After a whirlwind week in Spain with my girlfriends, I jetted off to Amsterdam to meet up with my brother. Having heard incredible things about this European city, but never experienced it yet myself, I went in with few expectations and it was beyond anything I could have imagined. From the romantic canals to the architectural treasures, and the delicious stroopwafels and museums in between, I found myself falling more and more in love with this charming city, the more I began to explore it.
If you’ve never been to the Netherlands, I highly suggest adding Amsterdam to your travel list! Whether you’re seeking to experience a little Dutch culture or simply admire romantic European cities, Amsterdam has a taste of something for every traveler. First time visitor or Amsterdam enthusiasts, here are 10 things enjoy while visiting this beautiful, unique city!
1.STAY ON THE CANALS
I lucked out and got to enjoy a beautiful property that my brother rented, central to Amsterdam’s Canals. You can either go the local route renting one of the many Air BnB’s or opt for a more pampered option staying in one of Amsterdam’s beautiful hotels. Above all else, I advise staying in a property central to the canals. Overall, I found Amsterdam quite easy to navigate but with tons to do, see and eat, I appreciated being so centrally located. If Air BNBs are up your alley, I 100% recommend looking into this one where we stayed. The rooftop deck was the absolute best part and I loved having an airy bright place with my own room to come home to. Looking for a hotel right on the water? Check out both The Dylan and The Waldorf Astoria, my personal favorites on the canals.
2. SEE ALL THE SIGHTS
As tired as I was, I set my sights on exploring as much as I could from the moment I arrived. Amsterdam can easily be explored by foot with the exception of a few taxi or uber rides. I suggest starting with a simple stroll along the canals followed by a more calculated agenda to see all the sights. The canals were by far my favorite part, but when in Amsterdam, be sure you see the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, Rembrandt House, Begijnhof neighborhood, and the Hortus Botanicus if you’re willing to branch a little further out.
*Packing Tip: Because Amsterdam is so pedestrian friendly, I recommend packing a pair of weatherproof comfortable shoes. In the spring/summer months, I’d bring a pair of tennis shoes and flat espadrilles and in the fall/winter a pair of flat boots.
3. EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH AMSTERDAM
If I wasn’t already before, Amsterdam turned me into a complete foodie. Breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, I didn’t have one meal here that I didn’t absolutely love. If you’re doing Amsterdam right, you’ll probably build up quite the appetite, and thankfully there are a ton of delicious places to savor all throughout town.
Screaming Beans: If you’re looking for coffee with locals be sure to add this trendy coffee stop to your list.
PLUK: One of my favorite finds in all of Amsterdam with an adorable appearance, fresh juices, healthy bites, yummy treats, and eye catching kitchen decor.
Ree 7: Tucked off the canal streets in another quaint yet adorable shop. Ddd this inviting gastropub to your list, for breakfast, lunch, drinks, sweets, or dinner.
Upstairs: You can’t visit Amsterdam without indulging in at least one Dutch Pancake. Locals love a very small place called “Upstairs” while tourists tend to flock to The Pancake Bakery.
Restaurant De Kas: 100% add this place to your “must try” list and be sure to call ahead and make a reservation. With everything made from ingredients grown on site, the 4-course tasting menu was one of the best meals of my life + the glass building makes a very enjoyable atmosphere!
De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop: If you need some bites for a dinner cruise or are simply craving some wine and cheese, be sure to add a stop to this extravagant fromagerie to your travel list!
Cafe George: Just along one of Amsterdam’s Central canals, this tiled bistro is ideal for any meal of the day.
De Rozenboom Restaurant: For an authentically Dutch dinner, with an adorable atmosphere off a main street in town, pop into this local gem with a selection of fish, schnitzel, pancakes and various Dutch stews.
VisaandEschelde: For delicious seafood in the heart of Amsterdam, add this quaint restaurant to your dinner list.
4. RENT A BIKE
Even if you know very little about Amsterdam, I’m sure one association you have is bikes. To truly experience the city like a local, pick up a day rental from any nearby shop and weave your way around and down the canals. I rented mine from Otto Bikes for 10 euros, but there are plenty of rental shops all throughout town.
5. Stop In Jordaan’s Local Shops
To my surprise, Amsterdam has INCREDIBLE shopping!! I checked the tourist must dos off my list early on and spent ample time roaming into Jordaan’s unique neighborhood shops. I’d advise a few hours to simply roam around, but here are a few of my “must visit” favorites.
Love Stories: One of my favorite local finds was this beautiful lingerie shop. Comparable to For Love and Lemon’s intimates at somewhat of a fraction of the cost, it’s was the ideal place to stock up on a few bralettes, briefs, and pajamas.
Ou: Off the beaten path, in between canals, this fashion forward boutique was my absolute favorite. From handbags to dresses to intimates and everyday wear, you’ll find everything you’d ever need and want, and then some from there.
Pluk: Also listed on my food recommendation list, be sure you stop in and have a peek at their home selection. I love the idea of adding unique travel finds to your home, so much so that I purchased their gold rimmed glasses for my kitchen at home.
6. Enjoy Amsterdam’s Many Museums
Amsterdam is home to several incredible museums, whether you’re a cultural junkie or a quick scan and go person, I recommend stopping into at least one museum while visiting Amsterdam. Most museums operate on a time slot basis, so I recommend purchasing your museum tickets ahead of time online, especially for the Anne Frank House with gets quite overly crowded.
RIJKSMUSEUM: If there’s one museum you visit, make sure it’s this one. Open 9-5 daily it’s quite the artistic and historical site to explore.
Van Gogh Museum: Any traveler who even remotely appreciates art should add this to their list. Some of my favorites were the Sunflowers, Irises, Tulip Fields near Haag by Monet, and Van Gogh’s self-portrait with gray felt hat.
Anne Frank Museum: This house turned museum is quite popular among tourists where visitors can see the historical, monumental WWII landmark. Be sure to purchase tickets online up to two months in advance. 9 am – 3:30 pm is reserved for ticket holders only, while walk ups can purchase tickets after until closing.
7. Take a Walk (or Ride) in the Park
Weather permitting, be sure to stroll through Vondelpark. With an open air theatre and many cafes, bike paths and ponds, it’s a whimsical location to escape the city vibes and relax.
8. Take a Cruise on the Canals
One of my all-time most memorable experiences from Amsterdam was taking a cruising down the canals. You can go the touristy route and book a group ride starting at 16 euro. But if your budget allows, I highly recommend reserving a private cruise with Private Boat Tours like we did for one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Rates began at 200 euro per hour, with a captain/guide and bar for additional charges. To take your experience to a more authentic level, I recommend visiting a local cheese shop ahead and creating your own cheese/ charcuterie board.
9. Take a day Trip to See Dutch Windmills & Tulips
Time permitting I recommend taking a day trip outside of Amsterdam to experience more of Holland’s beauty. Just 25 minutes outside of town, lies Volendam, a charming coastal town with authentic Dutch Windmills. The Spring season is also one of the best time to visit Keukenhoff’s famous tulips. Even if you aren’t visiting during blooming season, you can still visit the floating flower market located right in the canals for a significant flower fix.
10. Eat a Stroopwafel
Dutch Pancakes are all the rage, but when in Amsterdam you must try a Stroopwafel. Basically, two warm waffle cookies merged together with gooey syrup, it’s a rich Dutch indulgence worthy to try. If you have 10 minutes to spare for a homemade rendition, I recommend popping into Van Wonderen Stroopwafels centrally located in town. Otherwise, many shops sell them so keep an eye out while you stroll!
Of course, this only scratches the surface when it comes to all things Amsterdam, but these were some of my favorites that made me fall in love with the city and already itching to go back!