Welcome to Amsterdam, the city that has more to offer than the Red Light District and coffeeshops most people know Amsterdam for. The city is compact and easy to walk around. The layout of the city center is determined by five concentric canals – the Grachtengordel (the “Canal Belt”) – which is where the city merchants build their grand mansion with their tall gracefully decorated gables. The inner city is studded with clubs, bars, and restaurants, and is the playground of diverse open-air summer events and street artists. Enjoy the city and mingle with the locals. Most Dutch are fluent in English, and often have some proficiency in German and French as well. For those with a taste for the arts, there’s the Museumplein with the classics (Rijskmuseum, van Gogh museum) and the modern (Stedelijk museum)
Excerpts of TripAdvisor’s review of Amsterdam
Yes, Amsterdam has its Red Light District and hash-selling coffee shops, but they are just a small part of this world-class city. Studded with canals and bridges, Amsterdam begs to be explored by foot or bike. Visit the Anne Frank House, view masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, shop the Waterlooplein flea market and let your nose lead you to the floating flower market. The locals are famously friendly, so strike up a chat over a beer at a brown café.
Central Amsterdam is the area running from Centraal Station along the Damrak to Dam Square. It is the most touristy part of Amsterdam, aside from the infamous Red Light District and the Leidseplein, and the first to meet travellers arriving by train. It is bright, noisy and active, and those looking for the real Amsterdam would do well to get away from the area as quickly as they can. It is still possible, however, to happen upon some finds in the area, and it is a real knock-out at night, if you can block out all the noise.
Red Light District lies just to the east of Central Amsterdam, and is known for the prostitutes who legally ply their trade there. People walk the streets at all hours of the day and night, gawking at the women in the windows, this is a life style that many girls try out, it doesn't work out for all of them. It is not necessarily dangerous, but visitors are advised to stay on their guard, especially late at night,(do not even talk to the drug dealers, get your stuff in a coffeeshop or smart shop) as people will approach you on the street trying to illegally sell drugs. The Red Light District is bordered by the small Amsterdam "Chinatown" along the Zeedijk.
Leidseplein is one of the best places to go to enjoy Amsterdam's nightlife. The square itself and the surrounding streets are the most touristy in Amsterdam, and a collection of bars and nightclubs assure that there is always something going on. A great number of restaurants of all different ethnicities can be found in the side streets that lead away from the main square.
Rembrandtplein is similar to the Leidseplein and is the second most important place for nightlife. The Rembrandtplein is more popular with locals, but also has fewer bars and restaurants than the Leidseplein. Rembrandtplein has a few restaurants, mostly bars or pubs with many more within steps. The square has a small park and borders the gay and lesbian district of the Reguliersdwarsstraat. If you want to smoke and drink Rembrandtplein is the place for you. The Irish Pub just below Hotel Atlanta serves up a fantastic full Irish breakfast.
Jordaan is the area west of Central Amsterdam is a haven where quiet streets wind along sleepy canals. Historically a working-class neighborhood, the Jordaan seems untouched by the more seedy aspects of Amsterdam. It is a nice place to stroll or ride a bike and get lost among the gardens, markets and pleasant boutiques that line the streets.
De Pijp is a vibrant neighbourhood to the south of the Heineken Experience which encompases the Albert Cuyp market. The only area of Amsterdam to have more bars and restaurants per sq.m is the Jordaan. In fact there are three Michelin starred eaterires (Ciel Bleu has 2 stars) in De Pijp along with many other very good bars etc. There are not that many hotels in the area with the exception of the Okura (5 star) and the Savoy but there are apartments for rent and there are good transport links to the rest of the city. If you want somewhere with a great local vibe then this is the area to stay or even visit.
On a sunny day take a seat outside a bar on the Mara Heineken Plein (directly behind the Heineken experience) and watch the locals at play.