Half of Amsterdam’s residents do not own a car, so even snow and ice will not deter them from riding their bikes. Temperatures range from an average of -1C in January to a maximum of 22C in July. (Apologies to Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit who invented the mercury thermometer in Amsterdam in 1714.)
Amsterdam – Been There

A drink at De Dokter, Amsterdam's smallest pub

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Amsterdam – Been There A drink at De Dokter, Amsterdam's smallest pub

I stop for a drink at Amsterdam’s smallest pub in the city center, Café De Dokter (“The Doctor”), just off Kalverstraat, a busy pedestrianized shopping street.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

Jazz plays quietly in the background as Henny Elout, son-in-law of Jannie and Jan Beems whose family have run it for seven generations, serves me a drink. “A surgeon from a nearby hospital (now closed) set it up in 1798 as a meeting place for fellow doctors and students,” he says. “Then it served only white brandy but, in the 1800s, beer was introduced. There was no running water then, so people drank jenever and, later, beer.” This tiny space is as “gezellig” as it comes, and it is fascinating to think it is as old as the USA, whose Revolution was also in 1798. Thick layers of dust cover the light fittings overhead, adding to the feeling of time standing still.

“My father’s mother was 86 when she retired and before then she had rheumatism so she could not clean above her shoulder. And he never bothered,” explains Henny. “Until 2008 people could still smoke so it is a sticky dust, not flying dust.”

After a drink inside its quiet interior, it is a shock to be hit by modern Amsterdam just outside the door. Not far away, “coffee” houses disgorge the sweet smell of marijuana, while young men dare each other to experience the seedy “Rosse Buurt” or Red Light Area (a euphemistic name by Amsterdam standards), with its women for sale behind glass doors.

Centered on Amsterdam’s docks, this sex trade once serviced visiting sailors and still caters mainly to foreign visitors. Locals tend to avoid the area if they can, knowing its undercurrent of crime and hard drugs, while stag and hen parties can make bars and restaurants obnoxious. Cycling in the narrow streets lined with busy restaurants is also a constant frustration, when tourists step randomly into the road.

Looking for a hotel on Amsterdam's historic Canal Ring, a short walk away from the hectic city center? Local Expert Martine knows a great little boutique gem.

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Wolvenstraat, part of the 9Streets with trendy shops and cafés in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam.

7 cliché activities in Amsterdam you will actually enjoy

Amsterdam is one of those cities that is drenched in clichés. I’ve overheard people saying that they thought Amsterdam was itself a country (Holland clearly isn’t interesting enough to benefit from word of mouth publicity), that the Dutch  all wear wooden shoes (imagine the pain!), that Amsterdam is  covered in tulips, and that literally everyone   smokes weed. All. Day. Long. I’m not here to smash your dreams into a thousand tiny pieces, but that’s plain bullcheese. On the other hand, some Amsterdam clichés are true and are definitely worth giving a try. They aren’t clichés for nothing, am I right?