— Why Amsterdam Just Didn’t Do It For Us —

Prior to our visit, we heard from numerous people that Amsterdam was the place to be, so we made certain to make it a stop during our brief tour of the Netherlands. To be honest, we wish we hadn’t. Amsterdam for us wasn’t as amazing as everyone made it out to be.

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To begin with, the city itself was too large and congested for our taste. We’re all about being environmentally friendly and while bikes are a great way to get around, they were EVERYWHERE! (They even have bicycle parking garages which were filled to the brim!) The streets and sidewalks were so crowded with bikes, we always felt like we were in someone’s way.

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While we did most of our exploring on foot, we also wanted to cruise the canals in an open-air boat tour. However, all open-air boat tours were canceled the day we visited because of “pending showers”, even though there was never so much as one rain drop the entire day.

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So, instead we settled on a glass-top boat with sliding windows. In the picture below Sam looks rather happy, but truth-be-told we couldn’t wait to get off that boat!

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Thank goodness it wasn’t a full boat, because there was so little legroom in between us and the seat in front of us that we had to sit in separate seats so we could turn sideways to avoid crushing our kneecaps.

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The most disappointing thing about the tour was the fact that the narration was recorded. The earbuds they provided us with were terribly uncomfortable and kept slipping out of our ears. The narration itself was a little off for the first quarter of the tour, so what was being said was not matching what we were seeing. It lacked personality and it was just plain boring!

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The views were nice, but we would have much rather explored the canals by walking along the shoreline.

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Following our canal tour, we made our way to De Pijp neighborhood to visit the Albert Cuyp Market and to find some lunch. Over 300 stalls line both sides of the Albert Cuypstraat selling everything from fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish, and spices to clothes, cosmetics and bedding. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to about 5 pm.

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De Pijp is also known for its plethora of eateries, so we wandered for a bit before settling on a restaurant/bar called Chocolate.

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The prices were decent for both beer and food. We call them grilled cheese sandwiches, but the Dutch call them toasties. Whatever you want to call it, it was pretty tasty!

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We asked our server where to find the most picturesque canal in Amsterdam and she recommended we visit Groenburgwal canal to get Zuiderkerk’s steeple in the background.

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Iconic Amsterdam canal photo- CHECK!

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We continued our exploration of the city by foot, and don’t get me wrong, there were definitely charming parts of the city with unique and colorful architecture.

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We weren’t super interested in visiting any of Amsterdam’s supposed ‘must visit’ attractions. Though we like Heineken beer, we’d much rather visit a small craft brewery than tour a commercial industrial brewery.

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And while it would be fascinating to take a step back in history, we weren’t interested in waiting in a ridiculously long line to get inside the Anne Frank House.

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We found the Floating Flower Market (pictured below) to be a little too crowded and touristy for our taste.

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And what makes Amsterdam, well… Amsterdam, wasn’t of interest to us either. Legal drug use and street prostitution just isn’t our thing, so this city’s obvious displays of these “recreational” activities was a turn-off for us.

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Of course you can visit Amsterdam and attempt to avoid specific regions, like the Red Light District. However, we purposely tried to steer clear of this part of the city and ended up right in the middle of it, because it wasn’t labeled on the map we were using.

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There are so many other charming (and smaller) nearby towns without blatant displays of drugs and pornography, so unless that’s what you’re looking for, we’d say you’re better off visiting towns like Haarlem (pictured below) for a genuine Dutch experience.

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Travel is all about preferences and experiences, so we’re not telling you NOT to visit Amsterdam, we simply wanted to highlight why Amsterdam just didn’t do it for us!

16 Comments:

  1. Amsterdam may not have been your cup of tea, but your pictures are fabulous.

  2. I’ve never been but Amsterdam has never struck me as a place for us…yeah the drug/red light district thing is cliche. Plenty of other Red Light districts in the world without having to say you went to the one in Amsterdam. Too many young people trying to be cool for us. As you say, have heard good things about Haarlem.
    Great pics though.
    I like honesty, hate when other bloggers put a positive spin on a place they would never want to come back to.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Exactly… what’s the point in writing about a place if you can’t be honest about your experiences? And, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions about a given destination. I just felt like we HAD to go to Amsterdam if in the Netherlands, but I wanted to share our experiences and share about an alternative to Amsterdam (Haarlem).

  3. I didn’t like Amsterdam either, but I’m not too sure exactly why. I was there in November and while the city wasn’t busy and I didn’t have to fight the tourist crowds, it was so depressing. Dark, gloomy and rainy. For some reason, it just didn’t click for me. You took some amazing photos though!

    • I could see how being there in the winter months would make me dislike Amsterdam even more. At least the day we visited, the sun was shining, which did make for some pretty nice photos!

  4. I was in Amsterdam in November for work and it was super cold. Not the best time of year and the city didn’t do it for me either, although it was pretty, I just couldn’t understand it or get the pulse of it like you can some places, but I was only there for a short time. I did, however, think the Anne Frank Museum was amazing. As I’d read the “Diary of Anne Frank” as a child, seeing where her family lived and hid from the Nazis was truly touching and heartbreaking.

  5. What a shame you did not like Amsterdam that much. But I can totally understand where you are coming from because the city center can come across very hectic and touristic. I think if you would have stepped out side the main canal ring you would have enjoyed it more. But then again I am biased because I live there ;).

    Love your photo’s though!

    • We didn’t hate Amsterdam; it just didn’t live up to the hype and moreso we found that nearby Haarlem was everything we wanted Amsterdam to be, so we fell in love with Haarlem and Amsterdam was just ok.

  6. My husband and I just got back from our trip — we spent 2 nights in Amsterdam — and I had to google to see if anyone else disliked Amsterdam as much as we did. We really thought we would love it so we were so surprised when we didn’t.

    First and foremost, I was shocked at how menacing the bicycles were. There are thousands of them, going very fast, many of the cyclists texting while flying through intersections. It was very hard for pedestrians to find their place. There’s a place for cars, a place for bikes, not a lot of safe walking area. You find yourself feeling nervous all the time, looking around, never really being able to relax. I liken it to having bees buzzing around you all the time. I’ve lived in NYC and Austin, TX, both big bike cities, but nothing would prepare you for the bike insanity in Amsterdam. Oh, and the parked bikes are everywhere, chained to the lovely canal bridges, sidewalk bike parking areas, etc., so that plays into the lack of pedestrian walking space as well.

    Second, I expected Amsterdam to be clean, pristine and pretty. I’m not sure why I expected that but I just did. I was surprised by how grungy it was. If you are familiar with famous grungy US cities — picture Greenwich Village in NYC or downtown Austin, or the Abbott Kinney area of L.A. or downtown Portland — Amsterdam is kind of like that.

    Lastly, be aware that Amsterdam is noticeably a young person’s city. You kind of have to be young to live in the city center because it’s difficult to drive or part a car there and older folks can’t ride bikes anymore or walk safely there. It is just very hard for an older person to live there, I think. You see very few middle-aged or older folks. If you’re young, it’s great. If you’re older like me, you will see very few of your peeps around, except for other bewildered tourists trying not to get run over.

    Things we liked: Anne Frank House (definitely book your tickets online months in advance if you are going during high summer season); the Royal Palace, dutch pancakes (what we would call crepes), Van Gogh Museum (we went on Friday night because they stay open until 10PM), Vondelpark.

    • Hi Denise,
      Thanks so much for your detailed account of your impression of Amsterdam. It’s definitely a city that appeals to some and not others; though we’d venture to say pretty much any destination will yield the same varied reactions from travelers. Some will love it; others will not. Clearly Amsterdam didn’t impress us and it sounds like you and your husband felt the same way… and for many of the same reasons. What we didn’t want to do was discourage people from visiting Amsterdam, because obviously there are countless people who out there who absolutely love the city. We simply wanted to share our account of why we weren’t impressed and also share with our readers an alternative to Amsterdam that we DID enjoy – Haarlem (just a quick train ride away). So, thanks again for sharing your insights. I’m sorry it wasn’t all you had hoped for, but it sounds like you were still able to find things in the city you enjoyed despite your overall disappointment.

    • I’m Dutch and I do agree with all you’ve written. Amsterdam tries hard to make itself one big tourist attraction and, well, it works. It makes Amsterdam a chaos, though. Indeed it’s also just dirty, like there’s a layer of smudge over everything. I’m from a different city, Utrecht, but whenever I’m in Amsterdam I can’t help but be annoyed. The city requires an aggressive stance to survive and I prefer to take things easy. While parts of Utrecht are also very busy with bikes (as is almost any Dutch place) it’s never as much a chaos, because there’s simply less things happening. There are no trams, no big groups of (drunk) tourists.

      I find Amsterdam to be quite enjoyable at about 9am in the morning, in Summer. The city takes a while to awaken so you can just enjoy the city without all the chaos. I’d advise anyone visiting the Netherlands to go to other cities too, like Haarlem, Leiden, Utrecht, Delft, The Hague (Den Haag). All places are unique in their own way and not too touristy.

      • Exactly! We have a saying, “Different strokes for different folks”, meaning some people love the Amsterdam vibe and others, such as us, do not… and everyone is free to have their own opinion. We personally LOVED Haarlem and there are so many other places in the Netherlands we’d love to explore. We’ve heard great things about Utrecht, as well. So, it looks like another trip to the Netherlands is in order!!

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