If, like me, you were in Amsterdam for just a day and you are trying to cover as much as is possible in this iconic city, you might have to make a few choices quickly and surrender others as well. Amsterdam is well known for a number of things – beautiful, historic buildings, the coffee shops, the Red Light District, of course, and its urban, intercontinental feel, not to mention the canals that criss-cross this city.
So what did I choose? Well...I'm about to tell you.
1. CANAL CRUISE
This was pretty much at the top of the list. I don't think you can go to Amsterdam and not see a canal, so you may as well go on a cruise. These guided tours take you over the canals and under the famous walkways, bridges and leaning houses (yes, they actually do lean) that sit by the side of the waterways. It's the quickest way to get a historical injection that only takes about an hour and a half of your day. A ticket, combined with a visit to the A'DAM lookout, will set you back about 25 euros (about 3000 KES) from a regular tours agent.
2. THE A'DAM LOOKOUT
This is one of the highest points in Amsterdam, and they have a swing at the top that looks out over a gorgeous skyline, especially in clear weather. You've already seen Amsterdam from below, you might as well see it from above, no? The restaurants on the floor below the swing are usually booked well in advance, so you might want to stop at the restaurant in the hotel next door, The Butcher, for a burger. Before, not after, the swing!
3. The Coffee Shop
The coffee shop culture is a fascinating one, if you care to indulge in the drugs that are a bit more legal to partake of in this country. I'm talking about marijuana, of course, which Amsterdam is noted for the world over – the reputation of its pot shops precede it.
It's a simple procedure, precisely like going into a kiosk and choosing a blunt of your choice. Because Kenya is so dramatic about this little herb, I don't think the novelty will wear off for you.
It sure didn't for me!
4. THE RLD
Still feeling risqué? Take a stroll through the Red Light District. It's not too long a walk, but it is almost always crowded – again, this is one of the areas in Amsterdam whose reputation precedes it and is thus always packed – regardless of the fact that there are other districts all over the Netherlands with districts like these.
If you go into a strip club, be sure to carry a bit of change – entry starts at about 10 euros (about 1200 KES), and drinks are compulsory. Did I mention that a beer can be 12 (about 1500 KES) euros? It isn't a cheap venture!
There is some beautiful architecture in Amsterdam. You can't take pictures of the RLD (called so because the windows where the commercial sex workers are in are lined with red neon lights) but the buildings kind of make up for it.
Madame Tussaud's Museum and a castle in the city centre where street artists perform (including nude ones) are just a few examples of the historic buildings all over the city.
And yes...you're going to see a lot of bicycles as well.
What fascinated me most about Amsterdam is that it's a city that doesn't take itself or its vices too seriously.
It lets you be the person you've always wanted to be, or try something you've always wanted to try without making too big a deal of it – after all, everyone is there for the same thing.
You can avoid the main street a little bit and venture through the less crowded parts of the city if you don't want to be too annoyed by your fellow tourists – the architecture is worth it.
Amsterdam, is worth it.