When you think of Amsterdam, the two things that immediately spring to mind might be legalised prostitution and marijuana, but believe it or not there’s so much more to the city. Going there for the first time I was aware of the coffeeshops and Red Light District, so I thought I knew what to expect from the city. Going into a coffeeshop and looking round the Red Light District are experiences most tourists seek when in Amsterdam, but I was looking for something different... I wanted to see another side to the city.
I visited the big attractions like the Heineken Museum, the Van Gough Museum and the Anne Frank house, and they were well worth seeing. However, you can read about those in travel guides, I want to tell you about the things that made me love the city of Amsterdam, not the tourist spots.
The first thing that struck me about Amsterdam was its architecture. The traditional architecture was amazing. I learnt that the face of the buildings were often a façade, the tallness and thinness of the fronts were used to avoid paying taxes in place to preserve space. To avoid these width taxes, the citizens of Amsterdam created whole other living areas behind the house fronts. Described as a ‘secret world’ by my tour guide, there are often other houses, stables and swimming pools hidden away.
In contrast to the traditional architecture that has become such a recognisable feature of Amsterdam, the Eastern Docklands provided a whole host of modern buildings. To overcome the lack of space here, buildings are sometimes built to hang over their smaller neighbours, making the docklands look almost like a game of Tetris. One of the most interesting areas in the Eastern Docklands was a group of houses, each individually designed to the owner’s requirements by their chosen architect. Each building was so distinct, yet they all seemed to possess linking characters.
The only way to really explore the city, I think, is by bike. It’s a much faster way of getting around and a great way to leave the touristy areas behind to see other parts of Amsterdam. After cycling to places like the Van Gough Museum and Ann Frank’s house I decided to put the map away and just explore. I stumbled upon a sprawling flea market that sold things from old trumpets to Clogs; I explored the famous tulip market and found a great little café that did delicious crepes.
Not only did I find intriguing parts of Amsterdam I may not have found sticking to the normal tourist areas, but riding around was just really fun. No matter how hard I tried to keep up with the locals I was constantly left in their wake as they zoomed past me whilst texting, holding hands or eating a McDonalds!
Like Liverpool, Amsterdam is full of statues of animals. Liverpool has Superlambananas and Amsterdam has Elephants! Scattered round the city, these statues will eventually be sold to raise money to help save the Asian elephant. When cycling round, these elephants often appeared in the most random of places.
I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Amsterdam to visit the tourist sites as there is no doubt they are very interesting. However, I would encourage visitors to go out of the centre to see more that the city has to offer... who knows what you may stumble across?
By Chloe Garfoot
JMU Journalism travel articles
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