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I honestly think Amsterdam could be the most picturesque place I’ve ever visited.  Not only is the town small enough that it can be explored fairly easily, for all its popularity with tourists, it has a nice small town feel to it.  Here are a few tips to exploring this fun city.

Getting into town is simple enough.  The train stops at the airport and from there, it’s a quick metro ride into the city.  You can also easily fly into Schipol and take the train to Rotterdam.  The EuroRail is easy enough and takes just about 3 hours from Paris.  

Rent a bike – Honestly, you can walk around but just do as the locals and rent a bike.  It’s going to be faster and easier to get around than any form of public transportation.  I would be shocked if the hotel you’re staying at doesn’t have bikes for rent but if they don’t, there are bike renting stations all over the city.  It’s fast, convenient, and cheap…and you’ll have a much easier time finding a place to park your bike before you find a place to park a car.

Take a canal tour – The canals are a great way to see the city and offers a fairly nice starting point in terms of getting your bearings.  

Enjoy the scenery – Coming from the US, there were certainly things I found shocking (since it’d be unimaginable here) but there, it’s an accepted and normal part of life.  You can buy beer from a vending machine at a train station or even have one as your drink of choice if you order a combo meal at McDonalds.  I really enjoyed having a low key picnic lunch on a quiet bench along one of the many canals.  And if you go during the summer when the days are long, it’s amazing to see how many people flock to the banks for an evening of eating and drinking.  

Red Light District – Yes it is a thing and yes it’s VERY in your face.  However, it isn’t obscene in any way.  If you’re travelling with a family, I will say that it’s fairly simple to get lost in the city and accidentally stumble upon the area.  The girls are literally standing in the window (like living department store mannequins) and illuminated by a red light.  Those working during the day seemed to be less aggressive in getting clients than those at night but that may have just been my observation.  There are also sex shows that are a draw. These shows, although sexual in nature, aren’t really sexual at all.  Remember, these are just performers on a stage so they could just as easily be performing Shakespeare.  It sounds odd to say but it’s true.  If you’re interested in going, just check out the age demographic of those standing in line to get in.  You’ll see a wide range from college kids to retirees.  

Anne Frank House – I would recommend going early to avoid the crowd.  The museum is interactive in that you’ll be walking through the living quarters.  That said, it’s barely wide enough for people to walk through single file so it does take some time.  Give yourself a few hours since you could be stuck in a part of the exhibit that’s log jammed with people with nowhere to go.  

Well hopefully this gives you a start on where to go.  Another thing to note is that although most people in the hospitality industry speak English, I didn’t find that to be the case among locals.  Unless you have some basic knowledge of Dutch, there might be a lot of hand gesturing to communicate.

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