A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city of funny and ironic juxtapositions. You have old architecture right next to new developments, the windows of the Red Light District right next to a townhouse with kids watching cartoons right upstairs (seriously, I saw this), and a local family-owned restaurant that serves authentic, Dutch cuisine right next to a coffeeshop (aka a marijuana dispensary). And the canals?! There is a reason why they call this city the "Venice of the North."
Honestly...I wouldn't have it any other way. There is an aura of pure magic that just exudes from this city and I've been longing to return ever since I left. If you're planning your trip to Amsterdam or looking for some inspiration, use this weekend guide to plan where to eat, sleep, and play on any budget in Amsterdam!
GOOD TO KNOW INFORMATION BEFORE TRAVELING TO AMSTERDAM:
Language: Dutch, Frisian, Papiamento, but English and German are also widely spoken
When to Visit: Peak season is June-August, so be aware that it can get very crowded on those tiny, narrow sidewalks. However, those months are best for warmer weather and plenty of daylight to bike around. November-December is very rainy, snowy, and kind of dreary, while January-February is still very cold. This would be a good time to come to avoid the crowds, but the weather probably won't be on your side. March-May is tulip season, so it's also a very popular time (plus, weather is getting warmer). September-October is another wonderful time to visit if you want to avoid large crowds and explore on a shoulder season.
Getting Around: Tram (goes everywhere and relatively easy to use--get day pass!), rent a bike, or walk! I don't really recommend using taxis because traffic can get pretty congested. The best way to get around is by tram and walking in my opinion.
Don't forget to pack: Umbrella, comfortable walking shoes, scarf or light jacket for layering
Amsterdam is perfect for: Solo travelers, couples, families, groups, foodies, cultural travelers, and adventure travelers
The food in Amsterdam is simply fabulous for so many reasons. As far as European cities go, getting a really amazing meal here can be pretty affordable and/or accessible. Since it's such a cosmopolitan city, you can also find basically any flavor or type of cuisine you're looking for, which I personally love in any great city. However, whatever you do, make sure you don't leave Amsterdam without trying these local staples:
Stroopwafel (maybe with a little Nutella...?)
Haring with pickles and red onions
Frites with mayo (or any of the other 50+ sauces available)
Browse all of my other restaurant recommendations by budget right below!
Foodhallen, Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam -- Pretty much what it sounds like: A food hall with a wide variety of incredible foods and treats.
Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx, Voetboogstraat 31-33, 1012 XK Amsterdam -- One of the best places to get french fries with a ton of sauce options...*mouth watering*
The Urker Fish Shop, Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat 13H, 1015 SB Amsterdam -- Simply divine seafood shop and the best fish and chips I've ever had. Try the brined herring (pictured above), deep fried cod, and ask for some tulip vodka on the side!
Original Stroopwafels, Albert Cuyp market 180 (Under the golden angel in front of Bazar Restaurant) -- A must try Dutch treat and great place to do so
Cafe Papeneiland, Prinsengracht 2, 1015 DV Amsterdam -- An Amsterdam staple. Amazing apple pie and overall really cool pub. The views of the surrounding area are really cool too!
Tijger & de Vis, Lindengracht 158, 1025 KK Amsterdam -- Excellent seafood spot with affordable prices
Jacketz, Kinkerstraat 56, 1053 DZ Amsterdam -- Very cool baked potato shop that serves them like you've never seen them
Chiapas Taco-Cartel, Van Woustraat 29H, 1074 AB Amsterdam -- Some of the best Mexican food and tacos you'll find in the city
Sir Hummus, Van Der Delstplein 2, 1072 PH Amsterdam -- Healthy, Middle Eastern, Vegetarian Friendly
Vegan Junk Food Bar, Leliegracht 16, 1015 Amsterdam -- Great fast food with vegan, healthy, and gluten-free options
Also try: Broodje Bert, Sticky Fingers, Sweet Cup, Omelegg, Bulls and Dogs, Cafe P96, The Lebanese Sajeria, Toastable Nieuwendijk, Sugo, De Mannen Van Kaas, Soup en Zo, and Vegabond
Cafe De Prins, Prinsengracht 124, 1015 EA Amsterdam -- Unpretentious Dutch Bar/Cafe that's a great spot to get poffertjes and a beer
Pluk Amsterdam, Reestraat 19, 1016 DM Amsterdam -- Healthy Cafe and an Instagram Dream
The Pantry, 21 Leidsekruisstraat, 1017 RE Amsterdam -- Authentic Dutch cuisine
Dignita Vondelpark, Koninginneweg 218 HS, 1075 EL Amsterdam -- Delicious cafe that has a really excellent brunch menu with fresh ingredients
The Avocado Show, Daniel Stalpertstraat 61 H, 1072 XB Amsterdam -- Another Instagram Dream and a perfect place for anyone who loves anything/everything with avocados
SLA, Multiple Locations -- Beautiful cafe with fast casual healthy options
The Seafood Bar, Spui 15, Plein, 1012 WX Amsterdam -- Excellent seafood restaurant with a good variety of options for all diets
Bakers & Roasters, Kadijksplein 16, 1018 AC Amsterdam -- Cozy cafe that is great for brunch food
Greenwoods, Singel 103, 1013 GA Amsterdam -- Lovely cafe along the canal that's another perfect brunch spot
Wink, Govert Flinckstraat 326hs, 1073 CJ Amsterdam -- Fine dining at an affordable price
Also try: Gartine, Van Kerkwijk, Ree7, d&a hummus bistro, De Reiger, stout, Zaza's, Cafe de Klos, The Good Champion
La Rive, Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam -- French, Mediterranean, International
Bussia, Reestraat 28-32, 1016 DN Amsterdam -- Italian, European, Vegetarian Friendly
Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, Ferdinand Bolstraat 333, Hotel Okura, 1072 LH Amsterdam -- Japanese, Asian, Vegetarian Friendly
Vinkeles, Keizersgracht 384, The Dylan Amsterdam, 1016 GB Amsterdam -- French, European, International
De Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3, 1097 DE Amsterdam -- Dutch, European, Vegetarian Friendly
The White Room, Dam 9, NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, 1012 JS Amsterdam -- French, Dutch, International
Senses, Vijzelstraat 45, 1017 HE Amsterdam -- International, European
Bord'Eau, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-14, De L'Europe Amsterdam, 1012 CP Amsterdam -- French, International, European
De Silveren Spiegel, Kattengat 4-6, Centrum, 1012 SZ Amsterdam -- Dutch, European, Vegetarian Friendly
Ciel Bleu, Ferdinand Bolstraat 333, Hotel Okura Amsterdam, 1072 LB Amsterdam -- Contemporary, International, Vegetarian Friendly
Also try: MR PORTER, &Moshik, Bluespoon, THE DUCHESS, Yamazato, Restaurant Envy, Jaspers
Finding a good place to stay in Amsterdam will not be a problem when you're booking your trip. The problem lies within narrowing down the choices because there are so many good options! While there's always plenty of great Airbnb's to choose from (PS--that link gives you a FREE $40 credit to use!), I personally love the unique hotels situated throughout the city. Here are a few of my favorite recommendations for hotels to stay in Amsterdam.
The Affordable, Trendy Boutique Hotel
The Hoxton, $$, Herengracht 255, 1016 BJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This trendy hotel is perfectly situated in the city and gives guests a cozy, chic and eclectic vibe to come home to every night. They offer various sizes and types of rooms (including canal views and concept rooms), making this a great option for people who want some choice options and wiggle room with their budget.
The artsy Eclectic Hotel
Pulitzer Amsterdam, $$$, Prinsengracht 323, 1016 GZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Pulitzer Amsterdam is perfect for guests looking for that artsy, eclectic vibe in the heart of the city. Here are a few things I love about this hotel: (1) The decor feels like Alice in Wonderland, which is always a plus; (2) It's perfectly situated in the Jordaan neighborhood, which is great to walk around; (3) Le Labo bath products...enough said; (4) You have a sightseeing boat that's right in front of the hotels that can take you around the canals; (5) You can rent bikes to explore the city like a local. It's simply a marvelous place to stay!
Also try: Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht ($$$)
The Luxury Experience
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, $$$$, Herengracht 542-556, 1017 CG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
For a splurge-worthy occasion, the opulence and comfort of the Waldorf Astoria will never disappoint. This luxurious hideaway offers guests a relaxing and peaceful sanctuary in the middle of the action of the city. Enjoy excellent service, canal views, and an overall five star experience while you're here.
The Mid-range elegance
The Dylan, $$$, Keizersgracht 384, 1016 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
If you don't want to break the bank but you're still looking to have an elegant and classy experience, The Dylan might be the perfect choice for you! The clean lines and design throughout the hotel make this a decor lover's dream. Make sure to spend some time in the courtyard during the warmer months!
10 Things to Do in Amsterdam:
1. Explore the Canals
Amsterdam is known for being the "Venice of the North," and as such, you need to spend some time exploring all the stunning canals and the architecture that surrounds them! This city is really what every canal city wishes it could be (sorry, Venice, that includes you).
It's going to be hard to put your camera down once you find some of the areas that appeal to you, but I recommend exploring as many parts of the city as you can. The best way to do this is by taking a tour of the canals by boat. Take one at day and one at night to see the difference! It's truly breathtaking.
2. Relax in Vondelpark Or other green spaces
If you're craving some time outdoors, explore some of Amsterdam's green areas like Vondelpark (most popular), Sarphatipark, Rembrandtpark, Oosterpark or Park Frankendael. You can also visit Hortus Botanicus, which is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world! It's a great escape for those rainy days where you might not be able to explore outside. If you have a chance, also look into checking out Begijnhof, which is an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century. It's cut off from the hustle and bustle of the city and just really lovely to see!
3. Museum Hop Around the City
Amsterdam is full of unique, quirky, and popular museums for all types of visitors to enjoy (seriously...anything you want from art and culture to erotica and marijuana). If you want to see the crème de la crème, don't miss the Anne Frank House (must buy tickets/schedule in advance!), the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum. For a more unique or quirky experience, check out the Houseboat Museum, Museum Willet-Holthuysen, EYE Film Museum, Rembrandt's House, Amsterdam Museum, or the Cat Cabinet Museum.
4. Indulge in the Local Cuisine with a Food Tour
I love food tours because they give you the chance to try a lot of different things in a short amount of time, and they tend to take you off the beaten path if you choose wisely. We did a food tour through Eating Amsterdam and had a really great time! Our guide was super knowledgeable, funny, and friendly. If you're visiting the city with a short amount of time, consider looking up this food tour group (or any others) so you can try a lot of different places and learn about the city while you're indulging.
5. Learn About the History of the Red Light District
I know this is so cliché, but in all honesty, there's a lot more than meets the eye to this area of the city. Amsterdam's Red Light District has a lot of really interesting history and facts that you can learn by asking some of the experts. Plus, there is a committee of people who are trying to shut it down (and are somewhat succeeding), so now is the time to go before it *might* disappear.
One night, we did a guided, adults-only tour through the area and I walked away from it completely stunned at how fascinating the information we learned was. I thought I had seen it all when I went to walk around by myself, but taking this tour gave me such a different perspective and taught me a lot. I highly recommend doing some sort of walking/guided tour like this if you have the time. If you don't have the time, consider going to the area to at least check it out if you're interested. Remember: ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOS of the windows while you're in the area and be respectful of the people working.
6. Visit a CoffeeShop
"When in R̶o̶m̶e̶ Amsterdam," right? If this isn't your sort of thing, skip it; but I'll wholeheartedly admit that I was in a coffeeshop within the first few hours of arriving in Amsterdam because I was so intrigued to check it out. For those of you who are wondering what a coffeeshop is, it is an establishment that legally sells marijuana for consumers to buy (i.e. different than a "coffee shop" or "cafe"). A few tips for visiting the coffeeshops:
CASH ONLY! Make sure to bring cash as most places will not accept cards.
If you have a preference in the type of weed you want to smoke (or you just have no idea), ask the person behind the counter and they'll be able to help out.
Joints = Marijuana Mixed with Tobacco; Pure Joins = Pure Marijuana
Don't forget to buy a lighter, papers, or some sort of paraphernalia to smoke out of if the weed isn't pre-rolled in a joint.
Keep your wits about you, especially if you're heading out to explore after enjoying yourself. Make sure it's ok to smoke inside or outside of the coffeeshop before lighting up. Don't buy marijuana anywhere besides the coffeeshops to avoid any issues.
7. Shop 'til You Drop
I was so impressed by the shopping options in Amsterdam. Basically, any style or budget you have, you can find something that suits you. The 9 Streets in the Jordaan (described below) has a lot of trendy places to shop, so I recommend wandering around there. The P.C. Hooftstraat is where you'll find all the luxury designer goods, while the Spiegelkwartier is where you'll find antique goods and art. Gerard Doustraat (De Pijp neighborhood) and Haarlemmerdijk (near Central Station) are other streets where you will find a ton of other fashionable boutiques. Some of my favorite boutiques I came across were:
8. Instagram Your Heart Out at Bloemenmarkt
You can't really visit Holland without getting at least one photo of some beautiful flowers, right? Founded in 1862, Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market and one of the most fragrant and colorful places in the city. It's open year round (Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 17:30 and Sunday from 11:30 to 17:30) and located on the Singel canal between the Muntplein and the Koningsplein.
9. Wander Through the Jordaan and De Pijp Neighborhoods
These two neighborhoods are among Amsterdam's trendiest spots and were my personal favorites to explore.
There is a lot of history in the Jordaan and it's known for being home to many beautiful houses, unique restaurants, and hip boutiques. Good areas to explore in the Jordaan are Haarlemmerstraat, Prinsengracht, Westerstraat, and The 9 Streets--aka De Negen Straatjes--which includes Reestraat, Berenstraat, Runstraat, Hartenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Huidenstraat, Gasthuismolensteeg, Oude Spiegelstraat, and Wijde Heisteeg.
What was once the working class neighborhood of Amsterdam now boasts some of the trendiest and most diverse places to hang out in the city. The De Pijp neighborhood is just south of the city center and is essentially Amsterdam's bohemian Latin Quarter. Make sure to visit the Albert Cuypmarkt, which is the country's largest open-air market.
10. Adventure Through the City On a Bike
It won't take more than 10 seconds after you step off the train in Amsterdam to see how popular biking is around the city. Everyone and their mother has a bike. Children bike. Business owners bike. It's a way of life in Amsterdam! Although it may seem dangerous (I honestly don't know if I would be courageous enough to do it!), it's one of the best ways to get around and see the city in a short amount of time. If you're feeling up for the adventure, rent a bike and explore the beautiful city for a day.
BONUS: Hop on Europe's highest swing if you're brave
If you're looking for some thrill and action, head to the A'DAM Lookout, which offers a killer 360° skydeck where you can get an incredible view of the city, and hop on their skydeck swing!
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO Amsterdam? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO EAT, PLACES TO STAY, OR THINGS TO DO? COMMENT BELOW WITH MORE RECOMMENDATIONS!
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