Firstly, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful European cities I have ever seen. (I’ve been to London, Dublin, Paris, Venice, and Stockholm, if you’re curious.) It has international culture and food options that compare to New York City, it has art museums that compare to Paris, canals that compare to Venice, and so many glorious cobblestone streets and mouth-opening stone churches and structures.
And now, as of 2016, WOW Airlines of Iceland offers staggeringly cheap airfares to Amsterdam from Boston and other US cities. Once you arrive, there are many cheap food options along with an amazing campground with cabins (if you don’t want to carry a tent) that is right on the tram, bus, and night bus lines so getting to downtown is easy day or night.
My guide to one of the most beautiful cities in the world:
- Go on the WOW Airlines website and buy a ticket for a long weekend or a week, or however long you can.
- Go on Camp Zeeburg’s website and book yourself an eco-cabin or wagonette or a tent space. I’d advise to book a return flight that is during the afternoon, because the Camp’s main desk is only open from 8:30am until 9 or 10pm depending on season, and they do keep your ID (best to bring two IDs for staying here, because coffee shops do sometimes ask to see one)…though perhaps you can grab that the night before if you do happen to have an early flight out.
- When you arrive in the city, buy a multi-day, unlimited transport card from GVB from Amsterdam Central station (not from the airport) – Just get a one way fare on the train to Central Station and then go to a desk or get a card from the machines (if you don’t have coins, you’ll have to just get it from the info desks). The trams and trains are definitely confusing, but take deep breaths, and if you do happen to jump on the wrong train like I did, don’t fret, because the people are so kind, they will help you out if you ask!
- Once you’ve settled into your place of lodging, head to the city and you can literally wander from any of the main tram stops (Dam Square, Central Station, Leidseplein, or Rembrandt Square) and find cheap food options like:
- FEBO is a shop that sells amazing Dutch croquettes (definitely meat eaters only for these, though there is a veggie option, I just didn’t see it) for only 1.6 euros from vending machines. It’s so fascinating how it works that I loved the whole process of choosing my croquettes! Be careful not to eat too many…maybe?
- Places for French fries and hot dogs and burgers are everywhere, again, might not be the healthiest option if you’re there for a long time.
- Cafes with coffee and croissants that will melt in your mouth, and Panini sandwiches, waffles, and bread are also on nearly every street. The bread and pastry will make you never want to eat regular food again.
- If you like getting a little wooden shoe souvenir with your food, try Pancakes Restaurant by the Central train station, where you can eat on the canal and watch the flood of pedestrians from the train station and be on the edge of the hostel area of the Red Light District. You can get traditional Dutch pancakes here or American ones, and anything from sweet or savory. It’s a little pricy at 10-15 euros but worth it!
- Wok to Work is pretty amazing for something healthier with/without wheat – you can basically choose any stir-fry you can think of, vegetarian or meat, and it only costs between 5 and 10 euros.
- Jasmin is a candy store Harry Potter would love. It’s all decked out in pink and other bright colors so it is easy to spot, on way too many streets. Just be careful of heading to one of those after smoking a joint…you might give yourself a bellyache!
What about cannabis?
- For quality cannabis and a great gift shop with incredible deals on pipes, head to Abraxas. It’s on an alley off of a main street, so it doesn’t get the kind of insane tourist traffic that the most popular chain of coffee shops, The Bulldog, gets. It’s way more chill and has wooden interiors that make you feel very fairy-like and natural as you sit back in a corner and smoke.
- If you want to buy a joint and smoke while walking in one of the many beautiful parks or by the canals, feel free to do it. I didn’t notice much stigma on that from local non-smokers at all, but I was pretty discreet.
The Red Light District
- The Red Light District is best observed during the day, unless you want the crowds and chaos of stoners everywhere that happens in the evenings. I felt better trying coffee shops that are on the sidelines, too, not right inside that district, because the streets around them are much less busy and more relaxed for just wandering on your own without a care in the world.
- Go to a museum. Van Gogh Museum was amazing, and I know the others are, too. Feel free to get high first or wait until you find a spot on the beautiful grass outside the museums and just smoke there.
- Space cakes. The one I tried had only .2 grams of cannabis in it, but I am sensitive to edibles and ate half. Half was perfect for me, so I’d suggest if you’ve never had an edible before, or even if you have, try half. It takes about an hour to have an effect, so I recommend waiting at least 4 or 5 hours for the second half. (I ate the second half too soon, after 3 hours, and it gave me some anxiety, but I was able to walk to Rembrandt Square, my favorite spot, and find my happy there.)
The key to Amsterdam is to find your favorite places first, places where you feel safe and happy, and then smoke to your heart’s content.