Before I go full throttle into my adventures in The Netherlands, I thought it would be fun to share my first impressions of Amsterdam.
My first impressions of Amsterdam
Now, as you know I am not one to be put off from exploring anywhere. However, from what I had heard about Amsterdam it sounded rather iffy. I was picturing stereotypical drunk Brits on stag and hen dos. The same Brits sitting for hours in the coffee shops then venturing into the Red Light District of an evening. OK, so there are definitely those kinds of people, but there is much, much more to the city. And to be honest, it took a place in my heart right next to Rotterdam. And that is a feat!
Arriving into the City
We had been staying in Rotterdam before taking the train into Amsterdam so it was a bit of a culture shock to say the least. As you will know from my posts about Rotterdam, it’s not your typical tourist destination, so arriving into the hoards of holiday makers when we arrived in Amsterdam, we were pretty surprised. We knew that it was a touristy place, but not to the extent that we came in to.
There were also, of course, plenty of bikes. Only most of them were parked up rather than being ridden. We could only assume that it was either they belonged to commuters or that it was way to busy to attempt to cycle around the station at that time.
When we holiday, we like to stay somewhere that we would potentially live if we moved there. You know, the kind of place that is affordable and a bit further out than the usual holiday home. Which is why when we booked for Amsterdam we chose to live in Amsterdam Noord, the North of the city. It turns out that we love living in the North too (not only because of my northern roots, but because it is a lot more quirky, offbeat and up-and-coming. (all nice words for places that might once have been described as a bit ‘run down’)
We were staying in a 1970s block of flats, which was absolutely perfect for us. And in the tradition of the more industrious areas of cities, there were lovely surprises waiting around each corner.
Just a short walk along the canal you arrive in traditional housing areas. Now when you have come into a city jammed with tourists, then bus though building sites and concrete jungle, you most certainly don’t expect to find something like this tucked away in the middle of it all.
Street art and community
Being in the north side of the city meant that we had easy access to amazing street art and community projects. From NDSM, the old shipping yard to the party being held in Noorderpark. There was something special which was made even better by the lack of tourists.
We did of course head over to the southerly side of the city to explore. But living in the north meant that we got to walk through all sorts of exciting areas and also take a free ferry.
The main central areas of the city, as with most major cities around the world, was definitely tourist central. Bus loads of them milling around in he groups, often looking lost or confused. We found this kind of area rather unpleasant and crowded so briskly covered those areas on our audio walking tour then headed for the back streets. (not that we didn’t have a laugh with the guys on the stag!)
Surprisingly for such a bustling place, you can find peace very quickly. With one turn around the corner, you are in a quiet residential area. Only the odd commuter tootling by on their bikes. A vast difference from the enforced slow-paced walking speed of people looking down at maps.
Of course with the low-priced flights from the UK, there will always be the stag and hen parties, but they can pretty easily be avoided if you keep away from the main areas (usually identified by cheap bars!)
So what were my first impressions?
Well, putting aside the stereotypes that I traveled over with, I was surprised by the vast number of tourists in the main central area. I knew it would be busy, but didn’t quite expect it to be so busy! Despite that, it was amazing to find how varied and exciting the city was. From canal side walks and heritage windmills to men in bondage, shrieking women on hen parties and back to quiet streets and residential areas. All within short walking distance from the other.
I don’t know what it was about the city that captured my heart, but it did. Especially the Noord. It felt like home and a little bit like Manchester with the art, community and canals. I honestly didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. But one thing I have certainly learned is that you need to visit a place before you make a judgement. Going somewhere with fresh eyes let you quickly make your own mind up. And dispelling the stories from others is no longer a challenge.
Although my first impressions were of a tourist town, on discovering the back streets, the north and the canals, I soon came to enjoy the experience of being in the crowds. Of experiencing it once again as a tourist rather than a short-term local. One thing that’s for sure, I will be visiting again. And I can’t wait for that day!
There you have it, my first impressions of Amsterdam. I even surprised myself! I think that anywhere that can carry off such a vibrant and varied culture has my vote.
Here’s to more adventures in The Netherlands!
Have you been to Amsterdam? what were your first impressions? If you haven’t been, what did you imagine it to be like?
Let me know in the comments.