Home to the windmills and tulips, land below sea level .. as the saying goes .. ‘God created the world but the Dutch created Holland’. Amsterdam being the capital of Netherlands, offers more than just tulips and windmills. A city with more bikes than people, meandering canals, overflowing beer, crazy party scene, aptly called ‘Venice of the North’ .. Amsterdam is a city full of action.
Although small, Amsterdam is a multicultural city where English is spoken fluently along with Dutch. One of the first grasping images of this city are it’s closely tied together multistory houses. FUN FACT: Dutch had to pay house tax on the amount of land on which the house was built, so the smart people here started building multistory houses on tiny pieces of land without leaving any spaces in between. Thanks to my husband for this impromptu 3 day trip to Amsterdam, it has our spirits rejuvenated.
It’s very easy to maneuver around the city given the excellent public transportation including trains, buses and trams. TIP: If you are in the city only for a few days, consider buying the day passes, available from 1 to 7 days, for public transportation. We ditched the I Amsterdam pass for individual entry fee since it was turning out to be more cost effective. You can buy the pass either from the kiosks in Schiphol Airport or at the ticket counter at any train station. Free WiFi is thankfully available in almost every public transportation in Amsterdam 😀
You are in Amsterdam, you are going to end up having fun in this city no matter what but add a dash of the following 7 activities and you will definitely thank us later.
Bike through the city
Amsterdam is a proud bike loving city which is very evident by the millions of bikes you see on the streets either zooming by you or just parked at the first convenient spot available. Now wouldn’t you want to bike with the locals? Think before you wish.. no but seriously.. this a lot of fun! TIP: If you happen to be a pedestrian, watch out for these bikes, chances of you getting run over by a bike are going to be higher than a car. Either sign up for a city bike tour, we went with Mike’s Bike Tour or just rent a bike and roam around at your own leisure. TIP: If you are new to this city I’d highly recommend taking the bike tour just ‘coz you might not be very familiar with the city bike laws (official or not). Besides it’s just fun biking around with a guide who can give you an overview of the places you zip by.
Try Dutch beer and I mean go to local taphouses and bars, and ask them for a locally brewed beer menu. Thanks to our couple friends in Amsterdam we were able to try a variety of different brews. Some of the bars we tried and loved are Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Beer Temple, Cafe Gollem. And if you must to do the touristy stuff, then by all means head for the Heineken Experience. They sure will take you through a sweet ride for your buck but as for the quality beer… umm… we recommend heading to a local bar instead. Some of these bars host live music or turn into nightclubs on weekends after 10pm, for nightlife we suggest you head to Leidseplein Square .. experience a local band playing or the best European trance, psychedelic and house music… your pick.
For the history buffs and art lovers.. Museums
There is a lot of history ingrained in the heart of this city which once was a very rich trading port. If Italian artists got commissioned by the Vatican then the Dutch artists, such as the famous Rembrandt, got commissioned by the local rich community to paint themselves. Head to Museum Square and explore the classic collection of Rembrandt at Rijksmuseum or pose with the city icon ‘I Amsterdam’ sign behind Rijksmuseum or experience the Impressionist’s best at Van Gogh Museum or walk through the chilling life story of a little Jewish girl during horrifying times in history at the Anne Frank’s house in Jordaan.. today Jordaan District is a lively neighborhood to visit in Amsterdam. TIP: If possible buy the tickets to Anne Frank’s House online in advance or wait for hours to get in.
Go experience the different forms of legal marijuana available at one of the many coffee shops, there is one at every corner in Amsterdam. If that’s not enough, take a stroll at the famous Red Light District in the city. But mind you these adventures are strictly PG13! 😉
Hop in one of these colorful boats to cruise along the canals of Amsterdam and see the city from a different perspective. There are plenty of entry ports including one right outside Amsterdam Centraal Station from where you can catch a canal cruise.
Are you traveling to Holland in time for spring (mid March – mid May)? Then you must go visit the Keukenhof Park to see the largest outdoor display of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and many other varieties of flowers. Kuekenhof Park is located in Lisse, south of Amsterdam, and is easily accessible via public transportation. Read more about how to get there and what to expect in Keukenhof in my upcoming post. If you cannot make it in season for the garden then no worries just give a short visit to the flower auctions at Aalsmeer near Schipol Airport and you will know how important flowers are to the Dutch.
For the Foodies
The city offers a variety of international cuisine so much so that we only found Dutch food in the local markets and ended up relishing burgers, Asian food and Mediterranean food to name a few. TIP: If you want to eat something local, try Herring, which is a fish served raw Dutch style.. something the Dutch have been eating for hundreds of years. You will be surprised that Indonesia’s culture and cuisine has a long history with the Dutch which is apparent by the many Dutch influenced Indonesian restaurants all over the city. TIP: We highly recommend dining at Sampurna for Indonesian food and Bird for Thai food.
To sum it all up, Amsterdam is a city that symbolizes fun and that’s exactly what you end up with.. A fun time in Amsterdam no matter what your age. And let me add Amsterdam is a very kid friendly city as long as you follow the PG13 rule 😀 (I got asked that question a lot upon my return).. every age group will find their fun activity to do here.
Now let’s go get some action!