Why We Did Not Love Amsterdam – It Just Didn’t Do It For Us

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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. Here are the many reasons why we did not love Amsterdam.

Amsterdam (6)

Too Many Bikes in Amsterdam!

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.

Bikes in Amsterdam

Lame Canal Tour in Amsterdam

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.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

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!

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

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.

Amsterdam Canals

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!

canal boat amsterdam

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

canals in amsterdam


Amsterdam’s Attractions = CROWDED!

Heineken Brewery Tour

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.

Heineken Brewery Amsterdam

Anne Frank House

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.

Anne Frank House

Floating Flower Market

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

Amsterdam Floating Flower Market

Amsterdam Weed Shops and Museum

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.

Amsterdam Weed Shops

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

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.

Amsterdam Red Light District

What We DID Like About Amsterdam

Notice how the title of this post is NOT Why We Hated Amsterdam, but rather Why We Did Not Like Amsterdam. Overall, it just wasn’t our cup of tea, though there were still parts of Amsterdam that we did enjoy.

De Pijp – A Nice Neighborhood in Amsterdam

Following our less-than-stellar 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.

market in amsterdam

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

drinking in Amsterdam

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!

Dutch toastie

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.

Best Photograph Spots in Amsterdam

amsterdam photo spots

Iconic Amsterdam canal photo- CHECK!

Amsterdam canal

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.

Amsterdam architecture Amsterdam buildings architecture in AmsterdamAmsterdam park

Cities like Amsterdam

So again, we’re not telling you NOT to go to Amsterdam, as we’ve talked with other travelers who loved the city. What we don’t want to do is tell you why we did not like Amsterdam without recommending some alternatives. We were in search of a charming Dutch town filled with canals, neat architecture, and some fun things to do and while Amsterdam had all of these things, it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. There are many other charming (and smaller) nearby towns without blatant displays of drugs and pornography. Unless that’s what you’re looking for, we’d say you’re better off visiting towns like Haarlem (pictured below), Den Haag (The Hague), Utrecht, Rotterdam, Leiden, and Delft for a genuine Dutch experience.

Cities like Amsterdam

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!


  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!!

  7. Hello,
    Wow! Finally someone I can agree with!
    I visit Amsterdam for 2 short afternoons this passed April 2018. My spouse and I went the 1st afternoon to see what the fuss was all about. After coming up from Belgium (5 days), Luxembourg (2 days) and a few cities in the Netherlands including Rotterdam, Haarlem and The Haag (The Hague), Amsterdam charm falls short of what we previously visited. Don’t get me wrong, as you mentioned, some parts of Amsterdam are quite nice but the crowds and constantly watching out for pedestrians, bikes, trams and buses, it was not relaxing and way to overcrowded.
    We decided to give Amsterdam a 2nd afternoon to see if maybe our day before was maybe just us not wanting to be open to it. NOPE! still not interested after a 2nd try.

    We came to the conclusion of liking smaller towns is more our thing especially with less people. When we stayed in The Haag (The Hague) to be a cute little town and we were lucky enough to have time to visit a quite beach about 10-15 minutes walk. The sand was very clean with very few rocks/pebbles and I was loving it so much to see how Europe is more open to dogs being around. This beach had a lot of them spread out with plenty of space to walk or play with them.

    Same thing when we went to Scotland last year. Edinburgh wasn’t as beautiful as all the small towns we drove through. Country side and smaller towns have much more charm!

    While Iceland Reykjavik main town isn’t too bad but driving the “Ring Road” you see nice little towns too!

    Must keep an open mind and go to places where you know yourself to be most content, whether it’s the big cities, small towns or mix of both.

    • And that’s the neat thing about travel – everyone has different experiences and opinions. We didn’t love Amsterdam so much, but we know plenty of others who enjoyed it very much. And you, like us, discovered that you prefer smaller towns and locations away from larger cities. We have yet to make it to The Hague, but it’s on our list.

  8. Your photos look great!

    I think you could have avoided the red light district by spending 10 seconds to look online which streets are part of it and which aren’t. The vast majority of the city center doesn’t have window prostitution so you could have easily avoided it. It’s Amsterdam so you could have expected this, as well as some coffee shops.

    Tourism has gotten way worse since your visit so I can only imagine the terrible experience you’d have now. Did you go and visit De Negen Straatjes or the Westerpark area? Or the Haarlemmerdijk? Those are all within walking distance and quite nice.

    You are right in that there are lots of great places to visit in the Netherlands that aren’t Amsterdam. Haarlem is nice, and so are Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Leiden, Delft, and Maastricht.

    • Oh for sure… we don’t always use maps when in a given destination, as it allows us the opportunity to discover off-the-beaten path locations. However, then we end up in the red light district – ha ha! It is Amsterdam, so it wasn’t a huge surprise; just not what we set out to see! We have so much more of the Netherlands we want to explore; should’ve stuck to those places to begin with. Lesson learned, hence why we try to avoid ‘popular’ destinations and stick to the lesser known places, like Haarlem!

  9. You’re two are obviously not interested in Art. Otherwise you had visited both The Van Gogh Museum and The Rijksmuseum which -by the way!, are just meters away. These two MUSEUMS are enough to make Amsterdam a wonderful place!. Visit both of them next time! but first, do some serious research!!!.

    • Hi Angela. You are correct. We’re not too into art. We visit a museum every now and again, though we mostly prefer history and natural history museums. In general, we enjoy spending our time exploring a city by foot, visiting food/craft markets, enjoying the local cuisine, and as mentioned, visiting an occasional museum during our travels. Everyone travels differently and has different interests. Amsterdam just didn’t do it for us and visiting a few museums wouldn’t have changed the aspects of Amsterdam that we did not love. We know several people who have visited and loved Amsterdam… respectfully, it just wasn’t for us.

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