Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is a very unique city, with it’s famously liberal views, deep-rooted biking culture, unique canal transport infrastructure, quirky houseboats and hotels on former barges, contemporary art and culture, historical art and culture, macro and micro brewery scene, growing gastronomy hub, and the world’s tallest people, you will certainly find something to be fascinated with here.

Must see

  • Banksy Exhibit. If you like Banksy and his work, you must visit this exhibit. Insider tip: Check online to make sure it’s still taking place.
  • Ann Frank House. You’ll need to purchase tickets online in advance before you go, and they sell out quickly, so book as early as possible. Another option is to wait in a line that starts at 3:30pm, for the chance to get in, but spaces are limited, so getting in isn’t guaranteed.
  • Van Gough Museum
  • Heineken Experience. If you aren’t keen on getting a city tour, sign up for the Rock the City package, and catch the Heineken canal boat for a 45 minute ride through the canals to the Heineken brewery where you’ll then take a self guided tour through the brewery before cashing in on your two tokens in their lounge for complimentary drafts. You’ll have the option to pour your own or let the professionals do it for you. Though, the secret is, you actually go through a tasting before you reach this area, where you get a third half pint, and learn the technique for truly appreciating a Heineken. Aside from the free brews, the museum itself is an experience, and you’ll get the chance to learn about the origins and history of Heineken, all the way through to present day.
  • ‘Over the Edge’ Swing. This is a Europe’s highest swing, and newer attraction for Amsterdam. This swing holds 2 at a time, and swings you over the edge of the building. It’s perfectly safe- even for children, and on nice days, is the best lookout for capturing an ariel view of the city from above. Insider tip: Don’t try to take out your phone while in the swing.
  • NEMO. Head to the rooftop. It’s free and offers a beautiful sprawling view of the city.
  • Oba Library. This is a 6-story library, with a cafe on top serving fresh cuisine made daily. There is also a balcony off the cafe with a great view of the city below.

Must dine

  • The Pancake Bakery. For traditional Dutch pancakes, head here. Ask your waiter/waitress for his/her suggestions, as a lot of the options on the menu are contemporary takes on a traditional favorite. We found the simple apple and cheese version to be fantastic-which is one the traditional options that many Dutch make for themselves at home. Insider tip: Add a little honey and you’ll have a perfect treat!
  • Cafe-Restaurant van Kerkwijk. You can’t make a reservation for this place, and the wait is usually long, but it’s well worth it. Try to sneak to the back, order a glass of wine, and wait amidst the buzz of this intimate spot, with only stacked plates on the walls and candles lit on the small wooden tables for decoration. There are no tangible menus here, instead, your waiter/waitress will come to your table side and rehearse the daily specials to you. You’re more than welcome to ask any questions, and he/she will then commit to whatever you wish for dinner to memory. The dishes are exquisitely plated, and each fantastic. And the price is as much a surprise as your dining experience, with a shockingly moderate price point.
  • Burgermeester. On the other end of fine dining, you’ll find Burgermeester. We went there to see a friend, and were happy we did. The burgers were fresh and packed with flavor. Get the mackerel burger if you’re not married to a “real” burger, and for the vegetarian, there is also a falafel burger option.

Must Imbibe

  • De Prael Brewery. The social mission of this brewery is to provide a workspace for people with psychiatric handicaps. The atmosphere is like any other bar/brewery/lounge, with a very inviting vibe. The food and brews are great as well and you feel good all the while supporting a positive cause.
  • Cafe Hoppe. This pub dates back to 1670, with old gin barrels adorning the entire bar, wooden booth seats, small tables and a musky din smell. You’ll go back in time once you step through the door, and have the chance to enjoy your choice of spirits or great selection of local beers.

Must bike

Peak season for biking tours is May through September. It will be hard to find a company that will take you around before or after that unless you pay a premium for a private tour. However, Holland does do a great job of providing extensive information and clear detail about routes and bike rentals if you’d like to take on biking through the country on your own.

Must Party

  • Festivals of all kinds are almost as popular as biking in Amsterdam. Whether it be for music or art, on any given weekend, you’ll likely find one in the city, so check online to see what’s happening before your visit. Insider tip: This will also be helpful in planning accommodation as times with festivals are much more expensive than those without.
  • Don’t miss out on a visit to one of Amsterdam’s infamous “coffee shops”. Smokey’s is a fun one in an eclectic neighborhood.

Must relax

Massage Traditional Chinese Massage Number 1. This will without a doubt be one of the best massages of your life. The sports and deep tissue massages worked out all kinks from months of backpacking in both of us, and if you have an ailment, they listen to you and focus on addressing it during your session. Perhaps not the exclusive spa atmosphere of higher end spas, but the beds and rooms were neatly decorated, comfortable, private, and quiet. Note: Address: Singel 240, 1016 AB, Amsterdam. T: +31 (0) 20 754 2102. E: Hours: 11:00am – 21:00 (9:00pm). One hour costs 35 Euro.

Must know – getting around

  • There is a train from airport that will take you directly to downtown (Amsterdam Centraal Station). It costs 4.90 Euro and takes about 25 minutes.
  • City trains are very convenient and accessible. Tickets are 2.90 Euro one way or 7 Euro for a day pass and are sold at some stations, some shops, and some hotels. You can buy one-trip tickets on board with cash if you can’t buy them in advance. Trains only run until 12:30am.
  • Taxis are expensive and often take longer than the train.

Must know – fun facts

  • There are roughly 2 bikes for every 1 person in Holland.
  • You may see “No cash” signs in the windows of restaurants and shops. Meaning, you must pay with your credit card.
  • Stoopwafel. These are sweet cookies that take the shape of a miniature Eggo Waffle, that you get on the side of your saucer with any coffee or tea in restaurants. They are delicious. Insider tip: Try covering your cup with the cookie to let it moisten before you eat it, as many locals do.

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