After thinking very hard about how to describe my trip to Amsterdam, I think the only way I can describe it is “eclectic.”
Amsterdam has a lot going on. A mix of modern and historic, classy and crass, Amsterdam has it all. Most interestingly, I didn’t feel a sort of disgust associated with the raunchier establishments such as the famous Red Light District, but rather an aura of acceptance and respect. It’s like the Dutch just know who they are and what they stand for and have no shame for being true to themselves.
Catching the best of Amsterdam in a limited time
When Craig and I went to visit Amsterdam, we were on a tight schedule. Craig was traveling for a business trip, and I was tagging along because, well, why not visit this historic city?? Anyway, we were visiting for just 2.5 days and Craig was off working for the majority of the time, so we had to make our limited time count. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are my recommendations to make the most of your trip to this wonderful city.
Rent a bicycle
If you are traveling to Amsterdam you absolutely MUST go for a bike ride. There are about 800,000 bikes in the city for a reason – Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Whether you explore on your own, or roam with an organized tour, you wouldn’t be getting a complete feel for the city without a ride on 2-wheels.
We went on the Sandeman’s City Bike Tour and were quite pleased with our experience. In the bike-heavy city, it was nice to have a guide to direct us on the trails so that we could just enjoy the ride.
Go to the Anne Frank House, even if the line is long
Many people on many forums have complained about the long lines at the famous Anne Frank House, but my advice to you is to book your tickets far, FAR in advance so you don’t have to wait, or just suck it up and wait in line. It is worth it. They have to limit the number of people in the museum at the same time because the house is small and can’t hold many people, but the museum directors sympathize with your discomfort and give you access to free wi-fi as you wait! So, pull up Facebook or WordPress and catch up on the rest of your world for a few minutes (to a couple hours).
Once you get inside, there are no photos allowed, so I’m sorry to say I can’t share many visuals with you, but the house itself is quite an experience. As you walk inside the house, you are reminded of Anne’s story and the terrifying time in history in which she and her family lived. You walk through her room and see the magazine cut-outs that she hung on her wall to feign a sense of normalcy. You see the quaint living conditions in which 8 people struggled to survive. You see the windows which had to remain covered continuously for fear of being discovered. Visiting this historic place reminds you that the terror was very real, and that is exactly why you need to go.
Visit a museum
We were fortunate to visit during Amsterdam’s annual Museum Nacht, a one-night event where a single ticket gives you access to over 50 museums and cultural centers in the city. It was basically like speed-dating with museums. You jump from museum to museum until you find something you really like and spend the rest of your time ogling over what you see.
Some highlights for me were the Rijksmuseum and the graffiti exhibit at the Amsterdam Museum (not currently on display).
Sample some cheese
My favorite part about visiting the tourist zones in Amsterdam was the never-ending opportunity to sample dutch cheeses! On almost every corner there was a new cheese shop with more to be tasted. After I walked around for a bit, I started to realize that there are only 2 or 3 independent cheese companies, but I still stopped in every store I passed for another sample! I swear one night, I didn’t even eat dinner – just cheese samples. My favorite is still the famous Old Amsterdam cheese!
Walk past the Red Light District at night
I wasn’t sure what to expect when seeing the famous (or infamous) Red Light District, but I will say it was compelling. Compared to the US, it was interesting to see an entirely different way of expressing one’s sexuality – you know, shamelessly. Plus, I admit, it was funny to watch the expressions of different men either entering or exiting those red rooms. So if nothing else, walk by and enjoy a little immature giggle.
Visit a windmill
…because you are in The Netherlands and it’s pretty much obligatory. We passed the De Gooyer windmill on our biking tour, but you don’t have to be on a guided tour to go. It’s within the city limits and adjacent to a brewpub. The only downside is you can’t go inside, but the views and selfie opportunities are still pretty good.
And there you have it, the essentials for visiting the wonderful, eclectic city of Amsterdam! Enjoy!
Have any other tips for visiting Amsterdam? Share below! We love comments.