Amsterdam Is More Than What It's Famous for Legalizing

While the tolerant and progressive nature of Amsterdam is something to admire, Amsterdam is so much more than the legal bud or the legal organized sex work. After my time in Amsterdam, I learned a thing or two about what Amsterdam is, without all the stuff it’s famous for legalizing.

Courtesy A City Made By People

CANALS // If you don't think of the Red Light District when you think of Amsterdam, you probably think of the canals winding through the city. There are close to 200 different canals going through Amsterdam and it is one of the most unique and gorgeous things I've ever seen in all my travels. The entire city is actually below sea level (it was built on a swamp). The streets are small and tight because of the canals - it has a really cozy feeling. I found myself always wanting to just stop and sit on a bench for a while - it's like downtown is a park.

Courtesy Amsterdam Canal Cruises

CANAL HOUSES // Along the canals lie the classic Amsterdam canal houses that are old, historical and picturesque. These canal houses get some of the best views in the world in my opinion, but living right near a canal comes at a price - the houses often sink. They lean on each other for support - most of them don't stand straight up anymore.

Courtesy Vegansterdam

FRIES // Yeah, you read that right - Amsterdam is a city with fries as a *must-have* dish. Not just any fries - fries covered in... mayonnaise. I'm serious. And guess what? They're delicious and I have craved them every day since.

Courtesy Vondelpark

VONDELPARK // While the canals and trees that line the streets don't have you missing nature entirely, it's still amazing to see a huge green space in an otherwise tightly packed city. It is right by the IAMSTERDAM sign and just out front of the famous Rijksmuseum.

Courtesy Van Gogh Self Portrait (1889)

ART // Van Gogh and Rembrandt - the amazing artists once called the city home. These classic artists of completely different styles both have museums - Rembrandt's in his old home, Van Gogh's near Vondelpark - that house many of their works.

Courtesy Amsterdam Cheese Company

CHEESE! // A tourist activity in Amsterdam is to taste Dutch cheeses at every local shop you walk by. Cheese shops are on every corner and all of them offer samples of as many cheeses as you want and as big a piece as you want. You just walk in and cut yourself a piece. Pretty much heaven.

Courtesy Freedom Treks

BIKING // Maybe it was naive of me to think that biking in Amsterdam was just a stereotype? Throughout the city, there are streets where cars are simply not allowed, meaning the best way for all locals to get around is via bicycle. It's beautiful, cheery and feels so cliche - in a good way!

Courtesy annefrank.org

HISTORY // Amsterdam is likely most well known for being the home of Anne Frank. For years after World War 2 began, Frank hid in the secret annex until her and her family were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The tour of the Anne Frank House was one of the most moving, life changing and powerful things anyone can do. Put this on the places to visit before you die - the perspective shift is unmatched and still sticks  with me.

Courtesy Your Little Black Book

PANCAKES // Did I only eat when I was there? Or am I just obsessed with everything I ate? Is it both? Dutch pancakes are big and thin - somewhat of a thicker crepe - and the combinations of toppings are what make them so unique. They have classic, sweet and savory toppings. I ordered the dutch apple pancake (both visits - it was just too good) that was topped with apple slices and... DUTCH CHEESE. Typing this I am salivating. Thank god I don't live here, because I cannot afford to be eating cheesy pancakes and mayo fries everyday.

Despite the passport agent stamping my passport without batting an eye and simply offering the words, "Have fun, behave... or not", I found Amsterdam to be so much more. It's home to bright flowers on dark days, bikers enjoying the sky when it's raining, one of the most pivotal voices in history, a unique calmness among colorful nightlife and good ass cheese.