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A Student's Guide to Backpacking: Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is a city with a reputation for two things and let's just say neither of them is healthy living. That being said, the city is more than its image in popular culture. Here are winding streets, stunning pieces of architecture and a deeply moving Holocaust memorial.

Activities
Biking - Most guide books will tell you that biking is the most efficient way to move around the city center of Amsterdam. They're right. What they don't tell you, however, is how dangerous it is. Biking around Amsterdam is extremely challenging, with thousands of other bikers and cars sharing the same roads. While it's a great way to move around the city, it is not recommended for those who don't consider their riding skills to be well above average. Just remember, in the immortal words of Will Ferrell: "The yellow ones don't stop."

Anne Frank House - The Anne Frank House is one of the true "must-see" monuments of Europe. Come here to marvel at the capacities of human beings, both great and terrible, and the will of eight people to survive. It's a memorial to the little girl named Annelies who always wanted to be a famous writer and - in her death - became exactly that, inspiring tens of millions of people to endure personal adversities and never lose faith themselves or humanity.

Red Light District & Coffee Shops - Amsterdam's coffee shops and Red Light District are full of exactly "those" guys. You know who I'm talking about. If you plan to visit either of these Amsterdam institutions - in any capacity - be smart and respectful. When in coffee shops, know your limits then cut them in half, both for your own safety and for the safety of those around you. (Stoned Americans are an easy target for thieves.) When strolling through the Red Light District, be respectful of the women.

Food and Drink
Stroopwafels - Think of a waffle cone cut into three-inch circles with two of the circles joined by a thin layer of caramel and you've got yourself a stroopwafel. They sound simple but, just like any American cookie, they feature a range of varieties and tastes. Cheap and sold in just about any grocery store, there really isn't an excuse not to try stroopwafels unless you're against being happy, in which case I probably can't help you.

Straying from the Indigenous - The traditional, local diet of many cities often isn't the favorite fare of the natives. The spectacle - especially in cities such as Amsterdam - is the diversity of foreign foods. Take the opportunity to try something you've never tried before because - you never know - Ethiopian beef may just become your new favorite dish.