Welcome back, everyone!
If you remember from my previous post, one of my final weekends abroad was split between two major cities: Paris and Amsterdam. This was definitely an ambitious travel plan, but we were able to make the most of what time we had in both cities, and I think we did a pretty good job.
Out of everywhere I traveled while studying in Madrid, Amsterdam was definitely my favorite. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made this trip stand out over all of the others, but the atmosphere and the culture I experienced here was like a fairytale, and I know I’ll be back soon. We spent about a day and a half in Amsterdam, but everything we did could have been condensed into one day. So, if you find yourself in Amsterdam for just one day, keep reading for my recommendations.
Before even getting to Amsterdam, you’ll want to book tickets to the Anne Frank house – these sell out VERY quickly, so make sure to look into this as soon as you start planning your trip. When I visited, we booked the weekend too late, and so by that point everything was sold out. These tours are fairly quick, so I recommend either starting or ending your day with this, so you don’t have to break up your entire schedule.
A great way to see the city is by taking a canal cruise, and these run all day so you can plan this around the rest of your schedule. You’ll likely need to purchase tickets in advance for this as well, but they’re much more available and flexible. This cruise is, in my opinion, the best way to see the buildings, the nature, and the whole environment of the city in a relaxing way. Each canal is lined with such beautiful apartments and bridges, so it’s definitely worth exploring.
Another more underrated activity that I think is definitely worth your time is the Heineken Experience. The Heineken brewery is located in Amsterdam, and what we thought was going to be just another tour of the building turned out to be one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. The whole event is way more than a tour, so while you do get to see and learn about the behind-the-scenes aspect of the brewery, you also get to experience an entire show, ride, game, and party (it sounds crazy, but there’s no other way to explain it). Once again, you will need tickets for this, but it was the best $20 I’ve spent.
Aside from scheduled activities, I definitely suggest taking some time to walk around on your own and see some smaller city sites. Dam Square is a beautiful place to explore, and there are lots of shops and boutiques in the area, so you’ll have lots to do. Amsterdam is also home to a number of wonderful museums, including the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh, and the Moco. If you find yourself left with any extra time in the day, this is a great way to fill it.
If you’re looking for something to do at night during your short stay in Amsterdam, I would say the best scene is a bar. This is all we did during our stay, as we’d been told the club scene is not the best, but its definitely a very social city and there is always lots going on at night. Lots of the smaller bars and restaurants were the most fun, as they weren’t too crazy and we could all relax together after a long day of activities.
As far as transportation goes, Amsterdam is a very walkable city. That being said, most (if not all) locals bike everywhere. So, if you’re looking to get around quickly, or just to fit in with everyone else, renting a bike for the day is a great idea. If you choose to stay on foot, though, be careful crossing the streets!
For housing, be aware that Amsterdam is not a cheap city to stay in. This was by far the most expensive Airbnb I booked while traveling abroad, but it was very much worth it. If you’re looking to spend a little extra for a cool experience, I also suggest looking into a houseboat – you’ll see these all along the canals, and if I ever return to Amsterdam, I will definitely be staying in one!
This wouldn’t be a proper travel guide if I didn’t touch on the food, so, here are a couple of my favorites:
- Pancakes (or poffertjes – mini pancakes)
- Frites and mayonnaise
- Herring (I never tried this, but I’ve heard it’s great there!)
In the end, you really can’t go wrong in Amsterdam, and if you’re ever planning a trip to Europe or don’t know where to go next, this city is my number one recommendation. While there is so much to do, there’s also a very relaxed feel to the city, so even though we were always going during our stay, I never felt overwhelmed. I would love to hear any of your experiences in Amsterdam, and I’m always available for questions or further suggestions. That’s all for now, and I’ll see you next week with some more travel tips!