All over the world tourists can be easily spotted, and in Amsterdam there are a few giveaways that make it especially easy – the most obvious tourists can be seen wearing ‘Amsterdam hats’, carrying Van Gogh Museum or Heineken Experience gift boxes, and having their picture taken at the ‘I amsterdam’ sign with their red or yellow rental MacBikes.
We’re not going to tell you to skip the museums with works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondriaan etc. – after all they house world class art and attract many tourists for a good reason. On the other hand, there are some places and actions you should definitely skip if you don’t want to be a stereotypical tourist in Amsterdam.
1. Take photos in front of the ‘I amsterdam’ sign
The city government has spent a lot of money on marketing resulting in two and a half metre high red and white letters saying ‘I amsterdam’. These signs have been placed throughout the city and have become massive tourist magnets. Not only does everyone end up with the same pictures, it’s annoying for locals because tourists end up blocking the cycle lanes in the process of taking their photographs.
Photo credit: Douglas Johnston
2. Go on a day trip to Volendam
Volendam is a famous old fishing village located outside of Amsterdam. Tourists go there on day trips by bus. In the past this place must have been brilliant with its tiny, beautiful canal houses with great views of the lake – the word picturesque may have even been invented there. Sadly nowadays all that remains is a village consisting of tourist shops, tours and traps. ‘Locals’ dressed up in ‘traditional clothes’ try to sell you overpriced fish. Instead you should go to the smaller and less (but still) touristy island ‘Marken’ or, if you want to meet as few tourists as possible and still experience the same classic Dutch views, go to Durgerdam.
The same goes for the flower fields of Lisse and the Keukenhof garden. Yes, flowers are pretty and colourful, but unless you want to be amongst thousands of tourists taking pictures with their tablets, don’t go there.
Photo credit: b k
3. Rent a MacBike
As the biggest bike rental company in Amsterdam, they are able to offer the lowest prices. While there’s nothing wrong with that, they rent out coloured bikes that are easy to spot. Amsterdam is one of the biking capitals of the world and the Dutch are experienced bikers (or maniacs, as some of you might say). For safety reasons rental bikes are coloured, however this makes tourists stand out immediately. If you don’t want to look like a typical tourist, rent a black bike and roll like a local. Bear in mind that if you don’t feel confident on a bike it might be better to stick with a MacBike for safety reasons.
Photo credit: Bauke Karel
4. Visit the Red Light District at night
This is a very popular part of Amsterdam’s Old Town where girls and women of all ages (18+), genders, and fetishes display themselves behind windows and invite you in for a funky time. For locals, the Red Light District is a collection of window prostitutes, sports bars, erotic shops and peep shows teeming with tourists. Very few locals can be spotted here.
The district is actually built in a beautiful part of the Old Town amongst canals, canal houses and churches – this is why we’re not telling you to skip the entire area. Of course there are some hidden gems so our advice is to go there by day (before 3 pm) to enjoy the views of the Old Town or, if you’re really curious about what’s going on, half an hour into the night to experience the atmosphere of something that appears to be heaven for some people.
Photo credit: Steve Parker
5. Consume weed in coffee shops
This one is mentioned on the list for obvious reasons. Before we start, let’s get one thing straight: Dutch people smoke just as much weed and hashish as the average European – they just happen to stand out because they do it legally. Locals do buy marijuana, but they almost never smoke it in the coffee shops. Instead of consuming weed in the company of loud crowds of stoned tourists, they prefer the more chilled-out atmosphere of a park or their home. Inside the coffee shops you’ll mostly find tourists who have no clue where else to smoke weed.