What can I say about Amsterdam? I could actually write pages and pages about Amsterdam. If you haven't been there, do believe the hype because it is everything you imagine it to be. Only 45 minutes away from London, Amsterdam is a multicultural, vibrant city full of friendly and relaxed people. Let me get the drugs and sex out the way in the beginning.
'Coffee shops' are a prominent feature of Amsterdam, where you can buy all sorts of variations on marijuana in the form of joints or 'space' cakes and muffins. Oh and you can also get a cup of coffee. As well as this there are other shops which specialise in mushrooms and 'smart drugs', which are herbal concoctions that boast natural ingredients. Apparently some stoners care about that sort of stuff. The variety is mind-blowing as perhaps the drugs may be! As well as this there are little shops scattered around all over the city, which sell bongs and other apparatus that can be used to smoke whatever your heart desires.
And now onto the Red Light District. There are rows and rows of sex shops selling REALLY strange things as well as the normal paraphernalia you would expect to see. Amongst these are shops with half naked women standing in the window, along with theatres and clubs of the same nature. It's really not that exciting or interesting. There is so much more to Amsterdam than this.
One of the top highlights for me would be the Van Gogh Museum, which holds a substantial collection of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings including one version of 'Sunflowers', four other versions exist. I have to admit, I didn't know a great deal about Van Gogh but felt thoroughly educated by the end of it. Some of my favourite pieces were the 'Almond Blossom' and some of his Japanese influenced work. There is a slightly depressing air to the museum given his tragic life, but that is why he became so famous above other talented artists of his time. There are numerous museums in the 'Museum Quarter' including some diamond museums which are well worth a look, if you're interested in seeing how diamond jewellery is made, and of course a vast collection of diamonds to see and buy.
Another place to visit is 'Anne Frank House' which is where Anne Frank and her family hid during Hitler's Nazi occupation. Albeit depressing, still worth a visit just to see the bedrooms how and where the family lived in hiding. This museum will be more appealing to people who have read Anne Frank's Diary.
And now on to the most important part - Food. I hadn't heard great things about cuisine in Amsterdam but I was pleasantly surprised. The cafe culture is just wonderful, as with other cities across Europe. There is nothing more pleasurable than sitting outdoors sharing a slice of Apple Pie with 'slagroom', sorry that's Dutch for whipped cream, and a hot chocolate, overlooking the canal and watching the boats and cycles go by. It's truly awesome. There are some lovely little restaurants, and most cuisines can be found. Indonesian restaurants are in abundance, as well as Italian and general European/Continental cuisine. My favourite dish was the 'catch of the day' in the City Cafe at the Mint Hotel, which was made up of fresh pan-fried salmon accompanied by crispy asparagus and a puree of sweet potato. Definitely one of the best salmon dishes I have ever come across. Another treat and a definite must is a Belgian waffle with ice cream, I know it's not Dutch but who cares? You don't find them that easily in London so take advantage.
All in all, Amsterdam is a really fun place with plenty to see and do. I haven't even mentioned the shopping, nightlife or canal cruises! Everyone should visit Amsterdam at least once in their life - one piece of advice though - leave the kids at home!