Amsterdam! What an adventure. We arrived at the airport with no clue what to do and we could only check into our Air bnb later that afternoon. So we bought a train ticket to Centraal station and decided we’d figure out what to do from there. I’d heard from a lot of people that the only way to see Amsterdam is on a bike, so we made a bee-line to a rental shop. We rented from Yellow bikes (but there are tons of bike rental shops around.)
We arrived at Yellow Bikes just in time for a 3 hour tour of the city. It was such a lovely introductory tour of Amsterdam with a lot of stops along the way at different points of interest. The city is connected by canals, and the architecture of the houses that line the canals are totally unique. Three or Four stories high with a very very small front facade, some as small as one metre wide! The windows are huge and beautiful and the apartments don’t have any curtains so you’ll often ride past people just reading in their window or watching tv. It feels very open and safe which I loved.
We were there for less than 3 days, and it felt way too short but I think in the time that we had we packed in a lot! In no particular order here are my top 5 things to do in Amsterdam.
We’ve kind of covered this above but I can’t recommend it enough. Amsterdam is a small city but travelling feet still get tired and on a bike you’ll cover more ground without breaking too much of a sweat. I also recommend doing the city tour on your first day to get used to riding around, using hand signals etc.
Here’s a great post about bikes in Amsterdam.
Visit the Musuems.
I know they aren’t for everyone but going to the Stedelijk museum (of modern art) and the Rijks museum were incredible for me. Seeing the Picasso’s, Rembrants and Vermeers in the flesh were inspiring. (Most of the art museums are in the same area so you can do both of these in a day and they have amazing cafes inside.)
Amsterdam has most of the cool chain stores like H&M, Cos, scotch and soda etc. One of the main shopping streets is Leidestraat, and nearby is “De Negen Straatjies“, which is nine streets full of wonderful and unique shops. If you love vintage clothing you have to get to Episode and Zipper (They reminded me of Beyond Retro in London). I think you’ll like these back streets way more. Also if you have more expensive taste (Louis Vuitton, Fendi etc) there is De Bijenkorf which is the big fancy department store opposite Madam Tussauds.
If you’re on the run be sure to get a pack of Stroopwafels (syrup waffles), they make for a really great energy snack. We also ate at some really amazing unique restaurants which I will be reviewing in a separate post.
There are a lot of random things to do in Amsterdam but one of the best things to do is get lost. Just walk around the canals and see what you find. It’s so quaint and pretty, and there are hidden gems around every corner.
We stumbled upon such awesome places like this sweet little corner shop called Stach (I loved their branding so much, so simple but effective).
We also stumbled onto a totally cool Barber shop called Haar Barbaar where Dylan got his beard trimmed – it was such a cool place but a total boys club – no ladies allowed! I laughed out loud when the barber told me I couldn’t come inside but he was dead serious, so I had to wait outside on the bench while trying to take some sneaky pictures. How awesome does it look though?
Wandering around at night is also lovely with all the canals lit up, as long as you don’t end up in the red light district.
A few random tips
Don’t worry about the language barrier, most people speak a bit of English and are really friendly. If you understand Afrikaans, you can generally understand the dutch pretty well.
Don’t waste precious time and money on typical tourist traps like Madam Tussauds. Rather try experience Amsterdam like a local (below is me being a major tourist, it’s the I amsterdam sign outside the Rijksmuseum and there are always people climbing all over it)
Do have a picnic in Vondelpark, or at least a ride through it.
Do try visiting one of their “coffee shops”, at least once.
Do get to the museums/sites early to avoid queues.
Do dump your luggage if you’re stuck with it. There are lockers at the stations and museums.
Do book accommodation in the central ring (in riding distance), we stayed outside the ring and it wasn’t fun catching the metro in everyday.
Do get a 48 hr – 72 hour transport pass (works for metro, buses and trams if you’re going to be doing a lot of cross city travelling, especially if you don’t hire a bike).
Take it all in, it’s an amazing city.
Next up: Driving through Italy.