This is the perfect place for a city break. Amsterdam is an incredibly popular destination and arguably one of the most iconic cities in the world. Canals, clogs and bicycles are common here. Although, some people may visit for certain aspects in The Red Light District. This itinerary has it all, so you can make those choices for yourself.
Where to stay?
Accommodation in the city can be very expensive, even hostels. Both times that I have stayed in Amsterdam it has been further afield than the city centre. Location can be convenient, but the money we saved staying further away and commuting by train was worth it. There are certain aspects of searching for somewhere to stay that are frustrating. Bad reviews about hostel bathrooms, no social atmosphere or even the dreaded bed bugs can ruin a hostel that seems otherwise perfect.
While weighing up my options, the priority for me is the social part. A restaurant or a bar on-site is usually a good sign. Does the hostel have a free walking tour? That’s a good way to meet people too. Of course, practical things are important and essential. Laundry services, breakfast options and cleanliness are all on my checklist. Privacy is a bonus, even a simple curtain on a hostel bed can make all the difference.
Okay let’s head out and explore! My favourite part of both trips to Amsterdam has been canal boat trips. You can even use it as a general mode of transport and it’s much nicer than the tram. To do this, you need a hop on hop off ticket. I admit it is not a fast way to get around, but you can use it an unlimited number of times during the 24 hours. It is just a relaxing way to see the city. The boat tours have a guide giving you facts about the area, or in one case cracking jokes and pretending to drive the boat into a wall (which is arguably more entertaining).
You can follow where you are on the map as you drift around the canals. Note down places you want to visit or take advantage of hopping on and off as you please. I would suggest stopping at Dam Square or maybe the Amsterdam museum for day one. Vondelpark is also a nice place to go for a walk (or cycle if that’s your thing). In that area, there is somewhere I haven’t been before. Vegan Junk Food Bar is high on my list. I wasn’t vegan last time, so didn’t check it out, but gives me something to go back for.
In the evening, you could check out the Red Light District. Head to The Bulldog (famous as the city’s first coffee shop, but not for it’s coffee if you know what I mean). Fun story: I went to a live sex show in the Red Light District on my second trip and it was highly interesting. There were two drinks included in my ticket and you got given a penis lollipop at the door (or both a boob and penis lollipop if the doorman was confused by your gender expression- yes this happened to someone in our group). The highlight of the show was a wonderful pole performance by a beautiful woman. I would personally rather watch that than someone giving a blowjob personally, which really is not that exciting. Although, the interactive part of the show where a dominatrix got a guy from the audience to wear a leash on stage and do anything that she told him was entertaining. A sex show is not for everyone and you will likely get the giggles if you do go.
If you have a pre-planned visit to Amsterdam, go book your tickets to the Anne Frank House right now. On our first visit, we were very lucky to get a time slot from the same-day release ticket allocation. Only 20% of the tickets for each day are available and are released at 9 AM that morning, with the remaining 80% up for reservation 2 months in advance. The Anne Frank House is an must-see when visiting Amsterdam, so this should be your top priority. I didn’t take any pictures inside, because it seemed disrespectful and in some areas, it was not allowed. The museum is a highly emotional experience and has stayed with me since my visit in 2017.
Now that you have learned some of the more tragic history behind the city, let’s go somewhere more vibrant. The Flower Market is a colourful stretch by the canal, which is perfect to browse. This market area is a good spot to buy souvenirs and the flowers decorating the ceiling bring a bright touch to this area. Even just walking around the area and up the canals let’s you experience the laid back vibes of the city. I feel so at peace walking around.
In the afternoon, you could head towards Museumplein, which is home to multiple museums and a large garden area. It previously had the IAmsterdam sign, but that isn’t there anymore. The large field is a lovely area to sunbathe and this is also where the Van Gogh museum is. I really enjoyed getting to see some of his work and learning about his life. I bought a compact mirror with Van Gogh’s almond blossom painting printed on as a souvenir. On a sunny day, I would take advantage of time outdoors wandering the city, but some of these museums are too good to miss. Air-conditioning is also welcome on these days!
On your last day, you have a few options. If you want to venture out of the city, Zaanse Schans is a good day trip. You get to see windmills and clog-making, but a downside for my vegan friends is that the clog-making place is attached to a dairy farm. When I did this trip, there are demonstrations for both in the building and you could always ask to skip the cheese part. Most day trips seem to involve visiting both aspects in various parts of the Dutch countryside, so it seems unavoidable in these cases.
The Netherlands is known for its cheese and I actually read about a vegan artisan cheese spot that would be a good alternative now. It is called Mr. and Mrs. Watson and I would definitely pay it a visit on my next trip. While reading about experiences I skipped in Amsterdam, I realised I never tried bitterballen (meat-based croquettes) on either of my trips, due to lack of vegetarian options. However, I found out that Vegan Junk Food Bar does vegan versions of this classic Dutch dish. Another reason to head there! I feel like my next trip to Amsterdam will be like experiencing it all again for the first time, as I explore the vegan scene.
There are plenty of things to do in the city still, such as the ADAM lookout point. This is a swing hanging off the edge of a building that offers a view of the city. I haven’t done it myself (yet), but it looks fun. On our first trip, we went to the NEMO Science museum where you had access to the rooftop and could see across the whole city (for cheaper than paying for the lookout point). So, that is an option too. Although unfortunately for us, we had bad weather.
I hope this guide proves helpful to you if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam. I look back fondly on both of my times here, except one particular hangover that still haunts me. I hope I can return to Amsterdam one day. For now, I will imagine myself drifting on the canals sipping a glass of white wine watching the sunset from home. Although as I upload this post, I am currently on a plane. I am flying to Prague ready for a new adventure as I relocate back to one of my favourite cities. Expect lots of Prague-related content in the future!