Amsterdam, Amsterdam: it’s a hell of a town. OK, that one’s normally reserved for New York, but they didn’t call it New Amsterdam for nothing.
Few would question The Dam’s status as one of the world’s greatest cities, but for the uninitiated, it can be kind of daunting. If you’re new to town – or just plain neurotic – some of the local customs can seem somewhat strange. From coffee shops that don’t serve coffee, to ‘truffles’ that keep you tripping all day long, there’s a lot to wrap your head around. While citizenM can’t recommend you try each and every one of Amsterdam’s more risqué pastimes, we’ve rounded up a few of the bawdy best, just in case you stumble across them on your trip. Wink. Wink.
1.get on your bike
If you’ve ever walked around Amsterdam, you’ve surely come close to being run over by a raging local on two wheels. Bikes rule the road here, and if you aren’t saddling up, you’re missing out. Amsterdam’s 400 km of bike paths and lanes make it a cyclist’s dream, and there really is no better way to see the city.There are rental spots all over the city, and hire shouldn’t cost you more than €10 for the day. But we should warn you, this is one area where it isn’t wise to follow the locals’ lead: running red lights, cycling at rush hour and weaving in and out of lanes are all best avoided. And, if you’re hitting the road after dark make sure you keep your lights on – or else you risk picking up a nasty fine! And don’t forget, citizenM Amsterdam guests have access to our bikes for free, like most of the best things in life.
2.visit a high-vibe coffee shop
If you want to experience Amsterdam to the fullest, you’ve got to visit one of the city’s notorious coffee shops. When Dutch law decriminalised the possession of cannabis in the 70s, coffee shops selling small amounts of bud started springing up across town. Amsterdam is a mecca for marijuana lovers – close to 200 licensed vendors operate in the city. Head to The Greenhouse; its four locations feature low lighting, a chill vibe and plenty of pictures of celebrity visitors – it seems everyone from Snoop Dogg to Cara Delevingne has spent a hazy afternoon here. If it’s your first time, ordering can be a tricky process: avoid skunk that sounds like it’ll blow your head off (AK-47, trainwreck and amnesia are definitely off the table) and don’t bother trying to perfect the art of rolling the perfect spliff. Go for a pre-rolled hash joint or something edible. Then, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
3.dance all night
Have you ever truly danced the night away? Not in a metaphorical sense – we’re talking literal, dusk till dawn kind of grooving. We thought not. Well, a visit to Amsterdam might just provide you with the perfect opportunity. Thanks in no small part to Mirik Milan – Amsterdam’s first night mayor (no joke) – the city has been dishing out 24-hour licences to a few lucky clubs since 2013. In the A’DAM Tower basement, Shelter’s huge sound system blares out cutting-edge house and tech. For weekend-long affairs, head south to RADION. You’ll need some serious stamina to keep going, but there’s a cafe upstairs in case you need to pop out for a quadruple espresso. Yet De School might just be the coolest of the bunch. It’s a multi-purpose venue with exhibition space, a gym, restaurant, cafe, and a bumping basement club hosting some of the biggest names in dance music.
4.explore the seedy side
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to De Wallen. Regardless of how you feel about the city’s liberal attitude towards prostitution, a walk around the world’s most (in)famous red light district after dark is an unforgettable experience. The truly adventurous – or slightly depraved – might even want to include a trip to one of the city’s scandalous sex show: there are dudes waving their willies around and girls performing genital gymnastics. Be warned, they’re best experienced drunk and are quite frankly bizarre. But at least you’ll have a story for when you get home. But we should mention a few faux pas: don’t visit De Wallen alone after dark, don’t linger too long, and whatever you do, don’t take pictures of the girls in their windows.
5.eat raw herring
Dive in on some traditional raw herring. OK, we realise that doesn’t sound amazingly appealing, but once you throw in the onions, gherkins and bread roll, it’s almost like a cross between a hot dog and a fish finger sandwich. Warming up to the idea? We thought as much. This fishy, salty and surprisingly nutritious snack has been pleasing Dutch palettes for over 600 years. Plus, it’s a famous hangover cure. You’ll find ‘haring’ stalls and shops all over town, but popular Stubbe’s on Singel is a great place to start. Oh, and if you want to look authentic while eating, do away with the bun and hold the fish by it’s tail. Just go with it – It’s the Dutch way.
If you’ve yawned your way through our list so far, thinking this all seems pretty tame, we’ve got just the thing: truffles. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend chomping hallucinogenic fungi during your trip to Dam, we figure you may as well know the basics. Plenty of shops sell magic truffles here. Chat to vendors, tell them you’re a beginner and ask for a small dose (about five grams) of truffles that are more giggly than visual – it’s always better to start slow. Your trip will probably last about five hours, so it’s best to take them early in a day and in an environment where you feel comfortable. But don’t worry, you don’t have to stay indoors all day. Once, you feel relaxed, head into the city for a wander around or hit the Vondelpark, stare at the sky and giggle the afternoon away. Should you start to feel a little panicky, or feel as if you’re heading towards a ‘bad trip’, sugar is your friend: guzzle sweets to your heart’s content.