Back in 2006 when I still had the energy to party like a rock star I came to the Netherlands on what was my first European trip. Travelling on a budget and trying to fit the most bars in a single amount of time, I did not get to visit beyond Amsterdam.
10 years later I have returned to the Netherlands for only the 2nd time in my life, and wow has this place changed.
Before I start on my impressions on Amsterdam, I have to admit that the first time I visited I was a walking disaster.
Young and possibly obnoxious, I went on a 3-day drinking marathon (drink-a-thon) with some guys I had met all the way back in Paris. Unfortunately all my mornings did not start before 1:00 PM back then and as such I did not get to visit much of the country, or the city itself.
Coming Back to Amsterdam
When word first got out that I was preparing to travel the world, some of the friends I had met during my travels dropped me a line offering me a couch or a bed if I was going to visit.
In Amsterdam, I know two locals. One who I met about 8 years before during a trip in Argentina, and one who I had met the year before in Tanzania.
It’s not every day that I had the opportunity to not only save on accommodation but also have the chance to get to know a city through a local. So, wanting to make the city justice I came back to the Netherlands and once again I set anchor in Amsterdam, but this time for a full week and a half. Lucky me, this also coincided with King’s Day in the Netherlands!
Getting out of Amsterdam Centraal somehow had a different feeling than it did a decade ago. The entire city felt crowded with people and roller suitcases, just outside the central station people came swarming from all directions in and out of the station.
I still remembered when I first came and left the same central station 10 years ago. The city was busy back then, but not as crowded. Maybe it was the upcoming King’s Day that had brought all these people in? Or maybe this is the “new” Amsterdam now?
Apart the crowds and walking through the different neighborhoods of Amsterdam did feel like the Amsterdam of old. The Red Light District with its abundance of, well, red lights and “Coffee Shops”, the Centrum with its nothing short of amazing architecture, and the Canal Ring with its many historical sights like the (extremely crowded) Anne Frank House.
My First Few Days
I had arrived on a Friday evening in Amsterdam, which meant that the weekend was very much reserved to catching up with old friends. The weekend dangerously started to turn into my Amsterdam of 10 years ago full of headaches and regret, so when Monday came I made a point of sightseeing outside of Amsterdam for a few days.
Click here for a list of the best day trips from Amsterdam.
Visiting cool places like Zaanse Schans, Keukenhof and Haarlem rejuvenated me and made me feel like giving myself a now 3rd chance to get to know Amsterdam outside of the bars and beers.
Amsterdam Is Beautiful
Wandering around the canals quickly became my favorite activity in the city, that and trying not to suffer death-by-bicycle. The many canals in Amsterdam give the city its charm and provide hours and hours of sightseeing inside the city.
There are many things to see inside Amsterdam to keep you busy and out of the party scene for days. Another of my favorite parts of the city was Vondelpark; on a nice day it is the perfect spot to spend the day and look at passerbys walking and biking. During the summer days locals will have barbecues outside, and it is one of the many places in Amsterdam where you can see colorful tulips outside of Keukenhof.
Formerly known as Queen’s Day until 2013, when Queen Beatrix ceded the throne at 75 years of age to her son William-Alexander, King’s Day is an unique carnival-like day and night in the Netherlands highlighting the King’s birthday on April 27th each year.
King’s Day in Amsterdam is a huge event joined by over 700,000 tourists from around the world, and although the number of visitors does crowd the city beyond capacity, the ambiance in the streets is extremely festive and laid back and everyone enjoys themselves despite the enormous crowds.
The night before King’s Day, King’s Night, is just as festive with many outdoor parties throughout Amsterdam. DJs and party-goers revel in the street, all dressed in orange, drinking and dancing to the sound of music. The party goes all night (some until the early morning).
During King’s Day the party continues in the streets of Amsterdam inside and outside of bars. The neighborhood of Jordan is where most people and locals go to.
The most important thing during King’s Day is: WEAR ORANGE
The Dutch love to bargain, and this is most apparent in the various flea markets found throughout the city during King’s Day. Many families take the opportunity to sell some of their old stuff out in the streets, sometimes at extremely low prices.
At the end of it all, I’m not sure whether it was Amsterdam or me who changed the most.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I am no longer into the party scene (my body does a fantastic job of reminding me every morning after). While I still went out and enjoyed King’s Day (and King’s Night), my favorite moments were those of discovering a city that I did not get a chance to know too well the first time around.
Amsterdam can be one messy adventure. From the many parties and bars to the extremely beautiful sights and architectures, Amsterdam has everything to keep you busy whether for a short or long stay. Have you been to Amsterdam? Have you experienced King’s Day?