Cafe and Cycling Culture – What is Not to Love?
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world. There is an energy, openness and culture that is very different than any other city I have been to.
For starters the canals everywhere are beautiful but they also minimize the number of cars and force people to ride bicycles. The narrow roads keep pedestrians and cafes very close, creating a coziness not found in most of the more car centric cities of the world.
Click on the Google Map of Amsterdam below to get a feel for the layout of the center of the city. (The main train station is in the top right hand corner.)
My wife and I are big cafe people. Most of our time is spent relaxing in cafes and people watching. There is no better city in the world for its cafe culture. Every street you go there are multiple cafes with outdoor tables. In some of the more popular areas, the cafes butt up against each other so hundreds of people can gather in close proximity.
Of course, there are the drug coffee shops as well that are as equally prolific as the cafes. I love the fact that the Dutch are open enough to permit soft drug use, but at the same time having thousands of young, stoned travellers probably doesn’t create the greatest atmosphere for a city.
What really amazed us was the English skills of everyone we met. Since US television and movies are all kept in English with subtitles, it seems Dutch get huge amounts of English exposure from childhood. Everyone we talked to said they learned English from television.
Amsterdam Travel Tips
This is definitely a cash country. Traveller’s checks are not widely accepted. The front desk staff at a major hotel didn’t even know what they were. I did manage to cash a couple at the airport but it cost 5 euro per cheque plus a percentage fee. Even credit cards were very difficult to use in many restaurants and shops.
The trains from the airport were a little difficult to use. All trains stop at the same platform and they are not clearly labeled. Look around on the large yellow timetables on the platform to see which train to take. Only the final destination is listed on the trains so you will have to look at all the stops on the timetables to find your correct train. Several passengers including ourselves took the wrong train on our first attempt.
Daily train passes are only a little more than one return trip so buy the daily pass and use the transit system to get around the city.
The ferries behind the main downtown train station are free and are a beautiful ride. We took the Nooderlicht ferry across the canal to a great artist and student area.
Go up to the top floor of the airport for a great roof top terrace and some more restaurants.
The free tourist maps of downtown Amsterdam were terrible. If you can find a good map online, print it off and bring it with you.