Amsterdam is a city of canals and a city of contradictions. It is famous for being the drug and sex capital of Europe. Its many waterways offer so much more than that – wild and energetic yet peaceful and historical. It is a tourist hotspot without losing that local feel. Here are the things to do, see, and eat in Amsterdam.
How to Get Around
Getting through the city from the airport is incredibly simple. Just take the train from the airport to Amsterdam Central Station in the northern part of the city center and you are there. The city is so small and if you are staying in central Amsterdam, you can pretty much just walk from the station to your hotel or hostel. Unless you are staying outside the city center or you are schlepping a ton of luggage in which case you can take the metro or a tram.
And speaking of hostels let me say right off the bat, this city is expensive. So if you are on a budget, a hostel might be your only option. However, don’t fret because Amsterdam has great hostels. My favorite is Coco Mama – it is super relaxed and friendly and they have helpful staffs. They also have nightly group activities; this is easily one of my favorite hostels in Europe.
Aside from walking, the best way to get around Amsterdam is to ride a bike. Seeing the city from a bike is wonderful. It’s also an incredibly bike-friendly city as there are designated bike lanes everywhere and even bike-specific traffic lights. My favorite bike rental place is called Donkey Republics, they have shops all over Europe and their system is super simple and very convenient. Just download the app, find a bike, rent it, and then you can unlock it and lock it right from your phone. It’s incredibly intuitive, and the company is great cannot recommend them enough.
Food Pancakes from Heaven
Amsterdam isn’t exactly the culinary apex of Europe; however, there are some gems to be found. This is mainly because this is one of these single greatest pieces of anything I have ever tasted – the Dutch pancake. If you eat nowhere else in Amsterdam, you must eat at the pancake bakery. The pancakes here are a revelation and they are perfectly textured. There are also cafes in the city such as the Pantry. The Pantry is a charming little restaurant serving up delicious and simple traditional Dutch dishes. Make sure to try the hutspot, boerenkool, and zuurkoolstamppot. It’s basically sausage, or a meatball served with three different kinds of flavored mashed potatoes from sauerkraut, bacon, and stew beef with carrots – all of which are unique and delicious.
Also, Cafe de Klos has some ribs that are very tasty. Finally, Amsterdam is home to some of the best Indonesian food I have had outside of Indonesia. My favorite Indonesian place is Sampurna. They offer affordable tasting menus to share with friends. Everything I have had here has been nothing short of sensational. Also, raw herring may not sound all that appealing but it’s a staple of this region. There are stands everywhere and it is surprisingly delicious.
Explore Some of Amsterdam’s Most Charming Neighborhoods
First up is Jordaan – there are gorgeous, old crooked buildings lying quiet, beautiful canals full of charming cafes, quiet streets, and quaint little alleys. Ride your bike around or just stroll the streets and take it all in. Another of my favorite neighborhoods is slightly outside the touristy center of the city called De Pijp. This place has a nice mix of expats and locals. You can also hang out in Sarphatipark, get some of the best brunch in the city at Little Collins, and don’t miss the Albert Cuyp Street Market. It is known for being the largest open-air market in Europe. While at the market, buy some t-shirts or some craft samples of some delectable bunch sweets like stroopwafels or just marvel at the creepiest collection of severed mannequin heads ever assembled.
Visit the Anne Frank House
This is one of the most fascinating, sobering, and haunting museum experiences anywhere in the world. The only problem is they can get very busy and the lines can be a bit untenable. So I recommend booking your spot ahead online for a specific time. It takes a little more planning but that way you get to skip the massive line.
If you are looking for nightlife, head to Rembrandt’s square and hit up some of Amsterdam’s most hopping nightclub. Besides the nightclubs, make sure to hit up some of Amsterdam’s cool pubs and smaller bars. Two great options are Duivel, famous for being the first hip hop bar in Amsterdam and Snappers – restaurant by day and awesome cocktail bar by night.
Every corner of this town offers some unique vistas and some piece of history. Also, take some time to hang out with the locals; the Dutch people are laid-back, open-minded, fun loving, and just plain awesome.