Welcome to Amsterdam! Since the day we started planning our trip, we knew we wanted to go to Amsterdam. The beautiful canals that maze through the city and the unique homes that line them had seduced us. The fact that you can bike around just had us swoon even more!
We had four days here, but could have easily taken a few more weeks! Whether you want to tip toe through the tulips, bike through the many canals, visit some epic museums, or live the “high life”, Amsterdam definitely has you covered.
When to go
The weather in Amsterdam is quite mild, as much in the summer as the winter, so anytime is good to visit the city. Though no matter when you go, be sure to pack an umbrella – the rain in Amsterdam is unpredictable!
Tourist season in Amsterdam is between mid-April to mid-October, though crowds peak in July and August. The weather is best at this time. If you go out of this timeframe, you can expect cheaper prices in restaurants and hotels, as well as more peaceful exploration.
If you are heading to Amsterdam to check out the tulips in the fields nearby, make sure you go from April to mid-May. That’s when the fields will be in full bloom!
What to do
There is more than enough to see and do in Amsterdam. If you’re looking for a quiet day at the museum, or to go wild in the Red Light district, there is something for everyone. You can choose to stay in Amsterdam for a few days, or even two weeks, and you’d still have more to discover. You can bet that we’ll be coming back!
Anne Frank House
Everyone knows about Anne Frank, the famous diarist who hid from the Nazis during WWII with her family in this iconic house on a canal called the Prinsengracht.
Today, the house that was Anne’s fathers workshop, where Anne and her family hid, serves as a museum that showcases the story of Anne Frank. Also known as the Secret Annex, it is a must for those who want to tour the third most visited museum in the Netherlands.
Just know that the house has been left bare, as per Anne Frank’s father’s request. You will not see the rooms dressed as they were during the war. Instead, artifacts and prints are showcased on the walls.
Biking is serious business in the Netherlands, and nowhere more so than in Amsterdam! We absolutely love this, as any measure that takes cars off the streets, and makes people exercise, is a huge plus in our books. Not to mention, biking is a great way to get around the city!
We did notice a few things that were kind of odd about the bike culture in Amsterdam though. The first is that no one, seriously not a single person, wears a helmet! How does a society that values biking so much not take bike safety seriously?!
The second thing is how little of the road/sidewalk/space is dedicated to pedestrians. Since there is a very well-established infrastructure dedicated to biking in Amsterdam, much of which was taken from pedestrian sidewalks, it leaves very little room for people who want to walk around. So if you do, watch out!
Discover some fun neighbourhoods
There are quite a few neighbourhoods and areas that are super fun to discover and walk of bike around. There may not be a ton of ‘historic’ things to see or do around there, but they are really beautiful and just great to stroll around.
One of the coolest neighbourhoods in Amsterdam! It’s full of cute boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Enjoy your time here. If the weather permits it, sit and just people-watch. It’s one of our favourite things to do!
The 9 streets
Another famous area, mainly because it’s oh-so-cute! These small streets, lined with adorable shops and cafés, are the perfect place to chill around. Be sure to check out the cool art galleries while you’re there too. This is the perfect spot to stroll around on your way to or from the Anne Frank House.
To be honest, we’re not quite sure what this area is called, but it’s surrounded by all these cute canals, tons of restaurants and shops. It’s also right by the National Monument, tons of shops (if that’s what you want) and all the canal views you can get! Plus, you’re steps away from the next stop on our list.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Welcome to one of the residences of King Willem-Alexander. The Palace stands proud in Dam Square and is a beauty to discover. Luckily, it’s possible to tour the Palace, as it is open to the public as often as possible.
Originally, the Palace was built to be Amsterdam’s town hall, until it found its true calling as a Palace! Today, it’s recognized as the largest and most prestigious building from the Golden Age.
There are tons of museums to choose from in Amsterdam, many of which are situated in the Museum Square, known as the Museumplein.
It’s home to some of the world’s most famous museums such as:
- Rijksmuseum: National art and history museum
- Van Gogh museum: Art museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh and other artists from his time
- Stedelijk: Modern and Contemporary art museum
- Royal Concertgebouw: Amsterdam’s Royal concert hall, considered one of the world’s best
- Moco: The Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam, home to works from Banksy, Icy & Sot and a permanent exhibition from artists like Andy Warhol
If you love museums, you are in luck in Amsterdam. We took the time to visit the MOCO, and absolutely loved it! So many iconic works of art in such a small place.
One thing that we did not love, and something we have noticed lately at many museums through out the world, is people there simply to take pictures of themselves in the museum.
We understand this to a certain extent, after all we take pictures for Instagram all the time. But to take up a whole exhibition hall to take 35 pictures of yourself in varying poses, while others who have paid to come to this place are trying to enjoy the art…
I mean come on, we live in a society here! If you aren’t bothering anyone, then who cares. But I was taking a picture of one of my favourite pieces of art at MOCO, when a woman who was taking her millionth picture of her friend in front of a piece “excused” me to move so she could take her shot…
Don’t be that guy/girl, just don’t.
The Vondel Park, named after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel, is a huge park situated West of the MuseumPlein and in the borough of Amsterdam-Zuid.
Apart from the beautiful lakes, trees and paths that line this park, it also is home to an open air theatre, as well as many restaurants and cafes. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon lounging with a book or a picnic basket. Just make sure you bring an umbrella, the rain in Amsterdam is unpredictable. We got fully rained on, even though it was a fairly sunny day!
Molen De Otter
What visit to the Netherlands is complete without seeing some beautiful, old windmills? The Molen De Otter is the only remaining one in Amsterdam proper, and has been restored to working order.
At almost 400 years old, this windmill was originally built as a sawmill, designed to saw wood. Today it is not operational, and it has been proposed that it be moved from its current location.
It wasn’t the only windmill we got a glimpse of while we were in the Netherlands, but we couldn’t skip our chance at seeing one from up close! You can’t officially “visit” it, but you can get quite close up and admire its beauty, and history.
Tulips and the Netherlands go together like peanut butter and jam. Cultivated here for over 300 years, the country is famous for its production of these pretty flowers. The famous Keukenhof gardens see over 7 million tulips bloom a year, and welcomes over a million tourists per year.
Canada and the Netherlands also have a unique relationship, one that is celebrated by the gift of tulips! During the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in WWII, The Dutch Royal family, including future queen Juliana, were sheltered for three years. For this act of kindness, the Dutch government sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Every year since, 10,000 tulip bulbs are sent as thank you.
While you’re at Blomenmarket, make sure you stop into one of the many cheese stores that line the street for a free tasting of delicious dutch cheeses from around the country!
For those who don’t visit Amsterdam for windmills, or tulips, they might come here to visit the local coffeeshops. In case you didn’t know, they don’t exactly sell coffee in these shops though… If you’re looking for coffee, head to the local cafés.
Marijuana culture in Amsterdam is infamous, having been officially tolerated since 1976. This has, in a way, defined the city and has created marijuana tourism the likes that no other city has ever seen. At one point the city boasted over 1,500 coffeeshops, but the city cracked down in the 90’s, and today there are roughly 250 of them.
If the smell bothers you, be prepared, because past noon, the smell of marijuana wafts through Amsterdam like a 1970’s rock & roll concert. Rock on Amsterdam.
Check out AFC Ajax
Being crazy Canucks (read, Canadians), we love hockey, but I mean we LOVE hockey. Well, in Amsterdam, the equivalent love of theirs is football, and their hometown Amsterdam Ajax of the Eredivisie league, Dutch football’s top division.
We couldn’t miss out on our chance to experience football in Europe, so we checked out a match between the Ajax and Ado den Haag. The final score was 5-1 for the home team, a score that resembled more hockey than football, but we aren’t complaining!
The atmosphere was pretty insane, especially in the superfan section where drums could be heard all game long. With an average attendance of almost 50,000 crazed fans per game, you can begin to understand the scene.
As some Spanish people told us, the Dutch league may not be La Liga (Spain’s top league), but this certainly topped the North American MLS and was an experience we strongly recommend if you are in town and there is a match.
One of the most famous brewers in the world is Heineken. Even if we aren’t huge fans of their beer, we wanted to check out the brewery. Being a Dutch company that has been around for almost 150 years in the heart of Amsterdam, they have turned what was their original brewing facility into a modern day museum/virtual advertising campaign.
We went one rainy afternoon, and though we may have walked out slightly tipsy, were left with a bitter taste in our mouths, no puns intended!
After touring the original Budweiser brewery in České Budějovice less than a month prior, we were quite impressed as the tour of their actual brewery showed us their history, brewing process and also included a beer tasting.
But touring the Heineken “brewery” was a different experience. Lacking was the feeling that a local beer was brewed here, because it is not. The Heineken Experience is more of a marketing machine than it is a brewery.
The information was lacking, and two thirds of our experience were walking through a maze of all the things Heineken sponsors, from sports teams to nightclub experiences… It just wasn’t a great experience! It was almost to the point that they should pay us to walk through this virtual advertising experience… but at least we got “free” beer out of it.
If you have a rainy evening, or if you REALLY love Heineken beer, then maybe this is a good place to hang out. If not, you may want to skip this one! If you go, make sure you buy your tickets online, and get them ahead of time. You’ll save some money and skip the line.
Go skating at Ice*Amsterdam
What better activity for a couple of Canadians like us than to go ice skating! As much we love ice skating, considering Carine used to figure skate and Derek still plays hockey, the weather wasn’t cooperating with us.
It was a balmy 10°C, so the ice was more of a swimming pool than an ice rink, but that didn’t stop a ton of locals and tourists alike! For €5 you can skate to your pleasure if you have skates, otherwise a 2-hour rental will run you €11.
Incredibly, the rink is open from November 17th until February 3rd and is located behind the Rijksmuseum, right in the heart of Museumplein. We say incredibly because the average temperatures from November through February go from 10°C down to a still above freezing 6°C.
Light Festival / Canal Cruise
Since 2012, every end of November, Amsterdam is host to their annual Light Festival. This year, it showcased 30 artworks over 50+ days, and can be seen throughout the city’s canals.
The best way to see them all, is to take a night time cruise of Amsterdam’s canals, once specifically centred around the festival. We did this with Blue Boat Amsterdam Canal Cruises, whom we were told were the best in the business from our hostel.
For €24 per person, we cruised the canals for 90 minutes and were able to take in the most prominent exhibitions the festival has to offer.
The cruise itself was nice and seeing the light festival was cool, but to be honest I think we would have preferred to take a cruise during the day to see the city better and not to be so cold. So if you do want to go at night, they do provide blankets to keep you warm, but you should still bundle up.
Where to stay
We could not have loved our stay more at Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark. Not only was the location absolutely perfect, the atmosphere was also amazing. Situated right by Vondel Park, it was the perfect spot to discover the city. We also had access to bikes, which made the whole experience even more fun and easy!
Getting out of bed was pretty hard in the morning, considering how comfy the beds were, but luckily, we had some motivational help! Their buffet breakfast in the morning was the best way to get our day started. They even included the typical Dutch bread with jam and sprinkles. Our new favourite breakfast! We also enjoyed hanging around the lobby, in one of the many hangout spots. It was the perfect space to work, or to grab a bite at their restaurant, or even grab a drink and people-watch.
The staff at Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark was also super friendly and helpful. They went above and beyond to make us comfortable. They gave us some great recommendations on things to do and see. We also loved how eco-friendly the hostel was trying to be – from the shampoo and soap that was given to their efforts to create awareness around single-use plastic. We totally love a place that fits with our values.
We could not recommend this hostel more! Even if you think you don’t like hostels, Stayokay is so different! They offer private rooms, and all the convenience and amenities of a hotel, without the uptight attitude. With such a vibrant and fun vibe, we’re convinced that everyone will love this place!
Where to eat
Vegan Junk Food Bar: When you want to eat healthy, but also want some junk food, this is THE PLACE to go. Even Derek, who is not a vegetarian, couldn’t get enough of this place. He literally begged to go back for seconds. Carine had the Original VJFB Burger with truffle fries, and Derek had the Shawarma fries. Neither of us were dissapointed… in fact, we were very happy!
Stroopwafel: Ok so maybe this isn’t somewhere to eat, but it is something to eat that you shouldn’t pass up! Walk around and you will surely find somewhere to try this delicious Dutch dessert. Take two slices of baked dough (like waffles), sandwich in some caramel syrup filling, and you have yourself a Stroopwafel. They are as delicious to eat as they are fun to say!
We loved our time in Amsterdam. Don’t be to surprised to see us back there again soon. There is so much to see and do, and the vibe is so cool that we just couldn’t get enough.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Did you love it as much as we did? Let us know in the comments!
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