Dealing With Organized Chaos in Amsterdam

Every time I go back to Amsterdam I leave loving the city even more – it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe.

It’s just such a spontaneous place, and it feels as if anything can happen here, but at the same time it feels… organized.

For me, Amsterdam is the perfect example of organized chaos.

I felt as though people were allowed to do what they wanted, just not exactly where they wanted.They can smoke weed and eat space cakes – just not on the streets; prostitution and buying sex is legal –  just stick to the right area.

Everybody bikes, and even though you feel as though there are people biking everywhere, they know exactly what they’re doing and which streets they’re allowed on.

If you bike on a pedestrian-only street you risk paying a high fine.

This third time in Amsterdam it became even more clear to me how people and rules here are often the straight opposite from other countries: feeling like a BBQ?

Yeah sure, bring it all out and put it on the footpath in the city.

Wanna party hard in the park, drinking, smoking and pumping out house music out of the speakers in public parks?

Yeah go ahead, Vondelpark is perfect, there is even a sign saying you’re allowed to play music, drink and – according to the sign, joggle here.

The funny contrasts make the place so different from other cities.

People simply do things differently here: Instead of having a picnic in the park they have it on the boats, instead of driving they bike (in every type of weather, snow or rain doesn’t matter here), and so forth.

You see things here that you don’t see anywhere else, like a parking lot with 3000 bikes!

Amsterdam is a place with many faces, and it’s up to you which one you want to see.

You can choose to see the crazy Amsterdam with Penis fountains, prostitutes posing in windows and coffee shops everywhere.

But you can also choose to see the incredible architecture of the houses, the many boats on the canals where people have picnics, the art museums and the beautiful nature surrounding the city.

Amsterdam is unpretentious, bold and bright – it is exactly what it is, and they’re neither proud, nor ashamed of it.

This acceptance of people is what has made Amsterdam so popular and loved by so many people.

You can be who you want – rich, poor, gay, straight – nobody cares.

This was my third time in Amsterdam, but I will definitely go back there again and again…

Have you been to Amsterdam? Share your experiences and thoughts!

20 Responses to Dealing With Organized Chaos in Amsterdam

  1. T Roach June 4, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    I’ll be going this year and now I’m even more excited. Thanks for the post.

  2. Andrew - The Unframed World June 4, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    That bicycle parking lot reminds me of Japan. Everyone pedals everywhere here.
    I’ve never been to Amsterdam but glad for the insight when I do go. Is it so free spirited all over or just in certain areas? What do you think the rest of Europe thinks of it?

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      I found that the people were very free spirited in the whole of Amsterdam, but that they also wanted some order and rules, so things wouldn’t go out of control (nobody wants prostitutions around every corner or people smoking pot everywhere).

      Interesting question. I think it varies a lot of what other people think, but from my experience people love Amsterdam :)

  3. Backpackgek June 4, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Awesome post. I live in Amsterdam (and we’re currently preparing for our BIG trip starting in September) and I love riding my bike, having lunch and drinks in a boat and having BBQs in the park. After reading your post, it makes me a little proud of my city :-)

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

      I’m so glad you liked the post. Amsterdam is a city to be proud of, the locals there sure know how to enjoy life!

  4. Lucie Aidart June 4, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Oh wow, this is a great article, I so want to go to Amsterdam now… especially with the law to come, I have to ho there soon! Thank you for this great article!

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks, glad you like it. You will love Amsterdam, hurry! ;P

  5. Sheila June 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    “Organized Chaos” the perfect term for Amsterdam. I remember watching people ride their bikes, cross the streets on the same lane as the metro. Amsterdam is definitely one of my favorite cities in the world.  I would love to live there one day.

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      I agree, living there for a bit would be awesome. The bikers there are crazy, but in some way they’re always in control.

  6. Anthony June 6, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    nice review of the city with character. I’ve been 3 times now and till not sick of it :)

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      Me neither, I discover new things every time I go there.

  7. Jaime June 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Oh man I can not wait to visit Amsterdam. I will be there for GAY PRIDE… oh man its going to be AMAZING!!!

  8. Yanisatya75 June 7, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    always wanted to go there, hopefully next year could make it;-)

  9. Andrea and John June 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    We love Amsterdam! The Dutch really have an appreciation for creating nice, ambient spaces and it’s a very relaxing place to be – whether you choose to indulge in things like coffee shops or not. We head back there again later this year for John’s 8th time and my 3rd…can’t wait!

  10. Jenna June 10, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    I really enjoyed this. Organized chaos is such a great way to describe Amsterdam. I think that’s why it feels so good when you’re there– it’s different, exciting, and edgy, but also safe, clean, and, as you said, organized. I’ve been there only once but my husband and I talk about going back all the time, maybe even to live one day.


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