We recently went on a whirlwind 48-hour trip to Amsterdam and you better believe we had jam packed days! Here are some highlights and recommendations.
SIGHTS TO SEE:
Anne Frank Huis: Be sure to buy tickets online before your trip. The tickets are timed, and often sell out well in advance. Allow at least an hour. No photography or large backpacks allowed inside.
Van Gogh Museum: Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid the line. Paintings are grouped by time period, showing the progression in Van Gogh’s painting style as well as his deteriorating mental health. When we visited, Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at Night were not there. Bummer!
I amsterdam sign: After visiting Van Gogh, head around the corner to the I amsterdam sign. Go early for the best chance of a photo op without throngs of people…
Rijksmuseum: Continue on Museumplein and visit the Dutch arts and history museum.
On your way to or from the museums, take in some fresh air, have a picnic, or rent ROLLERBLADES!!! at Vondelpark.
If you’re not museum-ed out yet, check out Moco Museum. We didn’t have enough time, but wanted to see the Banksy exhibit. Guess we will just have to plan another visit!
Cat lovers: Meet the felines of Amsterdam on Poezenboot, the floating cat sanctuary! The name literally translates to CatBoat (obviously!), but I think we can all agree it sounds like Puss in Boots. They have limited visiting hours, so be sure to check that they are open as hours are subject to change.
Dam Square: Amsterdam’s central square has some impressive architecture and tons of shopping. It’s mostly chain stores, like H&M, Urban Outfitters, etc. that you could visit anywhere. It’s worth stopping through if you are nearby, but honestly, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.
To get a unique perspective outside of the touristy areas, head on over to Noord. There’s a free ferry that takes you across the IJ to the northern portion of Amsterdam. We headed over to see 24H Noord, a weekend festival with live music, art, and open galleries and shops. Some artists created an ‘i amsterdam’ mural and allowed visitors to tag it themselves. So, our wonderful artwork is forever a part of Amsterdam now!
WHAT TO BUY:
Cheese! Cheese shops abound across the city. The wheels we brought back were shelf stable for 30 days, or good for about a year if kept refrigerated. Per store instructions, we declared the cheese upon arrival back in the U.S. Thankfully, it didn’t slow us down when going through customs. Rum gouda for the win!
Tulip bulbs: If you visit the Bloemenmarkt flower market, grab some bulbs to bring back. To note: there’s a special section in the stalls for bulbs that can be brought back to the U.S. due to the strict requirements.
WHERE TO EAT:
CT Coffee and Coconuts: The first stop on our Amsterdam adventure began with breakfast at CT Coffee and Coconuts, a former theater converted into a 3 floor open and airy cafe. The menu offers plenty of gluten and dairy free options and fresh juices.
Foodhallen: A one stop shop for all types of foods. You can find anything from sushi to Iberico ham to street tacos. Go for a casual lunch (and dessert!) and hit the gin and tonic bar, then peruse the local art vendors. We had a fall squash and cranberry salad, lime cashews, dumplings, and a smoothie for good measure. It is similar to the TimeOut Market in Lisbon.
Dr. Blend: Tiny little juice shop with healthy fare. They offer non-dairy milk and coconut yogurt. Traveling doesn’t have to be full of unhealthy junk or foods that will make you feel off.
Pluk: Cute little cafe/home goods store. Order at the counter, then seat yourself. We fueled up with smoothie bowls, an Americano, and a chai tea latte before a full day of sightseeing.
Cafe Brix: Nestled in The Nine Streets neighborhood, Cafe Brix was the perfect dinner spot. It’s really cozy, and reasonably priced. We had wine, charcuterie, traditional bitterballen, and a fantastic salad with cranberries. Fresh cranberries are pretty amazing. Something you don’t really find back home! Once you are done with your meal, you need to go to the bar to pay; they don’t bring a bill to your table.
Wolvenstraat 23: A hip restaurant, again located in The Nine Streets neighborhood, with wallpaper screaming ‘gram me’! The pineapple chicken was fantastic, the wine reasonably priced, and the bathroom sink memorable. Order and pay at the bar.
Back to Black Coffee: Per usual, I found a spot that involves cats. We will call him Lars. Lars approved of our latte and chai choices.
Cold Pressed Juicery: Multiple locations, fresh juices, smoothies, soup, and wraps
While you are there, try drop, the Dutch version of licorice. It’s different than Twizzlers, that’s for sure!
My primary mode of transportation when traveling is my own two feet. You see so much more when you walk everywhere and discover nooks and crannies of the city you won’t find in a travel guide. While hauling your bags can be cumbersome, I still find it the best option.
To get around faster, rent a bike. Bikes far outnumber cars in Amsterdam!
Uber: Keep in mind that there are very few cars in Amsterdam. The city is easily walkable, but if you need to get further out (like the airport), Ubers were not too hard to come by. At the airport, Ubers pick you up at departures rather than arrivals.
Public transportation is available from the airport, and there are buses, trams, trains, metro, and ferries to get you where you want to go.
To see the city by water, take a canal boat tour. There are a number of different tour operators, but the hop-on-hop-off boat seems like the best option to see the major sites.
We have found AirBnB to be the best option when traveling. You usually get more space than a hotel room, can save $ by using the kitchen/fridge for longer trips, and it gives you a more authentic experience. Our host was helpful in suggesting spots the local frequent.
English is widely spoken, and most restaurants have English menus.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but American Express is not. Gratuity is generally calculated by rounding up your total bill.
The water is safe to drink. In fact, Amsterdam is known to have some of the cleanest tap water in all of Europe.
While we didn’t use it, there are luggage storage locations if you don’t want to haul your bags for a quick day adventure on a layover.
Refer to the iamsterdam website for a wealth of information on visiting. Find info on the iamsterdam card, which can save you some dough if you plan to visit a good number of attractions and utilize public transportation. Look at the events calendar before you go to see what the locals are up to while you visit. You’ll get a better taste of the culture if you find some activities outside the tourist attractions.
Who is ready to pack their bags and head to Amsterdam?? Did I miss anything you would like to know, or need more food recommendations? Please let me know!