Things to Do in Amsterdam and Other Great Tips From a Local

Amsterdam Canal

When I was traveling in the Netherlands, I noticed that most people who travel around Europe are on packaged tours trying to hit as many countries as they can in a short period of time. Although that works for many people, I consider that travel suicide. There are just some countries that you will fall in love with that you want to stay longer and there are also some countries that are meant to be discovered slowly. If you’re going to do The Netherlands and hit only Amsterdam on a one or two day adventure, you are not giving it justice.

One of my very first travel soul sisters is a Dutch. Wing and I met at a small little city in Bandung, Indonesia. Not only did we end up traveling in Java, Eastern and Nothern Bali, we also accidentally met again when I returned to Ko Phi Phi a few months after.  Fast forward nine months after our first meeting and surprised to find out that I was in Zurich, she contacted me to welcome me to Europe and invited me to visit her in Amsterdam. I told her that I would love to. And what perfect timing it was. Her roommate was leaving and the room will be available for me to stay if I decide to come. How can I not say yes?

Swiss Alps

And just like that I packed my bags, said see you later to the Swiss alps,

With Wing in Amsterdam

hugged my dear friend upon arrival and said hello to Amsterdam!

I was ecstatic to meet my good friend again. Considering it was a very spontaneous trip. Seeing her was my intention for this trip and other than catching up with her, I saw how much we’ve changed over the last couple of months of our individual solo travels and discovering Amsterdam with her was really an icing on my cake. On top of that, I also ended up exploring other cities of Holland such as The Hague, Leiden and Alkmaar. What better guide could you have than having a local guide right? I couldn’t get luckier.

So, in here Wing and I will share with you our tips and favorite spots so you can also enjoy the beautiful city of Amsterdam for your future trip.

The best way to go around the city is by bike

Biking with Wing in Amsterdam

When one says Amsterdam, I automatically think of bikes. Indeed, Amsterdam is a city filled with bicycles. Literally every resident in Amsterdam has a bike or two. Indeed, this city is built on good living and is environmentally friendly with very little pollution. No wonder, I’ve seen the most number of fit locals in Amsterdam than any other city.

Since Amsterdam is a medium sized city, you can also explore it by foot but the best way to see the city is by bike. So if you decide to rent a bike, which you should just remember one rule: stay on the bike lane and you will be fine. It can get traffic with all the bikers there.

On Bike Safety

When I came to Amsterdam, I knew it was a city of bikes. But I didn’t realize that it is really a city full of bikes. I was shocked to see how the bike parking looks like. I never thought it would look overwhelmingly like this.

Bike Parking

Parking in Amsterdam

And this not only apply to Amsterdam but to other cities in Holland as well. Here’s another version in the city of Leiden:

Leiden Parking

Bike galore

You’d be surprise to know that not only are bike thefts rampant in the city but also some people steal bike parts so it’s very very important to make sure that your bike is fully secured. You don’t want to be that gal who unlocks her bike only to find out that she has only one wheel left. Not cool. I also suggest to take a picture of where you parked your bike because chances are, you will forget where you parked it.

Weather

One thing to consider for your trip to this city is the weather. The Netherlands has a mild north sea climate with moderate temperatures. The weather here changes very quickly so unless you’re traveling during the summer, remember to dress in layers and don’t skip the jacket.

Parks

Anna in Vondelpark

Other than their beautiful canals, this city also has plenty of gardens, green spaces and luscious parks. Do pay a visit to Vondelpark. Vondelpark is one of Amsterdam’s most popular parks and is a great place to sightsee and meet locals. Walk, bike, jog, skate or do whatever you like down the lanes like how the local people do it and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of this public park with beautiful greens and waters.

If you’re doing a bike route, Wing suggests that you start from Vondelpark to Westerpark. If you also happen to be here during the summer, you can enjoy free performances of music, dance or theatre at the open air theatre in the park centre, from June until August.

Be captivated with world class art in Amsterdam’s Museums

Van Gogh

Close to the park, you will come across Museumpleim where you will find The Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. These three are very close to one another so you can park your bike and explore this area by foot.

Another two of the most popular places to visit as tourists in Amsterdam are the Rembrandt museum and Anne Frank’s house. Take note that these two places are very touristy and might take up most of your time waiting in line to get in.

If you only have limited time in Amsterdam, you still cannot miss Vincent Van Gogh’s museum. This is one of my top 5 favorite museums in the world. It’s that incredible!

If you’re really into museums, you might want to get the Iamsterdam city card. You not only will get free entrance to museums, you will also get free transport and a canal cruise. It’s an excellent deal.

Get lost in Amsterdam’s neighborhoods

Amsterdam Neighborhood

A few places that Wing brought me during our bike adventures which you might also want to check out include: biking your way to the Amstel river; stopping at torontobrug or the bridge where you can watch and enjoy the beautiful bridge skyline from Amsterdam  with the luxurious Amstel hotel on the background. You can also take the route down to Weesperzijde and go through the tunnel to pass along the Amstel river and the Royal Theatre Carre. Just after the Royal Theatre you will pass the Mageere brug or the skinny bridge which is a famous setting for many movies. The places that you will see here are uniquely Amsterdam.

Canal Houses

These picture perfect houses by the canal are just. so. yummy!

Though Amsterdam is a fairly compact city but with many canals, chances are you might get lost.

A city like Amsterdam has a lot of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. I literally spent a day just biking and getting lost in different neighborhoods in Amsterdam. To date, that is one of my most favorite travel experiences. And do yourself a favor to enjoy the canal houses. There is nothing like these houses anywhere in the world!

Go up the beautiful public library

The library is one of the least traveled places for tourists in Amsterdam. This beautiful modern space is definitely worth the visit and the view from the top offers a panoramic view of the city. Here are some views:

Amsterdam Library

View from the outside

Library Interior

View from the inside

View from the Library

View from the top

For the shoppers

Amsterdam Market

If you fancy doing some little shopping, head over to Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk. It’s a nice shopping street with more than two hundred boutique shops offering a wide variety of goods to choose from fashion, accessories, toys, gifts, jewellery, electronics, etc.

You can also go to Waterlooplein Market where you can find a daily flea market with lots of different shopping options. It’s a little bit touristy though.

Go cruising down the canals

Amsterdam boat

Did you know that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice?

Aside from biking, taking a boat cruise is a must for first time visitors. I recommend this one to anyone who wants to experience the canals and see the beautiful scenery and canal houses. And if you have the iamsterdam city card, you get a cruise for free or you can easily book one in downtown Amsterdam.

Most likely, you’ll already see and experienced life in Amsterdam through your bike rides and walks so I would recommend the night cruise and see the city come alive at night.

Amsterdam Night Cruise

Amsterdam sunset that Wing and I watched on our night cruise. Lovely.

Oh and of course, FOOD!

Restaurants by the River

Why not dine by the water?

Here are some of Wing’s Favorites:

Cafe: Before heading out for your bike adventures you can start with a nice coffee at local coffee & sandwich cafe called Anne and Max located at Amstelveenseweg in Amsterdam Zuid

For breakfast, lunch or high tea: treat yourself on some well deserved homemade and biological sweets and tasty juices or shakes at the De Bakkerswinkel.

For drinks: Head out to De Pijp (The Pipe) which is a student neighborhood with lots of bars and restaurants. You can also visit the Heineken Brewery, which is close to this area and is a popular tourist destination.

For food lovers: Neighbourfoodmarket- is a place where good food sellers from in and around the city meet. It’s a meeting place for caterers, eco farmers, bakers, butchers,  local chefs, cheese makers, sausage makers, juice pressers, soup boilers, fanatical foodies, baristas, enthusiastic producers and distributors. Here you can eat on simple long tables in a relaxed atmosphere and a stylish, urban setting.

Where to hang out: Hannekes Boom is a great hangout spot for local people with an enormous terrace along the water.

Dinner: When it’s already time for dinner head to Proef where you can choose from a healthy menu based on local seasonal and biological products.

After dinner: You can end your day with some drinks and nice live music at Jazz Club and Music

And last but not the least don’t forget to—

Have fun!

Anna and Wing in Alkmaar

Travel soul sisters for life!

Hey you’re in Amsterdam right? The most chilled, relaxed, open-minded liberated country in the world. No doubt, you will have fun here especially if you’re traveling with friends.

If there’s one lesson that I got from the Dutch, which they also perfectly exemplify, is this: live and let live.

So don’t take life, your travels nor yourself too seriously. You don’t even need to take our tips to enjoy this city. These are just some guide to help you maximize your time here. The point is, you should get yourself there and I do hope you’ll take time to enjoy and love Amsterdam as much as I did. It’s definitely on my top places to return to list.

To fabulous Amsterdam, spontaneous adventures and the beautiful gift of sisterhood,

Anna and Wing

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Author:Anna

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