Amsterdam is a city of three C’s: canals, cheese and clogs.
During the day, the only sound interrupting the eerie, icy stillness is the brief whirring of bicycle wheels grinding against the cobblestone as a rider zips past, glaring at us while we struggle to figure out the rules of crossing a road in the Netherlands. Apparently a green walking signal is more of a, “Good luck trying to cross. I mean, it’s green and all, but does that really mean anything?” Apart from the traffic, the streets are quiet. My friends and I sit on a step of stairs leading to a frozen canal, stuffing Dutch crepes into our mouths and admiring the tall, multi-coloured houses brushing shoulders. As the sun falls and darkness seeps into the streets, people begin to slip outside from all directions and suddenly we are surrounded. It’s as though someone has picked up Amsterdam and flipped the entire city on its head, everyone tumbling from their hiding places. Curtains are flung wide open, and from a boat cruising down the only running river I see a family eating dinner, someone playing piano in a top window, another lady sewing on the first floor. “Dutch people believe that secrets linger behind closed curtains,” our guide says as he pours another glass of wine. “Which is why everyone here leaves them open. Nothing to hide.” As we enter the Red Lights District the atmosphere transforms; All the curtains are open here, too.
Amsterdam is a city that puts on a mask of shyness during the day, wearing the labels of serene, picturesque, quiet. By night the mask is shed as everything jumps to life, quickly moving from insane to insanely WILD. There’s so much more to do in the land of the three C’s than just ten things, but for now, here are my top choices:
AMSTERDAM: TOP TEN
- Ride a bike along the canals
- Visit a cheese and clog factory
- Go on a river cruise by night
- Visit the Anne Frank Huis
- Go ice-skating on the outdoor rink
- Buy a bunch of tulips, the Netherland’s traditional flower
- Eat Dutch pancakes, crepes or waffles
- Visit the Van Gogh Museum
- Visit the Red Lights District by night
- Eat at the floating Chinese restaurant: the Sea Palace