Everyone I know who has visited Amsterdam has fallen in love with the city. The canals are dreamy and colorful flora line the streets as bicycles zip to and fro. The capital is known for its art museums and markets, its freewheeling attitude toward things other Western communities consider risque (you know, pot and prostitution) and its rich history as the former home of Anne Frank.
So why does everyone insist on visiting these letters?
It’s little more than a two-meter-tall alphabet.
The letters are the city’s slogan and meant to represent a sense of inclusion and welcome to the capital, so it sounds good on paper, but the city itself will welcome you just fine. This point is driven home just by searching @iamsterdam on Instagram: You don’t see a bunch of photos of the letters, but snapshots of Amsterdam itself and all of the little corners there are to explore.
I’m super guilty of it -- during my 15-hour stay in Amsterdam, I wasted one of those hours getting to the letters in hopes of securing a photo sitting on top of a freakin’ E. That’s why I’m qualified to tell everyone to go somewhere else!
To be fair, I would assume (read: hope) that most tourists who are climbing all over these letters are at least stopping on their way to one of the famous museums Amsterdam has to offer; the sign (can we even call it a sign?) sits right between the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Fingers crossed, because if you’re just heading to that square to try and get a photo, you’re going to have a bad time.
This is what your photo will actually look like:
It’s a madhouse. It’s hard enough to find an open letter, and once you do it’s 100 percent guaranteed that the rest of them will be swarming with bodies, so forget the photo op. If you want a random picture of yourself sitting on top of a letter, great, but if the point is to see the entire “I amsterdam” in the frame, think again.
I was in Amsterdam toward the end of a trip and was, in all aspects, over being around other people. Suffice to say, I gave up on the photo fairly quickly and moved on. I will say this: use the public restroom to the right of the sign -- the way the stalls lock will blow your mind, like these.
Pro tip: There are multiple “I amsterdam” letters around the city, and this location around the museums is probably the most popular and crowded. Try the Amsterdam Airport Schipol for another chance at the photo if you so choose.
You can evoke the essence that “I amsterdam” aims to incite by exploring the rich history; you don’t need to battle tourists for a seat on an oversized letter.