Three weekends into our three year adventure, we decided to drop our dogs off at a highly reviewed dog kennel, hop on a five hour train ride, and spend the weekend in Amsterdam. Timmer’s cousin and his wife moved to Amsterdam last October, and one of my good friends from college was there for the weekend. It was a blast! Any time with them is a guaranteed great time. Both of us had already been to Amsterdam, and same with my friend Colleen, so this trip was more about hanging out, drinking beer, and enjoying each other’s company. Nonetheless, whenever someone asks me about visiting the city, I tell them these top four things to do in Amsterdam:
Enjoy the canals and the surrounding buildings
Everywhere you look in Amsterdam is filled with beauty — the lovely peaceful canals, the unique houses and buildings, even the people are beautiful. You can walk all day through the narrow streets, across bridges and along canals, and you still wouldn’t get bored of the views. My advice is to just walk around, wander, and take it all in (or rent a bike if the weather’s nice).
If you get a chance, take a boat ride through the canals. Timmer’s cousins have a boat so that was the perfect way to spend Sunday, but there are also so many canal cruises/boat tours that you can easily hop on. Most tours are an hour long, and you can buy your tickets online if you like to plan ahead.
Eat some cheese
There are cheese shops and cheese museums everywhere in the city! Cheese is probably my favorite ingredient so I was delighted by these cheese shops, but if you don’t like cheese
you’re probably an alien, skip on down to the next recommendation. A lot of the cheese shops do cheese and wine tastings, and almost all of them just have cheese sitting out available for tasting. The one we went to the last time I was in Amsterdam had unlimited cheese tastings (my heaven), and in the lower level they had a cheese museum and a cheese photo opp, complete with costumes.
Appreciate the flowers
Did you know the Netherlands produces 70% of the world’s commercial flowers? Everywhere you look, there are beautiful flowers framing the bridges, complimenting buildings, so make sure you stop and smell the
roses tulips. If you get a chance, head over to the Bloemenmarkt, aka the floating flower market. Fresh flowers are brought in daily, and it looks and smells wonderful in there! There are stalls selling ready to plant bulbs of all different types of flowers.
Anne Frank House
I’m not much of a museum girl, but if you are going to go to one museum or one historical site, you have to go to this one. With the exception of the 911 Memorial in NYC, I have never been so moved by any museum. We all read Anne Frank’s Diary in school, but actually being in the house and the secret annex made it all so real. It turned Anne Frank from being just a character in a book, to an actual person. It made you understand the annoyance of being stuck inside in a small room, and also the paralyzing fear of being found and separated from your family. It was so compelling, so touching – I highly recommend it! I went in 2014 (five years ago!) and I can still remember how I felt walking through. Make sure to look online and book your tickets ahead of time!
Other Things To Do in Amsterdam:
Walk Through the Red Light District
Depending on who you are and what you are going to Amsterdam for (no judgement), this will either be on the top of your list or the bottom of your list, or not on your list at all. I think walking through the Red Light District is interesting because it’s something you won’t see anywhere else, and it’s part of the history and culture of what makes Amsterdam unique. If you do decide to take a stroll, make sure to not take any pictures or videos of the ladies in the windows – it’s illegal.
I Amsterdam Letters
The iconic I Amsterdam letters were removed in December 2018 at the request of the city because they were drawing too many crowds of tourists (like us in 2014). The letters are now going to be traveling around the city at events and celebrations. There is a permanent set right outside the Schiphol Airport, but make sure to google where the letters are before your visit if you want to snap a pic!
Vondelpark and Surrounding Streets
Vondelpark is the largest and most popular park in Amsterdam, and you will find both tourists and locals alike taking a stroll, riding their bike, jogging, or just enjoying the fresh air. Last time I was in Amsterdam, we took a stroll over towards the park, stopped in a cafe for coffee, and then spent a few hours walking through the park. It was relaxing, and some of us even ended up napping in the shade. There is a big open air theater, where they have performances and concerts in the summer.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ – The Windmill Brewery
Well before Hannah B. made windmills relevant again on the Bachelorette (lol) this windmill brewery has been a thing. Since 1985, an old bathhouse next to a giant windmill was turned into a brewery. I’m not sure who recommended to us that we venture out to it, but I’m glad they did. The brewery has small snacks, like sausages and cheese, and the beer was actually really good! *I went here on my trip 5 years ago, but according to the reviews on TripAdvisor it’s still really great!
Grab Drinks and People Watch
K there’s a good chance this will be on my recommended things to do at every place we visit (re: Trier), but I think eating and drinking and people watching is a great way to understand a city and its culture. Rooftop bars and outdoor restaurants in city squares are my favorite. We went to the W rooftop, which was swanky and beautiful, and the bartenders were attentive and willing to make us customized drinks. We also went to a few places on Nieumarkt, had some beers and some Amsterdam bitterballen (holy yum), and then just hopped around from there.
Where We Ate
Amsterdam has a lot of unique delicacies and dishes that they’re known for — stroopwafels, Dutch fries, bitterballen — but since there are also so many transplants in the city, there are a lot of restaurants with other countries’ cuisine. We let Timmer’s cousins take the reign on this one and they showed us some of their favorite spots.
Except for this one. The one thing Colleen wanted to do on this trip was go to Pancake Bakery, and it was really good! The Dutch are known for their pancakes, and this place has been open since 1973. We got there at about 10 am and there was already a line. Luckily it moved pretty quickly, and we only had to wait for about ten minutes. The menu is filled with sweet and savory pancakes, and although I always thought I was a sweet pancake kinda girl, I really loved the savory ones. Pancakes + cheese is just so much more delicious than you can imagine. Since everyone at the table got a savory pancake, I figured we needed to have one sweet one, so pictured below is the pancake with apple, cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon liquor, and whipped cream.
Fiko is a little Italian restaurant with such a great atmosphere and equally as delicious food. We started off with the beef tartare and the spaghetti all’astice, with homemade sauce, fresh lobster and black pepper. And then we split two pizzas, made complete with their house infused olive oil. Make sure to ask for the olive oil!
Parallel is a cozy neighborhood restaurant with vibrant Spanish flavors. The service was great and the food will brilliant. We got an assortment of plates to share, including the jamon iberico, smoked avocado, pulpo a la plancha (octopus, pictured below), padron peppers, but my favorite thing on the menu was the Oxtail burger. Miiiight be one of the best burgers I have ever eaten in my life, and that is staying something. The oxtail burger had foie gras on the burger – I mean oxtail + foie gras…WHAT!!! Truthfully words will not do this burger justice. You just simply must go to Amsterdam to try it.
Overall, we had an amazing weekend in Amsterdam, and we can’t wait to go back! What are your other favorite things to do in Amsterdam?