I’ve recently returned from a Benelux trip including Bruges, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Before leaving, I’d heard good reviews from fellow travelers about Amsterdam, singing its food, art, shopping and architectural praises.
And while those reviews came to mind as I toured around for a few days, I was never able to validate them with my experiences. I wanted to love it, but just wasn’t able to find my way there. Somehow it’s gotten a reputation it doesn’t deserve. Here are the five reasons I think Amsterdam is overrated as a travel destination.
1. Dirty and nondescript: The streets are littered (and I’m from New York City) and the city lacks a defining character. On the canal tour, which is easily the city’s highlight attraction, I kept anticipating the architectural charm you see in postcards to open up with every turn through the water, but it never really materialized. Even the most affluent residences were devoid of the ornate distinction you’d expect.
2. Can’t get a good meal: There’s no diversity in the menu from one place to another. Moules frites, chicken frites and steak frites rule Amsterdam’s culinary world, which wouldn’t be so bad if the meats were properly cooked and the dishes not so bland. Even their prized frites, a huge paper cone packed with French fries purchased from kiosk type shops along the main streets, are overrated. Despite the novelty of being able to choose from among 30 toppings, the fries are undercooked.
3. No wine: Perhaps this complaint is fueled by the fact that I’m a wine lover, but there are no wine bars and the selection at restaurants leaves a lot to be desired. It’s definitely a beer town, which I appreciated at a pub or two, but a nice glass of wine at dinner was never to be had. A lack of importing from neighboring countries speaks volumes.
4. Vacant eyes: The coffee shops must have an influence on all the locals, even those who don’t frequent them because there’s an overwhelming amount of blankness in their glances. Coming from an admittedly type A personality, the folks in Amsterdam are a truly laid back lot. Maybe their lifespan bares it out, I don’t know the stats, but it makes you wonder.
5. Biker caution: If you’re only visiting for a day or two, forget what you’ve heard about biking being a quaint way to get around. This is a serious mode of transportation for the residents and it’s not for the faint of heart visitor (also refer to point #4). On the canal tour we learned the fun fact that one car a week drives over the bridge railing into the canal. I shutter at the thought of the bike stats.
Their one indisputable claim to fame: the cheese. We devoured every morsel and then bought more. Luckily you can order it online for delivery to wherever you live.
I realize it’s each traveler to him or her self, but I’m just not seeing it. After the coffee shops close to tourists Amsterdam’s draw narrows further. And let’s get real, there are better places for a beer.