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Amsterdam--Worth It?

Admittedly, the question should be placed in some context, such as how much time, what are the other choices, where else are you going, what do you like, what have you seen before.

But something I have noticed on this forum (and I have gone back about 25 pages) is that (a) there are few threads on Amsterdam and (b) there are several negative posts on the city--people love the Dutch, but some find the city excessively dirty and certainly expensive (though I know this also would apply to many European cities).

So to those who have been to Amsterdam, I simply ask did you like it or dislike it, why, how high does it rank on your list of favorite European cities?

Thanks in advance for your opinions.

Richard

Posted by
9109 posts

I love Amsterdam! The art scene the one of the best in the world, and I'm not even talking about the two big museums (Rijks and Van Gough). The smaller museums like the Hermitage, Tropical Mueseum, Jewish Museum, New/Old churches, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam History Museum, Resistance Museum, and the FOAM photography gallery, have amazing temporary exhibits that change several times a year. I've visited Amsterdam once or twice a year for the past ten years, and these rotating exhibits always make for a new, and fresh experience. Obvsiously in a city where drugs and prostitution are legal, there is going to be seedy element, but it's easily avoided if you don't want to partake. The residential areas with their canals are stunningly beautiful, and tranquil. But one the best features of the city is how compact it is, it's not spread out like London or Paris most all the key sites are with in walking distance or a very short tram ride away. Don't get me wrong I love London and Paris but hopping on and off the metro all day does get tiring and dehumanizing. I also love the overall atmosphere of the city it's not a business center like London- more laid back. People go to Amsterdam to have fun (vacation from your vacation),and its very contagious!

Posted by
360 posts

I had my 3rd visit last Nov. Each time I go, I like it more. I stayed 6 days which was probably too many - would have been OK if I'd taken some day trips. It is grungy & that's what most of us need to get past. But the architecture is wonderful as are the people. The more I visit, the more I feel the charm of the city. Also, because they speak English so well, it's an easy city for us. As far as cities, I've only been to London, Edinburgh, Paris & Amsterdam. I like them all but for different reasons. I like Paris & London for the museums & other sights. I liked Amsterdam for the look of it & the quiet charm. Edinburgh I just like for no particular reason. Amsterdam was no more expensive than Paris. I know someone who travels to Europe about a week out of every month & his favorite city is Amsterdam.

Posted by
12193 posts

The other side. Amsterdam is my least favorite place in Northern Europe. I do think it's a one-time must see and I wouldn't tell anybody not to go there. Having been there, it's at the bottom of my list for a return visit - which is a shame because so many overseas flights pass through Schipol so it's one of the easier cities to visit.

Here are the pluses. Amsterdam was once an important center of international trade and has great history. The Dutch are better foreign language speakers than any other Europeans so you will feel more at home as an English only speaker than almost anywhere else in Europe. The canal design of the city is interesting. The tax structure resulted in some interesting architechture. The number of bikes is interesting and unusual. The Van Gogh museum has paintings you wouldn't recognize as his from different periods in his career. They are very tolerant.

Here are the minuses. It's the dirtiest city in Northern Europe. You would probably have to go as far as Naples to find a dirtier city. The drug culture is pervasive. Used drugs and drug paraphernalia are hard to avoid, whether on the street or in a park. The museums are only okay. The Rijksmuseum isn't worth visiting if you will visit museums in any other major city. Van Gogh painted his most recognizable subjects multiple times so you are likely to see "the same" painting at many different museums. The best Dutch masters paintings seem to be in museums outside of the Netherlands, from Rome to DC. The tourist trade caters (to too large extent) to illicit drugs and sex. If you aren't into that, it's off-putting. They practice extreme tolerance, an example - people who break into a vacant home and set up as squatters have legal rights so the owner can't get them out. Building owners don't want their property to be vacant for even a day for fear of losing their investment.

Posted by
193 posts

We just got back from Amsterdam. It was worth about 1 1/2 days. We stayed in Harlaam and took the 20 min train ride into Amdam each day. I would see the sights that you want in Amdam then go to the quieter, cleaner, and smaller Harlaam for Dutch canal beauty and charm.

Posted by
506 posts

Admittedly, it was the first stop on our first trip to Europe, so I think that affects our opinion a bit. We liked Amsterdam okay, but I think our trip really showed us that we like the smaller towns better (We also went to Paris and Berlin as our big cities and probably would rank Amsterdam behind Berlin and just a bit ahead of Paris-mostly because of the crowds). My wife really enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum and we both liked the Ann Frank House. Both are not huge museum goers, nor were we there for the sex/drug culture so it had a limited appeal to us, though we did enjoy it.

I would go back, but mostly if it was convenient along our route (For instance to fly into Europe or on the way to Bruges, which we loved!). I'd also seriously consider staying in Harlaam so we could escape the big city bustle when we wanted to.

On a side note, our bed and breakfast host told us to use the library for free internet access as it was brand new. It was an amazing building (right next to the train station) with a great view of town and a wonderful cafeteria on the 7th floor! Definitely worth it to pop in if you are there. We had a wonderful meal there!

Posted by
11507 posts

I have only been twice. Once as a child for a week.. As a child I thought the canals were interesting, I loved Ann Franks house and seeing windmills and we went on some sort of tour to a little fishing village and a wooden shoe factory and a cheese factory( see a theme, LOL) It was " quaint" .. but not very exciting.

I went back at 23. Did Ann Franks house again, and again found it moving. Visited a coffee house.Walked through red light area, thought that was just too sad. I felt sorry for the girls/woman. I did not feel their "empowerment" .

Found Amsterdam rather seedy... too much drug culture , and I don't just mean pot smoking. We only spent 3 days there and left.

Would I go again, possiblily for a day or two, it is a good place to fly into . I wouldn't stay there long though, I just think there are much more interesting and exciting cities,, not that Amsterdam is a hole, its not, its just kind of "ho hum" and a bit seedy( which you can avoid) .

Posted by
23 posts

I would say it is worth a visit simply because of the unique nature of the city - the "look" if you will.

I guess maybe I was dazzled by the cool architecture and good museums and friendly English-speaking locals, but I didn't find it very much dirtier than other big cities anywhere else. My sister lives in a transitional neighborhood in Baltimore and it was certainly cleaner than that. I'm also not sure that some of the "dirty" complaints don't really mean "centuries old and well-used."

I walked through Vondelpark every day and I noticed the kids playing with dogs and the young men kicking around a soccer ball more than the syringes under the bushes. Yes, they were there. I just focused on other things. Same with the canals - I wasn't going to swim in them so I just ignored the trash that was floating and thought about how it would have been to live there hundreds of years ago.

I guess I'm just a Pollyanna! I've never been to a European city I didn't find a reason to love, and I'm more focused on enjoying myself than noting any complaints. I don't have time to be negative on vacation! That takes away from my carefully designated "try a local alcoholic beverage" scheduling!

Posted by
1449 posts

Its my favorite European city, and I can't wait to visit it again! To me its like Venice but so much better. The canals are beautiful and remind me of Venice, lots of cafes where you can sit on a bridge and have a coffee while watching the world go by or just chatting with your friends. After a while in Venice I get tired of small squares and twisty narrow passages, but in Amsterdam there are also larger public spaces and plenty of places to walk. Amsterdam has a nice pedestrian-only mall, cafes to sit and have a coffee or beer, as well as the cultural attractions of a city with a rich heritage and past.

Posted by
115 posts

I agree with Pat here. We were there couple years ago for a quick stop before flying out. Its interesting, but seedy with all the tolorance they have. Traveled all over Europe and it was one of my least favorite cities. It is unique, and maybe I didn't give it enough time, but we were not 100% confortable in the city.

Posted by
3260 posts

Amsterdam isn't my favorite European city either but I agree that if you love museums and stay in Haarlem it's absolutely worth a visit!

Posted by
2788 posts

Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I go to Europe every summer and seen lots of cities there.
I have stayed in both Amsterdam and Harlaam and think I will stay in Harlaam next time I go to that area. Less congested - slower pace - quieter at night - short train ride into Amsterdam. Some people like the opera and some people do not. Same goes for cities both in Europe and here in the US. Happy travels

Posted by
121 posts

Richard,

Amsterdam was beautiful - we stayed there on each end of our trip in June. My husband, daughter, and I enjoyed the architecture and the museums the most. Unlike other locations we visited over our 3.5 week trip, it was not somewhere we were sad to leave nor did we feel very much at home there. It was charming in its way and the canals were lovely but we loved other places in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Italy much better. It is an easy place to fly into/out of and has something to offer everyone. I personally would never dedicate more than a day or so there and it will never be my destination trip. I would return to see the flowers though because we missed them in June.
I hope you have a wonderful trip - you would be hard pressed to go anywhere in Europe and not have a great time!

Posted by
934 posts

I stayed in Haarlem and spent one full day in Amsterdam.It was a nice day,Ann Franks,Canel Boat ride and just walking.However I was happy to leave and dont think I would return.

Posted by
43 posts

We loved it! We rented an apartment in a canal house and had a wonderful time. Definitely worth a few days!

Posted by
2023 posts

Amsterdam certainly is not one of my favorite cities in Europe but we enjoyed it. We only stayed two nights and that was not enough time. The food is fabulous! We loved the Ristophel/Indonesian meals. Keukenhof Gardens were wonderful and I think the Anne Frank House was the highlight of the visit. Liked the Riiks museum but not the Van Gogh one. We plan to return to see more of Amsterdam.

Posted by
875 posts

My husband and I loved it. It's a compact city -- easy to get around. We loved the Van Gogh museum. We loved the canals. We loved the flowers. We would love to go back. It's easy to take day trips from Amsterdam.

Posted by
26 posts

I'll throw my hat in with the "love it" crowd. If you like cozy, laid-back cities, this is the place! I'm not going to tell you what the others haven't already, but the friendly people, compact size, and history make it a must-see. There's just a certain intangible quality about Amsterdam that makes it equal parts quirky and charming. It's best seen in the late spring to early fall; I've been there in spring for the tulips and it was blustery cold!

Personally, I think the dodginess factor (i.e. prostitution and drugs) is a bit overblown. Just keep your street smarts as you would any other city, and see things for what they are, and it's quite an eye-opening and delightful experience. As an aside, I've heard that the city government is closing up many of the storefront brothels in the near future to cut down on crime in the area.

Regardless, it's a beautiful experience not to be missed. Go!

Posted by
9109 posts

Amy it could be worse, instead of Amsterdam (or anywhere else in Holland) he could be transferred to France, Germany ect. where speaking English outside of tourists area may be problematic on a day by day basis. The Dutch are great linguists and most everyone, everywhere speaks perfect English. Outside of the UK and Ireland there is no better country for someone who speaks only English to be transferred to.

Posted by
262 posts

I vote yes on Amsterdam. If you like to walk it is a beautiful place to walk in. Yes, wonderful museums and lovely canals. The Anne Frank House is an experience everyone should have. Yes, drugs and prostitution are there but avoidable. I have been there in summer and winter and love both times of the year!

Happy Travels!
Debi

Posted by
531 posts

There is a remote possibilty that my husband's job could move him to Amsterdam, so this thread got my attention. Please someone rave about what a great city it is and that you would move there in a heartbeat!! :) 2 or 3 days are good, how about 2 or 3 years??!

Posted by
493 posts

I vote "yes" on the quality and number of responses my initial post received. The responses confirmed the diversity of opinion on Amsterdam though apparently showing a majority were fans of the city. Many thanks for the thoughtful responses.

Posted by
1446 posts

We were there for 3 1/2 days which was just about right. We loved the architecture, the canals, the museums, and the food. (On one day took a day trip out which was very easy.) I'm glad I got to see Amsterdam, and I would go back but there are other places I want to experience first.

Posted by
531 posts

We are definitely going to jump at the chance to move over there if it works out - like I said, the chance is remote. I had not thought about the amount of English speaking people there, that would definitely help with the transition. But I have to say, I have not been to Amsterdam - but was surprised by this thread. I had ideas about what it would be and didn't expect people to put it on the lower end of the spectrum for cities to see in Europe. It's perfect if for nothing else than to be a major hub for us to explore the rest of Europe. Keep your fingers crossed, we may make the move if things go that way. How fun!

Posted by
1449 posts

Amy, if you can do it then jump at it! This would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of just being a tourist passing thru for a few days, you'd have a chance to make a very liveable city home. As was already pointed out, since everyone speaks English you'll get around easily. And by living on the Continent you'll have the chance to visit tons of places in Europe with a train ride or discount flight.