It’s funny how a moment of boredom can somehow become an eye-opening experience. I was sitting in a plane on my way back from Italy. The meal service had come and gone and I’d finished reading the inflight magazine. Feeling a bit bored, I took a peek at what my neighbour was reading. It was a beautiful guidebook of Amsterdam, full of elaborate descriptions and colourful illustrations. I felt myself smirk when I noticed what he was reading about: Amsterdam’s red light district. <Sigh>… “that’s what they all come to see don’t they? Such a pity as Amsterdam has got so much more going for it”, I thought rather smugly. However, as he flipped through the pages of the book, my smugness turned to wonder. I started to sit upright and my eyes grew wide. I thought I knew my city well but there, in my neighbour’s guidebook, were fascinating descriptions of places I’d never heard of before!
A slight sense of shame floated through my mind – I am, after all, a travel blogger and I’ve lived in Amsterdam for thirty years. I don’t expect to know every single nook and corner of my city but these were places that sounded absolutely amazing, such as the hidden courtyards of the ‘Claes Claesz Hofje’. I consoled myself with the thought that tourists, armed with an Amsterdam travel guide, printouts from their online research and podcasts, are often better informed about a certain city than most locals. Locals live and work there, often have their preferred areas and tend to shun other parts of the city that aren’t related to their social activities or jobs.
How well do I know my city?
My experience on the plane got me thinking seriously about how well I know my city. I could give a decent walking tour of the city to visiting friends, showing them the highlights and Amsterdam’s most photogenic spots. I could take them on a fun boat tour along Amsterdam’s beautiful canals. However, this experience triggered a deeper interest in the city I live in. I consider my knowledge of the city as pretty good but it dawned on me that maybe, I was too focused on exotic places far and away, while there were many more places to explore in and around Amsterdam… right in my own backyard!
Feeling like a tourist in my own city
I’ve since decided to make a conscious effort to get to know my city better and explore my city like a tourist. One weekend, I went on a beautiful bike ride around the Amsterdam countryside. I also spent a weekend exploring the street art in Amsterdam. On other occasions, I celebrated my birthday at the Sir Adam Hotel and a weekend at the nhow Amsterdam RAI hotel. I’ve promised myself that I will do this more often. I’ll hop on a bike, stay at a hotel or go for a stroll in the various neighbourhoods and discover the many hidden gems of this wonderful city. Who knows, my next source of inspiration may just be around the corner!
I must say, staying at a hotel and feeling like a visitor has made me see my city through a different lens. Feeling like a visitor motivates me to explore the city and see things in a new perspective. Here are some Amsterdam districts I’ve explored so far:
Read more about my other discoveries
- Amsterdam street art museum
- The amazing Fabrique des Lumières
- A luxury weekend in Amsterdam
- High wine at The Dylan