First, who is Rick Steves? Rick is the travel guru and leading authority on all things Europe and we have become one of his groupies. He has loads of heavily researched travel guides, a long-running TV series, a travel company, you name it–the guy is Mr. Europe.
But, on top of all that he has self-guided walks to most major cities. You just download his app, plug in your headphones and off you go. They’re great and he usually leads you to cool places that are off the normal ‘tourist’ path.
We’ve actually seen him speak at a travel conference and he reminds me of a high school history teacher–just a conservative looking, low key kind of dude.
Which brings me to his 3 Amsterdam walks:
- Amsterdam City Walk
- Amsterdam Red Light District Walk
- Amsterdam Jordaan Walk
To say ‘thrown off’ is an understatement. It was like Rick Steves was Superman disguised as Clark Kent. You know when Clark Kent rips open his shirt and throws off his glasses and you see that big ‘S’ on his chest? Well, it was just like that because we found a very unexpected side to Rick beneath those wire-rimmed glasses and neatly trimmed haircut (and I say that with pure affection Mr. Steves –just in case you to read this).
I was surprised at how much sex, drugs and rock & roll there was on the walking tours (okay not so much rock & roll– but who can say sex and drugs without saying rock & roll). Rick’s in-depth knowledge of ‘herbs and plants’ is amazing *cough *cough.
But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, we like Rick Steves and especially love the audio tours. In fact, it’s the first thing we do when we get to a new city.
The Amsterdam tours were just very different from all the others and a nice surprise. Here are a few highlights of the tours. I won’t give it all away, you have to buy a plane ticket and experience it for yourself!
1. The Grey Area (Jordaan Walk)
Grey area is a well-known coffee shop in Amsterdam that has been around for over 25 years. It boasts a famous clientele like Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Woody Harrelson….need I say more? You won’t find a double latte with extra foam here, but if you’re looking for quality ‘herbs and plants’ you’ve come to the right place. It’s pretty popular so it’s usually very crowded.
In fact, I was pretty lucky to get this picture—because everyone that was walking by was either peering in or taking a photo.
2. The Mint Tower (Amsterdam City Walk)
The Mint Tower is a medieval tower that was a marker for the walled city way back when. But here’s the interesting tidbit we learned from Mr. Steves…
Do you see the number 1620 below the clock (which is actually the year the steeple was added)? Well, 1620 is also 4:20 pm on a 24-hour clock—which for a stoner 4:20 pm is like their version of, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” or their official light up time.
So I guess it’s cool to get a photo of you and your Bob Marley cigarette in front of the clock at 1620 (insert ‘shrug’ emoji here).
I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to folks.
3. Hand on Boob (Red Light District Walk)
I don’t think this bronze sculpture has an official name—so I gave it my own—what do you think? I’d say it was pretty accurate. You would probably miss this if you didn’t know it was there. It sits in the ground just yards away from the oldest church in the Netherlands—which oddly enough is in the middle of the Red Light District.
I would have walked right over it if Rick Steves didn’t point it out on his tour.
The sculptor is not known but some say it could be a local doctor.
4. Dollebegijnensteeg Alley (Red Light District Walk)
This a 3 foot wide alley that is painted bright red in the Red Light District. There are actually ‘red light’ windows on each side. It wouldn’t be my first choice of walkways but I plunged ahead anyway—it turned out to be pretty benign.
Of course, there are regular streets into the area I just think this was a Rick Steve’s thing–more for shock value. He always finds the unique and obscure.
But it did make for a cool picture, don’t you think?
5. Sex Museum (Amsterdam City Walk)
The Damrak Sex Museum is probably a pretty popular stop on most city tours, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory what’s in the museum—not to mention it was pretty crowded. And in case your wondering….no we did not go in.
6. Cafe t’Mandje (Red Light District Walk)
Touted as one of Netherlands’ first gay bars. Bet Van Beeran, who was openly lesbian, opened the bar 90 years ago and welcomed the gay community and beyond. It’s a tiny little treasure located in the Red Light District. It has become a historical part of Amsterdam’s gay history.
Like everything else —I don’t think we would have found this famous bar if it wasn’t part of the walking tour.
7. When Nature Calls (Amsterdam City Walk)
“When Nature Calls” is a smart shop. I was actually going to try and explain what a smart shop is but can’t even begin to…so I am going to have to quote Rick Steves on this one:
”These are clean, well-lighted, fully professional retail outlets. They sell natural products, including mind-bending drugs, many of which are illegal in the United States. Prices are clearly marked, with brief descriptions of the drugs, their ingredients, and their effects. You’ll find harmless nutrition boosters, tobacco, and herbal products that work like the dance club drug Ecstasy. They also sell marijuana seeds and hallucinogenic mushrooms. All these products are found in nature. Because of that Amsterdam considers them legal.”
**IRONIC SIDE NOTE—I got a very bad cold while in Amsterdam and needed some cough medicine. Do you know they do not sell cough medicine over-the-counter in Amsterdam?
Now that’s some irony, isn’t it? You can get hallucinogenic mushrooms, and 5 grams of cannabis without any problems but you can’t buy Robitussin at a local supermarket. Go figure.
8. Hash, Marihuana, & Hemp Museum (Red Light District Walk)
Like the sex museum, this place is also pretty self-explanatory. In fact, there was more like this along most of the Rick Steves ‘trail’ including a Cannabis College, a Hemp Gallery, and a Sensi Seed Bank Store. It’s the museum’s ‘gift shop’ and geared toward cannabis growers. They sell seeds, books, etc.
And if I said it once, I’ve said it a million times, we wouldn’t have found these places without Mr. Steves’ guiding. I also have a very indepth knowledge of marijuana that I didn’t have before–so I guess it was an educational tour too.
If you find yourself in Amsterdam–I highly recommend you download the walks and explore.