When you’ve done the big tourist sites there’s nothing like getting off the beaten track on an Amsterdam city break. One of the great ways to see this beautiful city is simply to wander around. You are sure to find a hidden treasure that suits you.
Amsterdam city centre is very compact so you can walk, but you will fit in even better with a bike. Failing that there is the cheap and efficient Amsterdam tram and bus network that will get you anywhere you need to go in the city.
Cannabis is openly sold and smoked in Amsterdam coffee shops. While soft drugs have not been legalized, cannabis (but not hard drugs) can be used discretely. Adults over 18 can buy up to 5g. They’re not just for tourists as the locals frequent them too.
Some coffee shops are laid back, others have psychedelic decor or you can combine a smoke with music. It’s best to avoid the Red Light District’s coffee shops, unless you enjoy unnecessary risks and dodgy company.
You won’t be popular if you simply hang around – buy a coffee, a soft drink or snack. You can smoke your own cannabis but you must buy something. Be careful as the local ‘skunk’ is strong, staff will normally advise the inexperienced, but it’s easy to get completely stoned. You can ask for a pipe or rolling papers, but very few coffee shops are licensed to sell alcohol.
Vondelpark, near the Rijksmuseum, is the biggest park in Amsterdam and has about 10million visitors each year. On a sunny day there are thousands dog-walking, jogging, roller-skating or listening to music. There are free concerts at the open-air theatre, a children’s playground and the city’s film museum. The park’s rose garden is a notorious area for cruising gays.
The free open-air theatre opens weekdays from June to August, near the Eeghenstraat entrance. In summer there are performances for children on Wednesday afternoons. The Filmmuseum also has shows for children on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
Amsterdam Artis Zoo in the Plantage District was founded in 1838, making it the oldest city zoo in Europe. There is the usual assortment of animals plus an insect house and a large aquarium. Although it covers a huge area, strangely there is only one entrance at Plantage Kerklaan.
The four floors of the NEMO science centre at Oosterdok are shaped like a giant green ship. The centre is especially attractive for children, with many stimulating exhibits on science and nature. There are several cafes and the roof terrace has great views.
If you tire of the mainstream Amsterdam museums these are well worth a visit:
Persmuseum – Press Museum
Newspapers, magazines, posters,photos and written material for all kinds of events and news. Zeeburgerkade 10. Closed Monday
Brilmuseum – National Museum Of Spectacles
From 17th century to Elton John – as many specs as you would wish to see. Gastuismolensteeg 7
Three floors of vodka and 500 brands. Enjoy a glass in the vodka shop. Damrak 33
Verzetsmuseum – Dutch Resistance Museum
Posters, photos and films of the Nazi occupation. Plantage Kerklaan 61
17th century canal house bequeathed to Amsterdam along with its art collection and furniture.Herengracht 605
Kattenkabinet – Cat Cabinet
Art and design on everything to do with cats. Herengracht 497