You might think that Amsterdam is just like any other capital city and set your expectations according to this belief when you come to visit.
But then, think again! Here are some facts that you should know before arriving in the city:
1. Getting around in a car
Not only it`s expensive and impractical to drive (and park) a car in central Amsterdam, it`s also a pity because you will not be able to enjoy the city to the fullest. Instead of feeling stuck in an automobile (taxi included), try riding a bike along the cosy streets or – better yet – get on a boat to experience Amsterdam from a whole different perspective!
2. Staying in a hotel
One of the best things about living in Amsterdam is enjoying the cosiness of a Dutch home. I truly believe that Amsterdam has some of the most beautiful houses in the world and one should feel grateful for living in them. These being said, it would simply be a lack of inspiration to choose a hotel room over a real Amsterdam apartment. Unless the hotel is actually situated in a typical canal house or on a boat. 🙂
Interior of a typical Amsterdam canal house, Centrum
3. Spending all your time in the overcrowded center
Even if you are in the city for just a couple of days, you need to get out of the center and into Amsterdam`s fantastic neighbourhoods! It really is the only way to get rid of the crowds and the inevitable tourist traps and discover the real Amsterdam. I am still puzzled when people label this city without them first seeing its true colours.
4. Hanging out in a bruin café
A bruin café is a traditional Dutch pub. The name “brown café” comes from the dark but cosy wooden interiors and the nicotine-stained walls and ceilings. While they are indeed a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture, these dark pubs, extremely basic in terms of décor, food and exuding a perpetual stench of beer, are not exactly the best choice if you`re looking for a brighter, better aired and a more tastefully designed hangout. There are countless nice café-bars in Amsterdam, a good alternative to the bruin cafés.
C • T Coffee & Coconuts, De Pijp
5. Hearing background noise when eating/drinking out in the city
There is no background noise when eating/drinking out in the city; there is simply noise. As quiet and serene Amsterdam might be, the Dutch are well known for talking at a very high volume. This is something one needs to learn to get used to when living in this city. Forget about a quiet dinner out or a relaxing catch-up with a friend over a glass of wine at a bar. Even concerts are noisy in Amsterdam and I am not talking about the performance. Just prepare yourself for some shouting, so that your companion is able to hear you speaking! 🙂Puerto Pata Negra, Eastern Docklands
6. Walking down big avenues flanked by impressive buildings
If you`re looking for urban grandeur, translating into big avenues and impressive, large scale buildings, then Amsterdam might just not be your cup of tea. The city, although it provides culturally just as much as any big metropolis, has a less cosmopolitan look than some might expect. Amsterdam, with its narrow streets and toy-like houses displayed along quaint canals, is probably the cosiest capital city in the world. Which is exactly why we love it so much.Residential area in Jordaan neighbourhood
7. Dressing to impress
Most people living in Amsterdam don`t dress to impress. This goes for both men and women. They dress to be comfortable, to resist the moody weather and to be able to ride their bikes in spite of wind and rain. This means you will hardly ever see anyone, in day to day circumstances, wearing pretentious outfits or accessories. So, if you want to mingle in with the Amsterdammers, try not to show off too much. This goes for both your look and attitude. As the Dutch say: “be normal, this is crazy enough!”
8. Women on high heels
This goes hand in hand with no. 7 above. Dutch ladies almost never wear high heels. They prefer flat shoes and will look surprised at seeing you defying the laws of physics by wearing some very sexy yet obviously uncomfortable pair of shoes. It seems that high heels and Amsterdam simply do not go well together. Not only they don`t match the spirit of the city (Amsterdam, the “urban village”), but the brick streets and sidewalks don`t seem to have been designed for such delicate gear either. And I am not even discussing the weather again! Even if you choose to bike, it`s still a rather complicated situation. A pair of casual boots or some sneakers will always put you on the safe side in Amsterdam, literally speaking.Street and pavement in Jordaan neighbourhood
9. Going to any restaurant and meeting your expectations
Whereas in some other cities in the world (Paris, Berlin) you can go anywhere and expect good food, in Amsterdam these places are a little bit harder to find. Although there are some fantastic restaurants and food to be found in Amsterdam, a little research ahead of time will make a difference between having a good meal or a bad meal in this city.
Lunch at SLA, the sad bar on Westerstraat, Jordaan neighbourhood
10. Filling up with appeltaart
Eating appeltaart (“apple pie”) in Amsterdam is like eating cheese cake in New York or croissants in Paris. It`s part of the experience! No wonder the apple pie is on the menu everywhere in the city. But be aware, there is another treat you might just overlook, as it is harder to find in cafés and restaurants: the stroopwafel! It is a round waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. Always get them fresh and warm, from street vendors, rather than buying the packed version from the supermarket.
Warm, freshly made stroopwafel