Last month I finally visited Amsterdam for the first time. I’d avoided the city for years, thinking it couldn’t possibly live up to the hyper. Boy was I wrong! The city is as beautiful and as fun as everyone makes it out to be. I spent my weekend as the STA Travel Insider (watch the videos here) and had the chance to visit the city exploring the neighborhoods, bars, restaurants and typical tourist sites. Among all the normal things to do in Amsterdam, I also spent my time exploring the more cool and hip areas: notably in Amsterdam Noord and De Pijp. But honestly — everywhere I went in Amsterdam I was only amazed and surprised at how beautiful the city actually was.

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Banana?! The hipster beer bar Hannekes Boom along the canal was the perfect amount of quirky, fun and crazy.
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Amsterdam’s famous Sex Museum – a popular tourist site

From the moment I stepped off the train into Amsterdam, I knew this was a city like no other. The canals in front of me, the sun setting and crowds of people, bikes, buses, taxis and trams — this place seemed like one hot mess. Making my way to the nearby St Christopher’s Inn hostel, the pretty scenery didn’t change but there was a certainly a change in the type of businesses in the area. Suddenly there were sex shops, a strong smell of weed and fast food restaurants on every corner. The buildings themselves, though? Still pretty.

I guess that’s Amsterdam for you. They manage to make everything look beautiful. View more of my scenic photos from Amsterdam below along with my top ten travel tips.

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Did you know Amsterdam has a “Homo-Monument” – a monument to gay and lesbian victims of persecution. Learn more about “gay Amsterdam” at pinkpoint.org‘s stand alone kiosk in central Amsterdam. (photo courtesy of Pink Point)
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A view of Amsterdam’s canal and the Centraal Station
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Looking up at Amsterdam Centraal Station
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A view of Amsterdam’s NEMO Science Center – so cool!
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Cycling is a way of life in Amsterdam – everyone seems to do it and in style, too!
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The Jordaan Neighborhood is probably the prettiest part of central Amsterdam

Top 10 Travel Tips for Amsterdam

  1. Wander aimlessly through the Jordaan neighborhood where you’ll find old brown cafés, hip shops, street art and typical Dutch streets (think canals, shuttered windows and beautiful old buildings)
  2. Visit Amsterdam’s gay street at Reguliersdwarsstraat. (Taboo is probably the street’s best gay bar – check out their happy hours)
  3. See the main museums: Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and the FOAM photography gallery
  4. Spend just one night going out in the Red Light District. It’s totally bizarre and crazy and full of tourists, but it’s a sight to see
  5. Try some of Amsterdam’s local brews at the bar & café Gollem in De Pijp
  6. Visit the Homomonument – a memorial to gay and lesbian victims of persecution throughout history
  7. Take a free ferry from behind the Centraal Station to Amsterdam Noord (and go to Pllek for some great fusion American food)
  8. Spend an afternoon at the Albert Cuyp street market in De Pijp (and try one of the stroopwafels there!)
  9. Try the amazing apple pie at Café Papeneiland in the Jordaan – Bill Clinton ate here!
  10. Have sex in Vondelpark – apparently it’s legal there

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Have you been to Amsterdam before? Share your tips below!