Introduction to Amsterdam
Whenever someone mentions their travels to Amsterdam, they are inevitably met with a smirk of sorts, one alluding to a wayward city of stoners and red light ladies. It's suitably ironic though, that such smirks come from those who have never set foot in the capital of the Netherlands. Their knowledge of this intriguing city is merely developed from the cliches that have plagued the Dutch capital for far too long. Yes, there is a red light district, and yes, the ‘coffee shops' sell more cannabis than coffee (although they are on the decline), but these features define the city about as much as hotdogs define New York City. To put it simply, there is so much more on offer here.
In one aspect, Amsterdam is a quaint and cosy city lined with canals, gabled buildings and charming streets that wouldn't look out of place in a 17th-century painting (of which there are many of those to view too). The other side to Amsterdam is a lot more urban with a decidedly modern flair, eccentric street style and artistic graffiti.
As a hub for arts, music, culture and festivals, Amsterdam is a city easily enjoyed by both tourists and locals. Museums and galleries promise the traditional as well as the contemporary, grand cafes are a place to satisfy your appetite as well as experience the Dutch gezelligheid or ‘coziness', and bike rides are as much about function as they are about sightseeing.
In places Amsterdam buzzes with modern energy, while in others time looks as if it has stood still for decades. Such are the contrasts of a city with multiple personalities, each with something to offer and a story that will captivate you long after the coffee shop buzz has worn off. So, next time you're faced with an inevitable smirk about your Amsterdam holiday, you just smirk right back.