The Dutch city of canals and coffee shops offers plenty of cheese, fries, and other assorted edibles (yeah, you know what we mean). RVA Global correspondent Chloe Fortin brings us an in-depth report.
Typically, when you tell people that you’re going to Amsterdam, they smile and give you a wink. Because let’s be honest — the first two things that come to mind when thinking of the most famous Dutch city in the world are the coffee shops and the red light district. While these hedonistic attractions are still a BIG reason why Amsterdam is widely known, it’s also important to know other reasons why it’s a bucket-list destination.
While the canal system in Amsterdam is really amazing, what got my attention was how bike-friendly this city was. Bike lanes were everywhere and cyclists followed the same lights as cars… or at least, they were supposed to. It was difficult as a pedestrian when trying to cross the street because not only do you need to be aware of cars, but also cautious of non-braking cyclists whizzing past.
To add even more confusion, let’s add the tram. It was always unclear when exactly a tram was going to come, because in some places people were just hanging out in the street unaware that there were track marks underneath them — until they heard the bell from the tram. My advice is to follow all cross signals and yield to all bikers, because in this city, cyclists are number one.
If you are into cheese, then this is the city for you! Just walking along the street, you’ll encounter several “Kaas” shops that carry a variety of cheeses, most notably Gouda, which they create in a bunch of unique flavors and spreads. You of course can’t miss the “Old Amsterdam” cheese shops, as they are everywhere! The Dutch are so into their cheese that if you walk down just the right street, you’ll discover The Amsterdam Cheese Museum, which has even more samples of cheese — including the “Best Gouda Cheese of 2019.”
Not into cheese? Amsterdam offers tasty fried treats you may like. For instance, “Bitterballen,” a tasty little fried ball of a meat ragout, or its brother the “Kroket,” which contains a similar meat ragout. Both wash down well with a pint of beer. You can pretty much order these guys anywhere. If you want to keep it simple, you can try some “Patat,” a thicker version of a French fry, usually topped with mayonnaise, ketchup, or curry and served in a paper cone. I recommend checking out the patat shop called ‘Manneken Pis’ which is the perfect spot when you have the late night munchies.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little more on the sweeter side, hop into a waffle shop and grab yourself a “stroopwafle.” Essentially the Dutch version of a cookie, it at least looks like a waffle. Or perhaps you want something a little more filling — like tiny pancakes called “Poffertjes,” which are super fluffy and served with butter and powdered sugar on top.
Perhaps the experience you want doesn’t have to do so much with taste as much as it does with elevating the mind. You can always hop into a convenience store or bakery and grab yourself a space cake, brownie, lollipop, cookie, or just about any baked good containing a little bit of Amsterdam’s most notable herbal delight. Just be warned that prices for these baked goodies are not the same across the board, so look around — don’t immediately buy at the first little store you see.
If all you really want is some coffee, then look for a café, not a coffee shop, because they are two very different places. Selling marijuana in Amsterdam has been legal for almost 40 years, and over the years the city has built up quite a collection of coffee shops and dispensaries that cater to every type of cannabis enthusiast. Whether you’re into a grungy environment or just want to mellow out in a quiet place, there is a coffee shop for you.
Being that Amsterdam is the most notable city of cannabis culture in the world, you can find so many different types of strains that go along with everybody’s wants, needs, and desires. Usually there are three types of strains you’ll come across in these coffee shops: sativa, indica, or hybrids. If you really are not sure what you want, the people who are running these coffee shops are pretty knowledgeable with their products and can help find the right one that suits you.
While smoking in these coffee shops is legal, it is still not legal to smoke on the streets. However, police officers over the years have become a little more relaxed about it. Conversely, it is also not acceptable to smoke straight cigarettes in coffee shops. They prefer a more herbal aroma than that of tobacco — so light your joint, not a cig. In addition, prices and quality do very from place to place. If you are closer to the city center, just like in any other city in this world, expect to pay more. Some notable places you can check out is the OG of dispensaries, The Bulldog The First, which has been selling since before it was legal. Or swing by one of Snoop Dog’s hangs, The Grey Area.
All photos by Chloe Fortin. Read more posts from around the world on Chloe’s blog, Adventure in Travels, where she blogs about her travels abroad.