No matter where one lives, the grass always seems greener on the other side. For some, it’s living out in the countryside; for others, it’s living in the suburbs of a large town where everything is close to hand in terms of shopping, restaurants, and bars. Yet there are many folks who just love to live in a city and experience the huge variety of amenities that it has to offer, and one of the most attractive cities in the world for living a better life is Amsterdam.
Quirks and character
Amsterdam is nothing if not quirky and full of character; it’s an unusual place to visit or live in. The city has drawn artists and dreamers to its streets for centuries, and its traditional Dutch architecture is a magnificent monument to the imagination and drive of the City Fathers. Its maritime history is a reminder of the great trading nation that the Netherlands was and still is. There are many other traits that help to make life better when living there.
Bring out the bikes
Almost everyone is aware of the problems of pollution by vehicles all over the world, especially in big cities, which is why Amsterdam is an ideal place to leave behind the car and get onto a bike. Cycling is a national pastime in Holland, and Amsterdam is no exception. It’s considered to be one of the most bicycle-friendly cities worldwide, and when spring arrives and the weather warms up, the conditions are perfect for hopping on a bike, wandering around and over the canals, and enjoying the city at its best.
Fun with flowers
If there’s one thing associated with Holland, it has to be flowers. From the flower markets in the streets of Amsterdam to the beautifully planted beds in the city’s parks, there’s a riot of color to be explored. Only half an hour or so from the city is Keukenhof, a vast area of flowers that opens for two months, March to May. It’s much more than the famous tulips – though there are some 800 varieties of these blooms – and includes spectacular flower shows and exhibitions and events. It’s great for kids too, with a playground, maze, treasure hunt, and petting farm.
Canals and boats
Walking is also a popular way to get around the city. Distances in the center are not great, and strolling along these 17th-century waterways, crossing them on the many bridges, and taking in the atmosphere of the trees, old buildings, and narrow streets is an experience in itself. There are a large number of houseboats on the canals, and some can also be rented for short stays. Canal parades are extremely popular, and this city’s floats really do float!
Amsterdam is extremely visitor-friendly, the Dutch being renowned for their welcome to travelers. There are hotels all the way from luxury to budget, so there is plenty of choice depending on the depth of the pocket. Staying in the city center gives easy access to the myriad of attractions such as parks, museums, concert halls, theaters, and special events. When the budget is really tight, there are cheap credit crunch apartments in Amsterdam that will leave more money to enjoy everything else that the city has to offer.
For the sweet tooth
Life would be miserable without some sweet delicacies to enjoy, and Amsterdam is up there with the best when it comes to these. Stroopwafels are wafers that are like waffles, very sweet, and with an even sweeter syrup, or “stroop”, with a caramel flavor in the middle. Belgian-style Liège waffles can be topped with powdered sugar, chocolate, whipped cream, fruit, and many other tasty confections. Or go for pannekoeken – pancakes – topped with sweet items or, if preferred, with meats or cheeses for a savory twist.
Food is a big deal in Amsterdam, and les frites – perhaps better known as fries in the English-speaking world – are everywhere and utterly delicious. In the city, they are known as Vlaamse fries, which are actually Belgian in origin, but this Venice of the North has a unique take on them as well as around two dozen sauces with which to enjoy them
Eat, drink, and be fit
With good food, fine drink (especially beer and gin), world-famous attractions, and a healthy lifestyle of walking and cycling, Amsterdam has everything to offer both visitors and residents to make life better by being there.