Perhaps the first thing you think of in Amsterdam is the red light district, Van Gogh, canals, and bicycles. However, if you have lived in Amsterdam for a long time you know that the city is more than these words. Amsterdam’s freedom, openness and tolerance brings not only legal rights to prostitutes, homosexuals and marijuana, but also the endless wisdom and vitality of an entire city.

Today, I follow the staff of the Amsterdam Tourism Bureau on a walk through the different areas of the city, visiting secret parks and new neighborhoods that are not known to tourists, and I can’t wait to share these Amsterdam experiences. hiEurope takes you to experience the unique temperament of the city from the perspective of an insider.

We set off on the east side of the Amsterdam city center, strolling through the flourishing Plantage; then on to the multi-cultural De Pijp; on to the exquisite and expensive part of the city center known as the Oud-Zuid neighborhood; the artistic atmosphere of Jordaan in the west is deeply nostalgic. In the end, we take a ferry to Noord in the emerging northern area of Amsterdam to see how pioneering ideas merge with an old industrial area.

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Green Life - De Plantage and Oost

When it comes to the most pleasant part of Amsterdam, you need to go to the Plantage. This area is just outside the busy red light district. There are fewer people and crowded canals here, and more pleasant green areas. De Plantage has a long history. Close to the Artis Royal Zoo, you find the Hortus Botanical Garden, established in 1638, and one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe. Today there are more than 4,000 species of plants. The zoo itself has rare animals, such as antelopes and white-tailed gnus. Café-Restaurant De Plantage, a restaurant outside the zoo, is very popular with young families, especially in summer evenings, sitting under a big tree and enjoying dinner is infinitely enjoyable. If you don’t have time to travel to the Keukenhof, the zoo is also full of flowers in spring and summer.

We continue to walk east, where the World Museum of Anthropology (Tropenmuseum) is located in a quiet corner surrounded by lush trees. There are many lovely shops near Javaplein not far from the museum, and the semicircular Badhuis Javaplein here is unique. This building with a high chimney was a public bath in the early days, and it is now transformed into a casual bar.

Machteld Ligtvoet from the Amsterdam Tourism Bureau tells hiEurope, "A decade ago, the eastern part of Amsterdam was rundown, and most of the dwellings were rented, so we encouraged the people to buy their houses. The situation has improved - people are carefully building their own homes, plant beautiful plants, keep the streets clean, and many cute shops are taking root here."

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City’s Breath - De Pijp

When you walk from the east to the south, you encounter de Pijp, my favorite area of Amsterdam, with its mixed immigrant culture and bohemian style. Standing on the Stadhouderskade, I see a red brick building. This is a theme park-like beer museum opened by the famous Dutch beer brand Heineken. Walk for five minutes and you end up at the Albert Cuypmarkt, the heart of de Pijp. Albert Cuyp is a vibrant market, where you can taste authentic Vietnamese spring rolls, Dutch caramel waffles and fried fish, Turkish barbecue and Indonesian tortillas.

In addition, countless cheap fresh fruits, bacon and preserved products also attract your eyes and taste buds. The market is full of colorful second-hand bookstores, home accessories and maverick concept stores. The coffee shops in this area are also full of emotion. The streets are filled with lovely tables and chairs. At the Scandinavian Embassy, a coffee shop next to the Sarphatipark, you can enjoy an ecological breakfast from Northern Europe, while Café Brecht opposite the Heineken Experience is an East Berlin-style bar that offers beer from various independent wineries and local handmade sausages. Most of the young people gather here-multiculturalism concentrated in such a small and busy area.

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Wealthy Oud-Zuid

The Vondelpark with its British style can be regarded as the central park of Amsterdam. Every summer, the Dutch ride bicycles to the park for picnics, barbecues, and parties. The surrounding area is definitely the pride of the Dutch. In the golden age of the 17th century, this area developed from an unmanned swamp to the most delicate and expensive part of Amsterdam. Compared with other small and exquisite buildings beside the canal, the buildings in this area are more atmospheric. Walking on the road, you can occasionally glimpse the inside of these mansions through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows. The back gardens are planted with many exotic flowers. In addition to residences, many five-star hotels are located here, in secret and luxurious places. Not far is the P.C. Hooftstraat, Amsterdam’s luxury shopping street with all the internationally renowned designer boutiques, including Chanel, Prada and Dior.

Maybe you will think that this neighborhood is not different from the rich places in other big cities, but if you study carefully, you will find many rebellious surprises. The Vondelbunker in the Vondelpark was discovered by hippies in Amsterdam in the 1960s. To date, the space is still organizing underground rock shows, experimental music performances, and art exhibitions that are not for profit. There are many spaces in this expensive neighborhood, such as OT301 on Overtoom Street and OCCI on Amstelveenseweg Street. They coexist harmoniously with those boutique restaurants and hotels. A CEO can turn into a psychedelic rock fan after work. This is Amsterdam after all. Nothing is unusual.

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Romantic Nirvana Jordaan

After visiting Oud-Zuid, we go to the Jordaan, a famous art district located west of the city center. In the 1970s, the Jordaan was full of working-class houses which hardly had water and electricity. However, it was the cheap rent that attracted artists and cultural people to dwell here. Today, more than forty years later, the Jordaan has become the most artistic and popular part of Amsterdam - beautiful galleries, cafes and restaurants are blooming everywhere, small and exquisite 17th century houses are still quaint after years of careful care. Since the Dutch people love gardening, the windowsills and corners are full of colorful plants. Every corner of the Jordaan exudes romantic feelings.

Walking in the old city of Amsterdam, you may be wondering why there are no gardens in front of the houses. A Dutch friend joked to me once that most tourists only see half of Amsterdam - the other half is hidden behind the houses. The houses in Amsterdam were built on the street, with a quiet courtyard in the back that only belongs to residents. In the spring and summer, people bask in the sun and drink wine in the backyards and on their terraces.

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Rebellious Noord

Our walk until now was more or less traditional, but the journey to the north makes me witness the rebellious spirit of the city. The north of Amsterdam is across the river. Crossing the canal to the north is much easier than you might think: there is a free ferry from the back of the Central Station. You can enjoy the panoramic view of Amsterdam on the ferry.

For centuries, the north was the industrial park of Amsterdam, but the economic transformation of the last century had left its factories abandoned for many years. But how can the creative world of Amsterdam, which lives below sea level, be willing to waste space? The factories were transformed into art space, nightclubs, restaurants; cranes became luxury hotels; abandoned boats were used to plant organic vegetable gardens... The largest second-hand market in Europe, held monthly, is located in the north in two giant abandoned halls in the dock (IJ-Hallen). There is a trendy restaurant called IJ-Kantine near the dock. Staff Hanneke Schots told hiEurope: "This used to be a worker's canteen. We want to inherit the history here, so the restaurant is still in post-industrial style."

Next to Amsterdam's coolest film museum (Eye Film Institute), a 21-story high-rise building (A' Dam Toren) is another center of music and nightlife in Amsterdam. Every time I go to the north, I am always met by some cheerful young artists and entrepreneurs discussing their latest projects. It seems that Noord stands for passion, experiment and the future.

Reprinted with permission from hi-europe.net


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