Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands. The world’s first “free city.” It’s a hot tourist destination, for Europeans and Americans alike, so chances are someone reading this wants or is planning to go Dutch sometime in the future. Well, whether or not you make the trip, here’s some of the places to see and things to do. Not boring things like art museums, but cool things, things like:
10. Play Chess on a Huge Board
Sure, playing chess doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to do in the world, but you have to consider the venue. Human chess is exciting, and so was that giant chess board from Harry Potter. And guess what? That could be you! At the appropriately named Max Euweplein (named after the only Dutch chess champion,) an over-sized chess set is laid right into the square. The set comes complete with 2 feet tall chess pieces and enough room for spectators to cheer on the players/give unwanted advice. Plus, you can play general and have other people move the chess pieces around while you sit in a chair smoking a pipe in thought. So, like Harry Potter without all the magic.
9. Learn the History of Pot
You won’t find this in many places back home. The Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum is dedicated to preservation and history of the hemp plant, and all its delicious derivatives. Located in de Wallen (which we’ll talk more about later,) the museum seeks to inform visitors about uses for cannabis from medicinal marijuana to hemp seed oil, to the many practical uses for the hemp plant, such as clothing made out of hemp sold in the gift shop. It’s one of those places where you can revel in the novelty of opening gawking at things you know are illegal back in the States. If you’re really bold, you can even…
8. Actually Smoke Pot
No trip to this city would be complete without visiting one of Amsterdam’s famous coffeehouses. These so called pot cafes not only allow the smoking of marijuana (if the cannabis logo is on the door, bring the joints, man) but some of these places even sell the stuff, either in the traditional joint, or, for those health conscious individuals who want all the pot high without the lung destroying smoke, they’re even considerate even to bake it into cookies and brownies for your consuming pleasure.
7. Discover How The Dutch Kept the Larger Countries at Bay for 400 Years
Several hundred years ago, Europe was a real life version of the board game Risk, foreign armies were occupying different swatches of land all over the place, competing with each other for dominance. The Netherlands were stuck on the Continent with a lot of bad neighbors, and being relatively small, would have been easy prey if they hadn’t thought “Why don’t we drown the bastards out?” So they built the Dutch Water Line, a series of levies surrounding low lying land that could be flooded to stop any invading army before they reached Amsterdam. This worked against an army of Louis XIV of France, who some from history class may remember being the most powerful man on Earth at the time. Many of these floodplains are still there, as are the forts and battlements that go with it. For a lover of history or old school badassery, they’re worth a visit.
6. Take a Boat Ride on the Canals
Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North, and the reason is its network of canals, that stretch more than 100 kilometers (Europe, remember) around the city, spanned by more than 1,500 bridges, and containing more than 90 islands. There’s no word on whether you can get a Dutchman to serenade you and your sweetheart in a gondola under a full moon, but, I’m sure with enough money, anything is possible.
5. Visit the Anne Frank House
All of you read excerpts from the Diary of Anne Frank in English class at some point, so you know the story. A girl, her family, and some other Jews hid from the Nazis for two years in a tiny attic space before being caught and sent to concentration camps. A more solemn attraction that preserves that tiny space, as well as other personal effects from the doomed family.
4. Check Out the Local Royalty
Americans have little familiarity with real royalty, considering the only thing we have that comes close is the Kennedy family, and most of them are dead or irrelevant. So, it’s interesting to see how the anointed half live. Particularly when they live in giant elaborate structures like the Amsterdam Royal Palace. This beautiful building, dating back 400 years, is often considered the 8th Wonder of the World and is definitely worth a visit.
3. Diamonds are Forever
One of Amsterdam’s oldest industries is everything to do with diamonds. Coster Diamonds is one of the oldest diamond polishing places, dating back to the 1840s, and has polished millions of dollars worth of diamonds over the years. Visitors can gawk at diamond polishers at work, as well as view the tools of the trade in the Civil War era.
2. Toss Back a Few Brews
Heineken is the third largest beer maker in the world, with more than 170 breweries and countless brands of the liquid gold. And it all started right here, at Heineken Brewery Number One in Amsterdam. Those wishing to take a tour will learn how beer is made, from the ingredients to the bottling. And of course, for those who wish, at the end of the tour, visitors can sample the merchandise, if you know what I mean.
1. De Wallen
If that place looks, well, a little seedy to you, well, there’s a reason for that. De Wallen is Amsterdam’s most famous red light district. What’s a red light district, you may ask? Or not, if you know anything about anything, but still. Red light districts are places that glow red in the middle of the night because of all the lights coming from the shops, which cater to a rather, erm, raunchy crowd. You see….damn it. Okay, enough. There’s prostitutes there, okay? Like, a lot of them. You see, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, the only thing you can’t do is street walk Julia Roberts style. All up and down de Wallen are one room apartments where working girls ply their trades, namely their boobs. The place also has a number of pot cafes and the Museum, along with a variety of “novelty” shops and pornography stands. It’s a perfect storm of sex. And it’s a place you could never admit to going to back home, so while you’re out, why not stop there for a shag? And don’t worry ladies, there are gigolos there too, so don’t feel unwanted.
That concludes the Insane Man’s Tour of Amsterdam. We hope you enjoyed your visit, and remember: what happens in Dutch Land stays on your conscience.