Tell someone you’re going to Amsterdam, and you’ll be met with a chuckle and a knowing smile. Yes, everyone will think you’re going for the hookers and weed, but there’s much more to Amsterdam. The Netherlands’s permissive attitudes are the product of a long history of liberalism and tolerance that dates back far before the advent of drug tourism and prostitutes’ unions. A refuge for Protestants and Jews in the 16th and 17th centuries, Amsterdam earned tremendous wealth as the center of a trading empire that stretched from the New York (sorry: New Amsterdam) to Indonesia. The city’s wealth served as an incubator for the artistic achievements of the Dutch Golden Age and the economic and political birth of modern Europe. Today, Amsterdam is a diverse and progressive city as famous for its art museums and quaint canal-side cafes as for its coffeeshops and prostitution.
As you stroll the streets, savor the culture and vitality of this pretty city. You can walk or bike it in a day, moving from the peaceful canals of the Jordaan to the gaudy peepshows of the Red Light District. Old trading money lives on in graceful mansions, while, a few blocks away, repurposed squats house clubs and cinemas. Whether you’re obsessed with van Gogh, want to dance all night at GLBT clubs, or always wanted to learn all about the history of fluorescent art, you’re guaranteed to have a good time in Amsterdam.