Well, not exactly ‘wholesome’ – I enjoy a bit of drunken debauchery as much as the next person. However, Amsterdam has become a byword for prostitutes and marijuana.
Whilst many of us may have ventured the odd toke here and there, especially back in college, most of us are happy to leave those hazy, lazy days of nothingness behind us without a backwards glance. So this article is not for those who come sniffing out the herb in ‘Dam.
Nor is it an article for those who have to pay women to get their kicks. This is an article for those who plan to come to Amsterdam with a view to getting up on it and having a wild time without the dark underbelly pulling us down.
And trust me, there is plenty to enjoy in this gorgeous city.
If, like me, you’re visiting Amsterdam as a backpacker on a tight budget then you’ll want to have sorted out a couple of things before you arrive. Research and pre-book a well-priced, well-rated hostel that is suited to your needs and as central as you can get. Then pre-book your airport transfer from Amsterdam airport. Private taxis are a great way to relax in peace after your flight, but to keep the costs really down, book a shuttle transfer to your accommodation ahead of time. There are some great transfer companies out there offering really good rates, so there’s no need to slog through public transport or pay through the nose before you even reach where you’re going!
So, once you’ve arrived, you’re pretty much guaranteed to suddenly find yourself inundated with ways you could spend all your money straightaway.
Hold your horses.
Take a deep breath and prioritise.
You want to see the city?
Rock up to Dam Square for 11am or 1pm for a free walking tour, which will help you get your bearings. This is a good way to start your first day. You may find you meet a couple of fellow backpackers on the tour, if you haven’t already picked up a few travel buds at the hostel. Whether you’re with company or on your own, your next step is to ask at your hostel reception about getting on a pub crawl. These are quite regularly organised, and a great way to get around some cheap and pleasant drinkeries whilst getting chatting at the same time. Chances are that a good pub crawl will expand into a club crawl, giving you a welcome introduction to Amsterdam’s substantial nightlife scene. Just don’t forget to neck a couple of pints of water when you get in from your night out, you don’t want to be completely ruined for the next day…
Because, for day two, you’re going to hire yourself a bicycle and ride around the city in true Amsterdam fashion. Just be aware that cycling is serious business here, and more about getting from a to b than taking in the sights in a casual way. Nonetheless, it’s a good way to get to your next destination, and that is the Van Gogh museum. This unique and seriously inspiring experience is one that you would be foolish to miss. The museum contains the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings anywhere in the world, as well as many of his drawings and letters.
Whilst you’re on one, seeing the sights of Amsterdam in a cultural and historic capacity, your next stop is the Anne Frank Museum. Anne Frank wrote her famous diary whilst in hiding from Nazi-occupied Holland during the Second World War. As most of us know, she was eventually captured, and only her diaries remain to tell her story. And that story has become an international phenomenon, with tourists flocking to the place where Anne went into hiding all those years ago. The Anne Frank museum is a moving tribute to a young woman who lost her life in the greatest struggle mankind has ever seen. A trip to the museum is both thought-provoking and poignant, and will enrich your understanding of the history contained within this bustling, hedonistic city.
However, you are in ‘Dam to enjoy yourself. So, as the day draws to a close, it’s time to cosy up with a cool beer in one of the many ‘brown’ cafes. Try Twee Zwaantjes or Wynanad Fockink for some authentic Dutch boozing. Then, save yourself a few quid by taking in some rock music at the Paradiso, which is a cheap and awesome way to check out some new talent in the middle of a former church.
There is so much to discover in the vibrant city of Amsterdam that, in fact, it would be foolish to give away all the gems in one article. Chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ll set out looking for the stuff you’ve read about and end up discovering something new and awesome that no one ever mentioned. If you find that you have had so much fun that you’ve spent every single penny by your last day, you will be grateful to have pre-booked your return airport transfer back to Amsterdam airport. With that all pre-paid for, all you have to worry about is finding an excuse for why you didn’t pick up your mum’s favourite chocolates in duty free.
That said, it is perfectly reasonable to imagine that you can do Amsterdam on a shoestring. If you’re not hung up on such things as souvenirs and peep shows, you’ve got a good chance of getting by. The biggest expense is likely to be all the beer you’re likely to consume, but if you’ve got your finances planned out and organised, you’re good to go. Great people, great sights and great times to be had: just three reasons why a city break to Amsterdam in backpacking style is a brilliant choice for a few short days on the continent.