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5 New Changes Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting Amsterdam

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Over 20 million people visit Amsterdam every year, making it one of the most popular tourist stops in Europe. But these days, the Dutch capital is getting picky about what type of tourist it wants to attract. 

Amsterdam is shaking off its worldwide reputation for sex, drugs, and rock & roll. 

As Dutch resident Els Iping so aptly summarized for DW news, she’d like to stop regularly cleaning tourists’ vomit from her front steps and instead see more visitors appreciating her city’s historic charm.

Travelers today are feeling the backlash of new rules made to protect the city’s livability.

With all the recent changes, tourists in Amsterdam need to know exactly when and where they’re allowed to enjoy the city’s nightlife and coffeeshop culture. 

Here are five changes travelers should be aware of before visiting Amsterdam this summer:

historic buildings and pink tulips in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in spring or summer in Europe

1. It’s now illegal to publicly smoke cannabis anywhere in the old city.

As of 25 May 2023, visitors to Amsterdam cannot use ‘soft drugs’ like marijuana in public in the old city center, which includes Red Light District, Nieuwmarkt, and Dam Square. 

This piles on to previous rules that banned cannabis in public on weekends everywhere except the Red Light District and designated cannabis coffeeshops. Smoking marijuana on historic center streets now comes with an expensive souvenir – a €100 fine on the spot

Here are the updated city penalties getting at rowdy partygoers:

  • €100 for drunkenness
  • €150 for noise pollution
  • €150 for public urination
  • €150 for littering

At first glance, the no-weed-on-the-street rule might seem like a party pooper to some tourists. But, it’s worth noting that clearer streets make enjoying the city easier for everyone, both night and day. 

Scenic houses in Amsterdam old town

2. They’re cracking down on coffee shops selling weed to tourists.

Technically, there are no new rules here. They’re just being enforced for the first time.

Amsterdam’s famed cannabis coffeeshops are technically only authorized to sell to Dutch customers. But until now, this was generally considered more of a suggestion than a requirement; sales to foreigners have been openly tolerated. 

Not so this summer. Cannabis coffeeshops have been ordered not to advertise to or attract foreign customers. Meanwhile, the mayor has even floated plans to ban tourists from these shops temporarily. 

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Cannabis coffeeshop in Amsterdam The Netherlands

Cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands, but the country has long adhered to a policy of Gedoogbeleid, or tolerance. However, with new rules about public smoking and selling to tourists, it would seem this is slowly changing. 

According to a recent survey, half of Amsterdam’s 20 million annual visitors say visiting one of these iconic coffeeshops is a top reason for their visit. With tourists worth a significant slice of an industry estimated to be worth $1.4 billion dollars, it’s unclear whether the city can afford to stick to this particular rule.  

sunset on the canals of Amsterdam The Netherlands

3. Red Light District businesses are closing a few hours earlier than last summer.

New restrictions mean bars, restaurants, and sex shows in the Red Light District now have to close down at 2am. Brothel closing times have been moved up from 6am to 3am.  

The recently enforced rules are meant to give fed-up locals a good night’s sleep, but have caught some visiting revelers by surprise over the past few weeks.

Crowd of international tourists walking on streets of Red Light District of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

4. Recent “Stay Away” PSAs and “Stop de gekte” campaigns could leave you feeling less than welcome.

You might see some “Stop de gekte” (or ‘stop the madness’) neighborhood patrol members in yellow vests, warning tourists who are getting out of control and reminding them to respect the locals’ property and peace.

Even before you arrived in Amsterdam, you may have seen the city’s “Stay Away” campaign videos if you Googled budget accommodations or pub crawls. While these PSAs are mostly aimed at young male British tourists, they can make any visitor feel less than welcome.

Don’t be fooled, though – Amsterdam still has a warm welcome waiting for respectful tourists. 

As the city’s visitor information site reminds us, ”Amsterdammers live in every neighborhood, including the Red Light District and Leidsepleing.” If you refrain from turning their home into a head-splitting hotboxed slum, locals are mostly happy to share Amsterdam with you.

solo female traveler looking out at canal in amsterdam the netherlands

5 – Despite the new cannabis bans, The Smoke Boat is still legal (for now). 

Tourists wanting to channel their inner chill in public seem to be getting around these new regulations with the help of Amsterdam's “Smoke Boat.”

This cannabis-fueled sightseeing cruise has been around for a decade, but today it’s more popular than ever as a legal loophole for tourists wanting to respect new rules while enjoying a truly Amsterdam-style trip.

Amsterdam canal at sunset, the Netherlands, Europe

We know these new changes can seem like a lot. But don’t worry – Amsterdammers still want you to enjoy their city. 

Amsterdam’s own tourism page sums it up best: “Limit noise and drunkenness, clean up your mess, and don't pee in the canals. Keep in mind the locals, and they will welcome you with open arms.”

If you’re one of the plenty of travelers who want to experience Amsterdam’s beauty and nightlife respectfully, you’re in the clear.

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