20th Anniversary in Quirky Amsterdam

In celebration of recent marriage equality victories in the U.S., we decided rather last minute to spend our 20th anniversary in Amsterdam, capital of the country that first brought the world marriage equality. The Netherlands does things a little differently and that difference is most visible in its offbeat capital. Here’s a little of what distinguishes Amsterdam from other European cities.

That quirky vibe

The Dutch have a distinct aesthetic which really sets them apart from other Europeans. There’s a humor, a lightness, and love for the bizarre that gives Amsterdam a really different flavor. If you don’t know what I mean, take a closer look at the postcards.

Funky street art and galleries

Amsterdam has tons of great street art and gallery after gallery to explore. You name it, there’s a gallery for it. And again, that quirky humor is ever present in the art. Where else would people embed a bronze sculpture of a man grabbing a woman’s breast in the cobbled streets next to the city’s most famous church.

Streets made of water

Our favorite thing about Amsterdam is, without a doubt, the canals that run through the city. Not surprisingly, UNESCO has designated the man-made network a World Heritage Site. Yes, many cities have canals, but Amsterdam uses them like no other large city on the planet. On a sunny day, they are packed with locals and tourists alike. There are countless tours to choose from, or you can hire a boat to explore on your own. We opted for longer explorations using a 24-hour pass on the hop-on-hop-off canal bus.

The cheese

This is the land of gouda, so you know cheese is going to be a top priority. We made it our mission to sample as much cheese as possible in every shop we passed; it was ALL good! However, we felt the Polder Gold Old Sheep’s Cheese needed to come home with us. Not cheap, but certainly delicious. 🙂

A red light district with a medieval theme

Seriously, where else would you put the red light district smack dab in the middle of the medieval old town? There aren’t many cities where you can take in the Gothic architecture backed by windows full of gyrating whores. Good idea? Sexploitation? Amusing? Bizarre? Everyone will answer those questions differently. But it’s definitely a defining part of Amsterdam’s image. (Take a moment to contemplate the controversy.)

Really great windmills

Many companies offer tours to visit rural windmills in the surrounding countryside. But actually, there are several great traditional wooden windmills within the city limits. The one above was located near the Dapper Market stop on the blue line of the canal bus.

Surprisingly good bird watching

You wouldn’t expect it, but there is some amazing birdlife in Amsterdam, including this wacky heron hanging out on someone’s car. We also sighted flocks of feral parrots living in the city! Check out this Flickr site with shots of Amsterdam’s parrots.

Those notorious coffee shops

Amsterdam is world-famous for its “coffee shops.” Thomas and I both hate the smell of marijuana, so this isn’t really our scene (sorry travel dudes, did we just lose half our followers on Facebook?) Despite the fact that we aren’t smokers, we did kind of enjoy checking out the various coffee shop themes, some of which are works of psychedelic art. But coffee shop enthusiasts beware, the laws in the Netherlands are still evolving due to pressure from the European Union as well as the Dutch themselves who are getting tired of stoned tourists. While coffee shops are still open to the general public in Amsterdam, other cities only allow Dutch customers.

A park on the roof of a building

The huge public space on top of the Nemo building is one of Amsterdam’s coolest free attractions. We’re not sure if we should call it a public park or roof-top beer garden or what. But it is a great place to grab a beer and a snack and take in the view over Amsterdam and its sprawling harbor.

Some seriously beautiful malls

That’s right, this building is actually a mall!!! And the interior is just as impressive. While wandering around the city, we actually discovered several malls and covered passages integrated into the beautiful brick architecture. If they gave prizes for spectacularly integrated shopping experiences, Amsterdam would definitely be a contender.

> > > Happy Anniversary < < <

11 responses to “20th Anniversary in Quirky Amsterdam”

  1. avatar Greeneyes says:

    Thanks guys! And happy 20th Anniversary!
    This city brings back such good memories.

  2. avatar regina says:

    Thanks- nice review! Just made me homesick for Amsterdam, which I haven’t visited in 25 years…

  3. avatar Aarti says:

    Wow! Happy anniversary, and thanks for a great post. I’m putting Amsterdam on my list now.

  4. avatar Evelyn says:

    Happy 20th Anniversary, TnT! Giant hugs and much love to you both! Amsterdam has just been added to the bucket list. 😉 You changed my mind about seeing Amsterdam – but maybe it’s because I see you both there – and just want to beam myself into the pictures.

  5. avatar Tony says:

    Thanks everyone.

    But Evelyn, you need to go back to Africa first. 🙂

  6. avatar Greeneyes says:

    Thanks Guys,
    For the beautiful photo of the canal with bridge, boat, trees
    Love it

  7. avatar Tony says:

    I took plenty more for you and Ken. I’ll email them to you.

  8. avatar Greeneyes says:

    Can’t wait to see those pictures. Thanks!

  9. avatar Morgan says:

    I scanned websites for days on things to do in Amsterdam and not one mentioned Nemo. Thanks for the addition to my travel blueprint. It looks like a blast. And congrats on the anniversary!

    • avatar Tony says:

      Thanks for the congratulations. And the Nemo building is pretty cool. We actually almost missed it because, although several people mentioned the building itself, nobody mentioned the park/viewing area on top. We only noticed it as we were passing by on the canal bus (which is also the easiest way to get there.)

  10. avatar Jonathan says:

    The cheese display looks like a bagel display… Bagel with cheese… and butter please 🙂
    Chillin’ in charming and thrilling Amsterdam

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