**photographs in this article were taken as part of my archived collection – April 2015
Amsterdam is truly a fun city visit. There are 165 canals which run through the city, beautifully historic buildings along the canals, bicycles everywhere, a great transport system, interesting tourist attractions and friendly locals.
The early history of Amsterdam focuses on being established as a fishing village in the 13th century. The village’s expansion developed during the 14th and 15th centuries with buildings primarily being constructed using timber.
Amsterdam’s commercial prosperity occurred between the years of 1585 and 1572 where trade was one of its strongest industries. During this time, the city began urbanisation: construction of more permanent infrastructure throughout the city, some of which we can still see today.
In this beautiful city, here are some great things to keep you busy:
1. Xtracold Icebar
I loved the Icebar! What a ‘cool’ experience! The bar is kept at a chilly -10 degrees Celcius. You REALLY don’t need to worry about your drink getting cold in here! Before you go into the Icebar, you are given gloves and a coat to wear while the tour guide sets the scene for you.
The bar is entirely made of ice! Your seats, the bar, the walls, the sculptures, even your glass! You are given 20 minutes to hang out in the Icebar, if you can handle it! By 15 minutes, my toes were slightly numb, my hand was struggling to hold the ice glass (I started swapping it between each sleeve of my coat!) and the bar was surprisingly empty! My personal recommendation for a liquor that goes very well in ice-cold temperatures is vodka, it goes a rather syrupy consistency and tastes a little sweeter.
There’s a bar you can retreat into once you are done with the icy room! They serve some great cocktails.
2. Canal Cruise
One great way to explore the city is on a canal cruise. Watch some of the major sights pass by from the boat. The boat I went on had windows on all sides and overhead, allowing you to have almost a full range of sight around you. It’s a great way to get a different view of the city.
3. Red Light District – De Wallen
De Wallen is a medical city centre and is one of the oldest areas of the city, dating back to as far as the 14th century. Back then, the harbour was close by the area, giving the name ‘De Wallen’ (the walls) referring to the walls of the old harbour.
The close distance from the harbour and the city meant that sailors disembarking the ships would be attracted to the area, enjoying the tavern and girls.
Today, the Netherlands is one of the most liberal countries in the world, providing prostitutes with safe working conditions and removing the taboo status in society. The prostitutes are tax paying citizens in The Netherlands. They are also ensured medical care by the government and are to comply with the regulatory standards of the profession.
The red light district refers to the red lights used on the windows where the girls are on display, removing any signs of blemish and making them appear more beautiful. There are about 300 windows in total in the area.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands it’s allowed in the red light district, but not on the streets. Marijuana and other soft drugs are also taxed, available in coffee shops or stores. Sex shops are also on every street in the area.
Very important to note in the red light district, DO NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS! Your phone will be thrown into a nearby canal or crushed by one of the working girls or security.
It can be a bit of a cultural shock to people from conservative countries. It is for sure an eye-opener. The area has some beautiful old churches that have been converted for other purposes and some great restaurants.
4. Red Light Secrets museum
While in the red light district, if you are interested in learning more about one of the world’s oldest professions and it’s particular history in Amsterdam, the Red Light Secrets museum makes an interesting visit.
Learn more about the early history of the woman who took up the profession, the harsh working conditions and the stigma associated with it. Learn more about the women of modern times who are now days protected by the government and who work in safe conditions and live as ordinary citizens. Read their confessions and realise that they are just normal people with a few secrets.
See what the room would look like, what’s in it from behind the glass.
5. Keukenhof Botanical Garden
Keukenhof is a beautiful garden which is only open during the months of March to May, showcasing over 7 million bulbs of which there are 800 varieties of tulips.
The garden offers paths along the beds of brightly coloured flowers.
It was definitely one of my favourite experiences so far and one of the most memorable.
It can get very busy so I recommend if you’d like to spend time in the garden in peace and quiet, try going before 10:30AM or after 4PM.
6. Heineken Experience
The highly successful brewery was established in 1864 in Amsterdam at the Heineken Experience. The brewery at the site was closed down in 1988 due to the inability to meet the high demands of the popular brew.
At the Heineken Experience, you can learn about how the beer is made, taste the different ingredients which go into it in the various stages of produce – my favourite of this was the warm malt, it tastes like a sweet malty bedtime drink. During the tasting experience, you can enjoy a glass where the tour guide describes the various tastes of the beer. At the end of the tour, there are 2 Heinekens available to you at the bar!
Amsterdam is a beautiful city to visit, I hope to one day see it again and enjoy some more of its attractions! I’d only spent about 2 and a half days there so far (2015) and felt like I would have loved to spend more time there after the trip.