Is Amsterdam a real city or just a big town?



Tonight, ‘inside’ an Amsterdam bridge called Brug 9, an interesting debate that divides the city, ‘Is Amsterdam a city or a town?’ debate will be held, organised by AlterFritz. Follow the link above for all the details (in Dutch).

Amsterdam shows its city side in a capital, international way to tourists and the world with its architecture, canals and events, but then turns around and tells its residents in Dutch uncle style what they can and cannot do, as if we were little children.

AlterFritz claims that an increasing number of residents resent the nannyism of the city’ bureaucrats, since the point of living in the big city is to be able to do your thing. Of course, you need some kind of social control, but in recent years — and I have to agree — it has gone too far, the most recent example being getting fined if caught drinking a beer on an overcrowded terrace if you’re standing and not sitting. They revoked it, but it took some protesting first. As if the city didn’t have any real problems!

As for my immigrant two cents, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, but only has 730,000 inhabitants. Many people who live outside of Amsterdam really don’t like it for tons of reasons. My pet peeves include public transport stopping around midinight every night, chaos at Amsterdam Central Station when hailing a taxi, and you can’t get food past midnight anywhere, not even take away or ordering out. Forget any kind of breakfast restaurants except the bakery (OK, a Dutch thing in general, but this is the nation’s capital!) and the debate about having normal shops open on Sunday when people believe they should be closed. Oh, and the highest parking rates in the entire world, not something to be proud of. In this sense, Amsterdam is a closed-minded little village that believes in catering to tourists first and residents second. By catering I do mean taking their money.

Aaah, but I do like it somehow, I do live here! I love the nightlife, cultural activities, architecture, some restaurants (Dutch roulette, I call it) and I openly admit it’s close to an international airport when I want to get out of town, er city.

UPDATE: Het Parool, Amsterdam’s independent daily wrote about the debate (in Dutch).

(Link: AlterFritz)


  1. John says:

    hi :)

    after living in ams for a a yeah and a 1/2… i must chime in, that:

    1: you can get (real) food after midnight of you know where to look… though i will admit it took a while to find. and…

    2: i know of a few good (really good at that, and real american breakfast) breakfast places in the city. most in the jordaan. and believe me- Americans love their breakfast ;) I have found THE best American pancakes in the world @ Cafe Letting ( and they have soy cappuccinos.

    interesting discussion tonight. wish i had known about it sooner. btw, i always enjoy your blog :)

  2. Orangemaster says:

    Thanks! And as for 1) only downtown, the entire outskirts is dead :)

  3. Neil says:

    Boston USA is dead too at night. We have only a few places open after 1AM.

    New York is the city that never sleeps.

  4. Branko Collin says:

    only downtown, the entire outskirts is dead

    I feel a Petula Clark moment coming up.

  5. Orangemaster says:

    @Branko Ha ha touché.

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