Last fall, Brent and I made our first trip to Amsterdam.
But it was November, and it turned out to be much colder, wetter, windier, and — despite the cold, rain, and wind — much more crowded than we expected.
Still, there was one thing we absolutely loved: Amsterdam at night, which is when the city literally glows.
To be fair, most cities look better at night, when the warm shine of windows can make any building seem inviting.
Or when it’s been raining, and the street lamps and neon signs cast reflections on the slick streets like something out of a movie.
But when it comes to lights at night, Amsterdam has something most other cities don’t — something that reflects those lights in ways that are truly magical.
Of course, I mean the canals.
You’d think the canals would all look the same. They’re channels of water lined with buildings, right?
But somehow they all seem completely different.
Of course, Amsterdam’s nighttime beauty isn’t only about the canals.
The city’s waterfront — the part that faces an open river/bay area — is known as the IJ, and it’s also quite lovely. I loved how it reflected the lights of Amsterdam Centraal, the main rail station…
…as well as the Basilica of Saint Nicolas.
Then there is the famous — or infamous — Red Light District, which only comes to life once the sun has set.
As with thoughts about the sex work that happens in the district, opinions of the area’s attractiveness can vary. I found parts of it garish…
But in a certain light, from a certain angle, I found other parts quite beautiful…
Whatever your take, there’s definitely always something — or someone — trying to get your attention as you walk through these narrow streets.
I found the best way to see Amsterdam at night was on the water of those aforementioned canals — on a canal cruise.
There’s nothing like seeing the city from down there or sailing under some of the city’s 1,200 bridges.
If you want my advice, forget the many large glass tour boats you’ll see zooming through the canals. They move too fast to get a sense of anything, and they can’t go places the smaller boats can.
The tour I chose — and highly recommend — is Those Dam Boat Guys, who use much smaller boats, and give a much more personalized tour.
The night I went was freezing cold — especially when we were out on the canals — but it was worth it to get such an intimate look at this remarkable city reclaimed from the sea.
Amsterdam is a great city, and I truly hope you get to go.
But remember that however wonderful you find it during the day, you’ll probably find it even more magical at night.
Michael Jensen is an author, editor, and one half of Brent and Michael Are Going Places, a couple of traveling gay digital nomads. Subscribe to their free travel newsletter here.