Amsterdam: A Quick Stop and a Great Hostel 31

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I made a brief stopover in Amsterdam on my way back from the Middle East a few weeks ago simply because I could and because I had never been there before. My flight back from Cairo was going through Amsterdam with an quick overnight layover, so I added a few days on to it, to do a very brief exploration.

And I am glad I did. Even after a short couple days, I think I have added Amsterdam to the list of cities that I could live in for a few months, along with Cape Town, Istanbul, Budapest, and a few others.

bike parking garage amsterdam netherlands

More bicycles than people in Amsterdam -- Bike Parking Garage: Some rights reserved by gemskiii

To start with the obvious, Amsterdam is beautiful. The canals wind their way throughout the downtown area and provide a peaceful visual uniqueness to the city. Many have classified it with Venice, solely based on the canals, but I don’t think the two cities are much alike at all, aside from the proximity to water.

Venice has no cars, no houseboats and few trees, while Amsterdam has all of that. Plus, while I love Venice, it is a city trapped in tourism. Wandering around the alleyways there is one of my favorite things to do in the world, but you quickly get the impression that the city would cease to exist functioning without the influx of tourists. Not so for Amsterdam, where you get a completely different feeling — more vibrant and alive.

I am a big fan.

Lucky Lake Hostel Amsterdam Netherlands

outside seating and a view of some of the campers

One of the other highlights was were I stayed, Lucky Lake Hostel. Though they are a good ways out of the city center, the transportation via train (and their hourly shuttle from the train station to their location) was easy and it was nice to get away from the bustle and hustle of downtown occasionally.

They are one of the more unique hostels I have stayed at, which you can tell from the photos. Basically, it is a collection of small campers, which provides one huge bonus over a normal hostel — privacy. They were nice enough to give me one of theirs for a three night stay and I came away impressed, rested, and full of great breakfast food every morning to start my exploration of town.

campers lucky lake hostel amsterdam netherlands

closer view of some of the campers

If you are going to Amsterdam on a budget, you can’t do any better than staying there. Their prices are significantly less than any place in the center of town, their staff is great and knowledgeable, and it has the relaxed, non-party vibe I am looking for in a place to stay. Do your day and evening in town, then hop the train back here and relax. It is a good combination.

Needless to say, when I told people I was going to Amsterdam, they asked about two things: prostitutes and coffee shops. I didn’t partake in either, but it was funny walking through the Red Light District.

For those that haven’t been before and are thinking to themselves, “I’d just avoid the Red Light District,” well no, no you won’t. Basically, that is the main tourist part of town. Most likely, unless you stay out at a place like Lucky Lake Hostel, your hotel or hostel is going to be smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District.

amsterdam canals at night

the beauty of the canals at night - Some rights reserved by Μøỳαл_Bгεлл

Nothing really to fear though. Its a bit loud occasionally, but that is actually the part of town you want to walk around in. The good food is there, the canals, the sights. The woman hanging out in the doorways (legally) are actually down the alleys areas, so if you want to avoid it, it is easy enough to do.

As to the coffee shops, the big news is that new legislation recently passed is going to make it illegal for foreigners to enter the famous Amsterdam marijuana dens. Dutch involved with tourism are well and truly upset at the possible loss of tourism revenue, but it looks like it is going to happen regardless.

I don’t particularly care about those two issues at all, but I will say… if someone can get me some sort of house sitting deal for a few months on this houseboat (or any other good one) below here… sign me up for 2-3 months in 2012.

amsterdam houseboats on canals netherlands

I want to live on one of these houseboats - Some rights reserved by Rick Payette

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

31 thoughts on “Amsterdam: A Quick Stop and a Great Hostel

  • Erik

    I did stay a week in a houseboat in Amsterdam back in 2001, and it was an amazing experience. As far as the Red Light District goes, it’s worthy of one walk though at night just to see what all the fuss is about. It gets old after that. I like going down there in the morning or early afternoon, it really does have some of Amsterdam’s best architecture, and one beautiful hidden church from the era around WWII. The venerable Oude Kerk is also quite a building, sitting in it’s interesting spot next to coffeeshops and prostitutes.
    The canals at night in Amsterdam are amazingly beautiful.

  • Alex Berger

    A fantastic city. There’s so much more depth and character to it than most people realize. The wealth of Canals, old architecture, bicycle friendliness and general ambiance of the people make for a truly wonderful destination.

  • Jeremy Branham

    I like Amsterdam but it has been a while since I’ve been there. I was quite jetlagged when I went so need to go back and explore some more. I know the coffee shop thing is big in the news right now but there is much more to Amsterdam than that. With all the city has to offer, I wouldn’t think this would hurt tourism too much but maybe I am wrong.

  • Yvette

    Nice read- I’m moving to Amsterdam in the fall for graduate school and can’t wait! Prolly just going for a normal place and not a houseboat though. 😉

    I will say though, I visited last month for the first time and perhaps it was the nature of visiting my future place of employment but I did NOT go to the Red Light District or have my hotel there as my department put me in a nice one by the zoo. Quite a few hotels in that area actually and am recommending it to others!

    • Mehdi René

      Nice article and adventurous life!

      Yvette – have you made it to Amsterdam yet? I’m considering a bold change in routine and applying to grad school there as well. I’d love to hear about your experience if you have a minute. Best.

  • Roy | cruisesurfingz

    I loved Amsterdam but during summer it seemed over-run with tourists. But I guess that’s most big cities in Europe.

  • Eurotrip Tips

    day after dAmsterdam is the kind of place you fall in love with a little more every day. I like the chaotic organisation – in other cities, the mixture of bicycles, scooters, cars, pedestrians and trams would be a total mess but in this relaxed city, it somehow works perfectly.

    At first I had the impression that all the streets would seem alike, but I quickly realized how wrong I was. They are all so different from each other!

    And yes, the Red Light District is an attraction that cannot be avoided. I never feared for my security – I was far more intimidated by the insisting looks of the prostitutes rather than the horny boys!

  • Sabrina

    It’s been forever since I’ve been in Amsterdam (high school day trip with my German school), but I really enjoyed it then and think I would even more now. I fly to Europe a lot to visit family and after reading this, I think that I need to schedule a stop-over in Amsterdam one of these days. I’ve never heard of a hostel made up of campers. How cool is that? And it doesn’t get more Dutch than that 🙂 All my memories of childhood vacations revolve around being in Dutch camp areas at the sea. So much fun! Your camper pics brought back memories…

  • Dean

    Never been to Amsterdam but it looks beautiful. Love the house boat idea, sounds like a great way to spend a few months.

  • Mitchell

    Tragic! I’ve heard the red light district is also shrinking at an alarming rate. Where else will I be able to see scantily clad women pushing tourists into the canal for taking pictures of them? Looks like Amsterdam is starting to turn into most other European cities. I can only appreciate so much architecture!

  • bethany

    Always been a dream of mine to visit Amsterdam and stay on a houseboat! I know I would love it! The campers look awesome too – if I go in the near future it will be the first thing I will check on.

  • Annie

    I would love to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam. We were there for New Year 2010 and had a seriously great time, and were even lucky enough to party with the locals (before I knew that was the ‘cool think to do’) which saved us some cash!

    I would never compare Amsterdam to Venice. The only things they have in common are canals and tourists, but the tourists in Amsterdam hardly count based on the fact that there is so much local pride and culture there.

    Great post, the hostel looks cool too!

  • Mica

    That house boat looks effin amazing. I want I want!! Glad I made my trip back in 2007 and visited the, ahem, coffee shops before they kick out all the tourists.

  • Sebastian

    Amsterdam is a great city!

    Red light district is fun, I walked through it a couple of times and tried to take some pictures but it’s very hard. They have many bouncers there and I once had to run for my life after some of them saw me taking pictures…

    Coffee shops are everywhere in the Netherlands and not only in Amsteram. I’m living here for nearly 3 years and I’ve never been in one and I’m not sure if I will visit one before I move away in 2 weeks.

    Amsterdam anyway is nice and there is always something to do. But I also do think that Amsterdam is a very dirty and smelly city compared to venice or other cities…

  • Leif aka The Runaway Guide

    Nice article, just walking through the red light district is fun enough for me.

  • Andrea

    Wow – last hurrah for the coffeeshops, eh? Never thought that would happen but sounds like they are serious about cleaning up the drug tourism. Amsterdam has a lot to offer outside of the red light district and coffee shops – it really is a gorgeous place to walk around.

  • Adrienne @Shenventure

    The hubby and I are on a RTW trip, but needed to revise and shorten our Europe itinerary. We actually decided to skip Amsterdam and add Lisbon instead based on what other travelers have told us…but then I read this. hmm…

    • Erik

      Those are my two favorite cities in Europe. Lisbon’s harder to get to, so if that fits your itinerary, do it. Much easier to find connections to Amsterdam.

  • MaryM

    I had the opportunity to spend 2 days in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. I think I took that same photo as you…but there were bikes galore and a DHL delivery boat. It is a fantastic city…lots to see in the many squares, art, food. I miss Amsterdam.

    I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but I think I would give this one a try.

  • John

    Thanks for the great pics and the coffeehouse info – I hadn’t heard that yet. I stayed there in 2009 for a few days, getting a bed through Couchsurfing. I was totally charmed by the city, and it really helped having someone to show me around. So much fun touring the city on a bike.

  • Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    It’s good you went before the new laws go into effect that ban foreigners from the cafe’s… guess I will never experience that side of Amsterdam 😉

  • Dina

    “As to the coffee shops, the big news is that new legislation recently passed is going to make it illegal for foreigners to enter the famous Amsterdam marijuana dens.”

    -> Not even if we just want to buy a cup of coffee? :p

  • Mack Reynolds

    really nice photos. i especially like the one with the yellow reflecting off the water. i don’t know much about amsterdam, but i’ve always wanted to go (yes, mostly because of the coffee houses). anyhow, it looks like a great place to visit anyway. i love the bike garage and kinda wish it was like that here in america, not that i know what that would entail, but i would like not having to worry about my bike getting stolen. really great pic of the garage too.

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