Here in the U.S., if you tell someone you’re headed to Amsterdam, it’s not unusual for a smile to crack across the face of that person. Why? Well, you may already know. Actually, you may also have that same smile on your face.
Here’s the thing: to many, the one and only reason to head to Amsterdam is because of their coffeeshops. Yes, you guessed it: the kind of coffee shop that doesn’t sell coffee (email me if you’re not sure what they sell).
But once I landed in the Netherlands (quick side note: the full name of the country is Kingdom of the Netherlands), I quickly realized there’s a whole lot more to the city than “coffee.”
First impressions of Amsterdam
You’ll notice a few things shortly after you arrive in Amsterdam.
First, it’s flat (though, growing up in the Chicago area and living in Dallas, that’s par for the course for me). Second, and much more impressive, there are a LOT of bicycles. Actually, according to the tour guide we had during the canal cruise, there are about 1.5 bikes per person.
The city is also very walkable. Old buildings line cobblestone streets, which follow the canals. Visually, a unique and pretty city.
Lastly, there is a lot to do! A lot more than I thought there was going to be. From museums to breweries, you can easily fill your time.
What to do over a 3 to 4 day visit
A canal boat tour is a must. You can see a lot of the city and learn a lot about it at the same time. The canals lazily meander their way through much of Amsterdam. Actually, way back when, the canals were used to get most of the goods and services to where they needed to go. Most tours last right around an hour. Simply put, the canals are why the city is what it is today.
Anne Frank House
I’ve mentioned this before in this blog, but I love history. And I found this little tour of history quite moving. You can buy your tickets early. I think the limit is two months ahead of time (and I recommend you do that). When you get there you’ll wait in line before heading in. Once inside, you’ll slowly make your way through the house where you’ll learn all about the story of Anne Frank. You'll even walk through the hiding place where the family stayed during WWII.
This was a neat little tour, but not really what I expected (I think I thought it would be more intimate). The Heineken Experience, as it’s called, takes place at a building devoted to the tours. It’s not an operational brewery anymore. The tour was really crowded and you’d kinda shuffle from room to room learning all about Heineken and making beer. It wasn’t til the end when you were given the opportunity to try their beer (just the lager) at a bar on the top floor of the building. That, in my humble opinion, was the best part of the tour. If you end up doing this tour, I'd do an early one. The later it gets, the more crowded it becomes.
Chill at a local brewery
There are several operational breweries in the city that are certainly worth stopping by. Crystal and I went to one called Brouwerij’t IJ, which is at the base of a Windmill. I liked it, and would highly recommend doing something like this if you ever visit. It got us away from the touristy places of the city and let us see what the city is really like.
Red Light District
Speaking of touristy places, this is such a unique place at night! You have to go, even if you just walk through it. I’ve never seen any place like it. Here’s what you can expect: a lot of people, a lot of sex stores (selling toys), a couple sex museums, and many storefronts with red lights over the windows where scantily clad women are basically waiting for someone to, uh, pay for their services.
Go to a museum
If you like museums, you’ll be about as happy as a pig in mud in Amsterdam. I mean, take your pick: you've got the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam History Museum, Jewish Historical Museum, and more.
There is no shortage of things to see and do in Amsterdam, and you’ll easily be able to fill up your days. Not only that, but the city also has a lot of good food. I’d suggest (at the very least) trying the cheese. It’s goooooood. Many of the cheese shops have “travel ready” cheese, meaning it’s packaged for you to take home with you to the U.S.
As for prices of goods and services, it’s comparable to the U.S.
Here's a tip to remember: I would recommend getting a multi-day pass to the city's trams and subways. It’s cheap and makes getting around a cinch.
If you have any questions about Amsterdam, let me know below. I’d love to answer them!
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