Have you ever asked yourself what actually happened in the 60s and the 70s that made Amsterdam to become one of the most liberal and most visited destinations in Europe?
Two words: Cultural Revolution. Two more: Magisch Centrum.
After digging a bit, here is what I found: “The 1960s and 1970s, cultural revolution made Amsterdam the magisch centrum (magical center) of Europe. The use of soft drugs was tolerated and this policy made the city a popular destination for hippies. Anarchist squatters wanted to change society by squatting empty buildings, leading to clashes with contractors, who were aligned with the Dutch Mafia (source).”
Let’s go even deeper.
Here’s what about the issue says my friend Ramon, an award winning Dutch writer:
“So, there are several explanations. For one we have to look into the history of the Dutch culture. The Netherlands has always been considered a rather horizontal society. Groups were not divided in terms of social class but rather in cultural/religious groups (named: ‘zuilen’ in Dutch). You had the catholic one, the protestant one, the socialist one and the classical liberal one. When you were born in one of these zuilen it basically determined your entire life. For instance, if you were born in the catholic one it meant that you would go to a catholic school, buy your things in a shop owned by Catholics and basically hang out only with other Catholics. These zuilen consisted of people from different economic classes and they were very necessary at the time. Times were uncertain and you could count on your fellow zuil people if things got tough. These zuilen were also very restrictive. You had to walk the line so to speak or else isolation or even worse, the insane asylum would be waiting for you.
Later on… When things got better economically and the government took care of social security the dependency on these zuilen decreased so a whole generation wanted to break free from them and had the means to do so. A whole liberated culture grew in the sixties and seventies.
Dutch politics has always been one of pragmatism so they started to regulate the values of the new generation rather than to forbid them.
That’s how a society grew where things were allowed that were not allowed anywhere else and it became a pioneering society, which of course attracted like-minded people from all over Europe with similar mindset.
Cause at that time the Cultural Revolution took place throughout the world. The Netherlands was just the only place where the government had a less oppressive approach to it…”
Amsterdam. Present time.
The city has more than 7500 protected monuments with the largest historical city center in Europe. It hosts up to 140 festivals a year. With more than 50 museums (some being the most known and popular museums in the world – including The Van Gogh Museum which houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world) it’s the real treat for art lovers, and its coffee shop culture places Dutch capital among the top destinations to visit in Europe nowadays. Selling cannabis actually is not completely legal, but is tolerated when small quantities of cannabis (up to 5 grams) are involved.
So, the plan is to explore Amsterdam’s inner city by strolling along its famous network of canals, to take an art exhibition in one of its amazing museums & make a visit to at least one of numerous Amsterdam’s nightlife clubs or restaurants.
Do it in The Nine Streets – a home to over 200 retailers, including a fine selection of independent boutiques, vintage shops and specialty stores or on Monday morning check out Noordermarkt flea market – a mix of second-hand goods for sale, ranging from antiques and books to clothes and household kitsch.
When it comes to coffee shops, The Bulldog is a historically important place – the first coffee shop opened in Amsterdam.
It all started in 1970 when Henk de Vries sold his first African Grass in matchboxes at the ‘Kralings Bos’ pop festival in Holland. 5 years later, on December 17th, he emptied the contents of his father’s shop into one of Amsterdam’s famous canals, and prepared a place for his latest experiment, the world’s first coffee shop. (source) The rest is history.
CLUBS. RESTAURANTS. GALLERIES. I MEAN… PLACES TO GO OUT.
The Flying Pig Downtown
OK. Before I proceed to the recommended hostel for your Amsterdam Tripping adventure, I have to admit something. I haven’t spent a single night in hostels in Amsterdam.
I was squatting.
But guys, trust me… After chatting with my Amsterdam friends, The Flying Pig Downtown almost always came as their number 1 recommendation. Cheap beers, cool atmosphere, awesome location.
“The Flying Pig youth hostels in Amsterdam are world famous for the relaxed atmosphere in real Amsterdam style. The Pig bars are the best place in town to have a drink or an unforgettable party, meet other guests and staff or have a smoke together chilling on our pillow stage.
All essentials are included in the price; breakfast, bed linen, wifi, lockers (bring your own padlock), maps, guides, free city tours and more. These hostels all have a fully equipped kitchen for you to cook your own meal, share your meal with new friends and keep your trip on a budget.”
Precious squatting moment
The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel
*Photos: Roest, Dokhuis, OT301, The Flying Pig & Indie Voyager