Amsterdam has always been one of of those cities that I love to visit, it changes every time I’m there. It’s the only place that has more hotels than streets, and you know what they say? That all streets lead to the heart, in other words, Amsterdam Centraal (the train station).
This multi-speaking country, often with more foreigners than Dutch people, is a great place to visit. The Dutch are renowned for being friendly and it’s pretty easy to find your way home, if you ever get lost, just head to Amsterdam Centraal. All public transport stops here, trains, taxis, canal boats and of course the trams, so even if you’re staying on the other side of Amsterdam, you’ll be able to get back to where you are staying easily. People are willing to help you here, so despite it being a party town, you can feel safe. Even as a female on her own!
While I wouldn’t recommend using your phone for directions, I personally have never been mugged here. But, I’d still recommend a good old fashioned map, available in most currency exchange shops- it just makes travelling a bit more vintage and safer!
Canal-lined streets and wacky street art, there are many magical things about Amsterdam that I love, other than the obvious tourist attractions. Springtime is a great time to visit Amsterdam, the weather is milder, and you miss the crowds of summer.
1. Visiting Amsterdam’s Attractions
As Amsterdam is a city, it’s pretty expensive all year round, but at least in spring you miss the all the ques. So, if you did want to visit places like the Van Gough museum, ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo or the Rijksmuseum, all of which, although touristy, are worth a visit, spring would be a great time, the weather is mild and pleasant and because there are less crowds you get more photo op’s!
Also, it’s worth noting that the zoo is pretty open plan, a few animals are not in cages, so it’s quite common to see exotic birds flying around the city. While some people may think Zoo’s are unethical, I didn’t mind this one so much. I liked the open plan idea. There have been stories of a Lion that devoured a wild heron, in front of visitors however, so if you’re squeamish, bear this in mind. It’s a bit wilder than usual Zoo’s so while it may seem a bit more ethical, nature is more likely to take place.
All in all, it’s a great place to visit with kids especially, there’s a playground and a sand pit at ARTIS Zoo, so I’d probably name it my top attraction, if you’re travelling with kids, there’s also the NEMO science museum. I’d also recommend Vondlepark, known as the lungs of Amsterdam. It’s a safe place to cycle around, or walk through when the flowers are in bloom. It’s free for those of you on a budget.
2. Exploring the Sights of Amsterdam
The flower markets are an essential part of Dutch heritage, with the Tulip of course, being the star of the show. Prepare to see flowers like you’ve never seen before. The Amsterdam flower markets show you how it’s done.
There are many markets in Amsterdam, including the Waterlooplien market, which is a vintage flea market. There’s also the IJ Hallen, which is a store located in a warehouse, and boasts to be the biggest flea market in Europe! There’s street art outside, so grab your camera as this is a great place to take Instagram shots!
The Dam square is of course at the heart of Amsterdam, and is a great place to grab photographs of typical Dutch buildings, or take a tour of the city on a canal boat. If you haven’t been to Amsterdam before, this is a great place to start and get a feel for this unusual city.
3. Try the Dutch Street Food
Holland is also a big producer of cheese, so it would be rude not to at least try some when you’re here. The Gouda is amazing, most cafes will sell cheese toasties, so don’t forget to try one, I guarantee it will be the best toastie you have ever tried. There are plenty of cheese shops dotted around Amsterdam too, and you can even buy some at the airport to take home with you.
While the Dutch aren’t exactly known for their cuisine, there are a few street foods you can try. Patatje Oorlog are fries with toppings, while this might sound ordinary, nobody does it like the Dutch! You can get a variety of toppings, I’d personally recommend the peanut satay sauce, or onions and mayonnaise. The dish translates as ‘War chips’, so prepare for battle, as they’re usually a messy affair! Pair with an ice cold beer and sit next to a canal while you enjoy them.
Another savoury favourite are Saucijzenbroodjes (sausage rolls) which are made with ground beef, spiced with nutmeg and black pepper. Kibbeling are fried fish bites served with dips, I’d recommend trying the whisky dip. Both are a great snack to eat while you’re wondering around and exploring Amsterdam.
For something sweet, you have to try Poffertjes, soft, sweet and fluffy pancakes, topped with melted butter and sugar. Perfect for breakfast or a snack. Some places offer toppings such as fruit, whipped cream and rum (although this is more common around Christmas time).
Don’t forget that Amsterdam is a multi cultural hub, so it’s a city that boasts every cuisine. If you really don’t want to try Dutch street food, be prepared for an explosion of flavours, as you’ll be spoiled with choice when it comes to choosing what to eat.
4. Rent a Bike
If you’ve never been to Amsterdam before, the amount of bikes on the road can be a little overwhelming, I would recommend not drinking or smoking on the first day so that you can get used to the amount of bikes. Most have bells, and will alert you when they are approaching, but make sure you move out of the way and always check behind you as it can feel like they’re coming from every direction.
The easiest way to get around the city is to cycle, so if you’re a confident cyclist I would recommend renting a bike. Just remember that the Dutch drive on the other side of the road compared to England.
5. Visit the Adult side of Amsterdam
There is obviously a seedy side to Amsterdam, and while I don’t condone sex tourism, the red light district is still worth a visit. It’s a part of the tourism here, and it’s a kind of a surreal experience. The women in glass windows.
It’s also kind of funny when you get beckoned in, so expect to be full of giggles when you wonder around this city, especially at night. Also, don’t forget the red light secrets museum in the area, and the sex museum which is located near Amsterdam Centraal, to learn more about Amsterdam’s history.
Now, if you want to visit a smoking coffee shop, it’s important to know that cannabis will not be sold on the premise. Instead you have to visit a shop that sells cannabis or space brownies, purchase them here and take them to the coffee shop where you will be able to smoke them. Don’t just smoke a joint on the street, as this not allowed.
Trying a coffee shop is a must if you want to try the Amsterdam experience. Most coffee shops also do amazing coffee, obviously, so it’s custom to buy drinks while you’re smoking in the place. Most sell alcohol too, but be careful when mixing substances!
There are plenty of legal high shops, so if you’re looking to really trip, I would recommend trying these as opposed to buying anything illegal. Just remember that Amsterdam is a psychedelic place. Many trips have been consumed in this place, so sometimes the streets can feel alive, it can feel like they’re breathing. I think this is why certain parts of Amsterdam are referred to as the heart or lung.
Always be careful when you consume drugs, especially if you haven’t tried them before or visited Amsterdam before! Make sure you can trust who you’re with, and know your way back to where you are staying, just in case you have a bad trip! Always make sure that you carry a bottle of water with you.
There are plenty of drug paraphernalia shops, or ashtrays are a common souvenir, most coffee shops are very chatty, and they will give you the best advice. The Dutch are really friendly people so never feel like you can’t talk to them.
With many bars and nightclubs, if cannabis is not your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Amsterdam. The streets really come to life at night and there’s always some fun to be had. It can get pretty wild.
Amsterdam is filled with excitement and packed with activities for tourists. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a city with something for everyone. Whether you choose a hotel, a river boat or a quaint little attic Airbnb, it’s got exceptional character. No two visits are ever the same. I hope you have an amazing trip to Amsterdam.
Thanks for reading,