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Popular weekend and short break destination for hens, stags and stoners, Amsterdam is much more than a place to get wasted.

I never used to get Amsterdam. Not being a smoker, I didn’t understand the draw of the city. Why not just roll a reefer in the comfort of your own home if all you wanted to do was get stoned for a weekend? Then I ventured to the Dutch city myself to discover one of Europe’s most interesting and culturally diverse metropolises.

credit: jenifoto

The first thing about Amsterdam is it’s size. A population of under a million people makes it one of the smallest of Europe’s major cities. This means it’s easy to get around. You can join the thousands of locals riding their bikes around town, jump on one of the myriad of boats ploughing the canals, or simply walk. Whichever you choose the relatively vehicle-free roads are a pleasure to journey around; just remember to listen out for the sound of the bike bell and avoid the omnipresent bike lanes, unless you want to end up spread across someone’s handle bars.

I opted for the I Amsterdam city card, which you can purchase from within the airport or across from the Central Station. In addition to free transport on the Metro and trams, it gives you access to most, but not all of the city’s museums. Unfortunately the big three – Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum – are not included. It also includes a free trip along the canals. The great advantage of this is that you can pop into a museum to give it a go, and if it doesn’t appeal then you can walk out without worrying about whether you’ve got your money’s worth.

credit: pidjoe

The Amsterdam Museum provides a great overview of the city’s development, while the Stedelijk Museum, next to the Van Gogh Museum on Museumplein has an interesting and varied collection of contemporary art and design. The outstanding piece was The Beanery by American artist Edward Kienholz, a replica bar conceived and created in 1965, which could conceivably have been the inspiration for the bar in the original Star Wars movie.

But Amsterdam on a sunny weekend in August is not a place to spend stuck inside a museum, nor a coffee shop for that matter. The city was awash with festivals from classical music to house parties, techno and folk – it was literally impossible to take everything in.


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Amsterdam Beyond the Coffee Shops
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