It seems that wherever you look, you can only see glowing reviews about Amsterdam, praising its food, art, shopping, and architectural wonders.
But in reality, I believe that Amsterdam is overrated – and in this article, I will share the main reasons why.
I don’t really know if this is really the case, but it does seem like the most hyped attractions out there manage to disappoint me the most.
This also happened with another praised destination that I had high hopes for, only to consider it meh at best. I am talking about Prague and I wrote here why I think it’s overrated as well.
But back to Amsterdam… I simply wasn’t able to validate its glowing reviews with my experiences.
I wanted to love it but just wasn’t able to find my way there. Somehow, it’s gotten a reputation it doesn’t deserve… or at least this is how I feel after visiting the city.
Maybe you need more time with it, or maybe the first few days are not enough for you to get a clear image of a place… but I usually follow my gut and instincts and there are countless cities that I fall in love with instantly.
But today I will tell you why Amsterdam is not one of them. Here are the top reasons why I think Amsterdam is overrated:
1. It’s dirty and nondescript
Amsterdam’s streets are littered (and I’m from Romania, which isn’t the cleanest country in the world!) and the city lacks a defining character.
On the canal tour, which is easily the city’s highlight attraction, I kept anticipating the architectural charm you see in postcards to open up with every turn through the water, but it never really materialized.
Even the most affluent residences were devoid of the ornate distinction you’d expect – and I do blame us bloggers for that. We tend to present a reality that’s completely different from the real thing.
The waters themselves were dirty too: plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and general litter everywhere.
I was surprised to see that, and even though I guess that part of the blame is to be put on tourists, not locals… it’s still not a pleasant sight.
Yes, parts of the city are beautiful and postcard-perfect, but don’t expect all of it to be like that!
2. Can’t get a good meal
There’s no diversity in the menu from one place to another. Moules frites, chicken frites and steak frites rule Amsterdam’s culinary world, which wouldn’t be so bad if the meats were properly cooked and the dishes not so bland.
Even their prized frites, a huge paper cone packed with French fries purchased from kiosk type shops along the main streets, are overrated.
Despite the novelty of being able to choose from among 30 toppings, the fries are undercooked and, in the end, they’re still fries if you know what I mean!
3. No wine
Perhaps this complaint is fueled by the fact that I’m a wine lover, but there are no wine bars and the selection at restaurants leaves a lot to be desired.
Amsterdam is definitely a beer town (if you’re a beer person, read my guide to Slovakian beer here), which I appreciated at a pub or two, but a nice glass of wine at dinner was difficult to be had. A lack of importing from neighboring countries speaks volumes.
4. Vacant eyes EVERYWHERE
The coffee shops must have an influence on all the locals, even those who don’t frequent them, because there’s an overwhelming amount of blankness in their glances.
Coming from an admittedly type A personality, the folks in Amsterdam are a truly laid back lot. Maybe their lifespan bares it out, I don’t know the stats, but it makes you wonder…
Of course, this will definitely not be a con for everybody. Laid back is not automatically a bad thing and I truly appreciate a relaxed state over your regular (and extremely tiring) overexcited persona, but here I thought it was taken to the extreme.
5. Biker caution!
If you’re only visiting for a day or two, forget what you’ve heard about biking being a quaint way to get around!
This is a serious mode of transportation for the residents and it’s not for the faint of heart visitor (also refer to point #4).
On the canal tour, we learned the fun fact that one car a week drives over the bridge, railing into the canal.
I shutter at the thought of the bike stats… especially since I am such a poor bike driver. Hopefully things will change fast though, although the modern electric bikes and scooters seem to make things worse, and not better.
6. It’s crazy expensive
Nobody says: “Go to Amsterdam because it’s so cheap!” That is indeed true. But still… the prices you have to pay there are absolutely insane and the recent inflation that affected all countries on this planet seem to have worked their magic there also.
The cheapest hostels cost as much as 4 or even 5-star rooms do in cheaper countries (it’s a similar situation to Iceland’s hostels, but that’s expected at least), while Airbnb rentals are crazy expensive too.
Initially, we wanted to spend a month in Amsterdam, and looked at monthly rental prices. We saw many offers of around 9,000 Euros, per month, for a pretty regular apartment. NO, thank you!
Fortunately, the prices of the food and drinks in the city are not as overpriced as accommodation prices are, but you’ll still end up paying a lot more at the end of the day, when compared to Europe’s cheapest countries.
7. It rains all the time
If you don’t like cold weather and especially rain… don’t go to Amsterdam. It’s as easy as that, and I wish I did more research about the weather before going there.
The weather was miserable and it appears that this is how it usually is: you should always carry an umbrella “just in case”. And I thought that’s just a British thing…
And, to make things worse, it’s not that refreshing, quick shower that you enjoy during a hot summer’s day. No, we’re talking about cold rain during colder days that make you feel generally miserable.
8. Not just prices are so high…
I think I know (and we all know) why everybody in Amsterdam is so laid back and relaxed. And if you don’t, the smell on the streets will tell you why.
Marijuana is tolerated (although not legal as many believe) and therefore all tourists (and probably locals as well) are just taking advantage of this as much as they can.
Seeds, cigarettes, brownies… there are tons of options out there and everybody seems to be high. Which is interesting and intriguing at first… but if you’re traveling with a young kid, not so much.
So this is again one thing that can be a Pro for the right audience, but in my case, it’s a con as I travel with my family and that’s not really the route I want my son to follow…
9. The crowds take away all the fun
When a place is as popular as Amsterdam, you know that you’re going to see a ton of tourists there.
This means that you will have huge crowds everywhere and especially where the main attractions are.
As a result, it’s more difficult to enjoy the beauty of the things and experiences Amsterdam has to offer. I don’t like crowds, even though I am – ultimately – part of them.
It’s true, you can avoid this a little bit by traveling off-season (when prices are also a bit lower), but I believe that there are always bigger crowds in Amsterdam than in Szeged or even Enschede.
Now don’t get me wrong: I did not hate Amsterdam by any means. It’s not a place that I wouldn’t visit again and, apart from the delicious cheese, it still has a ton of other things to make you happy (I’m talking about perfectly legal things here!)
What I feel, though, is that the city is over-hyped. Amsterdam is overrated. It has been put by so many people in such a glowing light that it’s simply doomed to live up to the expectations.
And even though that happens, the prices continue to go up, making it less and less affordable. I believe that this will actually make it even more attractive to other people: if it’s expensive, it has to be good, right?
Well, that’s not necessarily the case. Amsterdam has its advantages, Amsterdam has its charm and personality and nice set of things to offer to all types of travelers, but it’s also overrated.
I realize it’s each traveler to him or herself, but I’m just not seeing it. But what do you think? Have you been to Amsterdam? Do you think it’s overrated, too or do you think it’s just as amazing as most travel bloggers make it seem to be?