One of the most well known cities in Europe, Amsterdam is a very unique place and one of our favorite European cities to date. Now when we say unique, we’re not just referring to the fact that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can buy marijuana from the corner coffee shops or see legal prostitutes in street windows; Amsterdam is much for than that. It’s also home to endless canals, beautiful bridges and world renowned museums. It’s one of the most incredible cities we’ve been to and a place we keep coming back to when we make our way through Europe. Amsterdam Schiphol airport is also one of the major European airports making it easy to add Amsterdam to your travel itinerary.


Getting Around:

Compared to some other European cities, Amsterdam is pretty easy to navigate and it can be explored by the following three ways: walk it, tram it or bike it. Walking through the canals is something that every visitor should do and it’s a great way to get from place to place. When we would Google map directions, sometimes it would be a difference of just 1 or 2 minutes to reach our destination by walking instead of taking the tram. However, taking the tram in Amsterdam is also very convenient. It cost €2.80 for an hour ride, which is enough time to get you anywhere in the city. Just remember to tap in and out. If you really want to be brave you can bike from place to place; just be sure to know the rules of the road. Most bike rentals are about €10 for the day.

 

Top Attractions: Our Favorite Things to See and Do:

 

1. Wander around the Museums

Amsterdam is filled with tons of historic museums, ranging from works of famous artists, to the Anne Frank Museum, where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis. In fact, if you want to go museum crazy, there is a 24 hour Museum pass for €50 that gives you access to most of Amsterdam’s most well known Museums. Here is a list of some of the major ones:

2. Shop at the Markets:

  • Dappermarkt: is a street market in Amsterdam Oost (East) that offers a bit of everything at affordable prices. Mostly featuring food and clothes, Dappermarkt is a great place to walk around  if you’re looking to pick up a new cheap outfit or a cheap bite to eat. Open everyday except Sunday.
  • Museum Market: The Museum Market is located between the Riksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum making for a really interesting place to spend a Sunday afternoon. You could easily go check out a museum and then head over to the market for some delicious food or shop for some handmade nicknacks. This is definitely a great place to get a Sunday lunch and wander around or lay out on the green. Our favorite vendor was Koffee & Thee, who converted an old VW bug into a coffee shop! Takes place every third Sunday of the month (except for September and October).

Museum Market Amsterdam

Museum Market Amsterdam

Museum Market Amsterdam

  • Waterloopleinmarkt: Known as the “Fleamarket of Amsterdam”, the Waterloopleinmarkt has a bit of everything from your typical Amsterdam souvenirs to antiques and vinyl records. Open everyday except Sunday.

Waterloopleinmarkt Amsterdam

  • Sunday Market: The Sunday Market located at the Westergasfabriek (look for the red hot air balloon logo) was one of our favorite markets! It has some of the same vendors as the Museum Market, but is much larger. Some of the shops are located in historic factory buildings and most of the vendors sell hand made items like cute tea-cup candles, wine barrel furniture and one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories. When you’re not shopping you can check out some great food trucks! Our favorites were Pierogi Polish Dumplings, Vleesch Noch Visch and Crepes Mobiel. Takes place the first Sunday of every month.

  • Albert Cuyp Market: Known as the largest street market in the Netherlands, Albert Cuyp can quickly fill up your time as you visit the 250+ stalls. The stalls range from selling cheese, vegetable/fruit, clothing, flowers and delicious food to eat while walking around. Open everyday except Sunday.

  • Floating Flower Market: One of the more famous markets in Amsterdam, the Floating Flower Market is a string of flower stores and souvenir shops. To be honest, it’s not our favorite market, probably because we’re not allowed to bring flower bulbs home, but it’s worth a visit as you will mostly likely pass it while walking around.

Floating Flower Market Amsterdam

3. Relax in the Parks:

No matter where we are, we always like to walk through some parks and Amsterdam is no different. We strolled through a few during our time there but the two below are our favorites.

  • Oosterpark: Located in Amsterdam East, Oosterpark is a beautiful spot to walk around and maybe even do a little bird watching. We saw a ton of different birds flying around when we visited.

Oosterpark Amsterdam

Oosterpark Amsterdam

  • Vondelpark: The largest of all the city parks and probably the most famous. It’s centrally located and is a great place to go for a jog, picnic, listen to music or watch all the adorable dogs run around. There are also great cafes located within the park if you want to stop and grab a bite to eat or have a coffee.

Vondelpark Amsterdam

Vondelpark Amsterdam

4. Drink some Beer:

  • Heineken Experience: Of the several brewery tours we’ve been to on our trip, the Heineken Experience is definitely the coolest. It starts out by giving you some history on Heineken and the brewing process, but then turns into an interactive experience including a 5 minute “ride” where you become a beer! Next is a tasting where if you answer some questions correctly you get some extra beer, so don’t be shy! Then there is a bar where you can knock back a couple complimentary Heinekens or even learn how to pour your own. We’ve been to Amsterdam a few times and always check out the Heineken Experience. Price €16

Heineken Experience Amsterdam

Heineken Experience Amsterdam

  • Brouwerij ‘t IJ: Not quite as popular or well known as Heineken, Brouwerij’t IJ is a local brewery/bar in Amsterdam Oost. Located below the largest windmill in the city of Amsterdam, it’s a great place to grab an afternoon brew and enjoy the outside seating. They also have some great craft beers on tap!

Brouwerij 't IJ Amsterdam

5. Enjoy the Coffeeshops and Explore the Red Light District: 

If you haven’t heard, marijuana is legal in Amsterdam and is sold in the (in)famous Amsterdam coffeeshops. They’re probably the only coffeeshops in the world where no one goes for the coffee, but each one is unique, and if you’re into that kind of thing you should definitely check out at least a couple while visiting this great city.

An area where coffee shops can easily be found is the Red Light District. Famous for being the only area in Amsterdam where prostitution is legal, the Red Light District is an interesting part of the city and worth taking a stroll through. Just be prepared to see prostitutes standing in street windows that are illuminated by red lights, and don’t take pictures of any working ladies if you catch our drift. It’s considered rude and they aren’t very appreciative of it.

6. Boat Cruise Through the Canal:

Amsterdam is known for it’s beautiful canals and bridges, and what better way to get up close and personal than to take a cruise through the canals. We booked our one hour tour with Lovers and highly recommend it as a unique way to see the city. Price €16 through the website but you can find street vendors selling tickets for less.

Lovers Canal Cruise Amsterdam

Lovers Canal Cruise Amsterdam

7. Brave the Bike Lanes:

We’ve done a lot of adventurous activities while traveling, but renting a bike in Amsterdam might be one of the scariest things we’ve done. Amsterdam is the quintessential bike city and the locals who bike are not joking around. Like a New Jersey driver on the turn-pike they will flip you the bird of you get in their way. However, after observing the bikers for a week and half we decided to give it shot and brave the bike lane.

Renting a bike in Amsterdam

Our sweet ride!

Renting a bike in Amsterdam

8. Take a Tour:

  • SANDMAN’s Free Walking Tour: Another city and another SANDMAN’s Free Walking Tour. We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll say it again, we love walking tours and SANDMAN’s is our preferred walking tour company. The Amsterdam tour is a great way to get introduced to the cities history and get your bearings. Some of the major stops include:  The Old Church, The Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, Royal Palace, The Jordaan District, The Anne Frank House, The Begijnh of Convent, Masterpieces of Dutch Art ,The Widest Bridge and Narrowest House, and The Dutch East India Company
  • Street Art Amsterdam Tour: While walking around the beautiful streets of Amsterdam, you will start to notice that there is some incredible street art happening through out the city. If you’re interested in stepping up your street art knowledge there are a few companies that offer tours specifically around the street art culture happening in Amsterdam.

9. Visit the Windmills at Zaanse Schans:

A short train ride from Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans is a really cool little town showcasing several historic windmills. Besides taking in some views that will blow you away (cause of the windmills!), Zaanse Schans also has a bunch of cute shops including a cacao lab, cheese shop, and even a wooden shoe making factory!

Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans

 

Where to eat:

Bridges Restaurants: A one Michelin star restaurant, Bridges is a great place to go if you want an excellent meal with a relaxed atmosphere. We ate here our first night in Amsterdam and it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. For more on our experience at Bridges check out our Restaurant Review post!

Bridges Restaurant Amsterdam

WILDE ZWIJNEN: Translated into Wild Boar, WILDE ZWIJNEN is a trendy yet cozy restaurant located in Amsterdam Oost and due to it’s popularity with locals is always packed. They specialize in Dutch cuisine using local and seasonal produce allowing the menu to change based on what is available. Because of that we’d suggest letting the chef choose your meal with either the 3-course (€31.50) or 4-course (€37.50) Menu du Chef. We also loved the fact they write you name on the table with chalk when you make a reservation!

WILDE ZWIJNEN Amsterdam

Lombardo’s: If you like burgers you need to go to Lombardo’s. A small burger shack type place, Lombardo’s has awesome burgers and an amazing pulled pork sandwich. It’s a great place to stop by for a delicious and cheap lunch.

 

Accommodation:

Amsterdam is a city that is filled with world class museums, trendy art galleries, unique boutiques and fun markets. So for visitors trying to do and see it all, staying at a hotel that is centrally located is an important aspect when exploring this incredible city. However, being centrally located certainly doesn’t mean you have to stay in a loud, busy, touristy area.

Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District Amsterdam

For our visit to Amsterdam we wanted to stay in an area that was in the center of things but also in an area with character and charm. This lead us to Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District. Character and charm was accomplished as the hotel was converted from 17th century weaver’s houses into the beautiful 2-story brick hotel it is today. The hotel’s decor reflected the essences of Amsterdam with their custom made canal house carpet running through the halls as well as the floor to ceiling paintings hung over the bed. All the details through out the hotel make it perfect place to stay while visiting Amsterdam.

Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District Amsterdam

Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District Amsterdam

Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District Amsterdam The hotel is also located down a quiet cobblestone side street, making it a hidden gem in the center of Amsterdam. As we walked out the large green front doors, Amsterdam was at our fingertips! We easily reached the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Experience, FOAM museum and wandered in and out of the canals without being too far away from our hotel.

Thank you Mercure Amsterdam Centre Canal District for hosting us during our stay!

As always, our opinions are our own as we Talk Travel.

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