I am(not)sterdam

I’ve come to realize that Amsterdam is one of those cities you either love or hate. And it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.

Before even arriving in Amsterdam I had built the city up in my head. I honestly don’t even know why, but somehow I had convinced myself that I would absolutely adore it and walk away ready to pack my bags and move there.

None of that happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually hate Amsterdam. It was a perfectly fine city. It’s just not a city I’d want to live in.

I loved wandering through the maze of canals and photographing all the leaning, narrow houses. From a design and aesthetics standpoint, I really loved Amsterdam and found it to be really pretty.

Amsterdam - June 2014

I loved chowing down on all of the delicious Dutch food, and my favorite appeltaart place, Winkel 43, is also in Amsterdam.

I also loved exploring the outside the city center, since that’s where our lovely hotel, Okura Amsterdam, was located. There were tons of fun shops, small cafes, and even the amazing Albert Cuyp Market, which we visited daily.

Amsterdam - June 2014

I loved all of these individual aspects of the city, I just never clicked with the city itself.

After coming from Rotterdam, which was very walkable allowing me to see the whole city, I just feel like I barely got to see half of what I wanted to in Amsterdam. Everything was so spread out, transportation was a bit more expensive than I had thought it would be, and my plan to rent a bike completely failed.

Every cyclist in Amsterdam just seemed angry. Staring from the street corner I couldn’t even figure out who had the right of way between the bikes, cars and trams. It was pure chaos. As much as I had dreamed of leisurely peddling through the city, I knew this was not the city to rent a bike in–especially as I hadn’t ridden a bike in almost 10 years.

Raged cyclists aside, the city in general was just too crowded for me. And that’s coming from someone who’s lived in both Japan and Hong Kong! There were tourists literally everywhere, and I know they were tourists because they were often drawing unwanted attention to themselves because they were too high or too drunk to control themselves.

Amsterdam - June 2014

Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to Amsterdam to visit a coffee shop or to take advantage of the Red Light District, but I thought there would be more to Amsterdam than that.

Maybe I’d like to better if I went in spring instead of summer.

Maybe it’d be better if I knew a local to show me around.

Whatever the reason, I guess I just didn’t find what I was looking for. I know their big slogan is I Amsterdam, but for now I remain that I am(not)sterdam.

Amsterdam - June 2014

I’m sorry Amsterdam, maybe you’ll convince me next time.


 Do you love Amsterdam? What am I missing??



  1. chantal
    November 1, 2015 / 1:55 pm

    I personally love amsterdam,… but not the touristic places. Bikers do seem stressed, but it’s part of the dutch culture. Don’t take it personal ;-)

    There are lovely little bars where no tourists visit, have a picnic in the ‘Vondelpark’, walk for hours through ‘het rijksmuseum’, or attend a beautiful concert in ‘het concertgebouw’. Find someone to give you a (not-touristic, but relaxed) tour, and I’m sure you will feel better about Amsterdam.

  2. October 8, 2014 / 7:09 am

    I didn’t like Amsterdam either. I found it to be a bit soulless. Granted I also didn’t spend enough time there so many that’s why? I’ve been twice, but the second time was just passing through on the way to the airport. I keep thinking to myself perhaps I need to go again just to make sure?

    • Beth Williams
      October 9, 2014 / 7:31 am

      Yeah, that’s how I feel as well. Maybe I just didn’t spend enough time there? Maybe I’d like it in a different season?
      Or… maybe I just need to realize I don’t need to like every city I visit. :)

  3. September 30, 2014 / 4:26 am

    I love that you’re so honest, most bloggers would just gush about such a trendy place. I have a feeling I would not like Amsterdam either, because I’m not OK with drugs and the sex trade would make me sad. I’m so glad you wrote how you felt.

    • Beth Williams
      October 9, 2014 / 7:18 am

      Yeah, even looking past the drugs and sex–which I’m also not ok with, Amsterdam just lacked that something special for me.

  4. September 29, 2014 / 11:28 am

    I loved Amsterdam but I think a big part of that was going in with low expectations as I wasn’t interested in the ‘coffee’ shops, sex shows and red light district. I loved its beautiful buildings and canals, the Museums and biking around. We stayed in a outlying village and it took about an hour to bike into the city past other small waterside villages – very idyllic and pretty. This was 8 years ago though so maybe it has got crazier since then

    • Beth Williams
      September 29, 2014 / 12:00 pm

      It was really pretty, not sure why, but I just didn’t connect with it!

  5. September 29, 2014 / 6:44 am

    I agree totally. I spent three days in Amsterdam and I don’t feel much need to return. It’s not just that I felt there wasn’t much specific to do there- I love cities which don’t have much for tourists to do but are very nice and liveable. But they need to have something special, and Amsterdam didn’t have it.

    It’s a very pretty place, and I enjoyed my time there. I’d happily go back if someone insisted, but it doesn’t merit a return visit of my own accord.

    • Beth Williams
      September 29, 2014 / 12:03 pm

      Maybe that was it! Other than wandering around, taking in the sites, there just wasn’t a lot to do. We went on a boat ride through the canals, which was alright, but otherwise we didn’t really do anything in particular.

  6. September 28, 2014 / 11:38 pm

    It’s always interesting for me to hear how different people see things. We came last year for a week and decided to move here (Amsterdam). There is a ton to see and even on days when I just want to explore, I end up in the same central areas. I love the canals and all that the city has to offer. I think the not-so-touristy things are what you should do next time! We just went to a monthly market near our apartment and it’s the type of thing that keeps me loving this city.

    Full disclaimer though…I have yet to buy a bike, I’ve been using public transit to get around until it’s the right time. But my husband loves riding his bike! I’m a little intimidated by it.

    Maybe next time you’ll get a different vibe, but I loved reading your take on it!

    • Beth Williams
      September 29, 2014 / 12:06 pm

      I think that sounds like a lot more fun! The one thing I really liked about Amsterdam was all of the markets!

      Totally don’t blame you for not biking around yet, but I’m sure you’ll get to that point eventually. How long are you planning to stay there for?

  7. September 28, 2014 / 7:13 am

    I feel the same way about Amsterdam. While I think the city is gorgeous, it’s a pain to navigate on foot and I was always worried about getting run over by a cyclist.

    All of my friends love the city and I built it up in my mind and I was sorely disappointed. It probably doesn’t help that I visited after a two-week stay in Scotland, one of my favorite places in the world.

    • Beth Williams
      September 28, 2014 / 9:33 am

      Scotland is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go to. Amsterdam didn’t stand a chance :)

  8. September 27, 2014 / 11:33 pm

    I think it is a real shame you didn’t enjoy Amsterdam. I really love it, and am hoping to spend about a month there in April/ May time.

    I *did* do the coffee shop/ red light district thing- not actually using anything in the red light district, just visiting at night time- but I did it with a dutch friend who kept an eye on me :) I remember our waking tour leader saying that the cyclists had been angry since the 70s, which I thought was really funny. I didn’t really get in their way tho’ just don’t walk on the cycle path!

    Surely it can’t have been as busy as Prague was this summer? That place was bloody insane.

    • Beth Williams
      September 28, 2014 / 9:35 am

      I thought Amsterdam was more stressful than Prague! Both were crowded with tourists, but it was easier to get away from them in Prague it seemed.

      I think April or May would be a great time to visit Amsterdam, and if I were to give it a second chance, I’d want to visit in spring!

  9. Shay
    September 26, 2014 / 3:41 pm

    I’m going to Amsterdam tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll like it!

    • Beth Williams
      September 27, 2014 / 10:32 pm

      I’m sure you will! Most people seem to love it :)

  10. September 26, 2014 / 10:56 pm

    Personally I fell in love with Amsterdam and not for any one particular reason. I just loved the laid-back atmosphere, the canals, the friendly people, and the good food :D

    • Beth Williams
      September 27, 2014 / 10:28 pm

      I enjoyed those things too, but there was still just something off about Amsterdam! Maybe it’s because I visited Rotterdam first and really loved it there! :P

  11. September 26, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    I totally get you here! I’ve moved to the Netherlands thinking I’d love it and I actually hate it. Life is complicated and very expensive (especially if you compare it with salaries). Bikers do seem angry all the time… when I bike and make one mistakes I hear a lot of angry comments about me.
    Have you at least tried the sushi from Okura Hotel? It’s amazing!

    • Beth Williams
      September 27, 2014 / 10:32 pm

      Aw, that sounds really stressful! How long have you been living there for?

      And, no!! We didn’t get to try the sushi, but I know I’ll be back to Okura someday. It’s my favorite!

  12. September 26, 2014 / 3:39 pm

    I totally agree that you either love it or hate it. I had mixed feelings when I firstly came here, but I fell in love with Amsterdam during my second visit so I decided to move here for a year. I adore its canals and my bike and been having time of my life!

    • Beth Williams
      September 27, 2014 / 10:33 pm

      I think I just need to go back again to give it another chance. Maybe have someone who’s living there show me around… ;)