Probably one of the most blindingly obvious European party destinations. With its mix of quintessential Dutch culture, and a flurry of museums and scenic canals, to the back alleys and seedy sex shops and copious coffee shops aligning every nook and cranny of the infamous, and may I say, glorious, Red Light District. Whether you’re looking to stay on the cleaner side of Amsterdam, or ready to get knee-deep in the debauchery the city has to offer, look no further.
Out of all of my friends that either went to Europe on their gap year, or did a brief interailing spree in the summer, Amsterdam is always on their list of places to go. It seems, to many British students, a staple; an experience; a rite of passage. You almost certainly have to do it once in your life. That time for me came during my first year at Southampton, embarking on a little known trip called FRESHERDAM. Some of you may have heard of it, or some of you may have been on the trip, too. With a group of seven of us, one having been to Amsterdam just two months earlier for New Years Eve, and informing us that it was probably one of the craziest holidays of his life, we embarked on the dreaded twelve hour coach journey to Amsterdam.
If you’re looking for traditional Dutch culture, including tulips, windmills and clogs, like a few of my friends were, start by checking off a few of the iconic sites and museums of Amsterdam. Something which we failed to do, due to unforeseen circumstances. Visit the Van Gogh Museum just located in the south of the city, to immerse yourself in the colours of the famous artist who cut his ear off, or wander around to Anne Frank’s house, to take a peek at the heroine’s hiding place if you want to indulge yourself in a significant piece of our world’s recent past. But remember, it’s a very popular attraction, so the queues are likely to be long, so if it rains, bring your brolly! However, if you want something a little unusual, take a look at Electric Ladyland museum, priding itself on its fluorescent colours in the form of paintings and artefacts. Now, this was a little bit more our scene. We were looking for something we had never seen before, which is exactly what we found at the Venustempel Sex museum. Yes, it does exactly what it says on the tin. There’s nothing to hide in this place, and whilst it may be awkward for the first two minutes, you soon forget about that and find yourself marvelling at some vintage porn.
You can also visit sites, such as the I Amsterdam letters, take a leisurely trip around the canals of the city. But if relaxing is not what you came for, you can start drinking, easing your way in, at the Irish Pub Slainte on Oudekerksplein, just on the outskirts of the Red Light District. We found ourselves spending most of our trip in this pub, starting our nights off here before doing our very own bar crawl. First thing you should know, you will find it’s more expensive to buy a pint than weed. But at this pub, we were lucky to snag a deal of four doubles for twelve Euros. If you’re wanting more of a clubbing scene, head over to Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, the central hub of Amsterdam’s nightlife, but also a great place to find live music, whatever your taste may be; try the popular Melkweg or Paradiso, for up-and-coming and established names in the music industry.
Or if you’re like us, trying to navigate your way around the Red Light District, slumming it through bars and coffee shops until we found a place to perch for a while. If you’re looking to save money, stay away from the string The Bulldog coffee shops, they’re expensive, and you want enough money to see you through the night. However, if you’re not on a tight budget, go ahead! If you’re looking for some late night entertainment, head on over to the Sex Palace for a peep show (if you have to google it, it probably isn’t for you). Or venture down to a quaint bar respectfully known as The Pint, Red Light District, Amsterdam, with walls aligned with eclectic music paraphernalia. Here is where I introduced my beer-virgin flatmate to the wonders of Grolsch, one of the many Dutch beers they had on draft. Again, lager in Amsterdam is not cheap, and neither is that vodka mixer you usually sip on to get you through the night. That’s probably why one of my friends came home drinking Guinness for the next three months- it’s cheap.
Although we stayed away from the bigger, busier clubs of the city, we had a great time drifting from pub to bar to another, so whether you want to go all out at one of the biggest clubs in the city, or meander through the back streets, either is ideal. I would personally recommend a night out in the Red Light District, as you can experience some weird sights; such as scantily clad women waving at you as if they’re not standing there waiting for a potential client. It won’t kill you to smile at them, just be careful you don’t get ensnared by them. With no prior plan for our night’s out, exploring different bars made it an adventure, where if you simply don’t enjoy one place, there are an array to choose from just down the road! And when you’re ready to finish the night, why not stop at one of the late night kebab shops/waffle shops, for something sweet to give you that little extra kick! You wouldn’t be a student if you didn’t.
In Amsterdam, you will never be short of choice, whatever your motive may be for visiting this uber-modern city. The only warning I would give is, if you choose to dabble in the city’s ingestibles, make sure you’re safe and that you have a friend with who can look after you, and put you on the train back to your hostel after you pass out and fall down the stairs of a coffee shop.
For accommodation, once again know your budget. Try Hotel Brian for a cheap stay, the Meininger hostel just one stop away from Amsterdam Central (I would highly recommend this place, as the facilities were great for the price we paid!), or the Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark, right in the heart of the wondrous city!
Whatever your motive may be, this city is definitely a rite of passage for anyone who wants to dive straight into the deep end of European partying.