Exploring Amsterdam’s Canals

Amsterdam: it’s easy to think of stag parties, the Red Light district, that oh-so-distinctive grassy smell. But it doesn’t take much to realise there’s so much more…

I have to admit, I was a bit naively skeptical about going to Amsterdam, mainly for those three reasons. Sex, booze and drugs seem to overpower our impression of Amsterdam in a completely unrealistic way, making it appear in the imagination like a sort of Gothem City brimming with sin and debauchery. But these things tend to be centred around a particular area (the western side of the centre, just in case you’re wondering!) apart from coffeeshops which are such a regular aspect of everyday life in Amsterdam that you can find one pretty much everywhere. Yet there is so much more to Amsterdam than our imaginations might allow!

First off, the architecture is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Because the whole city is centred around its canals (which made it one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age), the buildings seem almost a second thought – extremely narrow and tall, all at different heights, and most in different styles – Renaissance, gothic, baroque, Art Nouveau – you name it, it’s there!

The merchants’ canal houses in the old quarter are especially unique. Many have flights of stairs leading up to the front door in case of flooding, and they all have pulley systems which are attached to the attic and had originally been used to hoist goods up to the highest floors – I could happily do with something like that for my room at uni, where goods = snacks.

Cycling in Amsterdam was extremely fun, if somewhat life-threatening. We hired bikes from our hotel for the day without realising that the quality of the brakes was fairly questionable – not ideal in a city with the most confusing road and traffic-light system I’ve experienced! After a couple of near death experiences on the way into the city centre, we were finally able to turn off the main road and onto the quieter canal streets.

My favourite part of the city we cycled around was an area called Seven Bridges which is, well, I’m not even going to bother explaining why it’s called that! It was a really peaceful spot and the views down each canal were gorgeous. If you’re looking for that quintessential Amsterdam view of ‘the bridge over the canal and bike-lined streets either side’, you’ll find it here. Here’s two I made earlier…

There’s so much to mention about Amsterdam, and an endless number of things to do, but I thought for now I would briefly blog about our cycling trip, as this was probably my favourite way to get to know the city, even if I only just managed to survive the experience – no, I’m serious, my brake-less bike slipped into a tram line, I fell over, there was a tram coming, I saw my life flash before my eyes… but hey, that’s what holidays are all about, right?

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