Amsterdam has so much to offer and it can be overwhelming when you’re planning your trip. We spent 3 amazing days in this beautiful city and I highly recommend you add it to your bucket list. You won’t be able to stop yourself from taking tons of photos of the pretty canals, cute bridges, narrow houses, and parks. Almost everyone speaks English; they are very friendly and helpful when asked for directions or recommendations. If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, you will definitely find some of these tips and recommendations helpful!
Rent A Bike
Top: Madewell Shirt
The best way to see the city is to explore on bike. You can easily rent a bike at one of the cycle shops or take a guided tour on bike. There are bike lanes everywhere and you can bring them on the ferry if you want to check out Northern Amsterdam (You have to check out NDSM for the amazing street art). I have to admit I was a little scared at first but I made it out alive. Just make sure to stay off the sidewalk and watch out for scooters and cars.
Respect the Cyclist
There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam and locals aren’t fans of bike tours. Look both ways before crossing the road because they will not stop. Bikes come out of every direction and the last thing you want is to get hurt on your vacation. Pay attention to their hand signals because that’ll let you know which way they are turning. Don’t walk on the bike lane, and don’t text and walk. The people of Amsterdam are very good at riding and they will go around you if you walk or ride too slowly.
Coffee Shop vs. Café
We all love a cup of coffee in the morning to help us get our day started. I learned that in Amsterdam there is a difference between a coffee shop and a café. If you are looking for a latté or a cappuccino you are looking for a café. At a coffee shop you can smoke and buy weed. Up to you which one you visit.
Explore Different Neighborhoods
Each neighborhood has it’s own unique vibe, incredible food, and you get to escape the tourist areas for a bit. I recommend you check out NDSM, Jordaan or Haarlem. Haarlem is a 15 min train ride from the city centre but totally worth it. You’ll find some great shopping, delicious restaurants/cafés (Vascobello, By Lima, and Bar Wolkers) and make sure to check out the farmers market if you’re in town on a Saturday. NDSM has a ton of street art and graffiti and is definitely one of the more interesting neighborhoods to check out. It is only a short ferry ride away and has a lot of great art and great views of Amsterdam. Jordaan is a great place to escape the congestion of other tourists in central Amsterdam. Locals love hanging out in this neighborhood and it has a great selection of shops and cafés.
Use Public Transportation
If you don’t want to rent a bike or are tired of walking, public transportation is an excellent alternative. Make sure you buy a transportation pass at the local train station. A three-day pass will cost you around 34 Euros. When getting on and off the tram, bus, or Metro you have to tap in and out.
Take A Canal Cruise
You should definitely take a canal tour to see this beautiful city from a different perspective. Skip the touristy canal tours. Most of these boats have a roof and don not provide a tour guide. You will not be able to see or understand much of what you are seeing. I recommend renting your own boat. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve gone with a private tour or a smaller canal cruise tour.
Visit A Few Museums
Van Gogh Museum
We ended up visiting the Van Gogh, MOCO, and of course the Anne Frank museum. I highly recommend booking a ticket and time in advance for Van Gogh and Anne Frank museum because it’s very busy in the summer. It was fascinating to learn about Van Gogh’s life and his career as an artist. We came across the Moco Museum on our way to the I am Amsterdam sign and saw that they were holding an exhibition on Bansky, so we had to go in! The Anne Frank museum is a MUST! We used Musement.com for our booking needs.
Where to Stay
If you are on a budget I suggest you stay in an Airbnb outside the city center. It’s really affordable and there are so many great options. We stayed in Haarlem and I fell in love with that neighborhood- less noisy and crowded.
Bring comfortable shoes, camera, and a light jacket
You will do a lot of walking in Amsterdam; I suggest you bring a pair of sneakers or flats. It’s chilly in the morning and at night so make sure to pack a denim jacket, cardigan, or leather jacket. Finally, don’t forget your camera because you’ll want to stop and take pictures everywhere!
The Pancake Bakery and The Pantry
If you love breakfast at any time of the day this place is for you! The pancakes here are so delicious, we had a savory pancake that was gone in 60 seconds, lol. Be warned though that this is not your traditional American pancake (thinner and with different toppings) so if you’re looking for something different, you need to stop in. The Pantry offers authentic Dutch food.
A Great City for a Long Weekend
I hope this travel guide will help you in planning your very own Amsterdam getaway. These were some of our favorite activities and tips as we learned to navigate the city. As with any vacation, remember to explore and make it your own. If any of you will be travelling to Amsterdam, message me and share some of your own favorites.