The second time I went to Amsterdam, my first thought was, I don’t remember it being like this. I almost thought I’d taken a flight to the wrong city, that was how different things were. It had only been a year since my previous trip, and I couldn’t believe how many things about the place didn’t seem familiar.
As I walked down the narrow streets toward my hotel, I started to see some of the things I had become accustomed to during my first visit to the city, and I began to relax a little. This was the first of many clues that Amsterdam is a chameleon that can change according to what you’re looking for, and where you go to find it. As I started to make more frequent trips to Holland’s most popular destination, I learned to accept that each time you go to Amsterdam, you are likely to have an experience unlike any of the other times.
My first visit was very much about food and socializing. I had gone there to meet some friends, and our main focus was finding places to sit and chat and eat all the wonderful food on offer. Nobody was particularly interested in sightseeing or any of the more underground aspects of the city, so for us Amsterdam became a place of culinary delights and wonderful beer. We relaxed, we took in the atmosphere, and we each gained about five pounds. We didn’t do much else, but at the end we were happy and had some lovely memories of the trip.
The second time, I went there because I wanted to see a lot of the things I missed the first time. Amsterdam has so many spots of historical and cultural interest, and if you’re capable of getting yourself motivated early in the morning, you can fill your days with any number of museums, canal tours, and neighborhoods with spectacular architecture. Because I was so tired in the evenings, I rarely ventured out of the hotel after dark, and didn’t do much in the way of exploring restaurants or bars. This shift in time frame gave the city a completely different feel from my first trip, almost as if I were visiting a separate place altogether. Instead of a center of food and drink, this was now a hub of art and history.
The third time I went to Amsterdam, I was going not for myself, but to celebrate the birthday of a male friend who wanted “to go somewhere crazy, and do crazy things.” Amsterdam is certainly capable of playing that role as well, and as our little group got caught up in increasingly wild adventures that started at sundown and ran into the early hours of the morning, I started to wonder how I’d ever managed to avoid seeing this other side of the city before. There are many activities one can engage in in The Netherlands that are considered unacceptable or downright illegal in other places, and for the uninitiated, the more gritty aspects of the night life in Amsterdam can be a real eye-opener. The most interesting thing was, I never felt unsafe or worried, and the four-day continuous birthday party we organized was just as relaxing as it was unconventional.
Since then, I have been to Amsterdam quite a few more times, and each experience I’ve had has not been anything like any of the previous ones. This city can truly be whatever you want it to be, so if you’d like to visit, all you have to do is decide what angle you want to take, and go for it! Whether you’re interested in culture or debauchery or night life or historical sightseeing, the possibilities in Amsterdam are endless, and I encourage you to explore them all.