Editor-in-Chief Mallory debuts a brand new series of posts – the City Guide Series – providing travel itinerary suggestions and “must see” attractions at some of the most popular travel destinations in the world!
Hallo! And welcome to Amsterdam. With its picturesque canals, gabled houses, and charming houseboats in stark contrast to the 17th-Century Golden Age city center and world-renowned museums, Amsterdam has so much to offer first time visitors and veteran travelers, alike! Although the city’s atmosphere is much more laidback compared to other European capitals (I’m looking at you, Paris, London, Rome), don’t count Amsterdam out as far as rich history, art, and culture goes.
*Tip: Consider purchasing the IAMSTERDAM City Pass if you plan to visit many museums, a canal tour and/or top attractions. A 48 hour pass will cost you €65, whereas standard entrance to most museums costs around €15.
After you fly in to Amsterdam Schipol Airport, or arrive via train to Amsterdam Centraal Train Station, set your bags down at your hotel or BnB (we recommend the Waldorf Astoria, various properties on Air BnB, or the Andaz Hotel), and get ready to begin your 3 day trip!
There are several “must-see” locations for your inaugural trip to this friendly city, my favorite of which is the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank, a Jewish teen who went into hiding with her family in Amsterdam during the Holocaust, kept a diary for the 2 years her family hid in the back of her father’s work building. The Secret Annex, the name the family gave to their hiding spot, has been open to the public for tours since 1960. Whether or not you have read “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, this is a very humbling and important experience in Amsterdam that you should not miss. Make sure to buy your tickets online before you go (several weeks ahead of time, if possible), so you avoid waiting in line for several hours. Adult tickets are only €9, while youth age 10-17 pay €4.50 and children under 10 years old get in for free. Plan to spend 1-2 hours inside the Secret Annex and museum.
Following your morning visit to Anne Frank’s house, stop on over to restaurant Envy for a late lunch. This Michelin “bib gourmand” honored restaurant offers delicious and fresh brasserie style fare, and is open for lunch and dinner. Share several of the small plates with your companions, or order a main course for yourself!
Now that you’ve refueled, it’s time to start exploring this beautiful city by foot (or bicycle)! If you decided to eat lunch at Envy, you are only a short walk away from the charming Jordaan neighborhood. This part of town is considered one of the nicest in Amsterdam, and boasts a plenitude of local shops, bars, cafes and homes. Plan to spend 1-2 hours in this area, and relish in the delightful wandering.
This evening it’s time to get to know Amsterdam (literal meaning = dam on the Amstel River) via the city’s many canals. Take a Canal Cruise with the “Blue Boat” company. Tickets are only €14 per person (or €7.50 for children), or FREE with the IAMSTERDAM Pass. Maybe you’d like to round out your night by experiencing one of Amsterdam’s famed “coffee shops” ….
Depending on the location of your lodging, find a delicious spot for a Dutch breakfast in your area! After breakfast, venture to the Rijksmuseum, where you can easily spend all morning taking in many world-famous works of art. Don’t miss The Night Watch (Rembrandt), Self-Portrait (Vincent Van Gogh), or my personal favorite, The grand passageway room.
Since all this artwork might make you hungry again, why not take a mid-day break for some delicious Dutch food? Yes, you could stay and dine at the restaurant in the Rijksmuseum, but it might be nice to stretch your legs and take a walk to The Pantry, a tasty local spot just a 5-minute walk from the museum. Enjoy one of several set traditional Dutch menus, or choose a delicious a la carte option.
Now that you’ve indulged in the most important meal of the day, it’s time to put your museum hat back on and head to the Van Gogh Museum. The “IAMSTERDAM” pass you purchased earlier will gain you access into the museum. If you chose to forego the pass, tickets will cost you €17. The museum boasts the world’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork, displayed strategically in chronological order. Not only does the museum impeccably display his works of art, but it also does a wonderful job at describing how different periods in his (mostly dark) life influenced his art work.
If you want to experience a mild version of the Red Light District, now would be the time to do it. Hop in an Uber and take a 15 minute ride to the center of town to experience the seedy side of Amsterdam.
For dinner tonight, I recommend one of my worldwide favorite restaurants: Ron Gastrobar. Formerly a more expensive and “fine-dining” experience, 2-Michelin star establishment in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Owner Ron Blaauw moved his restaurant to Amsterdam and re-dubbed it “Ron Gastrobar”, as it transformed into a down-to-earth gourmet gastropub. While the restaurant did give up 1 Michelin star in their transformation, they gained a whole lot of ambiance and a delicious dining experience for their happy patrons (and still managed to hold on to one Michelin star)! Many plates are €15, with supplemental charges for specialty dishes. I enjoyed every dish we sampled, but highly recommend indulging in the soft shell crab with udon noodles!
Start your morning off like a local: take a bike ride around your neighborhood! In Amsterdam, there are more bikes than there are residents. So, renting a bike and exploring on wheels is a MUST when visiting the Dutch capital. (Note: if you purchased the I AMSTERDAM pass, you will receive a discount at a few rental shops, including MacBike)
Since you’ve already put in your dues as far as culture (ahem, museums) goes, it’s time to experience the less refined (but just as exciting) side of Amsterdam: The Heineken Experience. Take a tour of the factory where the famous Dutch brew is made, and sample some delicious beverages! A standard adult ticket will run you €16, and includes entrance, 2 beer samples and a self-guided tour. If you’re a big beer aficionado, you may want to splurge on the VIP €49 tour, which gives you 5 premium beer samples and a guided tour. Note: Minors under the age of 18 are not allowed on this tour.
It’s now afternoon, and time to explore one of Amsterdam’s most colorful areas of town: The Flower Market. The floating market, which is located on the Singel canal, was once stocked by boats daily, but now receives its fresh flowers via van shipments. In addition to the gorgeous bouquets and single tulip buds, this is also a great place to pick up souvenirs to bring home to your family and friends! The Flower Market hours are Saturdays from 9:00-5:30, and Sundays from 11:30-5:30.
For dinner this evening, why not keep it casual? Goodies is a quaint, yet mouthwatering, cafe in the Jordaan neighborhood. Sourcing fresh and organic ingredients is the name of the game at Goodies, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. We recommend starting with a delicious bruschetta platter (choose 3 or 6 different combinations), the warm pastrami broodje (a.k.a. sandwich), for the main attraction, and a slice of homemade cake for dessert. Spend the rest of your evening strolling around the Jordaan before turning in for the night and ending your perfect weekend in Amsterdam!
Before you go…
Here are some key Dutch phrases:
Hallo! Hallo! (hah-low)
Do you speak English? Spreekt u Engels? (spraykt uw eng-erls)
Please? Alsjeblieft? (als-yer-bleeft)
Thanks! Bedankt! (ber-dahnkt)
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the entire world, and I think once you experience it yourself you just may come to the same conclusion! While known to some for its legalization of marijuana and Red Light District festivities, Amsterdam is so much more than that and I encourage you to give it a chance!
Amsterdam is rich in culture and busting at the seams with charm – get there and you will experience it all for yourself!
Happy Dutch Travels!