Amsterdam is one of the coolest cities in the world but there are 9 things you really mustn’t do if you want to get the most out of your trip:
1: Walk on the red brick roads
These might look like pavements but they’re actually for the bikes and – more importantly – mopeds, so if you walk here, you risk an injury. At the very least, you could get yelled at by a local and nothing is more mortifying for a tourist than being dissed by a resident. You’ve been warned, remember the phrase ‘Red is Dead’.
2: Eat an entire hash cake
Hash, weed, dope…call it what you like, it’s all sold openly in shops and cafes in Amsterdam, but if you’re tempted to indulge, remember that some hash cakes can be very, very strong – but, and here’s the really dangerous bit – they might take a couple of hours to have an effect. Our guide told us that tourists often over indulge, gobbling down and entire cake after feeling nothing following the first couple of bites, and then they spend the rest of their visit in bed! His best advice was to start with a nibble and wait a while to see if it’s having an effect – and take advice from the vendor. If they tell you it’s strong, trust them, they know what they’re talking about.
3: Buy cheese in the 9 Streets
This is the most touristy bit of Amsterdam, the nine street (de 9 straatjes) that criss-cross the city’ s canals, which are full of intriguing boutiques and delis selling gorgeous (but over-priced) items targeted at visitors. As this is Holland, you’ll find plenty of places to buy cheese, but, say locals, you should try to resist for the sake of your pocket.
Full disclosure: I bought cheese from one of these shops, it was delicious, but I could have bought it must cheaper in my local Sainsbury’s in London! There are much cheaper places to buy delicious cheese in Amsterdam, you just need to avoid the tourist traps.
4: Change your plans if it’s raining
It rains a lot in Amsterdam so there’s no point cancelling that bike ride or canal boat tour you’ve booked if the weather forecast is rubbish because the chances are it will be rubbish the next day too. Just roll with it and hope that the rain stops for at least some of the time We nearly cancelled our bike tour one morning when it was pouring but our guide promised us the rain would stop within 30 minutes and he was right. In the meantime, he handed us ponchos and we only felt a little bit daft because everyone else – including the locals – was wearing them too.
5: Wear stilettos
I seem to advise this for almost every city break destination, so many of them have cobbled streets and Amsterdam is no exception. Where flats or sturdy heels instead, your neck will thank you.
6: Take cabs
There’s nothing wrong with taxis in Amsterdam, but they’re probably unnecessary. It’s easy to walk around, the heavy traffic and one-way systems mean that it’s often faster on two feet too, and if you’re going a long way, there’s a good public transport system.
7: Try to get a selfie at the IAmsterdam sign at Museumplein
Too many tourists tried to do that and, due to fears of overcrowding, the sign was removed on December 3. To be honest, it was nigh on impossible to get a selfie there anyway, the crowds were so big. Now you’ll have to snatch a selfie at the alternative sign at Schiphol Airport, or go to wwwiamsterdam.com and find out where the letters, which are going on a tour of the city and other areas, have been moved to.
8: Fall in a canal
Before going to Amsterdam with a group of girlfriends, I Googled ‘how many people fall into Amsterdam’s canals each year’, mainly because I have one very clumsy friend and I was aware that there are no railings down the side. I was a bit worried to see that there are about 20 drownings a year including, tragically, a 21 year old British man in May 2018. Apparently most of these incidents involve alcohol – quite a few are men who fall in while peeing over the side. Take care.
9: Wear clogs
I know it’s Holland, but no-one wears them. Seriously.