In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of the world economy. They might not be in the centre of attention right now but there is still much to do in Amsterdam! I visit it last time with my mum and sister.
Amsterdam airport is huge but very straightforward and easy to manage. From the airport you have many direct trains to anywhere around The Netherlands. I recommend to buy the train tickets already in advance online because they are cheaper. The ride into town costs min 5.4 EUR and lasts 13 min.
Amsterdam has plenty for anyone, but probably a long weekend just of sightseeing is enough. We walked around a lot. We could have rented a bike and cycle around. However, the only time you can be afraid for your safety in Amsterdam is around cyclists. They are “crazy” bunch of people and will not stop but just ring at you and get mad in case you’re in their way. If you aren’t a local it will be very hard for you to cycle in this, what we perceived as, chaos. 🙂 Of course, it probably makes perfect sense to them.
Canals and boat tours go together!
With so much water it would be a pity not to experience a boat tour on all the canals going trough the whole city. In this way you see Amsterdam from a new perspective and you receive many useful information. Not sure if it’s just a legend, but apparently the Zoo gives the elephants canal water to drink because it’s so clean. Basically, all the tours are similar. Just hop on any boat along the canal.
Controversial but a reason for many to visit
Red light district (De Wallen): we lived very close to that area and it was no problems. Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world and is still very strong (and legal) in Amsterdam. De Wallen consists of a network of roads and alleys containing several hundred small, one-room apartments rented by sex workers who offer their services from behind a window, typically illuminated with red lights. I hope that they are treated well and respected for what they do. It was a bit awkward seeing that the workers are becoming a tourist attraction.
Cannabis: many flood Amsterdam in hope for some recreational smoking, but it’s becoming harder and harder for tourist to get marijuana. The plant is illegal in The Netherlands. Coffeeshops (not a “coffee shop,” “café,” or “coffee house!) however, still play a vital role in Dutch tourism and they have permits to sell Cannabis. They are the only place where you could buy it but they are in theory only allowed to sell it to locals.
Don’t miss all the museums
Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Don’t miss the opportunity while you’re in Amsterdam to see the works of great artists.
Important and a must to reserve in advance is Anne Frank museum. Anne Frank’s diary is the most translated Dutch book. In case you haven’t read it yes, please do it. We went to the museum wishing to get in but it was sold out for the whole day already in the morning.
The Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. Flowers, any flowers, everywhere. Something relaxing for your eyes and can be heavy on your pocket. You can buy many typical Dutch souvenirs here. My mum has taken hours to explore the market. It just brightens up your day visiting this place.
Getting out of Amsterdam
- One of the main attraction in The Netherlands are also spectacular fields of tulips. You’ll see them from mid March to mid May. Tulips are the main reason we travelled to Amsterdam with my family. My mum wanted to see the flowers and it was definitely worthwhile. One of the many places you can see the tulips is called Keukenhof, close to Amsterdam. On their web site they explain how to plan your visit to the park. Make sure to take the whole day, for travelling and sightseeing.
- The Netherlands is famous for tulips, cheese, clogs and…? Why, windmills, of course! Amsterdam’s centre used to be cluttered with windmills fulfilling various purposes, from preventing the city from flooding to grinding the seeds for the Dutch favourite condiment: mustard. Most of the capital’s windmills have long been dismantled or relocated. The place where you can see a typical Dutch heritage with many windmills is at the Zaanse Schans. The Zaanse Schans is a free outdoor park with a collection of historical windmills. A must visit and beautiful, well kept place!
- Zaandam: If you want to see more places besides Amsterdam, but you don’t have much time, then Zaandam is a nice option. To be honest, Amsterdam locals love Zaandam because, well, they have Primark (store). Zaandam is good for a short shopping and for getting a glimpse of what other Dutch villages look like.
- Not so typical place to visit when in Amsterdam but a cute town out of the city that I recently visited because of a scout meeting: Amersfoort. The roughly circular historic centre is the main attraction of Amersfoort. The town is the home of the painter Piet Mondriaan and you can visit his birth house. History shows us that Amersfoort had a Nazi concentration camp which you can still visit if you want to get more acquaintance with this sad part of the past that should not be forgotten.
In general, I was impressed by an endless variety of food from all over the world. I think I tried my best Pho soup (Vietnamese) in Amsterdam! My sister had it the first time and fell in love with it.
Hotels a bit on the expensive side but on Airbnb you can find many good options.
PS: Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos of Amsterdam. At some point after this visit my phone got stolen (at Dubai airport) and I didn’t save the photos on my external drive 🙁 The ones on this post are mostly donation from my sister. Hvala Pati.