Amsterdam: 10 Things to Do

A city on canals, Amsterdam is easy explore by foot, boat or bike. After a long weekend in this magical city, I found myself ready to return as soon as possible. With delicious eateries, charming boutiques, and incredible museums, there’s no shortage of things to do in Amsterdam.

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10 of My Favorite Things to Do in Amsterdam

Tour the Anne Frank Huis

  • Visit the house where Anne Frank hid with her family during the war. Seeing the Secret Annex was a powerful experience. It’s a dark and airless space, and hard to imagine the families who lived there had to be completely silent during the day 
    • Admission is under €10, but purchase your tickets months in advance if you don’t want to wait hours to get in 

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Visit the Van Gogh Museum

  • It’s hard not to love seeing Van Gogh’s famous works. As a big impressionistic art fan, a trip to the Van Gogh Museum was at the top of my to-do list, and although I may be biased, I can’t say enough good things about it
    • Tip 1: Spend the extra money and buy a headset for a guided tour. We did the highlights tour and loved the background context and move-at-your-own-pace experience 
    • Tip 2: Unless you want to wait in line, buy your tickets (€17) ahead of time
    • Bonus Reco: At the nearby Rijksmuseum (another good museum to visit), you’ll find the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ sign

 

Try Dutch Food

My top three recos:

  • The Pancake Bakery: When you’re in Amsterdam, it only makes sense to eat a Dutch Pancake. This restaurant may be tiny, but they make amazing sweet and savory pancakes. You’ll also find the best poffertjes (mini pancakes) in the city here
  • Winkel 43: The place to be for traditional Dutch Appeltaart (so good)
  • Moeders: I’ll admit I was skeptical of Dutch food (my diet in the US is plant and whole grain based, so I was worried traditional Dutch food would be too heavy). But, you really can’t go wrong mixing potatoes, cheese and vegetables- hotpotch is where it’s at. Moeders does a great presentation of the Dutch classics, and the photos of mothers everywhere are super adorable

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Tour the Canals

  • Amsterdam is known as the “Venice of the North” because it has so many canals, so touring them by boat is a must. We decided to do a nighttime canal tour at the last minute, and just hopped on one of  Holland International‘s cruises, but there are a bunch of providers to choose from depending on the kind of cruise experience you want
    • Tip: Try to time your cruise for sunset, I’ve heard the sun’s setting reflection on the water is stunning

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Go Shopping

  • Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals are in and around the Jordaan district. Known as De Negen Straatjes (9 streets), it’s a wonderful shopping area filled with trendy boutiques, cozy cafes and restaurants
    • Favorite shops in/near De Negen Straatjes:  
      • Ko: Cute little gift shop, picked up a pair of darling earrings here
      • Property Of… Perfect place for accessories and a good cup of coffee
      • Sukha: Quite possibly the most beautiful shop I’ve ever visited
      • Store Without a Home: Started in 2010 as a design gallery with temporary pop-up locations, now the store represents a good balance of emerging designers and international brands.
      • Restored: A well curated shop- clothing, accessories and housewares with a minimalist feel
    • Favorite shop outside of De Negen Straatjes: 
      • COTTONCAKE: Located in Oude Pijp, this cafe is an interesting concept with an open Scandi-style store up front and a loft with cafe tables in the back
  • Amsterdam is also home to some great markets, three to check out:
    • Albert Cuyp: With 260 stands, it’s the largest market in Europe. You’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, textiles, leather goods and trendy clothing here
    • Noordermarkt: Huge farmers market in the Jordaan held on Saturdays (food focused) and Mondays (textile focused). Loved this market almost as much as I love the Union Square Greenmarket, which is one of my favorite places in New York City
    • Bloemenmarkt (flower market): Floating flower market situated on barges on the Singel Canal. Although the array of plants and flowers was impressive, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for this market. If you’re nearby, it’s a cool place to stroll through

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Taste Local Cheese

  • Holland is the largest cheese exporter in the world. The cheese and wine tasting at Reypenaer Proeflokaal didn’t disappoint. Their cheese literally melts in your mouth. And they’re still producing it the traditional way, letting it age in a warehouse where temperature control means opening or closing the windows.
    • If you’re traveling on a budget, this is a pretty affordable afternoon activity, coming in at €15. Over the course of the tasting, you try six wine pours and have unlimited access to accompanying cheeses, so it’s a good value. Tastings sell out though, be sure to book your spot in advance
    • If you can’t make it to Reypenaer, hit up the Amsterdam Cheese Company. They carry many different kinds of cheeses and let you sample before buying

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Kick Back with a Cold One

  • If you’re in the mood to sample some of the best beer in Amsterdam, head to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a modern brewery next to a windmill producing organic blonde and dark beers. We ordered the sampler to try a few local crafts and really enjoyed the experience of drinking them in the garden with the after-work crowd. The brewery also offers tours if you’re interested in the creation process

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Visit Vondelpark

  • Explore Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most popular park. Pack a picnic lunch, go for a morning run or afternoon stroll- it doesn’t matter what you do in the park, just make sure you find time to enjoy it

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Relax in One of the City’s Cafes

  • Three of my favorite places to cozy up with a cup of coffee:
    • C.T. Coffee & Coconuts: Located in a former movie theater, this multi-level cafe has an open, gorgeous interior. Come for breakfast and linger over coffee or a freshly cracked coconut
    • Screaming Beans: Screaming Beans equals great coffee. Period
    • Back to Black: Super cozy cafe with good speciality coffee

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Wander the Canals

  • Wander through the streets of De Pijp, the ‘Latin Quarter’ of Amsterdam (it’s an artsy, eclectic area)
  • Walk the narrow cobblestone streets in the Jordaan district, window shopping as you go
  • Check out the three main ring canals that connect Amsterdam’s oldest streets – Herengracht, Prinsensgracht and Keizersgracht in the late afternoon light for stunning canal photo opps

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Bonus: Take a Day Trip!

  • If it’s your fist time in the Netherlands and you’re hoping to see windmills, travel 20-30 minutes outside of city center (easily accessible by bus!) to Zaanse Schans. Is it a bit touristy? Sure, but it’s also one of the best places to get a postcard worthy picture of working windmills
    • We only spent a few hours here, but you could rent a bike and easily spend a day exploring this idyllic town
    • While you’re here, get a fresh stroopwaffel- they’re incredible

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PS. If you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam, consider staying in one of the city’s houseboats. Click here to learn about my experience staying on one of them during my first trip to Amsterdam.

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