I recently visited Amsterdam for the first time on a long weekend break, and whilst there I was astonished by how stunning the city is and I left feeling incredibly inspired. Everything is like a piece of art that gives the whole city a fairy-tale feel, immersing you on a visual journey. You find yourself stopping and staring at absolutely everything, from the quirky leaning buildings and varied architecture to the purposefully designed retro bikes that litter the city’s pavements. Everything looks like it’s been created to compliment, blending the modern shops and bars brilliantly with the historic architecture and cobbled streets. Traffic is kept to an absolute minimum thanks to the ever reliable tram and bus system, not to mention the ease of which you can hire a push bike to travel around the incredibly flat city, so taking in the sights around you is much easier as everything moves at a slower pace and you don’t find your view being obstructed every minute by large vehicles.
As you arrive in Amsterdam it becomes very clear that looks are everything here. Schiphol airport is a thing of beauty inside, it’s modern and trendy interiors feature clever design touches throughout, from the airport security checkpoint in departures through to the bars and restaurants that line the lounges. The signage, advertising, wallpaper and interior features are striking and imposing, but beautifully designed. Even the motion sensors for the toilet flush systems are a thing of beauty with the sensors housed in dark mirrored panels that feature clever lights, you feel like you’ve just stepped in to the future.
Leaving the airport on the train to the city centre is a further assault on the senses, as throughout the journey you find yourself watching the never-ending wave of graffiti that lines the walls and bridges surrounding the railways, not because it’s in your direct eye line, but because it’s quite simply brilliant. The graffiti is colourful, bright and bold, with fantastic designs that have been thoroughly thought through, rather than just tagging something for the sake of it. Graffiti is thought of differently in Amsterdam, it’s referred to as street art and it’s easy to see why, with the authorities introducing areas for street artists to paint legally, in some cases they have even commissioned individuals to ‘decorate’ parts of the city with their striking graffiti style.
Once you start to travel around Amsterdam, generally using one of their fine forms of public transport, you instantly start to notice their tourism logo, ‘I Amsterdam’, which is simple yet clever and used in campaigns that are created in a friendly and welcoming manner, befitting of the vibe you get from everyone in the city. The modern logo is very much in keeping with their more recent architecture and style, it’s not overwhelming, it’s simple, clean, yet effective and works even in this historic city without looking out of place.
I used all forms of transport in Amsterdam, but to really get a feel for the city I took a cruise along some of the many canals, and that’s when the architecture really becomes most noticeable, everywhere you look you see something unique. The buildings that line the canals are truly incredible, with architecture spanning throughout the ages that gives the streets a huge variation of style that strangely all fits together. The mass of beautifully decorated window shutters, imposing entrances, strikingly huge features and the odd angles that many of the houses are built at give each property its own style. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you had travelled back hundreds of years as you travel down some of the canals, with retro style bicycles lining the pavements in the foreground and architecture befitting of a Dickens novel completing the scene.
Not everything is old though, so whilst many of the streets look unspoiled and are still cobble lined, the government have commissioned some stunning architecture of late that gives the city a fresh dynamic, without spoiling the view.
All the buildings are beautifully complimented by the canals and bridges that weave between them, creating a home for some of the most stunning boat houses you’ll ever see, created from old barges and purposefully built vessels, each of which are completely unique and decorated in a striking and beautiful manner. It’s like everyone in Amsterdam has an artist in them just screaming to get out, maybe it’s the Rembrandt effect, or maybe it’s just that the residents are inspired by one another, but which ever it is, it works. Everywhere you look you see something that is a form of art, something that is different to anything you’ve seen before and something that is truly inspired. Amsterdam is a perfect example of many different styles working hand in hand, where old meets new, but does so brilliantly.