Amsterdam, capital city of The Netherlands. Famous for its red light district and relaxed coffee shop culture. But that’s not all there is to this small European city.
Many times I have heard people talking about Amsterdam in a way that makes you think it’s a city full of dodgy, smelly coffee shops, prostitutes and tourists looking for either one or both of those. I always feel kind of sad about that because Amsterdam is not like that at all in my opinion.
A visit to Amsterdam
When we arrived at Amsterdam Central Station we were welcomed with some typical Dutch grey December weather. After checking into our hostel Stayokay and dropping off our luggage we were excited to head into town. We hadn’t been in Amsterdam for well over a year.
It was early evening and the city lights were just coming on when we walked onto Leidseplein, one of the main squares in Amsterdam. The familiar sweet smell of oliebollen, a kind of Dutch donut that is eaten during the festive season, hung in the air. There was a slight drizzle that made the pavement shine and reflect the twinkling christmas lights that were decorating trees and shops.
From Leidseplein we wandered over to the “Grachtengordel”. The area where you can find Amsterdam’s four main canals. Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometres of canals in total and the land is divided into around 90 islands which are connected by over 1200 bridges. The canals were built in the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age. Many of the houses along the canals also date back to the Golden Age. Because they were built on this wet land between the canals, a lot of them sagged to one side or another over the years. Some of the houses are now on amazing angles, seemingly leaning onto their neighbour for support, like tired old ladies. Old ladies that still have class and elegance though.
We walked along the canals, crossing bridges now and again and enjoyed the calm atmosphere. The air felt nice and fresh and it was quiet on the streets. A few bicycles passed us by. But here, away from the more touristy areas of Amsterdam, it feels like you go back in time. You can just imagine what this city would have been like in its heyday. Or maybe, maybe it’s still in its heyday! There is one thing I am once again sure about, Amsterdam is not “sin city”. There is so much more than the red light district and the coffee shops. And by the way, the area of the red light district is absolutely gorgeous!
After taking some nice long exposure photos on our evening walk it started raining. We braved the rain for a while but without an umbrella we got wet pretty quickly, as did the camera. So we made our way back to our hostel and warmed up with a glass of wine. It was a short visit for us as we already had to leave the next day. But it certainly rekindled our love for this beautiful city. Amsterdam, we hope to see you again soon!