From where I live, Paris, London and Amsterdam are about the same distance, and I had already been to Paris & London a couple of times. As a kid even, on school trips. But I had never been to Amsterdam until recently, when I went twice, in rapid succession. To me, Amsterdam just never had the draw these other 2 cities had, and I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I think the Netherlands are mostly similar to Belgium, so there's nothing new there? We both speak Dutch after all. Regardless, I was wrong! While Amsterdam is not quite as big as Paris or London, it's got something to offer to everyone - except for sunbathers!
Amsterdam, the Venice of the North, is known for its canals. There's 165 of them, good for a combined length of 100 kilometers (or 60 miles), and the Canal Ring is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Would you believe that it actually beats Venice in terms of bridges? There's more than 1200 bridges in Amsterdam, while Venice has about 400. That's 3 times as much! You can even see 15 of them at once, at the intersection of the Herengracht & Reguliersgracht.
the Amsterdam, an 18th-century VOC cargo ship meant to sail to the islands of Southeast Asia. It sunk after a few days.
But while its canals, bridges, houseboats and canal houses sure are lovely and I can definitely recommend a boat ride, there's more! It's perfect to go on a shopping spree: from haute couture in the P.C. Hooftstraat to the malls & well-knowns brands in Nieuwendijk & Kalverstraat, to authentic & vintage products in the 9 Straatjes. And don't forget to check out some museums, like the Anne Frank House (a commemorative museum for Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl that went into hiding during the 2nd World War), the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum.
Or go out and party hard!
Perhaps even more than its canals, Amsterdam is known for its open mindset. It's very welcoming, and marihuana and prostitution are legal here. There are almost 200 coffee shops in the city, and the smell of marihuana is omnipresent. I actually like that smell, but it's a confusing experience to smell it just about everywhere you go.
The Wallen is probably the biggest red light district in the world, with around 700 prostitutes working daily. And very safe too! It's actually a tourist attraction and you can - and should - come visit this at night because it's also quite beautiful thanks to the canals & houses. You may not want to bring children, though, because of the window prostitution. But if you're with a bunch of friends, you might want to check out a peep show. Or a banana show. I'll leave it up to your imagination what that's about... Yes, that's exactly what it is!