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Amsterdam Shares More Than Marijuana Culture With Seattle

Daniel Peckham
Amsterdam's canals are among the many things that lend character to the Dutch capital city.

Amsterdam is the largest city in The Netherlands, and a hub for air travel in and out of Europe. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says there are similarities between western Washington and the Dutch capital.

“It’s a great city to get a bike and cruise around,” Brumley said. “There are some phenomenal museums here, and some great architecture.”

Coffee Culture

The numbers vary, but data from Euromonitor suggest that the Dutch lead the world in per-capita coffee consumption.

That means a lot of coffee shops. Also, there are coffee shops and then there are “coffee” shops, which leads us to…

Marijuana. It’s Prevalent, But …

… it’s not really legal. This is a big misconception about the Netherlands. Instead, the marijuana culture operates much like it does in U.S. states where pot has been legalized. The federal government simply turns a blind eye to enforcement.

Brumley says when he tells people in the Netherlands that he’s from Seattle, they know about Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and legalized marijuana.

“They’re really intrigued by that,” he said. “For them, America has been a much more conservative place than The Netherlands. They ask a lot of questions.”

Dutch citizens are able to buy marijuana in “coffee” shops, although, even that has been changing recently.


The Netherlands has a climate very similar to the Puget Sound area: cool summers and moderate winters. This time of year, the tulips are blossoming, with warm days and cool nights.

Where Else To Go

Amsterdam is a hub for international travel, but you’ll want to branch out a little, too. Look to nearby communities like Haarlem, Arnhem, and Delft, which we heard about ina recent episode of “Food for Thought.”

“There are some great towns here,” Brumley said. “The marketplaces are fantastic, there are tulips and gardens in bloom, lots of cafes, and coffee bars. It just seems really communal here in Holland.”


Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel around the world to clients including KPLU. He's been traveling abroad professionally for more than 20 years. "Going Places" is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel topics, ranging from worldwide destinations to backyard getaways. Leave your comments below, or suggest topics for future segments.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.