Before I began my travels in Europe, Amsterdam wasn’t even on my list of must-see places – I kind of just ended up travelling there on a whim. But once I got there, I completely fell in love! So laid-back, so beautiful, so clean… I basically had to drag myself out of the country at the end of my stay.
I stayed there for four days, and on the way picked up a few helpful hints for anyone hoping to visit this “land of wooden shoes”.
1. Stop and smell the flowers
Amsterdam is famous for its tulips, so this is a given. Not that I’m that much of a flower guy, but I can tell you they definitely live up to the hype. Beautiful!
2. Go on a canal tour
I recommend this first of all. Since Amsterdam is just one big city full of canals, this is a great way to see pretty much every part of the city close-up.
My original plan for the canal tour was to flag any sights I was really interested in, and then go back to them when I got back on land. Only thing is I totally forgot where any of the stuff I wanted to see was once the tour ended… Fail. So my advice is to bring a map!
3. Catch up with van Gogh
The Van Gogh Museum is located in an area called Museumplein, which contains – shocker! – most of the city’s museums. I checked out quite a few of the museums, but van Gogh was probably the most iconic/worth writing about. Not even one mention of him cutting off his ear though, sadly.
4. Go to the city zoo
If you need a break from all of the history, architecture, and space cakes Amsterdam has to offer, the zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon. This place was huge! So many animals, the garden is beautiful, and the restaurant there was actually really good too.
5. Hit the town!
While I was there, Amsterdam really came to life at night. Every single night felt like a Saturday night! Which is saying something, since my stay was mostly during the start of the week (Monday-Thursday). The restaurants, the bars, even the streets… everything was jumping. One can only imagine how crazy the actual weekend would be!
6. Eat pickled fish… (Or not)
No getting away from this delicacy! I was lucky enough to witness my Amsterdam friend indulge in some pickled herring, a cheap Amsterdam street food. Sadly (…note sarcasm) I didn’t get a chance to try some myself. Boo hoo.
7. Go see Anne Frank’s House
This is a must-do. As the name implies, a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking walk through the house where the Frank family hid during WWII. Simply breathtaking… Especially when you see how big the line-up is waiting to get in. But trust me, totally worth it!
8. Check out the red light district
Before I came to Amsterdam, everyone told me the red light district is a must-see. It was definitely an experience – I was surprised at how many tourists, kids, and older people there were. It was kind of like a risqué Disneyland… during the day at least. I’m sure at night it’s a different story – I’ll leave that for another blog, though!
9. Go see the windmills
Okay, so I didn’t actually do this, sadly. But the Netherlands is famous for its windmills, so I feel like no Amsterdam to-do list would be complete without mention. However, I did take a picture of a store that had a windmill attached… That’s like the same thing, right?
10. Stop by a café
Honestly, this goes for anywhere in Europe… such a cliché, to sit outside of a roadside café and sip a coffee, but you have to do it. If not for the European-style coffee (so frothy!), then for the free wifi! Brownie points if you wear a beret.
BONUS: one way to NOT fall in love with Amsterdam… using your credit card as collateral to get a gym day pass, and then forgetting to pick it back up again before you leave the country… Yeah, that totally happened. I guess my visit couldn’t be all positives!
In the end, Amsterdam more than lived up to its great reputation. I’d always heard amazing things about it, but it’s not until I actually visited that I completely understood the hype.
Basically, I’ve found love in Europe, and it’s Amsterdam. Sadly, it’ll have to be long distance for now, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again soon!