Amsterdam is such a charming city. The canals, houses, and thousands of bikes make every street just as picturesque as the last. Many people think of Amsterdam as a place of drugs and prostitution, but instead I found that it is an adorable city full of fun things to do. It is much more than it’s reputation. I enjoyed three days in Amsterdam and would love to share my “ideal itinerary” with you.
The best way to see the city is to hop aboard one of the many city cruises. It’s nice to be able to see both the quaint alleyways of charming Amsterdam and the main canals that resemble the hustle and bustle of a busy highway. Most boat tours also offer commentary so you get to learn about the city at the same time. There are many boats to choose from so I would suggest hopping on whichever one has a convenient starting point in relation to your hotel. I chose to use a company that offered smaller open air boats. Amsterdam also has a lot of larger closed boats that would be more convenient for colder days. You can purchase tickets for a tour at the dock or ahead of time online (depending on the company).
Visit a Museum
Amsterdam has a wonderful selection of museums. The two most popular are the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. I chose to go to the Van Gogh Museum because it was smaller and I could see the entire museum in one visit. The museum is arranged in chronological order so it becomes a journey through Van Gogh’s developing artistic talents and the rise and falls of his personal life. (I would highly suggest getting the audio guide.) The Rijksmuseum is also very dearly loved and has popular pieces from Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. Both museums are wonderful choices and you can’t go wrong with whichever you choose.
Anne Frank House
Touring the secret annex where the Frank and Van Pels families lived is a very sombering experience. The rooms are empty today but you can still see the bookcase that hid the entrance and the magazine clippings that Anne kept on her bedroom wall. There is a small museum at the end where you can see the physical diary. Touring the annex gives you a very small glimpse into what it was like to live in hiding. Since the space is so small, not many people are admitted at once. This creates a long wait because it is such a popular tourist landmark (there is always a line wrapping around the block). If you don’t want to wait for hours in line, you can pre book a time slot. Be aware: these tour times book months in advance so I would suggest booking as soon as possible. If you are unable to snag an online ticket, continue to check the website. I noticed when I was planning that some tickets would be released the day before. I was able to book tour times the day before I was planning on going to the Anne Frank House.
Amsterdam is the city of bikes. It is estimated that there are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam. This quadruples the number of cars! Part of the experience of being in Amsterdam is joining this culture of bikes. Riding in the city can be intimidating so read up on some biking tips before you head out on your ride. I decided to take a tour outside of the city and really enjoyed the trip. We visited a windmill and a cheese farm. The cheese farm was one of my favorite memories from the trip. The owner is hilarious and the cheese is to die for. I booked through Mike’s Bikes Tours. They do city tours as well if you would rather stay in town.
All of the fun things we saw on our bike tour!
If you are visiting Amsterdam in the Spring, the famous tulip garden Keukenhof is a must see. Sadly, I was unable to see the garden because I visited Amsterdam after tulip season had ended. Tulip season is from the end of March through mid-May and the garden in full bloom looks like a dream. For more information about tickets, hours and transportation, visit their website.
If you want to buy and see tulips without leaving the city, then visit Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s flower market. Keep in mind that this market only has fresh tulips during tulip season. (I know that sounds like a given, but I was a bit sad when I arrived in late May to find zero tulips!) In the off season they still sell tulip bulbs and other kinds of flowers. It becomes a bit “touristy” with each stall selling the same things, but it still is a nice place to grab a few souvenirs. Also note that not all tulip bulbs can legally be brought back into the United States. Vendors will advertise if their bulbs will pass US customs. Keep in mind that the Bloemenmarkt is advertised as a “floating market” but actually more resembles a street market. I had pictured hundreds of boats of tulips and was a little disappointed to see stalls set up along the street like your standard city market.
There are so many more activities in Amsterdam to fill the rest of your day that it can be hard to choose, so I’m just going to list the rest out!
Amsterdam is full of many kinds of street markets. For a list check out this site.
Vondelpark (a 120 acre park) is a peaceful change of scenery in the midst of the city.
The Netherlands is known for their cheese, so a cheese tasting is very fitting. (I didn’t get to try this, but it looks so fun!)
I really enjoyed shopping in the boutiques along the streets. I particularly liked the area called De Negen Straatjes (the nine streets) – between Prinsengracht and Singel. For a map and list of boutiques check out theninestreets.com.
When you are ready to start planning your trip, make sure to check out my post on all the details you need to know before heading to Amsterdam!