My Amsterdam Travel Guide
We spent 5 nights in Amsterdam, which allowed us to see the city at an easy pace. We’d made a list of the main things we wanted to see and do before we left, but stumbled on some gems in Amsterdam we didn’t know about too! I wanted to visit the Van Gogh museum, rent a bike and tour the Anne Frank Huis. Joel added the Heineken tour, a canal cruise and red light district. Here’s our guide to Amsterdam! Up next Belgium…
WHERE WE STAYED:
We decided to stay outside of central Amsterdam in the Jordaan district, about a 15-20 minute walk from the center. Jordaan is filled with lots of great places to eat, cool shops and a bunch of little pubs. Instead of booking a hotel or hostel, we choose to try Airbnb. It was our first time using Airbnb and it won’t be our last! We got so much more space and had a more “authentic” stay in Amsterdam, but you do miss fresh towels and a newly made-up bed at times. Our Airbnb apartment was half the price of hotels I’d found, so it helped us save some money during our vacation too!
WHERE TO VISIT:
Anne Frank House
This little house in the Jordaan district is filled with a tragic past and stories from only a few decades ago. It was humbling and inspiring to walk through the place and be inside the rooms the Frank and other families lived in for years. The small quarters makes for limited groups inside the museum, which means long lines outside. We waited in line for about an hour, it’s totally worth the wait in my opinion, but if you know what day and time during your stay you want to visit you can buy your tickets ahead of time online. I tried about a week before our trip, but the pre-sale tickets were already sold out – so, do it early.
Vincent Van Gogh Museum
Get the audio guide with your tour! I love Van Gogh’s work, but didn’t know all the history behind his paintings. The audio guide highlight about 20 of his pieces and gave a brief insight into each. This was my favorite museum we visited during our stay!
Geared toward a younger crowd, you’ll learn about the history of Heineken, the brewing process and, my favorite part, how to properly drink a Heineken! There are a bunch of “video game” type things in the path from the museum part to the end where you enjoy a glass of Heineken, which were not my thing, but Joel found it a bit entertaining. After your tour hop on the free Heineken boat and it will take you back near central Amsterdam.
WHAT TO EAT:
We stumbled on this place by chance. Jet leg had us awake bright and early on our first morning, after wondering the streets of Jordaan we learned Amsterdam isn’t a morning person. Cafe Letting was the one of few places that opens at 8:30 a.m. We had the best breakfast ever! I mean it was so good, we went back the next morning for more! Coffee is excellent and food is seriously delicious. Get the yogart, fruit and muesli or “Uitsmijter Rosbief” a traditional Dutch egg breakfast with sunny side up eggs, cheese and roast beef.
The Pancake Bakery
Just down the street from the Anne Frank House, is this place boasting the best pancakes in town, which meant I had to try them. We waited in line for a bit before a table was open. It’s not the usual dining experience in Amsterdam, it’s fast past. If you aren’t starving I suggest sharing a pancake – they are huge! We ordered two and I couldn’t even finish half of my banana Nutella pancake, but it was so good!
Da Portare Via
Another place in the Jordaan neighborhood. We’d seen lines running outside the door a couple of times so we knew they had to be doing something right. Oh man, that pizza. I still salivate over the photo. It was wonderful. We grabbed our pizza to go and sat along the canal to grub and watch the boats cruise along. We were stuffed after splitting one, but seriously debated going back for another. It was that good.
Dutch for mothers, this cozy spot has been serving up traditional homestyle Dutch cuisine for over 20 years in what kind of feels like a bigger version of your grandma’s kitchen. It took us two days of stopping in to see if there were any openings for the night, which wasn’t a big deal for us since our apartment was close by. Plan ahead and book a table, you won’t be disappointed!
De Vergulde Gaper
We had dinner here outside near the canal on our last night in Amsterdam. Joel ordered a burger with fries and a beer. I got a glass of rose and their seasonal pasta. Food was delicious and it was a nice place outside of the city center to relax and kind of feel like a local and take in our all our adventures!
Look for a bunch of bright yellow umbrellas! They’ve got the perfect outdoor spot to enjoy a midday drink on top of a bridge overlooking the canal. It’s also next to many boutiques for shopping. If you stay long enough, grab dinner too!
Sit inside the bar or on the canal and watch the heart the Jordaan district happen. Not sure why we liked this place so much, maybe because it was the first place we stopped at to take it all in, or the crazy drunk guy who befriended us who kept requesting the bartender turn up the music, only to go behind the bar and do it himself, or the ridiculously small bathroom we couldn’t stop laughing about.
THINGS TO DO:
Rent Bikes and Explore
We waited until our last day to rent bikes and we both wished we’d done it sooner! Bikes are hands down the best way to get around the city. We rented our bikes from Bike City. It can intimidating at first, but just go with the flow and pay attention to the bike lights near the car traffic lights at intersections and enjoy! We rode our bikes to the Van Gogh Museum and around Vondelpark nearby, which made the perfect last day in Amsterdam.
Take a Canal Cruise
A very touristy thing to do, but you’ll get aquatinted with the city layout and learn about each neighborhood. We took the one hour long tour, which felt like enough time. I recommend doing this in the beginning of your stay.
Walk Around the Red Light District on a Saturday Night
I say Saturday night, because we walked around the Red Light District during a weekday night and unknowingly during the day once, and then we went on Saturday night and there was hands down no comparison! Saturday was packed with a vibrant and colorful crowd of gawkers (the same might apply for Friday too). We felt safe and the people watching was hilarious and entertaining. I mean, we saw a drunk guy accidentally knock a moped into the canal! I sneaked a couple photos on the main stripe, because there are a bunch of “no photo” signs all over.
Noordermarkt Market on Westerstraat
Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Intersection of Westerstraat and Prinsengracht
We stumbled on the Noordermarket market on Saturday morning and was blown away! Everything looked so delicious! You can find gourmet cheeses, barrels of truffles, freshly baked pastries, bouquets of flowers, fresh fruits and veggies, and a lot more! If you’re in the area, it’s a great place to wander around and grab a snack.
I hope you enjoyed my Amsterdam travel guide, up next is Bruges and Ghent, Belgium! We visited Amsterdam in the end August and beginning of September 2014. See all my travel diaries >