In the charming city of Amsterdam, nestled in the heart of the Netherlands, officials are actively implementing a new set of policies to promote sustainable tourism while preserving the city’s quality of life. Despite having a population of just 800,000, Amsterdam welcomes up to 20 million tourists annually, making it one of the most visited cities in Europe. Nevertheless, the city is proactively addressing the challenges posed by mass tourism and striving to maintain its reputation as a global travel destination.
Cracking Down on Disruptive Tourism
Amsterdam has earned notoriety for its liberal reputation, but the city is determined to redefine itself and shed the image of a permissive tourist hub. Authorities have introduced a series of measures to “preserve the quality of life in Amsterdam” and mitigate the disturbances caused by certain types of tourism.
Banning Cruise Ships: In July of this year, the city council prohibited cruise ships from entering the city center to prevent overcrowding in popular areas. This move aims to strike a balance between the number of tourists and residents in these highly frequented zones.
Restrictions on Cannabis: In May, the city enacted a ban on smoking cannabis in the Red Light District, aiming to curtail behaviors associated with drug tourism.
Digital Campaign: In March, the city launched a digital campaign called “Keep It De Stad Uit,” targeting men aged 18 to 35 in the UK. The campaign’s goal is to reduce the number of visitors coming to Amsterdam for drugs, alcohol, and sex. Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki stated, “Visitors are welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause disturbances.”
Addressing Resident Concerns: Many local residents have expressed frustration with disruptive tourists and endless crowds. Billboards featuring photos of residents with the message “We Live Here” have been erected as a reminder to visitors.
However, Amsterdam offers much more than its touristy reputation suggests, providing a rich tapestry of authentic experiences that are both creative and sustainable, benefiting both tourists and locals alike.
Amsterdam: Indulge in Dutch Delights: Chocolate Bars and Borrel
According to locals, one of the most authentic Amsterdam experiences is enjoying a beer at a “cafe bruin” (brown bar) with “borrels” (small alcoholic drinks) and “borrelhapjes” (fried snacks). Historic establishments like Cafe de Druif, serving locals for over 400 years, offer a cozy, traditional ambiance. The term “brown bar” refers to the characteristic brown wood paneling that adorns these pubs, and efforts are even underway to protect their classic decor.
While trendier bars and restaurants may have emerged, Mia Bekedam, an Amsterdam resident, believes brown bars will never go out of style, as they remain “original.” She notes that being surrounded by living history in these brown bars makes everyone feel at home, whether they are regular patrons or newcomers.
Amsterdam: Biking Adventures and Beyond
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, is renowned for being one of the world’s most bike-friendly destinations. With over 400 kilometers of cycling paths and a majority of residents commuting on bikes, it’s not only a fantastic way to stay active but also an eco-friendly means to explore the city. Stephan Van Der Meer, owner of Mike’s Bike Tours, encourages visitors to take off the beaten path and discover the lesser-known sides of Amsterdam.
One of his favorite routes leads to the NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam Noord, a district once home to shipyards and now brimming with street art, performing artists, outdoor markets, and local vendors. He believes it offers a creative and distinct contrast to the charming and beautiful city center. Van Der Meer, who has called Amsterdam home for 16 years, also recommends exploring nearby bike-friendly cities like Gouda and Utrecht.
Amsterdam: Museums and Galleries Galore
Amsterdam boasts numerous world-class museums and galleries. While popular attractions like the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum may require tickets to be booked months in advance, the city is also home to several less-crowded gems.
One such hidden treasure is the Museum Van Loon, located in a preserved 17th-century canal house showcasing contemporary art. Unlike some of Amsterdam’s larger museums, Museum Van Loon offers an intimate and personal experience, according to Gijs Schunselaar, the museum’s director. Visitors are pleasantly surprised by the “cozy atmosphere” as they explore the historically rich rooms and gardens of the house.
Amsterdam is navigating the complex terrain of tourism, sustainability, and quality of life. Through a blend of responsible policies and authentic experiences, the city aims to provide a fulfilling and respectful travel encounter for all its visitors while preserving its unique character.