My first week in Spain my soon-to-be-friends and I went to an overpriced wine bar and talked about our travel dreams. It may have been the sangria, but I felt giddy when four of the girls energetically agreed that Amsterdam in tulip season was a must-do. Of course, tulip season was months away, so we agreed to make Amsterdam our last trip.
Why Amsterdam is Cool–Aside From the Drugs and Prostitution.
- It has more canals than Venice, 165 to be exact. Amsterdam has the feel of a trendy city in New Hampshire with the upscale class of London. Add in the canals and you have one rocking atmosphere.
- The bikes. I have never encountered an entire population of such serious bikers. Every road has a separate bike lane, biking traffic lights and maps directing bikers to the best paths. You can rent bikes almost anywhere if you are interested in becoming a part of the trend.
- There are about 2,500 house boats in this city. And with the help of Airbnb you can stay in one. We had the opportunity to stay in a small house boat in the center of the city.
- It was founded as a fishing village in a marshy dam of the Amstel river. Since the thirteenth century it has grown into a commercial hub of northern Europe.
- The people of Amsterdam are normally fluent in Dutch, English and a third language of their choosing. Getting around Amsterdam with English is a breeze.
- Heineken is brewed in Amsterdam along with Amstel and several other beers. It is said that the Netherlands is the biggest exporter of beer followed by the United States.
What to do in Amsterdam?
There is so much to do in this city, but I have tried to boil it down to my favorites.
- Just walk around! Enjoy the canals and stroll until you find a place to drink or eat a stroopwafel. Visit the outdoor market Albert Cuypmarkt to try street foods and browse the collection of flea market trinkets.
- Anne Frank Haus. A must do for anyone visiting Amsterdam. The Anne Frank Haus is always busy and tickets are only available online months in advance. Get there at 7:30 a.m. OR p.m. in order to enjoy a short wait and time to explore the museum. Inside are several exhibits, videos and access to the secret rooms that served as the Frank family’s refuge during WWII.
- The Vincent Van Gogh Museum. This museum splits Van Gogh’s life up into sections by floor and tells the story of his culmination as an artist. While you cannot see “Starry Night” here, the museum houses a large collection of art and personal letters to family and friends.
- The “I Amsterdam” sign. Located outside of the Rijksmuseum the “I Amsterdam” sign brings thousands of tourists everyday all flocking to take their picture in front of (or on top of) these huge letters.
- Get Dutch apple pie at Winkel. Winkel is a small cafe located on the same street as the Anne Frank Haus that offers delicious food and even tastier apple pie. Pie crust here resembles an apple pound cake and is extremely rich and filling. Most people also order a hot tea or coffee to help them conquer this massive dessert.
- Browse the Red Light District. If you must. It is a very safe area during the day, making it easy for the curious to walk through without being solicited.
- Visit a coffee shop if that’s your thing. It’s not mine but be aware that anywhere that says “coffee shop” is not selling a lot of coffee.
Wait, isn’t something missing?
YES, something is missing. If in Amsterdam from late March to early May you must go see the tulips. If you are not up for a lot of physical activity, you can take a bus straight to Keukenhof gardens outside of Amsterdam. The ride is about 30 minutes and will cost you about €40 including entrance and transportation. If you are looking for more adventure, choose to bike to Keukenhof from Leiden.
- Catch a train from Amsterdam Central Station to Leiden Central Station. The ride is about half and hour and will cost around €15 round trip.
- From Leiden Central Station exit to the left and search for the large tourism building. There you will find information on renting bikes and free biking maps to Keukenhof.
- Rent the bikes. It will cost around €9 a day per biker including bike locks.
- Follow the green numbers indicated on your map throughout the biking trails. The most direct route to Keukenhof will take about an hour. Throughout it you will pass through tulip fields, a small towns and animal farms.
- Arrive at Keukenhof. Bikes park for free and entrance is €16 (no student discounts).
- Enjoy Keukenhof. Repeat steps backwards to get home.