Euro City Guide: Amsterdam
I'm getting around to writing about this trip over a year after it happened, this has been a tough one. This was the last trip I took before lockdown, and it was a great one. I was there for 4 full days, but it honestly didn't seem like remotely enough time. Despite being a large international hub, Amsterdam still manages to keep a bit of charm to it with its breathtaking canals and architecture. It is a really fun city, but going in February made for a very cold and rainy long weekend. While I’m sure summer is a nicer time to go, there are much less crowds in the winter, and you can get cozy indoors in a pub, museum, or cafe. Just bring warm clothes! I don't think I need to convince you to visit, since it's one of the most visited cities in the world. Amsterdam actually has an over-tourism problem during normal times, but if you do plan to visit, I recommend booking everything you'd like to do and see months in advance. Amsterdam is popular for good reason, it's an incredible city. If you'd like to explore more of the Netherlands in a less chaotic atmosphere, I'd recommend checking out Rotterdam or Utrecht.
Compared to other European cities, Amsterdam is a bit on the expensive side. I stayed in an Airbnb in Jordaan and loved it but if you're on a budget, there are plenty of great options to be found in the suburbs or just outside of the city. They are usually much cheaper and well-connected on public transport.
Like most cities in Europe, Amsterdam is very well-connected on public transport. You can take the metro from the airport into the city center, and it's quite easy to get around with a mix of walking and taking the metro once you're there. Amsterdam is, of course, also known for its famous biking culture. Everyone bikes here, and the streets are full of them. I've heard that nearly getting hit by a bike is a rite of passage here. There are plenty of places where you can rent a bike, but I'd only recommend this if you're super comfortable with biking in large cities with lots of bike traffic. It can get a bit chaotic. Nonetheless, I'd still highly recommend renting a bike to explore, it's a great way to see the city.
Amsterdam is full of things to do and see, you definitely won't get bored here. My only recommendation is that, like I mentioned before, you book every museum you'd like to visit months in advance since they book up quickly. They're all definitely worth it if you haven't visited the city before, just make sure you're all booked before you go. Museums are probably the most popular sites to see here, but there are some great walking and boat tour options as well.
Moco Museum. I loved this cool modern art museum, it's a must-see in my opinion. It houses some of Banksy's work, along with the provocative works of other talented street artists. Don't forget to go downstairs, where there are cool, trippy illusions and interactive exhibits like these. The museum is quite small and doesn't take more than an hour, but make sure to buy your tickets months in advance. Price: €16.50-€19.50.
Anne Frank House. No matter how much you've learned about the Holocaust and World War 2, you need to go here. It's unlike any other museum, and visiting is an incredibly emotional and powerful experience. You will visit the exact apartment the Frank family lived in hiding in, restaged the same as it originally looked. The museum has a great foundation going and is very respectful of the family. It's an educational experience that you'll never forget. Buy tickets months in advance. Price: €14.
This is the exact bookshelf that the Frank family used as a door to their hiding place.
Dam Square. This is the main central square of Amsterdam. It's quite touristy and a bit crowded, but worth seeing for the pictures and architecture.
The Heineken Experience. The Heineken factory is located here in Amsterdam, and they offer fun, interactive tours of the brewing process. You'll get a full tour and experience, learn exactly how it's brewed, and then get 2 beers included in your ticket price for after the tour. Definitely reserve tickets well ahead of time for this one. It's a must-see, even if you're not a huge beer drinker. Price: €19.50.
Red Light District. It definitely feels a bit weird recommending this as a tourist destination, but I think it's worth walking through. Prostitution is completely legal here in the Netherlands, and sex workers are given full workers rights. Brothels are highly regulated to ensure the safety of the workers. Since sex workers are fully protected by the law, they pay taxes and they choose their clientele. They can call the police if they are unsafe, and have routine STD testing paid for by their employers. This is all great! When you're there though, you'll basically just see a bunch of drunk guys on vacation who are there for obvious reasons. I don't remember the exact location, but I believe it starts at the old church. You are not allowed to take any photo or video out of respect for the workers, and I've heard they honestly will catch you. It's worth taking a look, but also not. Your choice.
Rijksmuseum. If you're into more traditional art from European artists, this museum is for you. It is the biggest, most famous, and most popular art museum in Amsterdam out of many. There is a huge variety of work in here, but it is all mainly European. The time period it stretches between is huge, so there's something for everyone. For this one you can buy tickets the day of, but I'd still recommend getting them ahead of time to avoid higher prices and long lines. Price: €20.
Canal Cruise Tour. Even if the museums aren't your thing, you have to do a canal boat tour. You can buy tickets online anytime, and there are a few different companies in the city that do this. Just read the reviews before and go with whatever works best for your budget, they're all pretty good. Most involve an audio-guided tour in a covered boat. I did the tour at night, which I'd highly recommend. The way the canals and houses look at night is magical. Price: varies, I paid €14.
Van Gogh Museum. This museum, as you can imagine, is dedicated to the life of Vincent Van Gogh and his art. Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, and learning more about his early life and his mental health, and how that impacted his art, was an enriching experience. While it's full of beautiful art, it also tells a story. I was unable to buy same day tickets, so I'd recommend booking online ahead of time. Price: €10-19.
Bakers & Roasters. Yummy, healthy brunch spot. You know I love my brunch, so I'll always have recommendations on that front. They call themselves "a New Zealand-style cafe with a heavy dose of Brazil", which seems accurate. Super good! You may have to wait a bit to get a seat, but it's well worth it.
The Burger Room. Cozy, upscale burger spot by the museums. They have a great veggie burger and good vibes, perfect for filling up on a cold day after walking around museums all day.
The Pancake Bakery. Traditional Dutch spot with DELICIOUS pancakes. They make them both sweet and savoury, so you can try whatever you'd like. Come hungry, and come with a friend (they're huge).
Van Wonderen Frieten. Perfect little spot to get some quick, delicious fries.
Pikoteo. A modern Spanish-style tapas restaurant with a Dutch twist, this was probably my favorite place I ate on this trip. Really incredible food. It's in a bit of a more residential neighborhood outside the center, but worth the trip. *Make a res*.
The Avocado Show. This fun, Instagrammable spot (sorry) does have some pretty great food. Their creative menu incorporates avocado (my favorite food) into just about everything, so it's a great spot to go for your avocado fix.
Foodhallen. Giant food hall on the outskirts of the city with some pretty amazing stuff. Nothing in particular I'd recommend, it's all good so walk around and see what looks good to you. Great place for a beer!
Cafe de Klepel. Cozy, romantic wine cafe with a French bistro. Really great quality food and wine, and amazing service. We sat at the bar and chatted with the waiter, who was extremely kind and recommended a different French wine for each course. A bit upscale but worth it for the quality. *Make a res*.
Greenwood's. A delicious little breakfast spot with two locations in the city. Highly recommend for a nice, filling breakfast after a night out or before exploring the city (or both).
Amsterdam truly has anything you could ask for in terms of nightlife. There are all sorts of different kinds of clubs and bars, and there's truly something for everyone, like you'll find in most big cities. A big part of Amsterdam's drinking culture seems to be going out for a beer in a local pub, which is always fun. I've recommended a couple spots I really liked for the drinks below, but there's so much to do here in terms of nightlife, just ask around and see where your travel buddies are going that night.
Proeflokaal Arendsnest. Awesome local bar that features tons of Dutch breweries. The Netherlands is known for their beer, and for good reason. It's super high quality.
Super Lyan. Nice cocktail bar with pretty good craft cocktails and great service. The drinks are fun, and really good. Pretty cozy spot, you could come here to pre-game a little.
Thanks for reading. If you're considering adding Amsterdam to your Europe trip but are on the fence, go for it. It's a great first or last stop on a trip (in my opinion), as well as the perfect long weekend getaway from any other European city. There are plenty of fun things to do, whether it's art, history, or gastronomy. Enjoy it, but also be respectful of the locals, since Amsterdam gets so many tourists it can be quite difficult for the locals sometimes. Hope to see you all back on the road or a plane soon!
For more pictures of Amsterdam, check out my album on Flickr.