The Netherlands, (or Holland), is a stunningly beautiful country. It’s been months since our visit, and I still think about our time there everyday. At this time in my life, if you asked me where I would pick up and move, I would choose Amsterdam every time!
Amsterdam is single-handedly the prettiest place I have ever been. Tall thin buildings line picturesque canals dotted with houseboats, and beautiful shops, cafe’s and restaurants entice people passing by along the narrow, cobbled, and bike-ridden streets. Its deeply historical, high-fashion, environmentally conscious, and wonderfully liberal. The people are delightful, the museums are plentiful, and the food scene is something that must be experienced.
Here is my guide for what to see, do, eat and drink in Amsterdam, Netherlands
WHAT TO DO
Amsterdam is so much more than just a city in which to party. Sure, many people travel to the city to enjoy the liberal marijuana laws and the culture of legal prostitution, but that’s not all that Amsterdam is. Amsterdam is historical, cultural, and stop-you-in-the-middle-of-a-bike-lane beautiful. It’s also an incredibly romantic place to visit, and as you walk through some of the quainter neighbourhoods at night, you’ll find yourself convinced that there is no place more wonderful in the whole entire world.
Explore the different neighbourhoods and areas in Amsterdam Centrum, otherwise known as the city-centre. Within Amsterdam Centrum you’ll find the not-to-be-missed areas of the 9 Streets, the Jordaan, the Canal Ring, the Museum District, and the Red Light District. Also make time to explore the outer neighbourhoods of the city as well, including De Pijp, Oud West and Oud Zuid. Amsterdam isn’t so big that you can’t walk your way through it, and remember, bike culture is at it’s best in Amsterdam, so rent one, and peddle from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. You’ll fit right in!
Take a canal tour and explore the main areas of Amsterdam Centrum by boat. I recommend doing this on your first or second day in Amsterdam, as it will give you a good overview of the layout of the city, and introduce you to some of the famous landmarks and canals. The main hub for canal tours is located near Amsterdam Centraal Station, but you can also jump on a canal tour at various points throughout the canal ring. I recommend staying away from the larger tour companies, and instead looking for a smaller canal tour group who will give you a better overall experience, and the ability to fit through some of the smaller canal tunnels that bring you into the harder to reach neighbourhoods.
Take a walk, or a bike ride, through Vondelpark, and fall a little more in love with Amsterdam. The park is an urban oasis that you must experience while in Amsterdam. If you want to take your visit to the next level, pack a picnic of Gouda cheese and other various Dutch specialties, throw down a blanket underneath a towering tree, and soak it all in.
Visit the Anne Frank House & Museum. I read the Diary of Anne Frank when I was a young girl, and her inspiring and haunting story has always stayed with me. Visiting her house in person, and learning in more detail what happened to her, her family and millions of other Jewish (and non-Jewish) families during the holocaust was the single, most intense experience I have ever had to date. Walking behind the bookcase and into the space where Anne and her family hid for years before being discovered brought me to silent tears. It’s a heartbreaking and gut-wrenching story to hear, but it’s also a story that everyone must know. Please understand that you cannot take photos inside the Anne Frank House, but neither should you want to. It is a place for silent learning, respect and remembrance.
Explore the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum (to experience Dutch and World Art) and the Van Gogh Museum (to learn and appreciate the man, and his many incredible works of art). These museums are located right next to each other in the Museum Quarter, and don’t forget to stop by the iAmsterdam sign for a obligatory photo op as well.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
All I heard before we visited Amsterdam was that the food wouldn’t be anything special. That direction could not have been more wrong. We had some of the best food in Amsterdam – the dining and drinking culture is definitely something to be taken seriously! Be sure to indulge in Dutch pancakes, poffertjes, kroketten, bitterballen, raw herring with pickles & onions, Gouda cheese, French fries smothered in mayo, and as many stroopwafels as you possible can! Helpful hint… all the Dutch cheese you could possible desire can be found at De Kaaskamer in the 9 Streets. They’ll even vacuum-pack cheese so you can fly it home! It’s a great place to stock up on all your gifts for family and friends.
Favourite Places to Eat
Moeders is a traditional Dutch restaurant, offering delicious traditional Dutch cuisine. The Hotch Potch, red cabbage and mustard leek soup changed by whole perception of Dutch cooking. Make a reservation in advance!
Kartika is an incredible Indonesian restaurant near Vondelpark and the Museumplein. It was our favourite meal in Amsterdam, and sharing all sorts of smaller dishes made the whole dining experience a lot of fun!
The Butcher is a casual place for a delicious juicy burger and a beer! Perfect for late night eats after a few drinks too!
Pankcakes! Amsterdam, located in the 9 streets, serves absolutely delicious Dutch pancakes. Try the cheddar & bacon pancake and prepare to be blown away!
Favourite Places to Drink
By a landslide, the best spot to drink in Amsterdam is inside the windmill, or on the patio, of Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It’s a brewery that far exceeds Heineken in terms of beer quality and variety, the vibe is infectious and bustling, and they offer a menu of small plates, including a serving of Gouda cheese, as pairings with your beer selections. It’s worth the walk, bike, or transit fare to get here! Plan to enjoy yourself, and stay for at least a few hours!
Cafe Gollum is a pub that specializes in Belgian Beer offerings. There are four different locations in Amsterdam, so there’s no excuse not to check it out! Seriously… the location we visited near De Pijp had a bar cat… like a cat who hung out in the bar while we drink beer. For this cat lady, (aka me), it was the best!
ACCOMODATIONS & GETTING AROUND
We stayed at the Hotel Vondel, a charming boutique-style hotel very close to the Museumplein. The location was fantastic, and transportation was easily accessible. Amsterdam is not known to be an affordable city to visit. If you’re looking for a hostel, or no-frills accommodations, then you should have no problem finding a place to stay right in the middle of Amsterdam. If you’re a little more high maintenance, but budget is still important, accommodations seem to be more affordable outside of the main Canal Ring. The Museumplein area is still very centrally-located, while being far enough outside of the city centre to fetch a cheaper hotel price.
Public transportation is easy to use in Amsterdam – whether you’re traveling from the airport to the city centre, or coming from Amsterdam Central Station, it’s easy to navigate the streets via tram. You also can’t ignore the option to cycle your way throughout the city. I’ve heard some people say that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, which I think just adds to the charm! Renting a bike is easy, and some hotels also offer bike rentals to their guests!
Walking is also an option in Amsterdam. You see the most this way, and the city isn’t that large – you can do it!
If you’re thinking about where to travel next, always consider Amsterdam. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world.