(My phone produced rather streaky photos so creds to my pal Zoe who took most of the photos you see below)
Amsterdam was my first and favorite city when travelling Europe last summer. I love its brick buildings, open skyline, rich history, and relaxed, easy going attitude towards life. Over the years, I’ve witnessed friends of mine visiting Amsterdam more times than I can count. My green blood boiled as I longed to see just what this city had to offer.
Lose yourself in a canal maze. Window-shop where live merchandise is lit with red neon, or duck into a smoky little ‘coffeeshop’ selling substances not available over the counter elsewhere. If you think you’re a bit above all that, visit great museums… and of course take your chances with the traffic and trams on a bike.
Amsterdam has so much to do that, even after so many visits, you could probably still find new things to do and see. The city deserves more than just the few (and often smoke filled) days travellers give it, but if a few days is all you have and you want to make the most of it, this is the itinerary I would give to someone looking to get a good overview and feel for what makes Amsterdam so special:
Ann Frank Museum:
The big ‘must see’ is the Ann Frank House. Expect queues, particularly mid-morning and at holiday times. And just because it is a ‘must see’ doesn’t mean you must see them; Amsterdam has plenty more on offer if time is too short to stand in line. Nevertheless, I have never been so emotionally provoked and saddened by any other museum much like this.
Amsterdam is a city tied to the water. The canals of Amsterdam are incredibly beautiful, and there’s nothing like seeing the city from a boat. Skip the big canal boat tours you see around the city — they’re overpriced. My friends and I got a canal tour at 9pm in a cute corner of Amsterdam (with unlimited free booze which, of course, was the deal breaker).
Amsterdam’s largest and most popular park is a great place to walk, bike, people-watch, or relax, especially after a visit to a local coffee shop. There’s a playground as well as places to play sports, and numerous areas for kicking back. During the summer, Vondelpark is filled with people, especially locals who hang out at the café ‘t Blauwe Theehuis for drinks in the center.
Red Light District:
Go there at night. See it. Embrace it. Don’t take photos in it (unless you are super sneaky)
Rent a bike:
Bikes are to Amsterdam like wine is to Bordeaux. The city loves bikes, and there are supposedly more bikes than people in Amsterdam. In fact, forget about keeping a lookout for cars — it’s the bikes that will run you over (no joke, once tackling the network that is Amsterdam on bike, you can truly conquer anything). Seeing Amsterdam and its surroundings from a bike is something I definitely encourage you to do. Mike’s Bike Tours is the best company to use, whether for a tour or to rent a bike on your own.
The Jordaan area:
This heavily residential area (an old working-class neighborhood turned hip) is probably the most missed part of Amsterdam. Although it’s right near the city center, hardly any tourists enter this maze of restaurants, cafes, and shops. It’s peaceful and a great place to wander while avoiding the mass of tourists crowding the main streets just a few blocks away. You can also find traditional Dutch food in this area as well as a Winkel (apple pie).
Go there. Embrace it. Take photos in it.
In general, Amsterdam is home to some great little boutiques, cafes, food places, people and museums. I would have liked to explore it more but as we were only there for three days we couldn’t do everything.
I will be back Amsterdam. Don’t you worry.
Student Journalist, Creative Writer, Poet, Traveller, Eco Warrior