Language(s): Dutch and English
Currency: Euro (€1 = $1.12)
Must-See: Canal Cruise, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Flower Market
Amsterdam is perfect. Perfect for a girls’ trip, perfect for a romantic getaway and even perfect for young backpackers (that’s us, guys). You can walk or bike the entire thing (more on this later, seeing as there are more bicycles than people here) and never pay a penny if you didn’t want to. It’s rich in history and some bomb chocolate-covered waffles. So let’s get to it.
Lets start with the canals. That’s what it’s known for after all. For €16.50, we got a 75-minute canal cruise with an audio guide. I suggest doing this first, because the audio tour will give you some background on Amsterdam and its waterways. We went with Blue Boat Tours, but there are many that are just as great. It’s a peaceful ride with fantastic views and will help situate you within the city. DO NOT SKIP THIS.
From there you have options. What I suggest doing before you even arrive in Amsterdam is booking your tickets to the Anne Frank House. If you don’t do anything else in Amsterdam, for Heaven’s sake visit this place. Pre-sale tickets sell out uber fast and it would be an absolute shame to miss this opportunity. You’ll save tons of time skipping the line if you just plan ahead. They’re only 9 euros (a steal to see one of the most famous spots in all of Amsterdam and maybe the entire world) and can be purchased online. If you can’t find any tickets to fit your schedule, you can still stand in line any time after 3:30 pm and purchase a ticket on the spot until they close at 9:30 pm…if you have all of the time in the world. It is a seriously powerful experience and one that I think millennials need to see. DO NOT SKIP THIS EITHER.
There are also a ton of great museums in Amsterdam. Seriously. Gobs. Because of our short time here, we chose one, the Van Gogh Museum. Some of his greatest works are there (Sunflowers anybody?) and you really get a feel for his tortured personal life. It’s sort of like an inside peek into his brain, which is an interesting perspective in regards to art museums. It can last an entire day, or just under 2 hours. It’s also in the museum district and so very close to the iconic “IAmsterdam” sign. Be a good tourist and make a quick stop for a photo.
Let’s talk transportation for those of you who just feel like absorbing all of the beauty of the city with no real destination in mind. Amsterdam is perfect for that. BIKES ARE KING. As I mentioned, there are roughly 1.4 bikes for every person in Amsterdam, so this is the best way to get around. There are trams, buses and trains, too, but if you want to see the city for real for real, you’ll rent a bike. I rented mine with a lock for 12 euro (with a 30 euro refundable deposit) for 24 hours at a random bike shop. They’re everywhere, so just stop at the nearest one to you. The next step is to learn the rules of the road. Luckily, there is a separate path for bikes, but due to such a high volume of riders, this path can get quite packed. So, follow the rules. Use hand signals, stay on your side and follow traffic lights (there re even special ones for bikes). It seems intimidating at first, but Amsterdamers have perfected the system and it’s incredibly safe.
Once you have your bike, you have to stop and smell the tulips at Bloemenmarket, the flower market. There you can buy Holland’s famous tulips to grow at home. For Americans, be sure to look for the box that has been certified for import. There’s only one type of box that qualifies, so ask a salesclerk if they aren’t marked. Other than that, passing through the city is a real treat. Stop by Central Station, the Royal Palace and even the Red Light District (SPOILER ALERT: It’s really not that great, so go once and be done with it). There’s a ton to see, so just pedal along and enjoy the view.
Last, but not least, is food. Because the Netherlands were in control of Indonesia at one time, there is a great fusion of Dutch and Indonesian dishes. I suggest trying rijsttafel, or rice table in English. It’s a mix of small dishes, such as toasted coconut and teriyaki pork kabobs, atop a bed of rice and cooked in a flavor of your choice. It can be expensive, but you’ll have enough food to eat for days. The spices used in this type of cooking are unique and totally worth the price tag. Other foods to try include stroopwaffel, two wafer cookies stuck together with a sweet syrup, and chocolate-dipped waffles, which are pretty self-explanatory and come in a million flavors. They’re just as decadent as you’d expect.
I’m in love with this city. Go there, please. That is all.
As always, comment with questions.
Bye, Bye, Bye,