Cruising the Canals
Hop aboard a glass-topped tour boat for a cruise on Amsterdam's storied canals. From this vantage point, you get the best possible view of all those gabled Golden Age merchants' houses. Ignore anyone who tells you it's a tourist trap -- it is a tourist trap, but it got that way by being justifiably popular.
Biking the City
To pass for an authentic Amsterdammer, pick up a bicycle so ancient, rusted, and worn that no self-respecting thief would waste a second of his time trying to steal it (ah, but he will, so make sure you have an adequate lock). Then charge into the ruckus of trams, cars, buses, and other bikes. Better yet, rent a bicycle that's in decent condition -- and go carefully.
Riding a Canal Bike
Lifelong Amsterdammers -- and even expats who ought to know better but aim to pass as natives -- scoff long and loud at this. Let them. Pedal yourself through the water for an hour or two on your own private pedalo. Go at your own speed to view the canals in style (not much style, I'll admit).
Skating the Canals
When the canals freeze in winter (sadly, it's happening less and less) you'll find few locals who'll argue against the proposition that God is a Dutchman. Giving Amsterdammers the chance to go around on ice is one of the few ways to pry them off their bicycles. Strap on a pair of long-bladed Noren skates (long-distance/long-bladed skates) and join in.
Walking on the Wild Side
Stroll through the district know as De Wallen (The Walls) to examine the quaint 16th- and 17th-century canal architecture, peruse second-hand bookstores, and observe inhabitants as they walk their dogs, ride their bikes to the shops, and take the kids to school. Oh, and since this is the Red Light District, you're bound to see certain minimally attired women watching the world go by through red-tinted windows.
Hunting for Antiques
Five hundred and more years of Amsterdam history, including a guaranteed piece of the city's 17th-century Golden Age, is on offer in the Spiegelgracht antiques quarter. And all you need to acquire it is a fistful of euros or some flexible plastic.
Shopping for a Steal at a Street Market
You'll have to get up pretty early and be pretty slick to hoodwink a Dutch street trader and score a genuine kill at the Waterlooplein flea market or the Albert Cuyp street market. But bargains do occasionally appear at both, and glimpsing local color is guaranteed.
Whiffing a "Coffeeshop"
It's true -- smoking marijuana is officially tolerated in Amsterdam's "marijuana smoking coffeeshops." These aren't your neighborhood cafes, and they're not for everyone, but they're an established part of Amsterdam's alternative tradition. You'll be able to buy and smoke marijuana inside, and no law-enforcement agency will hassle you.
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