5 touristtraps you need to avoid in Amsterdam
Updated: Jul 12
Amsterdam and the Netherlands may be famous for the wrong things. Here are a few tips on what not to be looking for
when you are planning your trip.
Everybody knows about the red light district and the liberal drug use in Amsterdam. That's why people want to put those high on the bucket list. Understandable. However, the reality and the stories are not lining up. Here are a few facts that come in handy for those of you that want to plan ahead.
Drugs are considered normal in Amsterdam.
Not really. Yes, it is easy to buy soft drugs all over the Netherlands. But in general, we do not advocate using them on a regular basis. You get in trouble if you smoke and drive, or show up high at work or at school.
In Amsterdam, the many shops that sell soft drugs are very much a symptom of mass tourism. Most Dutch people that smoke doesn't want to shop there because it is not the best stuff and the prices way higher. And avoid the shops that have edibles in the window: those do not have any drugs in them. You are being played. Check if the shop is called 'coffeeshop' and has the license by way of a very visible green and white sticker.
Red Light District is a fun clubbing area.
Not at all. Yes, there are clubs, sex clubs. And cafes too. But it is very much a location where the oldest profession in the world is being conducted. That can be confronting to a lot of people.
Prostitution is a legal job in the Netherlands. They pay taxes and have to take care of all the things small businesses have to by law. Mainly for safety reasons and to make sure human trafficking is that much harder to keep up. With tourism growing as much as it has, the eyes of the world were looking in and bad situations were exposed, so the city tried to step in and fix that situation.
In recent years the area with its rich history was focussing more and more on tourism and made it less appealing for locals and local businesses to stay there. In 2020 the city saw firsthand what is left when you take the tourists out of the equation and decided that it had to take more steps to return this part to the locals again. There are restrictions for visitors and that will expand further in the near future.
The Anne Frank house takes walk-ins.
Not really no! The Anne Frank house is one of four museums in Amsterdam that people have to stand in line for. And walk-ins may be possible for the other ones, for Anne Frank you need to reserve weeks ahead, online. And stick to the timeslot! no wiggle room!
Learning about the horrors of what happened to the large Jewish community in Amsterdam is very important. There are many locations without any lines and with very well preserved stories that are worth a visit but get overlooked.
Rent a bike and ride around like the locals
Not really no! The amount of bikes is the first thing that baffles visitors. And the bike lanes and streets and sidewalks that seem confusing. There are all kinds of traffic all at the same time and it takes practice not to get badly injured.
For all visitors, the strong advice is: stay off of bikes even though it seems like fun. Watch yourself when walking around. Bicycles have this fun leisurely image but over here they are the main form of transportation and they are coming at you from all sides.
Amsterdam can be done in a few hours.
Not really no! There is so much more than meets the eye. And even then, so many layers and things to discover. If you stay away from the touristy things the bug will probably bite you and you will want to visit more times than a few. And that is not just me as a proud local telling you this. There are more high-end restaurants than any other city in the world, the architecture is showing the oldest and newest structures, Amsterdam itself is very much different from the rest of the country because of the international presence in everyday life. Really so many reasons to come, and come prepared.