Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands. It is home to various world famous museums and is known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system, narrow houses with gabled facades, hazy coffee shops and Red Light District. I traveled to Amsterdam in April and cannot wait to share my experience with you as well as some interesting facts about the lively city. It has so much to offer and is one of my favorite cities.
Did you know?
1) Amsterdam derived its name from the Amstel River.
2) There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of over 100 kilometers. The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
3) Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice. How difficult is that to believe? But there are only, in fact, 409 bridges connecting Venice’s canals. Amsterdam actually has 1,281 bridges, three times as many as Venice!
4) There are approximately 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
5) The tilted houses are called dancing houses. The soil was so swampy that they had to build on stilts and that caused them to wobble and sink into the river.
6) The number of bicycles in Amsterdam is more than the number of people living in the city.
7) Amsterdam has approximately 20 times more tourists throughout the year than the locals.
8) Amsterdam is one of the top 25 safest cities in the world and also one of the top 15 cities known for its high standard of living. Who would have thought, with all the marijuana and prostitution?
9) A study reveals that Dutch men are the tallest people in the world.
10) Amsterdam lies below the sea level and is among the top five coffee consuming cities in the world.
11) Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world.
12) Same-sex marriage is legal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
I travelled to Amsterdam with my husband and we rented an AirBnb in Amsterdam and enjoyed our stay at the beautiful bright, colorful bohemian apartment with a rooftop terrace. Everything about this apartment was absolutely inspiring. The host Anna enjoys traveling around the globe and it is evident from the decor of the house. The apartment is located on the 3rd and 4th floor. The 3rd floor has a spacious and beautiful living space with a fireplace to keep you warm when it gets cold, a fully stocked kitchen, a dining area and a balcony. Also the hosts have an entire wardrobe of amazing board games on the 3rd floor to unwind at the end of the day. The 4th floor has a huge bathroom which also has a walk in shower and a modern bath, a bedroom, a bookshelf with a reading nook with books about travel and food from all around the world and a rooftop terrace. The location of the apartment is great ; it is a 2 min walk to the tram and a 10 min bike ride to the city center. Anna, the host is extremely knowledgeable about the area and has some great recommendations and very quick with communication. Attaching the link to the apartment here
Another unique offering of Amsterdam is living on the floating house boats by the canals. There are also some great luxury floating house boats options available which looked amazing. I discovered these while exploring the city and would definitely consider staying there on my next visit for a different experience.
How to travel around Amsterdam
The best way to explore the city is either on a bike or on foot. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience. There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s more bikes than people! The city also has a flat landscape, which makes cycling so much more fun and enjoyable, and is also one the world’s most cycle-friendly cities with separate cycling paths throughout the entire city. You can also use public transport such as buses, trams, and metros, which are very well connected in the entire city. The public transportation covers all the places of interest. The main hub of the trams is Amsterdam Central station.
Best time to go to Amsterdam
The city is always buzzing with tourists year round, particularly being busier from April to September because it is warmer in those months. I traveled in April and it was extremely busy, but I had a great time. It would be ideal to book your stay ahead of time if you are going to travel in the peak tourist season as almost everything gets booked.
Must do things in Amsterdam:
1)Keukenhof — Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe is the world’s largest bulb flower park, and if you are traveling to Amsterdam between March to May then a visit to the gardens is a must. The magnificent gardens at Keukenhof are true visual ecstasy. These gardens are redesigned each year so even after many visits it will always look fresh and new with colorful flowers dancing before your eyes! If you love flowers like me, then this place will guarantee you a great experience, showcasing millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Here, you can buy bulbs straight from the cultivators and they also have specialists to guide you how bulbs can be grown more successfully at home. To get to Keukenhof Gardens we took bus from Amsterdam City Center to the Schiphol Airport and transferred to Keukenhof Bus 858.
2) Canal cruise — Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical center, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city’s sights and attractions. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat. Most canal cruises take around an hour, which gives you an opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected Canal Ring. There are various tours operating on the water and you could pick up one quite easily as per your location and requirements. I highly recommend taking the canal cruise in the evening or around sunset as the canals are more peaceful because they are less crowded.
3) Explore museums — Amsterdam is home to over 50 museums, exploring the diversity of history, art, culture, and educational fun. There are museums to suit everyone’s interest. Some of the most famous museums are Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank House. I visited the Rikjsmuseum since it was one of the museums that appealed to my interests and I wanted to do only 1 museum. The museum is huge and I spent around 4.5 to 5 hours to explore the museum. If you are short on time I would recommend to google the top 25 list to do at the museum which can be covered in around 2 hours. I highly recommend getting the I am Amsterdam card if you plan to visit many museums as it helps you save money.
4) Go beer tasting — Amsterdam is the home of the Heineken headquarters. The Heineken experience is a must see for all visitors. I had a great experience where they showed the brewing process, innovations, ingredients used, etc., and at the end of the tour also gave two free beers. During the Heineken tour too you have a few beer samplings besides the two free beers at the end. You can also personalize the Heineken beer bottle to carry as a souvenir back home with you. Some other interesting breweries that I would also recommend are Brouwerij de Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (award winning brewery – located in a windmill), and Butcher’s Tears.
5) Visit coffee shops — A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without visiting the coffee shops there. Purchase and consumption of cannabis is legal in Amsterdam which remains a huge tourist attraction making it quite easily the weed capital of Europe. Some of the coffee shops I recommend are The Bulldog The First, Mellow Yellow, Original Dampkrings, Braney’s Coffeeshop and Grey Area.
6) Parks — Parks are at the heart of Amsterdam culture. Every time the sun is out you will see the locals packing up the disposable barbecue and heading down to their nearest garden.If you like visiting parks do not miss to check out Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam with an open air theater and concerts in the summer. Some other interesting parks are Erasmuspark and Rembrandtpark.
7) Visit a market in Amsterdam — Whether you’re looking to buy or try some local delicacies or just soak up the atmosphere, visiting one of the many markets in Amsterdam is a unique and unforgettable experience. Markets selling everything from antiques to books to artisan food to vintage clothes are held all over the city every day. Some of the most popular Amsterdam markets include the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp (Mon.-Sat.) Lindengrachtmarkt in the Jordaan (Saturdays), Bloemenmarkt (worlds only floating market)and the Waterlooplein Market – Flea Market (Mon.-Sat.).
8) Red Light District – From brothels to sex museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. Amsterdam prides itself on its wholly liberal and tolerant attitude, embracing the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. And that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all. Needless to say, that come to the district at night when it really comes to life however here are women forever tapping on the windows.
Day Trips from Amsterdam
If you have time then it would be exciting to venture out and take day trips to Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans (working windmills), countryside, Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Each of these places is unique and has something to offer you. I personally took a day trip to Volendam, Marken and Zaanse Schans and enjoyed my time on the Dutch countryside.
Zaanse Schans at one point had over 600 windmills however right now they have around 5 to 6 working windmills each with a different purpose and name. The windmills all have separate admission tickets and prices so come prepared with small bills. I found the windmill attendants happy to share details about the intricate workings of their respective windmills. I visited 2 windmills – one which grinds peanuts for oil, and the other is a sawmill for lumber. You can easily spend 2 – 3 hours exploring the windmills.
After Zaanse Schans, we headed to Volendam which is a nearby fishing village and is known for their colorful wooden houses. We headed to the Volendam Museum and saw a glimpse of fishing vessels, antique uniforms, and lifestyle of the Dutch people. The town’s promenade is lined with souvenir shops and indoor/outdoor eateries where you can grab a bite. I ate lunch and tried the Dutch pancakes from a local vendor here and enjoyed it. We then headed to the Cheese Factory in Volendam where we saw a live demonstration of how cheese is made and also sampled a variety of cheese. We also saw a live demonstration of how they make fresh warm stroopwaffles and tried the same.
The last stop of our day trip was to Marken and we visited the Shoe Factory. We saw the whole process of how the famous Holland shoe is made. They showed us various different types of shoes they make and you can also buy souvenirs or the famous shoes to take back home with you. We then explored the houses and the area by ourselves and then headed back to Amsterdam.
Must Try Dutch Food
Amsterdam is well-known around the world as a city of indulgences. Here is a list of famous Dutch food you have to try:
1)Stroopwafel — It consists of a syrup filling sandwiched between two thin waffles and tastes best when it is hot. Try the one at Banketbakkerij Lanskroon or Albert Cuyp Market.
2) Dutch Cheese — They are absolutely amazing and cannot be missed. Try them at the Cheese Factory or Henri Willig Cheese shops for a guided experience, or at Reypenaer Proeflokaal or the Cheese Museum. You can also buy cheese to take back home and enjoy.
3)Patat or Frites (Dutch Fries) — These are a must-have with the lip-smacking sauces. One of my absolute favorite places for this food is Vleminckx Sausmeesters.
4)Poffertjes — You can buy these little fluffy pancakes from any street market or vendor. Many vendors even have the options to add toppings to these yummy fluffy pancakes. Though my favorite places were the one I tried when I took the day trip to Zaanse Schans, Marken and Volendam and at Albert Cuyp Market.
1) Try a Hipster cafe – I was not aware of this until my friend who lives there took me to one. We went to Café de Ceuvel which is a beautiful bohemian waterside cafe which featured not only yummy food and delicious drinks but also beautiful music. The cafe has been found by people who want to make a difference in the world and this belief goes further than a label that reads organic. They make their own soda’s with the organic syrups, grow their own vegetables, their bitterballs are made of oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grinds and have a greenhouse on the roof where they grow their own herbs and are also building the world’s first Biogas Boat in which they can transform their organic waste into biogas to cook on! Highly recommend if you are looking for a real Dutch experience. This place is filled with locals and you will not see any tourists here. You can reach here either by taking a ferry or Uber.
2) BAK Restaurant – The chef heroes seasonal Dutch produce in beautiful dishes. This is an organic restaurant with great food. They have a varied wine list and offer a 3 course lunch menu on weekends at a great price. They also offer an 8 course dinner with wine pairings. If you get a table by the window you can enjoy the stunning view overlooking the water. I loved the food here. They have a great menu for vegetarians too.
3) Daalder – Located in Jordaan, Daalder offers amazing modern European food. The food here is not only creative but also delicious. Daalder does not offer a la carte menu. However you can choose how many courses you would like to eat and the chef does not fail to impress.Keep an open mind & let the story unfold. Every course is precisely balanced yet delightfully unique. We had paired our food with wine.
4) Winkel 43 – Located in Jordan, Winkel 43 is famous for its Apple pie. You can see the slices of fresh apples, and they aren’t doused in a heavy syrup like you would find in an American apple pie. Each bite is perfectly sweet and tart apple paired with crumbly and lightly sweetened crust and a dash of luscious whipped cream.
5) Ciel Bleu – If you are looking for a Michelin Star experience head to Ciel Bleu. We could not get a reservation here as by the time we had planned our trip it was already booked. Something on my bucket list the next time I visit Amsterdam.
6) The Pancake Pastry – This bakery in Amsterdam only makes one thing: an ultra decadent chocolate cookie stuffed with gooey white chocolate. There is always a line out the door. A must-try in Amsterdam.
7) Ice Bakery by Nutella – There is a Nutella bakery in Amsterdam. If you love Nutella this place is a must try. You can get Nutella ice cream, Nutella milkshakes, Nutella hot chocolate, Nutella cookie sandwiches, Nutella waffles, Nutella pancakes, Nutella poffertjes and Nutella muffins too.
8) The Lobby (Fizeaustraat 2)- If you are looking for breakfast definitely try The lobby. This was a recommendation provided to us by a local and we absolutely loved it. They also have amazing wines. An insider tip which was given to us by our host of the Airbnb we rented was to ask for “het vies boekje” (dirty book) which has a list of all their special wines.
9) Pazzi (De Clercqstraat 93) – Who doesn’t like Pizza? Pazzi is one of the best pizza places in town.
10) Frits (Jan Evertsenstraat 135) – Burgers, fries and beer! What is not to like? They are well known for their burgers and extra crispy fries and have all the locals favorite beers from local breweries.
11) Floor 17 – Just do it for the view!
12) Other Restaurants – A few local friends had also suggested us – De Struisvogel located in the 9 streets for a 3 course meal and Cafe Modern located in Meidoornweg 2 (fixed menu) however we did not happen to go there. Something to do on our next visit to Amsterdam.
Highly recommend to make a reservation beforehand especially if you are traveling during the peak season as it may get difficult to get a reservation last minute.
Where to Shop
Whether you are searching for a souvenir, a unique vintage dress or the latest designer handbag, Amsterdam has something for everyone.
1) Boutiques – If you are someone like me who likes to shop at local boutiques then head to The Nine Streets. A couple of interesting boutiques I found there were Scotch and Soda, King Louie and Who’s that girl ?.
2) Kalverstraat – If you are looking for international brands such as Pull and Bear, Zara, Urban Outfitters, River Island, etc then head here. There are over 100 brands on this street.
3) Leidsestraat – For beauty products
4) De Bijenkorf and P C Hooftstraat – For high end shopping.
If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.