Amsterdam: More Than Just Red Lights

What comes to mind when you think of Amsterdam? Well if it’s only smoking weed, drinking beer and ogling at scantily clad women, then think again. Amsterdam has a wealth of cultural attractions that will leave you head over heels in love with the city. From museums and art galleries, to Dutch cycling and boat trips, Amsterdam is hip, dynamic and quirky. 

If you’re into art, beyond the obvious Van Gogh museum, which is partial to extreme queuing, the Rijks museum is an interesting spot to head to. Oozing with history and creative vibes, it has everything from Renaissance and Romanticism to Classicism and Impressionism. The building alone is quite a spectacle, towering tall over Museum Square. Besides famous works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, inside you’ll find a collection of beautiful stained glass windows, large spaces to gaze at ancient masterpieces and several smaller rooms filled with modern art.

If you’re looking for something with more of an upbeat twist, it’s worth heading to North-West Amsterdam. This is a redevelopment area, transforming from a shipping wharf to an arty social scene. This unique space is unlike any other part of Amsterdam, and is being used as a creative outlet for artists and musicians. It has become an entrepreneurial hub and boasts both MTV and Red Bull offices, as well as numerous outdoor art projects taking the form of statues, installations, quirky cafes and skate-parks. Plus, if you’re looking for a really out there place to stay, there is even a crane hotel – where rooms are actually located in the spine of an old industrial crane.


For something more relaxed, you can take a trip to Natura Artis Magistra – the city zoo. Located in the centre of Amsterdam, the zoo boasts a vast range of animals including giraffes, elephants, monkeys and zebras. It is a perfect spot to get away from the buzz of the city for a few hours, but tends to get quite crowded towards midday.

If you want to travel back in time, the Tropen museum boasts a wonderful array of visual arts and interactive pieces. This unusual anthropological museum takes you on a whirlwind adventure through history, across each of the world’s continents. From waxworks to film and sculpture, the Tropen museum is truly a hidden gem not to be missed.


If you’ve got any energy left, a cycling tour is a fantastic way to see parts of the city you might not venture out to by yourself. Dutch bicycles are unique, in that rather than breaks on the handlebars, riders break by pedaling backwards. After a few tumbles, it gets easier to control these strangely operated bikes, and soon enough you can see the logic behind them. In the summer, such tours are also a great way to cool down offering a welcome breeze as you cycle. Many tours will take you to the north-west development area, around the canals and to De Otter; the last remaining traditional windmill in Amsterdam city.

However you explore Amsterdam, you’re likely to be left mesmerized by its quirkiness. From stunning canals and traditional architecture, to bicycles, boats, trams, and art installations, Amsterdam pushes the boundaries of creativity and will leave you inspired long after your trip.

Caitlin Kelly 

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