Water You Waiting For?
THE QUICK FIX
Forget everything you know about a big city. In Amsterdam, waterways dominate the landscape, culture and rich history are at the forefront, and there are bikes, everywhere. Try and not fall in love with this place.
Our family chose to stay at a hotel in Zaandam as the cost was a bit lower. While sitting on the outskirts of the city, it was a nice escape at the end of the day, and being a bit flexible with location made it much easier to find bigger flats at a lower cost in the neighbouring regions of Amsterdam, while still allowing you to be a quick 20 minute train ride to Amsterdam Centraal Station in the middle of the city.
EAT & DRINK
With so much to see in the short 3 days we were there, we didn't get to spend a lot of time exploring the food scene. However, Holland Fries were an incredibly popular option for us and many others as a go-to snack. As for drinks, one word, beer.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is worth a trip to Amsterdam in and of itself. Explore the front of the house which has been converted into a museum, followed by an almost surreal visit into the preserved rooms and Annex where Anne and her family hid during World War II, in darkness completely shut out from the outside world. Photos are not permitted inside, and the standby wait times to visit the house are lengthy, book ahead to avoid missing out or wasting time in long lines!
Plan on spending close to a full day just getting lost in the space consisting of thousands of paintings, artifacts, and captivating history. The giant sized The Night Watch Rembrandt painting was a personal highlight for me and is definitely the busiest spot in the museum. Be patient and take a few steps back to truly take it in. Right outside the front of the museum is the bustling Museumplein Park, home of the 'I AMSTERDAM' sign for you to take that Instagram worthy photo.
The Heineken Experience
Although often overrun by tourists, the history of the world famous brew is so intertwined with Dutch culture and Amsterdam that this experience is still worth a visit. Walk through the original factory in the heart of the city and take the chance to explore some of the interactive exhibits and activations all about the beer known around the world. Stir hops, smell the rising of the yeast, and even take home a bottle with your name labelled on it! It can get busy in the exhibits, but is still well worth the time. At the end of the self-guided tour, make your way up to the top floor of the building to view the city from above and of course, claim your complimentary cold one.
Red Light District
It was a family trip.
The world famous floating flower bustles with activity throughout the day, with plenty of varieties of buds for you to purchase to take home. For those travelling from overseas, look out for the specially marked sections and packs that are permitted for import into the US. Those are the only ones that will be allowed into the country and as a general rule of thumb, are the safest bets to bring back to North America, while keeping customs officers happy.
Our family opted for a hop-on, hop-off river cruise that runs through the city. It's not necessarily the fastest way to get around, it is undoubtedly the most unique way to see Amsterdam, while still offering the flexibility of exploring all the attractions at your own pace.
They're everywhere. If you're looking to do as the locals do, this is your best bet to get around town in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It can be a little daunting riding with so many people in narrow streets, but rest assured, cyclists generally have the right away in this city.
30 minutes outside the main city, Zaanse Schans is well worth at the very least a half day trip. Escape from the busyness of the city and check out these well kept historic Dutch windmills and houses. There are also small restaurants and shops selling everything from fine chocolates to famous Dutch-made cheese, all easily packable as souvenirs to take home!
LANGUAGE & CULTURE
Both Dutch and English are commonly spoken around the city and English signs are easy to come by. You will find that the city has an incredibly laid back vibe and spirit that you will become accustomed to quickly. It is not a joke when I say bikes take priority on the streets and at intersections. Use caution!
Designed to wow, the way Amsterdam operates is incredibly unique. Waterways, bikes, and beers are just the tip of the cultural iceberg. See for yourself on your next Europe trip!