With its canals, museums and coffee shops, it is easy to see why Amsterdam is one of the most popular places in Europe. It has a relaxed, happy vibe at the same time as always having something going on. Not to mention it’s sheer beauty. Here are ten ideas for your time in Amsterdam:
Visit Amsterdam Centraal station. From the front, its brick makes it one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. From the backside, it’s extremely futuristic. Chances are that you will arrive to the city by train (or you will take a day trip) and if you fly into Schiphol airport, catch a train into the city (which will arrive at Centraal) for €5.50 – it takes about 20 minutes.
Hire bikes. A no brainer really, we did this on our first day there. It helped me get my bearings far more quickly than if I’d been on foot and it allowed us to conquer so much more in a short amount of time. Prices vary, anything under €15 is acceptable. I’d recommend A bikes (near Dams Square and also Vondelpark) as they don’t hold a cash deposit, just your licence and card details. Remember to keep right and stay on the red when cycling – unless you want an angry bell from the locals.
Take a canal cruise. We caught a boat with Friendship cruises, which cost €15 and went for an hour. It was one of the best things I did (alongside biking) and was not only extremely relaxing soaking up the sights from the water, but also very informative. There was a bar on board, which was perfect on our fine spring day! BoatAmsterdam also comes recommended. Just don’t catch one from Centraal – they are way more commercial and less intimate.
Go to a museum. At least one, more if you like! There are a number to choose from. I have been twice now to the Anne Frank house (€13) which is an audio guided tour through the secret annexe that the Frank family hid in during WWII. It is crucial tickets are bought online in advance, usually about two months prior. Another museum that requires booking is the Van Gogh museum which is located down at the Museumplein, alongside the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum (which is often considered the best of the lot).
Visit a brewery. The most famous is of course the Heineken brewery which is conveniently located in town. Again, bookings for this tend to be essential, although there is a chance you could get lucky on the day. I much preferred the Browertij, a microbrewery inside a windmill with a wide assortment of beers and tastings available.
The red light district is world famous and therefore tends to sit pretty highly on most peoples to do lists. The red light district is fascinating. I was glad to be there as part of a group, although it’s carnival atmosphere means that it’s not a sketchy part of town to be. It was pretty gross when we got stuck behind two old men walking up one of the alleys though! Visit at night to make it worthwhile.
Coffee shops are another popular attraction in Amsterdam and I must say, I was quite surprised to hear that lots of them don’t even sell coffee. They tend to be quite touristy, as apparently the locals prefer to just smoke at home. Barney’s is one of the few coffee shops in town that actually serves alcohol alongside marijuana. Even by the end of our time there, I still found the lingering smell of weed around the city quite strong!
In terms of shopping, the De Negen Straatjes (the Nine Streets) is a wee district packed with boutique shops, cafes and quaintness. The Jordaan area also has some cute doe shops. The best market is probably at Waterlooplein, although like any market it can be hit and miss. Of course, the Main Street running from Centraal to Dams Square is packed with your typical chain stores: Zara, H&M, Mango and so on.
Vondelpark. I’m a real sucker for big green leafy exercise parks, so naturally this place struck a chord with me. It was huge, and packed with runners, cyclists, dogs and people relaxing in the sun. Next time I visit Amsterdam I will hopefully stay near here. There is an open air theatre that runs during the summer, although we didn’t make it to anything. Lovely spot for a picnic!
Lastly, I suppose I should include some of those iconic sights, such as Dams Square, the new and old churches and the floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt). We took a Sandemans walking tour (free walking tours in multiple cities around Europe) and although our guide was funny I found the tour itself a little boring.
This list should definitely keep you entertained when in Amsterdam! Of course, eating yummy Dutch food is a must, so check out my other post to get the down low in relation to this. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy your time as much as we did 🙂