Starting out as a small fishing village in the 12th century, the city of Amsterdam has since grown up to become the cultural and financial capital of the Netherlands and is home to more than 2,000,000 people. It is also home to the headquarters of several large, international companies like Philips and ING.
Amsterdam is also a great place to study abroad. It was ranked the 13th best city in the world for its quality of living in 2010. If you are studying business, finances, history, or international relations, then Amsterdam is a fantastic location for you to study abroad. Music students and art history majors will also find that the Netherlands’ capital city has much to offer.
If you have decided that you are going to study abroad in Amsterdam, there are many interesting things you can see and do in this city that will not break the bank. Here is a list of some of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam:
1. Eat a raw herring. I don’t want to hear any excuses about not liking raw fish; the vast majority of college students have tried sushi, which is also raw fish. Raw herring is a common Dutch snack, so if you really want to dive into the culture, you have to do it. There are many fish stores in Netherlands, but some of the best for raw herring include Altena in the Museum Quarter, Huijsman in the Old Centre, and Volendammer in the Pijp. The best time to eat raw herring is between May and July because this is when the newest catches of fish are coming into the market. When it is not the peak season, the fish is seasoned with onions, pickles, and other spices, which dilutes the true flavor.
2. Go on a Museum-Spree. This is like a shopping-spree back in the States, except instead of spending all day looking at the newest clothes/shoes/electronics/whatever, you spend a day gaining cultural and historical knowledge. Not a bad pastime for a college kid, huh? Amsterdam is home to many museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Stedelijk Museum. Obviously you are going to see Van Gogh’s artwork at his museum. The Anne Frank House is a museum that is dedicated to Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who was killed during the Holocaust. The rooms where Anne and her family hid are located in the back of the museum. The Stedelijk Museum is another art museum, featuring modern and contemporary art . The collection has more than 90,000 works of art, including works by Gerrit Rietveld, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. Other museums worth visiting are the Amsterdams Historisch Museum (history of Amsterdam) and the Klompenmakerij De Zaanse Schans (a clog-making museum).
3. Catch some rays in the Vondelpark. This is the largest park in Amsterdam and is perfect for spending a day outside. You can play soccer, bicycle, or go running at this park. Think of it like Central Park in NYC: It’s a little green haven in the middle of a big city. So if you ever want to get back to nature (or just have a good place to exercise outside), head over to the Vondelpark. It is also home to the Nederlands Filmmuseum, a cinema, and the Openluchttheater.
4. Rock out with local music. If you like attending live concerts, you are going to love Amsterdam. It seems like there is always some type of musical event going on here. If you like a more intimate setting for your concerts, head to Paradiso. Paradiso used to be a church, but now it is a event center that hosts more than one event on most days. The Melkweg is another venue like Paradiso and is housed in a former dairy. If you like big concerts instead, then go to the Nuziekgebouw aan’t IJ. This is a top-notch music complex where you can head a wide range of classical and world music. Tickets are more expensive to shows at the Nuziekgebouw aan’t IJ than at Melkweg or Paradiso, so be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for good seats at a popular show.
5. Stop at the Red Light District. Most people know what the Red Light District is, so I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it. However, I do recommend going here if you want to see things that you probably won’t be able to see anywhere else in the world. Personally, I like to go here for the people watching; it’s pretty funny the things you will see in the Red Light District.
6. Tour the Canals. Sure, Venice is known for it’s canals, but personally, I think Amsterdam puts the Italian city to shame. There are 165 canals still in use in the city today and taking a tour of them by boat is a great way to see the city sights from an unique angle. There are several options concerning your canal tour. You can opt for an open-top boat, take a private boat, or even hop on a themed tour. No matter what, you are sure to enjoy this experience, which is also a great way to entertain out-of-town visitors, such as your parents or friends who come to visit you.
Have you studied abroad in Amsterdam? Do you have any tips for other students who are planning on studying there? Share them with us in the comments section below.
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