Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful locations in Europe and it’s no surprise as to why it is a popular tourist destination. With stunning architecture, romantic canals and culture in abundance, Amsterdam should be top of any travellers bucket list.
Keep reading for more information on what makes Amsterdam the perfect location for a fun-filled city break.
In March 2019, hubby and I enjoyed a four-day visit to Amsterdam. This was our first time in the city and we didn’t really know what to expect.
Obviously, we had heard about the soft drug culture and open sexuality of the city. While these elements may attract many stag and hen parties or typical partygoers, there is so much more to Amsterdam and the city will appeal to all types of travellers.
Quick history lesson…
Founded in the 12 Century as a fishing village, Amsterdam gets its name from the Amstel River and the dam that was erected to protect settlers from flooding in the area.
Excavations have taken place which indicates that settlements in the area predate the recorded history. Items discovered 30 meters below the street level during the construction of the metro “Noord-Zuid lijn” date back to the stone age suggesting that there has been human habitation in Amsterdam since around 2600 BC.
Nowadays, Amsterdam is a vibrant hub that has something for everyone whether you are a local or tourist. The city has a reputation for accessibility, museums, party culture and green spaces in abundance.
Where To Stay in Amsterdam
Although hubby and I were lucky to find a spot 5 minutes from Centraal Station through a friend of a friend, there are PLENTY of places to stay in Amsterdam. However, I will mention that it is an expensive city and if you want a central location you will pay for it!
The best advice I can give is to figure out where you will spend most of your time and what your budget is. Then work from that. There is a range of options throughout the city from renting a room through Airbnb to staying in luxurious 5* hotels.
Getting Around Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a very easy city to get around. If you’re staying close to the city centre, the easiest and cheapest way to get around is by walking.
Amsterdam is a great city to walk around so take your time to experience the beautiful streets, quaint shops and the hustle and bustle of city life. Although, you should be careful to look both ways when crossing the street as cyclists can appear from nowhere at speed!
If you’re staying further out of the city centre, or want to experience more of the city in a shorter time, then hire a bicycle and take to the roads. Cycling is a much cheaper option than taking public transport or driving. The city is very easy and accessible for cyclists with widened streets and cycle lanes in both directions.
If cycling isn’t your thing and you’re travelling somewhere that’s too far to walk then consider taking the metro. The Metro operates throughout the city on a regular basis and covers a vast area. One thing to remember is that cash is not accepted on the Metro – payment is made by credit/debit card or by a travel card.
What to eat in Amsterdam
You won’t be disappointed by the cuisine on offer in Amsterdam and there is something to suit everyone. Whether you’d like Asian, Italian, French or Dutch cuisine, the city is lined with bakeries, cafes and restaurants to satisfy your taste buds.
For a deliciously sweet breakfast or evening munch, try the infamous Stroop Waffles from one of the local bakeries. They are to DIE for!
If you’re on the move and don’t have time for a sit-down meal then grab a famous cone of chips or stop at one of the street vending spots to pick up a burger.
I’d also highly recommend trying some Indonesian food in Amsterdam. Until 1949 Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands which explains the high population of Indonesians in the city. The food is authentic and probably the best we had eaten during our stay.
Free things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is known as the “Venice of the North” and it’s no real surprise as to why. There are over 1,000 bridges and 165 canals that stretch a total of 31 miles throughout the city.
One of the many free things to do includes taking a stroll along the canals and getting lost in the tranquillity of the gentle waters.
The city is also famous for its numerous parks and green spaces. Visit one of the many parks for a mid-afternoon picnic or take some time out from your busy day of sightseeing to sit on the grass and breath in the fresh air.
Amsterdam is well known for its legal sex trade. Walk along the Red Light District where you will find men and women displayed in the windows. It’s an interesting walk during the day and even more of an adventure after dark.
Visit the flower market which happens to be floating on the Singel Canal. Marvel in the wonderful colours and smells of the beautiful Tulips favoured by the Dutch people and pick up a souvenir or two to take home.
Pay a visit to the Albert Cuyp Markt which is the largest and most famous street market in the Netherlands. You’ll find everything from cheese, seafood and meat to jewellery and clothes on sale.
A lesser-known free attraction in Amsterdam is the garden at the Rijksmuseum. This outdoor gallery has delightful flowers, fountains, summer houses and a playground along with sculptures by Henry Moore.
Must-Visit Museums And Attractions
Amsterdam has 75 Museums covering a broad spectrum of topics from prostitution and soft drugs to cheese, history and art.
The attractions on offer in Amsterdam are also world-class. From live sex shows to Madame Tussaud’s there is something for a range of audiences.
While we couldn’t visit all of the museums or attractions during our short visit we managed to visit a couple.
Van Gogh Museum
We knew when we booked our trip to Amsterdam the Van Gogh Museum had to be on our to-do list.
The Vincent Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of paintings and drawings in the world. There are over 200 paintings, 400 drawings and over 700 letters written by Van Gogh on display.
The exhibition details many stages of Van Gogh’s career. It is possible to spend an entire day enjoying the artwork and getting a glimpse into Van Gogh’s life.
The museum is incredibly popular and when we arrived the queue was out the door so it is best to book tickets in advance.
We’re never ones to turn down the weird and wonderful. Luckily for us, Amsterdam does have some pretty weird and wonderful things to see.
Another big attraction we couldn’t miss was visiting the Body Worlds which is the only exhibition of its kind to make use of a donor programme.
Body Worlds was created by Doctor Gunther Von Hagens, who hosted anatomical autopsies on Chanel 4 in the UK. The permanent exhibition “The Happiness Project” explores how happiness influences the health of the body.
The exhibit features more than 200 anatomical specimens of real bodies coated in plasticate to preserve their structure.
The exhibition demonstrates the complexity, resilience and fragility of our bodies. It is a scientific exploration into how happiness can affect our bodies and souls.
Alternative Activities in Amsterdam
If you’re looking for something a little different to do in Amsterdam which also gives you an opportunity to see some of the most popular sights, then look no further than the City Adventure Game.
This innovative City Adventure Game is a whole lot of fun! You collect an iPad and play a guided city game that uses different techniques from augmented/virtual reality, object recognition and interactive GPS.
You’ll get the option to choose must-see locations of the city where you perform interactive challenges that combine the real and virtual worlds.
The general theme of the game is to become the new hero of Amsterdam. You’ll do this by solving a mystery murder, defusing a bomb, and even preventing a train collision.
You can start whenever you like and play for as long as you want. In the beginning, you’ll choose your route which can last from two hours to five hours. However, you will have the iPad for the whole day so you can stop for breaks if you wish.
We chose the two-hour game but we pretty much had the iPad with us all day due to taking breaks or wandering off to see other nearby sights.
What would we recommend?
The city Adventure Game was possible one of the most fun activities we did in Amsterdam. It gave us an opportunity to see so much of the city and some of the key sights whilst also appealing to our competitive nature. If we head back to Amsterdam any time soon, this would definitely be up there on our top things to do again.
We’d also revisit the Van Gogh Museum. It really is a special place of such beauty. It was a wonderful experience to learn more about his life and his journey through art.
What we missed
Obviously, there were going to be some attractions that we missed. We were only there for four days and we both knew we wouldn’t see everything.
Have you visited Amsterdam before? Are you thinking of travelling to Amsterdam? Share a comment and let us know if you think this post is helpful.