0.37.
  • Taxi stands are not prevalent and most people needing a taxi have their hotel or restaurant call for one.  The two stands that currently exist within the city are in Amsterdam Central Station and Leidseplein.
  • In addition to regular taxis, you will see bike taxis throughout town.  To take these, simply negotiate a rate to your destination with the driver.
Bus/ Tram/ Metro:
  • All 3 of these forms of transportation use the same tickets.  For trams and buses, buy the tickets as your board (the metro has machines).  You will probably not use the metro while in Amsterdam; it is used mostly by commuters.  You may find the bus useful at times (mostly to destinations outside of the city), but in general, you will probably either walk–Amsterdam is very walkable–or take the tram.  We managed to walk everywhere we went while there without difficulty.  (All you really need is a good map and a plan.)  For more information on the various ticketing options, route maps, and schedules go to:  www.gvb.nl (English option at the very top of the page in blue).
Canal Boat Rides:
  • Boat Tours:  Most companies offer a 1 hour overview of the city with commentary you can listen to via headphone.  Rates run from about €9 to €14 depending upon the company.
  • Renting a Boat:  You do not need any special licenses to rent a boat as long as the boat is shorter than 15 meters and cannot reach speeds faster than 20 km/hr. You can also hire a boat with its own captain and full crew (pricey).  There are numerous locations that rent boats, and plenty of options–from paddleboats to high-end yachts.
  • Additional information on both of these options and the companies that run them can be found here.
Horse and Carriage:
  • Horse drawn carriages can be found in Dam Square everyday between 11am and 6pm. The prices are per ride and for a maximum of 4 people.  20 mins costs €35, 30 mins costs €45, 45 mins costs €65m  and 1 hr costs €85. The  tour options include: The Old City (choice of 20-45 mins), The Canals (choice of 20-45 mins), The Red Light District (choice of 20-30 mins), The Jordaan Neighborhood (choice of 20-45 mins), and The Big Amsterdam Tour (1 hr).
  • Tours are run by Karos CityTours.  Their website appears to only be in Dutch www.karos.nl, but I believe it indicates that you can book it to pick you up from your hotel at an additional charge.  Enquire with your concierge for details.
Bikes:
  • Amsterdam is a great city for a bike.  I am a bit unsteady on that 2-wheel form of transportation, but if  you’re not, I highly encourage you to rent a bike.  Bike lanes are everywhere; people do everything from commute to work to shopping for groceries on their bikes.  Bikes rent for around  €10/day.  Several good rental locations can be found at Central Station.
  • A few safety tips:  No one wears helmets and many places do not offer them with a rental, so use caution.  Use the bicycle lane on the right-hand side of the road, marked out by white lines and bike symbols (do not ride on areas that are not marked out, such as pedestrian-only walkways, you can get a huge fine).  Adhere to all traffic lights and signs, and make sure you signal when turning by putting your hand out.  Be careful not to get your wheels stuck in the tram rails – cross with your wheels at an angle.
  • Warning:  Bike theft is extremely common (and costly) in Amsterdam.  Ensure that you lock your bike up the proper way or it will not be there when you get back.  Make sure to follow the instructions you are given when you rent your bike; lock both of the locks provided; lock it only to sturdy objects than cannot be moved, lifted, the lock lifted, etc; and ensure that the body of the bike, not just the tire is locked to something securely.

     
Food of Note

  • Every culture seems to be known for something.  The Dutch make several good cheeses (Gouda and Edam are popular choices).  They are also well known for their french fries (like their Belgian cousins).  In this area of Europe, french fries are almost always served with mayonnaise for dipping.  A delicious specialty often served for dessert is pannenkoeken, a pancake with cream and fruit.  A close second in deliciousness is their sister the stroopwafel (waffles with syrup).  Something I found much less appealing is the Dutch’s proclivity for pickled herring (often served on a sandwich with onions–definitely need a breath mint after that one).
  • For lunch, find one of the shops selling various sandwiches, salads, and tasty treats by the weight for a delicious take-away lunch.  I believe we found the one below on the same street as the Radisson Blu–they made us a very good sandwich to our specifications.  And if all else fails, skip straight to a candy store (there is nothing better than finding somewhere that has all of the amazing varieties of European chocolate that are out there)!
  • Meal Time:  The Dutch eat meals pretty similarly to the way we do in the US.  They don’t eat dinner super late like some of the other European countries (namely Greece, Italy, and Spain).  Breakfast, lunch and dinner generally fall around the same times they do here (with dinner starting around 6pm).

   

Amsterdam Sights

Amsterdam has many worthwhile sights, several of which I will go into below.  It’s top three attractions are arguably the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum.  Along with the big 3, I have provided information on others which I feel are visit-worthy, but keep in mind that there are other sights in Amsterdam (particularly museums with a special  focus) that you may find of interest, as well.  There are also various other sites of interest that make great side trips from the city (Haarlem,  Aalsmeer Flower Auction, The Hague, Lisse, etc) which I will try to go into at another time, but for now, I will cover the city itself.

Anne Frank House

  • The Anne Frank House is the location where, during World War II, 8 Jews hid from the Nazis for two years until their discovery. One of them was Anne Frank. While she (and 6 others in the home) died in a concentration camp–her father was the only survivor–the diary she kept during that time has lived on.  The Diary of Anne Frank has been translated into more than 50 languages and sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Visiting the site is a stark reminder of the atrocities the Jews and countless others had to endure at the hands of the Nazis during WWII.
  • Major Tip: The Anne Frank house has reputation of having horrible lines (I saw it first-hand, it went down and around the block). The space is obviously small and they can only let in a limited number of people at a time. Save yourself a LOT of headaches and time and book ahead. It only costs an extra €0.50 per ticket (it will be the best €0.50 you ever spent if the lines resemble what they were like when I was there).  Tickets can be reserved at www.annefrank.org.  You have to choose a date and time period when booking (some slots may be full depending upon how early you book).  When you book online, you print your ticket.  Then, anytime during the 1 hour entry window you are given on your ticket, you can go (with your printed ticket) to the door to the left of the main entrance (past all of the people waiting in line) and simply press the doorbell there to be let in.

Photo: Anne Frank House- You can see a small part of the line stretching around the block.

  • Hours:  March 15-Sept 14 daily 9am-9pm (open until 10pm on Sat, and everyday in July and August); Sept 15-March 14 daily 9am-7pm (open until 9pm on Sat), last admittance 30 mins prior to closing [note: some exceptions to the above hours do apply, see the website noted above for details; always closed for Yom Kippur--in 2012 that is Sept 26th]
  • Cost:  Tickets (not including the €0.50 surcharge if you book them online) currently cost €9 for adults, €4.50 for children ages 10-17, and are free for children under 10 (note: if you book online, you must still pay the booking surcharge for children under 10).
  • Location:  The Anne Frank House is situated in the center of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht 263-267. Additional location information can be found here.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about an hour here.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited.

Van Gogh Museum

  • The Van Gogh Museum holds approximately 200 of Vincent’s paintings.  It is a must-see for anyone who enjoys art or even just bright colors.  [The owner of a smartshop--where you can buy the hallucinogenic truffles previously mentioned--told me that people enjoy going to the museum after eating them.  I declined, but I could imagine that all of the colors--trippy even when you're not on anything--could look pretty insane when you are.  While on the topic of smartshops, I did find it interesting that they sell truffles and not mushrooms.  The owner said that it was because mushrooms had been outlawed in the city, but truffles were not, and you could still get the same effect from them.  If you do decide to experiment with truffles at all while in Amsterdam, be very careful not to overdo it.  A tip he mentioned to come down from them if it becomes too much for you was to drink or eat something sugary which apparently somehow minimized the affect of them.  Once again, though, I can't vouch for how effective that is or how safe truffles are, please do your own research.  But back to the Van Gogh museum--which you most definitely do not have to be high to enjoy.]

  • Tip:  The Van Gogh museum often times has a line to enter, but it is usually nothing like the line for the Anne Frank House.  It’s usually between 10 and 30 mins.  If you know you plan to visit here at some point during your trip to Amsterdam, you can buy your ticket ahead of time for no additional charge online at the museum’s website (below).  Any ticket bought between now and August 31st (2012) is good until Aug 31 and can be used on any day.  From Sept 1, 2012, the museum will be closing for a few months for construction work.  During that period, part of the collection will be shown in the Hermitage.  Updates on the closing can be found on the museum’s website:  http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp (this link should bring you to the English version).  A few notes on buying your ticket online:  If you buy it, be sure to print out your ticket and bring it with you–that is your admission to the museum (0nce they scan the barcode on it, it is marked as used in the museum’s system).  Proceed directly to the main door with your printed ticket (do not wait in line).  You have the option of buying your ticket with an audioguide or without.  I personally found it enjoyable and informative, but know that this option makes your ticket price higher–see cost for details.
  • Hours:  Daily 10am-6pm (Fri until 10pm), last admission 30 mins before closing (closed Jan 1st)
  • Cost:  Regular admission is €14 for adults, free for children 17 and under; audioguides cost an additional €5 for adults and children 13 and over, €2.50 for children 12 and under
  • Location:  The Van Gogh Museum is on Museumplein in Amsterdam, between the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum. The museum entrance is at Paulus Potterstraat 7.  I would describe the building as boxy, grey and modern looking.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about an hour here.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited.

Rijksmuseum

  • The Rijksmuseum is filled with famous works by Dutch artists, particularly from the 17th century.  The 17th century saw the zenith of Dutch sea trade.  This influx of wealth to the merchant class in turn poured money into the arts, creating the likes of  Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals (to name only a few of the featured artists in the museum) .
  • When I visited–and until 2013, the museum is undergoing large-scale renovations.  Its most famous works , from the 17th century, will continue to be on view under the title ‘The Masterpieces’ in the Philips Wing of the museum.  This has both negatives (not as many works to view and more crowded) and positives (less walking and the major works you would most likely be seeking out anyway are all on display in an easy to navigate area).

  • Tip:  The Rijksmuseum often times has a long line to enter.  It is particularly crowded between April and June (high season).  If you know you plan to visit here at some point during your trip to Amsterdam, you can buy your ticket ahead of time for no additional charge online at the museum’s website www.rijksmuseum.nl.  Any ticket bought now (2012) is good for all of 2012 (no particular date or time needs to be specified at purchase).  A few notes on buying your ticket online:  If you buy it, be sure to print out your ticket and bring it with you–that is your admission to the museum (0nce they scan the barcode on it, it is marked as used in the museum’s system).  Proceed directly to the main door with your printed ticket (do not wait in line).  You have the option of buying your ticket with an audioguide or without.  I personally found it enjoyable and informative, but know that this option makes your ticket price higher–see cost for details.
  • Hours:  Daily 9am-6pm, last admission 30 mins before closing (closed Jan 1st)
  • Cost:  Regular admission is €14 for adults, free for children 18 and under; audioguides cost an additional €5
  • Location:  Jan Luijkenstraat 1, 1071 CJ Amsterdam.  Additional location information can be found here.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about an hour here.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited.  In addition, bags larger than 55 x 35 x 25 cm will not be allowed into the museum.

The Red Light District

  • While Amsterdam is most well known for the controversy over its drug policies, it is nearly as well known for its controversial policy of legalized prostitution.  In the Red Light District, you can (and will) see it all.  If you have young children, it is best to steer clear entirely of this area of the city.  A visit here can be uncomfortable (and even possibly unsafe) for people who do not fully realize what they will encounter.  In the United States, even the small pockets of legalized prostitution (as in Nevada) are kept out of sight.  In Amsterdam, however, it is in-your-face.  Women pose in their lingerie in windows advertising themselves and their “services.”
  • Best Time to Visit (Tip):  If you choose to visit the Red Light District, you probably want to see some aspects of what it is all about.  With that in mind, I would avoid visiting in morning.  It is quiet and most of the “display windows” are empty.  There’s not really much to see, and I find that sometimes it is best to go to seedy areas with a crowd.  Afternoons and evenings are the best and safest times to visit.  I wouldn’t go after 10pm, though, unless you’re looking for trouble because you’re likely to find it.
  • Location:  The best way to locate the Red Light District (if it’s not labeled on your map, most pinpoint the area) is to look for the Old Church (Oude Kerk) near Dam Square.  The church is more or less in the heart of the district.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about an hour here wandering around.  Photography is strictly prohibited.  If you try to snap a picture (especially of one of the women in the windows), you can have your camera taken away.  I saw firsthand a man trying to snap a picture who got chased away by a bouncer.  This is the highest theft area you will encounter in Amsterdam.  Consider anything in an open bag or pocket a prime target.  It can be crowded in areas which can also help aid theives.  Plan accordingly and conceal anything valuable.
  • Nearby Site:  Amstelkring Church Museum
    • Along with the Old Church, this church resides in the Red Light District.  However, unlike the Old Church where there isn’t much to see inside, this church has some interesting sights and an even more interesting history.  Referred to as Our Lord in the Attic, this Catholic church was built during the 17th century when celebrating the Catholic mass was illegal in Amsterdam.  A wealthy merchant, Jan Hartman, secretly had the top three floors of his home converted into what you see today.  Visiting is a great way to see not only an interesting church, but also to get a glimpse into Amsterdam’s history with some interesting exhibits laid out in the home below (part of your ticket).  More information can be found at:  www.museumamstelkring.nl.
    • Hours:  Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun & Public Holidays 1pm-5pm (closed Jan 1st & Apr 30th)
    • Cost:  Regular admission is €8 for adults, €4 for children 6-18, free for children under 6
    • Location: More information on the church’s locations can be found here.
    • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about 45 mins here.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited.

More Places of Interest:

Rembrandt’s House

  • Dutch Name:  Museum het Rembrandthuis
  • This is the house where Rembrandt lived between 1639 and 1658 (the building itself was constructed between 1606 and 1607).  Unfortunately for Rembrandt, this house also brought about his financial ruin.  He was unable to pay off the mortgage and was eventually forced into bankruptcy.  The Rembrandt House Museum is probably most well known for its demonstrations of the etching technique (a medium Rembrandt excelled in).  Demonstrations are given in Rembrandt’s printing room everyday 10:15am-1:15pm and 1:45pm-4:45pm (no additional charge, enquire when the next one will be upon your arrival).  In addition, the museum owns an almost complete collection of  Rembrandt’s world-famous etchings for your viewing pleasure.
  • Other things of Note:  The museum also gives paint preparation demonstrations daily in Rembrandt’s art studio daily 10:15am-12:30pm and 1pm-4:45pm.  These demos show you how oil paints were prepared.  There are also some children’s activities in the house.  More information can be found on the museum’s website (link below) or enquire at the desk when you get there.
  • Hours:  Daily 10am-5pm (closed Jan 1st, Apr 30th, & Dec 25th)
  • Cost:  Regular admission is €10 for adults, €3 for children 6-17, free for children under 6 (all prices include the museum’s audioguide)
  • Location:  The museum is located in the center of Amsterdam, near Waterlooplein and a 15 minute walk from Central Station. Additional location information can be found here.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about an hour here (and make sure you see an etching demonstration).  Photography and video is permitted, but the use of flash or tripods is not permitted. (Photography and filming may be prohibited in some exhibitions.)  Handicap Accessibility:  Unfortunately the Rembrandt House (the old house) has no wheelchair access; however the exhibition galleries are accessible.  More information on guided tours and booking tickets online (probably not necessary) can be found at the museum’s website:  www.rembrandthuis.nl (to change the language to English, look left above the search bar).

Heineken Experience

  • The “Experience” is a self-guided tour which lasts about 1.5 hours.  You see how Heineken produces its beers, interract with several modern, multi-media exhibits, and sample some of their product (tickets–to those 16 and over–include 2 drinks).

 

Photo: The experience entrance can be seen in the background on the left, the building is on the right (as a side note, Amstel is owned by Heineken).

  • Hours:  Daily 11am-7:30pm, last entry 5:30pm; June-Aug extended hours 10:30am-9pm, last entry 7pm (closed Jan 1st, Apr 30th, & Dec 25th; 11am-4pm on Dec 24th & Dec 31st, last entry 2:30pm)
  • Cost:  Regular admission is €17 for adults, €13 for children 8-15, free for children under 7.  Online tickets can be purchased at a discount for €15 (you can skip any lines with this option, as well).  More information can be found on the experience’s website:  www.heinekenexperience.com
  • Location:  Stadhouderskade 78, Amsterdam. Take tram 7, 10, 16, 24 or 25 and get off at the Heineken Experience.  Additional location information can be found at the bottom of the page here.
  • Admin Stuff:  Plan to spend about 1-1.5 hours here, including time to drink your 2 included beverages.  Visitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult, Dutch law prohibits serving alcoholic beverages of visitors under the age of 16.  The Heineken Experience is wheelchair  accessible.

Leidseplein

  • This square is a great place to grab a coffee or a meal.  There are countless cafes to choose from, some with seating seemingly spilling into the next.  We picked a seat with a good view of the action going on around us and had a latte.  (Europeans in general do not drink lattes or capuccino’s after 11am–they stick with espresso and things without the heaviness of milk–but for some reason we just can’t help but order them when on vacation.)

Dam Square

  • This is a bustling square with several minor sights and plenty of atmoshere.  The Royal Palace, New Church, Madame Tussauds, and the National Monument all front the square.
  • Street performers frequent the square, as well, putting on a small show or taking a picture fo tips.
  • The Royal Palace- Built in the 17th century, it has served as both a town hall and a palace depending upon the time period.  This site is now open to the public.
  • New Church- Nieuwe Kerk in Dutch, was built in the 15th century.  It currently hosts rotating art exhibits.
  • National Monument- Built as a World War II memorial, it is a white obelisk near the center of the square.
    Madame Tussauds- Houses famous figures in wax.  Entrance fees are awfully high, and it wasn’t really a sight I personally went to Amsterdam to visit, so I can’t speak much about it.

    

Museumplein

  • Small, grassy park between the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.  On nice days, people picnic and ride bikes in this area and booths selling various crafts open on its outskirts.

Flower Market

  • Dutch Name:  Bloemenmarkt
  • Holland is well known as a flower grower and exporter.  In fact, you can see this firsthand by visiting the Aalsmeer Flower Auction outside of the city.  However, if you looking for somewhere in the city that will showcase some of these beautiful arrangements, want to buy flower bulbs or seeds to take home with you, or just want to take a pretty stroll, walk the long block that makes up this floating flower market in the Koningsplein neighborhood.  Holland has a reputation for tulips, even trading them like stocks in the 17th century until the bubble burst. 
  • Hours:  Open Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm and Sun 11am-5.30pm.
  • Admin Stuff (Tip):  Be aware that if you buy flowers, plants or seeds you need to have a customs cleared stamp on the packet in order to cross over a country border with them. The US and Canada have specific regulations, as well, so be sure to ask the merchants before purchasing something to bring home; they can let you know what is and isn’t ok to transport.

   

Coffee Shops and Smart Shops

  • I have mentioned these previously in my introduction and a bit more under the Van Gogh Museum, but I wanted to go into a little more detail.  A Coffee Shop is a location that sells marijuana in Amsterdam (do not mistake a coffee shop for a cafe–a cafe is where you buy a cup of coffee).  A Smart Shop is somewhere that you can buy drugs that are considered “natural” and therefore legal.  They are marked by a sign that looks like a toadstool (pictured below).  Always be careful–just because something is considered natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe.
  • As I said in the introduction, the law currently states that as of Jan 1, 2013, foreigners will not be permitted to buy marijuana in coffee shops in Amsterdam.  I have not seen any laws specific to purchasing truffles and other items sold in Smart Shops.  At the current time, it is only illegal to advertise marijuana in the Netherlands, so you have to request to see the menu in a shop that sells it.  You must be over 18 years old to purchase it and you can get no more than 5 grams per person per day.  Do not smoke out in the open street and do not buy from anyone who is not an advertised shop.  If you plan to buy anything, ask questions, there are a variety of different types and strengths.

     

Photos:  Left & Right: Typical Coffee Shops, Center: A Smart Shop Sign

Canal Walk

  • One of the best things to do in Amsterdam is just to walk the various neighborhoods and enjoy the scenery (the Jordaan neighborhood is a particular highlight). There are so many beautiful canals and buildings that getting a little lost while doing some wandering isn’t a bad thing.  While doing just that, we encountered the below musician and his crazy musical boat entertaining a crowd on a bridge.


   

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Anne Frank house has reputation of having horrible lines. The space is obviously small and they can only let in a limited number of people at a time. Save yourself a LOT of headaches and time and book ahead. It only costs an extra €0.50 per ticket (it will be the best €0.50 you ever spent if the lines resemble what they were like when I was there). Tickets can be reserved at… Get all the details on this and Amsterdam at Travel Tales and Tips: traveltalesandtips.com/2012/04/23/netherlands-amsterdam/ […]

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