Amsterdam is more than 420 and red light district. This canal city is just as romantic and historic as it is an all night party capital. I so far had the glorious opportunities to experience this city’s two stunning faces. Once was during spring when everywhere we looked was colourful tulips carpeting the city in full bloom and easter celebrations were in full swing in the windy month of March. Another time during winter in January with my husband (then fiancé) and a couple of great friends, to kick start first few days of the new year since bringing it in Dublin.
This tourist friendly city is stunning with all the serene canals, spring blooms (when there in spring), heritage canal houses and charming shops with deft blue souvenirs. Infrastructure, is one of the best in Europe with efficient railway, tram and ferry network to all places at which we were pleasantly surprised. Though biking is the best way to get around the city but like at all places we have been to, we explored Amsterdam on foot, as well. More for the reason that we made frequent stops at local bars for a beverage every now and then. We decided it was not the best idea trying to handle traffic on a bicycle then. Well I agree, the famous beer bikes don’t count here (more about them later), but they all come with a DR (Designated Rider) when you rent ’em. That also brings me to why I do not have sufficient pictures for this post. This turned out to be a complete camera free tour, though we all did manage a few pictures with the phone, but I wouldn’t promise much.
Top 10 things we did in Amsterdam
Revisit literature at the Anne Frank house
If you have ever read about ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ in your school’s literature text book, you will be able feel emotions of school days nostalgia mixed with the pain that this little girl and her family has been through at touring this museum. Even if you have never heard of Anne Frank, one visit will be enough to make you feel like you have know her for a long time. The display of her diary entries and the house depicts true details of Nazi Persecution and all that Anne and her family has been through while in hiding for being unapologetically Jewish. It is in one of the canal houses that was owned by the Frank family where Anne journaled all her thoughts that are available for us today after her diary entries were published. The original house from world war two which served as a hiding place for Anne, her family and few friends was turned into a museum with all the secret doorways, her bedroom and belongings still intact along with pages from her diary on display for visitors.
TIP: During peak season, the queue to the museum is usually very long and goes on to the main street. But the sweet part is that free wifi is available to anyone waiting to get in if you are waiting little around the house.
Step into Van Gogh’s colourful world
As an art enthusiast who has grown up admiring Van Gogh’s work, it was exciting seeing pictures of the paintings of the legendary Vincent Van Gogh come to life and up close. The museum has the largest collection of his famous drawings and paintings and is a beautiful tribute to the painter himself. After finally sighting the oh-so-famous drooping sunflowers, the painting felt slightly overrated in person but nonetheless his other works of art and getting a peek into the painter’s life was fascinating. The Museum is a must when in Amsterdam and the tour takes no more than half a day.
TIP: Buy the audio tour which makes the museum a lot engaging.
Patatjes – The Dutch way
If you have tried the fries in Belgium because that’s where they were originated. Do yourself a favour and do not ignore the long queues in front of the vendors serving piping hot fries with an array of sauces to choose from. I cannot emphasise enough how good they are. So good that on our last day to recover from our 420 hangovers we indulged in a huge paper cone of piping hot, thick and crispy patatjes.
TIP: Ask for onions on your fries, makes all the difference. My all time favourite sauce combination was a huge dollop of cheese sauce with sweet chilly. Also try the famous peanut sauce, your soul will thank you for this union of sweet and savoury.
Try vendors: Manneken Pis and Vleminckx
Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Amsterdam is very famous for its collection of museums. Caters to all ages, preferences and mind sets. Everyone is aware of the Anne Frank, Van Gogh and the Rijks museums but not all has heard of the small and quirkier ones that are definitely not to be missed while there. Even I wasn’t aware of them until now and have visited only a couple of them. I wish I had done my research right back then; museums fascinate me. Here is a list of those museums that I have been to and some I haven’t, hopefully someday another trip to Amsterdam will do it for me.
- Venustempel Sexmuseum
It’s all about exactly what the name suggests. It is the oldest in the world and displays many aspects of the same through pictures, art, recordings and photographs.
- Cat Cabinet
Again, as the name suggests. It’s a house all about the cats. If you love cats as much as I do then this will be more than just a cat museum for you. Admiring felines from the past in all their glory within art and culture is what you can participate at here. Psst: this canal house was also featured in the movie Oceans Twelve.
- Electric Lady-land
A museum contained within tiny basement dedicated to all things fluorescent. It’s literally a glow museum and the fun at being in something white when in it. It displays things with naturally occurring fluorescent minerals; art and artifact dated all the way back to the 1950s.
Here are now a few museums I haven’t been to and wish I had; ( No really!)
- Houseboat Museum
- Tulip Museum
- Diamond Museum
- Pipe Museum
- Museum of Bags and Purses
- Pianola Museum
- Tattoo Museum
- Vorlik Museum
- Spectacles Museum
- Biblical Museum
- Hemp Museum
- Dutch Funeral Museum
- Torture Museum
TIP: Some of the museums are either free and at a very discounted rates for students. So do not forget to show your student cards to avail the discount.
- Venustempel Sexmuseum
Cheerful Canal Rides
The city has this amazing hop on and hop off canal ride plans which is a fun way to explore the very picturesque city. We booked a private service and explored the city on a boat that took us from within many canals in Amsterdam. This was one fun and relaxed experience and a great way to familiarise ourselves with the city thanks to our amazing tour guide and captain.
TIP: Book a good guided tour or even better a cruise for early evening dinner.
After the Guinness experience in Dublin, Heineken was a pleasant surprise. It was much more entertaining and interactive. We loved the green wrist bands, loads of free drinks and free souvenirs for us to take back. The souvenir shop is one of the best and their rooftop terrace with music is fun and packed. It’s a fun way to learn the process of beer making, their history, meet some beautiful horses and enjoy free drinks.
TIP: Book your tickets online to escape the long queue and do enquire about the free canal boat ride around the city, they usually have a long waiting for that. Best decision will be to visit the museum in the morning and reserve your seats on the boat.
Red Light District
There a number of things legal in Amsterdam that are banned in most countries. Tourists visit the city for not just its history and beauty but also for some not often mentioned experiences. Red light district is such with women tastefully on display for bidders. Of course with such liberty comes strict regulations and these women are protected under the law, thus, photography here is one of the many things not allowed. But just exploring the shops and numerous bars in the area kept us busy and entertained all evening.
TIP: Walk the alleyways and visit the beautiful church there.
Amsterdam coffee shops serve you coffee and a lot more. We explored the delicious brownies and experienced quite an evening. But once you take the decision to purchase anything from the coffee shops you are all by yourself and responsible for your own actions from there on. Other than that you can actually enjoy a perfect cup of coffee and pie at most of these coffee shops.
TIP: Research a little bit about these coffee shops before you make your purchase and never entertain peddlers trying to sell you any substance.
Festive Dam Square
In close proximity to the Central Station, the picturesque Dam Square is surrounded with historic buildings and cobble stone side streets. Travelling to amsterdam during season time, one will find Festive Easter carnival and winter markets with and array of entertainment and food stalls selling a variety of dutch favourites.
TIP: If it isn’t christmas or easter time you are around, look forward to the weekend markets.
Beer at De Gooyer Windmill
Rustic wind mills are iconic to Holland. So visiting one with a bar inside was a must for us. The stand alone windmill itself is pretty away from the busy parts of the city. We got our pictures, enjoyed a beer and checked it off our list.
TIP: Take a picture, drink the good beer and move on. There’s a lot more to explore in the city!
Well, for me Amsterdam highlights were visiting the Anne Frank Museum which was so worth it after waiting for an hour and half in queue to get in and the fries; the best fries we have ever had. But there’s a lot more to do in this canal city than the things listed above; some seasonal and some always around.
Hope you enjoy these intensely filtered pictures from my Instagram handle, of the city. All taken from my humble phone camera from back then.
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