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Amsterdam – More Than Just Bicycles, Weed, and Tulips!

Well, I finally made it to Amsterdam but since it was on business I know I barely scratched the surface and didn’t have nearly enough time to get to see everything that I’d like to see there. It just means I’ll have to go back! The plan is to add Amsterdam as a post-tour following my charter river cruise next May 2025!  My husband Rene still hasn’t been, so it’ll be great for him to also be able to experience it then as well.

Amsterdam is a city that has so much to offer.  I happened to be there just prior to their spring so that although I saw a lot of daffodils, it was too early to catch any of their tulip season which tends to occur from the end of March to the beginning of May. It was a little chilly and damp when I was there in early March with it being so close to the North Sea. Of course, tulip time is so highly dependent on warmer weather that can certainly change the peak from year to year.

Other than tulips and flowers though, Amsterdam and area is loaded with great experiences to enjoy. One of the main ones I was fortunate to do was a canal cruise that was excellent! The architecture of Amsterdam is so unique, and its’ canal belt is actually on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Many of the homes in these areas were built in the 17th century and were originally homes of the wealthy.  They have such charming, ornate facades and gables on these old buildings.

An interesting tidbit we were told by our guide on the canal cruise was that since most of the doors and staircases are quite narrow, the buildings are tilted slightly forward with a large hook at the top of the building thereby enabling furniture to be hoisted up and transported into the homes via the windows. Quite a unique phenomenon.

Another interesting point is that the canal houses were built so narrow in order to limit the amount of taxes they paid. The buildings are actually quite deep but with them being narrower in the front they paid lower taxes since the taxes were based on the width of the front of the house.

An extraordinary statistic with Amsterdam is the number of bikes vs. the number of inhabitants. In fact, they have more bikes than their total population. Many people have more than 1 bike as our guide told us since she has both one to seriously ride on the weekends that’s more expensive than the one she takes to work every day so that the latter if stolen, isn’t quite such a loss.

Amsterdam also has amazing museums.  In fact, some of the most world-renowned ones are here including the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk, Anne Frank House, the NEMO Science Museum, and the National Maritime Museum to name just a few.

There are many beautiful hotel options in Amsterdam, and I was fortunate to stay in the lovely, historic Sofitel Grand Amsterdam located near the Red-Light District of Amsterdam – not actually in it though… LOL. It is located between 2 historical canals and in the 15th century was actually a convent. Following its time as a convent, Dutch Royalty stayed there, the Dutch Admiralty then took it over followed by it becoming the City Hall for Amsterdam in 1808.  It certainly has an amazing history and is a beautiful hotel with wonderful reviews from her guests. We were certainly treated like royalty when we were there for our short stay.

The Red-Light District and the cannabis laws in Amsterdam are quite surprising. One gets the impression that everything is legal there, much more than in other countries and yet they really have quite strict laws. In fact, cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands although it is decriminalized. Street prostitution is also illegal. No actual solicitation is allowed anywhere in Amsterdam including in the Red-Light District. Here’s a great link to read, in case you go to Amsterdam, that focuses on the “Top 13 Amsterdam Red Light District Laws in 2024”:  A very interesting read.

There are many great tastes to consider in Amsterdam including Dutch cheese, Dutch pancakes,  Stroopwafels (cookies), raw herring, Bitterballen (meatballs), Dutch beer, and even Rijstaffel which is an Indonesian ‘rice table’.  Interestingly, Amsterdam has a history with Indonesia that started with the early spice trading days in the 16th century so that the influence in Amsterdam is strong.

Not only does Amsterdam have so many great places to visit and things to do but one can also venture further afield as I did on my trip that included a fun adventure car rally with old Citroen 2CV vehicles. We visited a farm and an old watermill museum that were very interesting. The history of the water management with the Dutch is absolutely fascinating and worth learning about as well. They basically have to do this to survive considering their constant battle with water since Amsterdam and half of the Netherlands lies below sea level.

I could go on and on about Amsterdam, but I think you get the picture. It’s a pretty cool place to visit with plenty to see and do to keep you entertained at any time of the year!

I’ll take one more opportunity to pitch our May 2025 charter river cruise that includes Amsterdam as the disembarkation point.  It’s going to be on the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam. Here’s the link for the itinerary that includes a pre-tour in Lake Como, Italy & Lake Lucerne, Switzerland with a transfer through the Swiss Alps to Basel. Mills-Roy Cruise (

We’d love it if you could join us!  And make sure you also get to Amsterdam sometime if you haven’t already been!

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