Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust
When: April 2019
What: Part 5 of our EU Trip Series: Amsterdam
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Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital city, famous for its heritage in arts, intricate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, heirloom owned by families for several generations.of the city’s Golden Age in the 17th century. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt, Picasso, and many others.
And of course, let's get real, Mr is also not going to miss what he is here for which is to experience their liberated laws when it comes to cannabis laws and legalities. Furthermore, also immerse ourselves in its nightlife, by going to the famous Red Light District, its beer (Heineken), and so much more to experience.
How To Get There
Getting there is easy by Train on EU Rail, however we don't want to waste any time coming from Lucerne, Switzerland a train ride would be like an 8hour ride, so might as well book an airplane ride for just around more than an hour, coming from Zurich airport via Swiss Air to Schippol Airport directly in Amsterdam.
Train rides are actually awesome but we want to cut our travel time short to make way for more time to roam around the streets of this beautiful city.
Bicycle is the most used means of transportation around the city. They have more bikes than people.
Taxis are great and easy but expensive, airport to the central area by taxi would cost you more than 50 Euros
Being a progressive country that they are, you would see many Tesla and other electric cars and many charging stations, which is kind of new to us from a country with gas guzzlers as the main source of travel.
Might want to consider trains or bus if low on budget, but if you don't want the hassle to figure out bus/train routes and have extra money to spare you can always easily catch a taxi.
Notes on Taxi: Amsterdam may be a really peaceful country and most taxi drivers abide by the law which requires them to use meter and don't ask extra, but after going on a night out, we tried to get a taxi along the red light district area to get home, we say our hotel name, I was going to search for exact address on the internet and the driver interrupts us and says confidently he knows it, no need to give him address, then he tried to initiate friendly chat with us, like where we are from, how long we stay, what we did, where in europe, then it begins to sound like a script, and that he isn't geniunely interested but he was driving us away from our hotel and distracting us, so we opened up waze and we confirmed that we are totally out of the way, so we insist he bring us to the street address of our hotel which we clearly gave him this time. Then the taxi driver blames us saying there are many hotels with same name alibi. Normally it would've been just 10 Euro but meter went to almost 30Euro because of the taxi's modus operandi.. So stay alert people, even in the most beautiful country there are still bad eggs.
Where To Stay:
Mr & Mrs Wanderlust's Review
Hotel Ibis Styles Stopera (a 3 star Hotel)
+ Easy check-in, loved their unconventional yet modern lobby
+ Cafe/breakfast / Bar are also located just in front of the lobby
+ Clean, nice room, comfortable bed with dutch window for fresh air with view
+ Bathroom was also spacious and has everything we need
+ Bathroom was clean and no leaks from shower, love the multipurpose shampoo/soap BTW
+ Breakfast has lots to choose from, very much satisfied.
+ WiFi was working great and fast
+ Lobby has refreshments and stuff you can buy, and reception is 24/7
+ Staff were all helpful and friendly
+ Location was great, walk or bike to places really near Central and Red light district
+ Attractions nearby are within walking/biking distance.
+ Really great value for money compared to rates of other hotels in area.
- Room gets a little bit cramped (Ibis in luzern has bigger more relaxed rooms)
- Wondering why but we were given disabled style room thats why we have big bathroom
- May be near but still a bit of walk to central area and not much shops outside hotel vicinity
- For a hotel that is a bit of walk 10 minute walk to center, rooms should be a bit bigger
Price: €€ €150 - €250 / night for double room
Service: 5 Star - Service & staff were all very helpful
Facilities & Amenities: 4 star - Spacious, hip & clean room and bathroom, comfy bed,
Restaurant (foods): 5 star -Breakfast was good and has many choices.
Bar: 4 star - The restaurant in the lobby also serves alcohol and still open at night good chill vibe.
Overall: 4.5/5 May be a 3 star hotel, but really 5 star quality from service, facilities, design, cleanliness. Great hotel chain (Accor) and good value for money
What To Do:
1. Ramble around the Canals
Ramble is a word that is perfect for this area in Amsterdam, meaning to walk for pleasure, typically without a definite route. Weather was chilly on our first day in Amsterdam, snow even fell on the airport area. Wind was chilly as you can see on our outfits with our necks and heads covered.
They were dug in the 17th century when it was the Dutch golden age. The canals are like the symbol of Amsterdam and Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
It is always going to be a nice walk as almost every corner is picturesque.
2. Marvel Around the City Center
The city center is full of retail shops, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and many other things that only you can limit what you can discover. Speaking of coffeeshops, we will talk about that below.
These tilted houses called Dancing Houses were built for the wealthy bankers and merchants and made them work spaces too, the soil was swampy that they had to be built with stilts and caused to wiggle and sink into the water
3. Nibble on Dutch Cheese
Went to a farm / manufacturing plant just outside of Amsterdam to see how Dutch cheese are made, The Dutch take pride in their cheese making, and they gladly explained to us how they were made, differences, how to prepare and finally our favorite part... taste them!
For those who may not know Edam, and Gouda cheese which are always popular cheese on platters are Dutch cheeses named after towns, From the regular cow's milk, to goat and sheep milk surely gives you various tastes. Flavors like lavender, truffles, pesto, jalapeno and many more are added to make your taste buds explode, dips made with honey, figs, dates, mustard are also suggested for certain cheese to enjoy further. And finally, the gift shop where you can buy all of these cheese goodness that you can take home with you as they are export ready (except for the very fresh goat cheese).
4. See the Small and Quiet Town of Volendaam
Dutch town on a Lake northeast of Amsterdam known for their colorful houses made of wood and its old fishing boats around its harbor that is lined with seafood vendors. One of the popular foods to try is herring fish served fresh like a sushi.
You can also walk around and see houses that are near the beach. Guaranteed to be a relaxing leisure walk with breezy winds coming from the sea.
5. Feel the Breeze & see the Windmills of Zaanse Schanse
Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam very near Volendaam, This is the place where the windmills and green wooden houses are put to relive the look of 18th century village. They have museums, workshops that demonstrate making wooden clogs, barrel making, and other traditional dutch crafts.
This usually takes just an hour or 2, and is mostly included in group tours packaged with Volendaam, and if lucky enough also Keukenhoff included for a whole day tour.
6. Gaze at the Eye Catching Flowers of Keukenhof
Tulip has been a long part of Hollan since in the 17th century, the Dutch cultivated these flowers from Ottoman empire (modern day Turkey) and the flower was so beautiful it also became in demand with limited supplies so it became more and more expensive like a diamond.
We wanted to see the fields so we decided to book a tour on Keukenhof gardens. Also known as the Garden of Europe, and is one of the world's largest flower gardens, situated in Lisse, South Holland, Netherlands. According to its website it has 7 million tulip bulbs in 32 hectares of land.
* Booked via online booking app last minute
7. Visit Museums in Museumsplein Area
Museumsplein is an open space for public in the museum quarter neighborhood of Amsterdam.
A bit far from the Centrum area (town center) 20 minutes by car / 15mins by train, the area with the 3 major museums like the most popular, Van Gogh Museum which hosts the most of his work, being like the most popular painter, tickets for the museum needs couple of months prior reservation, or book a more expensive tour which includes tickets.
Another museum in area is Rijksmuseum which hosts all Dutch cultural and historical stuff as well as vast European art collection in this big museum.
The museum you see on the photo slideshow above is from the MoCo Museum, Museum of COntemporary art which house, as named, modern contemporary pieces from different modern artists like Andy Warhol, Banksy, Kaws and many others.
**Booked ticket online via booking app / This way it avoids lining up for tickets saves you time show e-ticket from your phone.
8. See and Experience De Wallen
De Wallen is Amsterdam's biggest red light district. It is a network of streets near the canal and alleyways that has bars, pubs, nightclubs, cabarets, and many adult live shows. And of course the most popular is the 'window girls' which are prostitutes (which is actually legal in their country to combat pimps and trafficking but thats a different story..) that you can see through a transparent glass door and you can just come in and reach an agreement in price before rendering their services. So many alleyways filled with these doors featuring different girls from different countries. Some windows will have their curtains closed meaning they still have a customer.
It may seem weird and really liberated, but it seems to be working for them as mentioned above it is mainly to combat pimps and gangs who get money and use / extort women from trafficking, meaning legalizing it protects the women in many aspects, probably a legal expert / politician supporting it can explain it better, but bottomline is it is peaceful there.
*PROTIP: Taking photos of the workers in the Red light district area is a sure way of having your phone/camera thrown off the waters of the canals either by an angry worker or a bouncer.
9. / 10. Cannabis and Coffeshops in Amsterdam
Lets be clear with the law in Netherlands about cannabis, it is still illegal to posses more than 5 grams, and illegal to manufacture/cultivate cannabis, however Coffeshops with special licenses issued by the government are allowed to sell for up to 5grams per customer. And more importantly it is also legal to consume it within the coffeeshop, or any designated smoking areas.
Most of all, the police themselves tolerate and basically don't care as they have better things to do and keep people safe rather than arresting someone smoking / consuming cannabis which is a waste of their time and resources.
That being said, we are not breaking any laws when we decided to try their coffeeshops. For beginners, you can buy a pre rolled (pure or with tobacco mix), and for green thumbs out there who likes rolling their smokes, you can also purchase dry herbs and choose from many variety of strains that are either Sativa (gets you up and awake) / Indica (makes you sleepy and 'in da couch') and hybrids with different percentages and mixes of different flavors from sour, sweet, fruity, woody, earthy, skunky someone who loves it would definitely have a choice paralysis.
To find nearest coffeeshops in your area, just google maps it, or do a bit of research which coffeeshop vibes would be best for you. However like we always do, we just always stumble upon them unplanned. So there we were a bit stressed because our toddler was having some tantrums back at home in the PH, and also from long train and plane ride from Luzern, we were both uneasy then..
We found our first coffeeshop (Hunter's) was found a couple of minutes of walking from our hotel. Being a tourist and *cough* first timer *cough* .. we asked the barista/budtender which one he recommend to tourist then handed a pre rolled "pineapple" strain, first draw was really heavy compared to the "Light Cannabis" in other parts of Europe, BOOM the high THC content really surprises you on your first hit . And then our muscles relaxed, our mood became better, then we were able to think clearly. Now that was good herbal healing. Clearly the plant has medicinal properties,
It does not stop there, so many tourist shops selling pipes, bongs, waterpipes and many items like papers, rolling machines, pre rolled and many accessories. Edibles are also famous though personally not a fan of it, and it even says "good for export" things like chocolates, lollipops, cookies properly packaged and labelled with cannabis so not sure if still going to be legal in your country so better safe than sorry. Though some forums claim that these export edibles are just tourist attraction and don't really contain THC which is the illegal part in most countries.
But living in a country where currently deemed illegal, can destroy your future career or even get shot at, it is better we follow the current law and not bring anything back as the saying goes "What starts in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam". But will still try to educate people and help those lobbying to decriminalize possession of the plant as you cannot win war against a plant, and so much more that it is medicinal.
TOO LONG DID NOT READ: WEED IS LEGAL IN AMSTERDAM UP TO 5g, CAN BUY FROM COFFEESHOPS HERBAL MEDICINAL GOODNESS. LEGALIZE IT IN OTHER COUNTRIES!
So really makes us wonder why this is still banned/illegal in many countries because of a very old(1930's) propaganda by America which was proven fraudulent and just as a tool to oppress farmers and consumers of other colors (black slaves & South Americans) which is now slowly being proven as lies are being uncovered about its dangers and instead being proven of its medicinal properties and benefits from managing stress, anxiety, pain, and even helps avoid dementia, Alzheimer, glaucoma and so much more, this is why pharmaceutical companies as well as tobacco and alcohol which are billions of dollars worth are campaigning and lobbying against it to avoid significant losses. And not to mention textile industry will also be affected by Hemp which is also the same plant's byproduct.
**Protip: One must order at least a cup of coffee to be able to consume the pre rolled joints in the coffeeshop.
***Protip: Avoid buying pre rolled cannabis from other "Souvenir shops" that claim to sell them because only accredited/licensed by government are the coffeeshops, so what you get is either tobacco or some other herbs which is a waste of money. You can buy souvenirs or accessories from them but avoid herbs and other stuff.
Recommendations: Hunter's Coffeeshop / Kadinsky / Greenhouse / Barney's / Coffeeshop Reefer.
* $100 USD = €89 EUROS (as of April 2019)
Accommodation - High End - 1,000€+++
Accommodation - Mid - €250 - €300
Accommodation - Budget - €150 but may be lower depending on how far area from center
Transport - Taxi - €20 from our hotel to city center / €50 from airport to city centre
Transport - Regional Rail tickets, €15/per person up to €60 depending on time, and trip etc.
Transport - Sightseeing Tour - €50 - €200 tour with private guide car and driver etc.
Food - Snacks - €5 - €10
Food - Restaurant (set meal for 2) - €30 - €50 per head
Food - Fastfood Meal - €15 - €20 per head
Drinks - Hotel Beer €8 - €10
Drinks - Bottled Water - €3 - €5
Drinks - Espresso Coffee - €2 - €5 (really depending on the place if touristy more expensive)
Drinks - Coffee Cappuccino - €3 - €5
Others - Toilet Use / WC - €1 - €2
Misc. - Legal Cannabis Coffeeshops - €12 - €16 / gram depend on strain / pre rolled €5 - €10
Souvenir - T-Shirt - €15 €30
Souvenir - Magnets / Keychain = €5 - €10
Souvenir - Premium items, Chocolates etc, - €20 - €50
*disclaimer, these are just estimates and ranges to guide you, still be prepared with more, better safe than sorry. And also cash is king, you may use cards sometimes they accept and sometimes they don't
NEXT: Brussels, Belgium
Off to the land of Chocolates, Waffles, and Beer...
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