The unique beauty of Amsterdam is obvious to anyone who steps foot onto its cobblestone sidewalks.

Around 60 canals and 1,500 bridges lace through the city, giving a distinct color and atmosphere to every street. The overall architecture of the city reflects somewhat of an intimate character. Every house and building has its own exclusive style — all together contributing to the eclectic vibe. Tradition and innovation collide to establish a society that celebrates individuality in both architectural and communal aspects.

As you wander down each narrow road, you will soon realize just how important cycling is to Dutch culture. Despite the city’s modern metro system, practically everyone travels via bicycle. If you happen to walk in the bike lane by accident, be prepared to get yelled at by more than a few cyclists.

Although cycling is one of the most common ways to meander through Amsterdam, getting around by boat is not uncommon. There is an entire culture behind life on houseboats. Every canal has its own community of houseboats adorning either side. Numerous restaurants and bars line the canals as well. This enlightened ambiance attracts lots of people seeking an alternative lifestyle.

Being one of Europe’s most famous cities, Amsterdam is known not only for its gorgeous canals and avid cyclists, but also for its liberal perspective on drugs and sex. The iconic Red-Light district leaves nothing to the imagination. Cluttered with sex shops, museums and adult theaters, one walk through the urban area is enough to leave a lasting impression on any tourist.

The coffee shops, known for selling marijuana, also contribute to the progressive aura of Amsterdam. Equipped with a menu of pre-rolled joints and several variations of indica and sativa strains, coffee shops attract tourists from all over who wish to celebrate the cannabis culture that is widely accepted in Amsterdam.

There is no better way to describe Amsterdam than as a city of individuality and alternative living. While some may consider some of the city’s elements to be quite out of the ordinary compared to other places, Amsterdam has something for everyone who travels there. Whether you enjoy reflecting on the historical and cultural features of art that the city upholds, or you prefer experiencing a more open-minded perspective, appreciation of originality is easy to find no matter where you venture in Amsterdam.


— Amy Koczera of Dartmouth, a Chronicle correspondent and sophomore at Suffolk University, is studying abroad in Prague. She shares her international experiences in this regular column. Follow her blog at