Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities visited till date and it always presents me with something new. Thanks to my sister who took a job in Amsterdam 3.5 years back, I got a chance to not just visit Amsterdam but live in Amsterdam. I have been to Amsterdam twice and I still want to spend more time there, but living in Amsterdam was a different experience altogether.

More than its cliches

It is more than just Cannabis, red light district, and tulip gardens; it’s a place where I have seen the most straightforward yet down to earth people. People, who just know how to live life. Living in Amsterdam like a local was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my travels. It is one of the most diverse cities I have been to (after Dubai, in my opinion), it has 170+ nationalities living in the city.

Amsterdam has the most open and liberal cultures which I have not come across anywhere else – be it about gay rights and marriage or soft drugs or prostitution or euthanasia. Amsterdam truly accepts these realities of life. Amsterdam epitomizes “free-spirit” in the true sense of the word.

You must have heard about Dutch Directness which might feel rude in many countries and cultures, but don’t worry, it is not meant that way. Dutch modesty reflects in its national motto which says “Doe maar normal, dan doe je al gekgenoeg” which translates to “just behave normally, it’s crazy enough already”.

Canal entrances lit up at night in Amsterdam
Photo courtesy: Nidhi Singh

As for experience in the city, it’s just difficult to wrap it up in words. Walks down canals, numerous cafes and restaurants, beautiful gardens, and warm and happy people emitting contagious energy which is hard to dodge. Still, I will capture some of the not to miss things to do in Amsterdam.

The most happening square in Amsterdam

Dam Square is the most happening square in the city of Amsterdam. My walking tour guide told us about the great creativity behind the name of Amsterdam and Dam Square. Amsterdam was a marshy land covered mostly in water from River Amstel. It was gradually reclaimed to its current state. The city got its name from a Dam over Amstel – Dutch Directness I told you right?

Another example is the story behind the name of Dam Square – where the square stands today was earlier the dam on Amstel River. The square is surrounded by notable buildings including the royal palace and monument. Many events and festivals are celebrated at dam square. All these things make it the most important town square of not only Amsterdam but also of the country. Talk about Dutch acceptance and openness, one day my mom witnessed a large scale Havan at the square, attended by people from all religious beliefs. (Havan is a Hindu ritual where offerings are burnt such as ghee and grains, normally to mark a special occasion).

The main station that connects all

A short walk from Dam Square is the Amsterdam Centraal Station, which is a magnificent building, built in 1889. It is the main station of the city which connects Amsterdam to the rest of The Netherlands and other parts of Europe. The station is used by more than 160,000+ passengers every day.

Amsterdam Centraal Station
Soak in the art culture

Amsterdam is known for its museum and Art scene. I have to admit that I am not very much into art or museums, but I still went to Van Gogh Museum and totally loved it. My favourites from the museum are Almond Blossoms and the Sunflower. Just couldn’t get enough of those. The museum has a great display and layout which showcases the life of Vincent Van Gogh. What fascinated me most about Van Gogh’s life is that if it was not for his brother Theo and his sister-in-law Johanna, we wouldn’t have had Van Gogh. I suggest you go to the museum and see this story unfold.

The Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein.
The Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein

There’s a lot more to say about living in Amsterdam, so check out part 2 for more!


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