There is much more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District and legalized marijuana. While many people equate these vices with the city, the truth is that Amsterdam is steeped in a rich history and culture that transcends its somewhat gritty stereotypes. With origins dating back to at least the 12thcentury, the city is chock full of iconic buildings, historically important foods, and a deep sense of cultural pride.
First, a few basics: Amsterdam is located in the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch (though English is widely spoken) and the currency is the euro.
Here are 18 tips for visiting Amsterdam.
1. History comes with steep stairs.
While the buildings dating back hundreds of years are beautiful to look at, they can be treacherous to visit and/or stay in. Dutch stairs tend to be quite steep, narrow, and not very deep. Many hotels in the center of Amsterdam require quite a jaunt up with luggage. Even restaurants and cafes may require a several-story climb up a historic staircase just to use the bathroom facilities.
2. Watch your pockets.
While crime rates in Amsterdam may be less when compared to other European cities, pickpockets are still looming around. Keep your guard up like you would in cities like Paris or Barcelona. Don’t engage strange people, especially if walking alone at night, and keep a constant eye on cameras and other belongings when sitting at outdoor cafes, restaurants, and bars.
3. Holland and the Netherlands are not the same thing.
You’ve heard it called Holland and The Netherlands, so which is it? The country’s official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Holland actually refers to the two provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland. It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to the entire country as Holland, but that’s not factually correct. The country is still a monarchy with King Willem-Alexander on the throne since April, 2013.