Most have heard about Amsterdam as the crazy European destination where travelers stop to explore and indulge in the liberties of the city. But this beautiful Dutch city filled with canals has so much more to offer its tourists than a trip down to the Red Light District.
With over one million residents, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ largest city and a creative and cultural hub. Known as the “Venice of the North,” there are over 1,500 bridges that cross this charming European City. Amsterdam is also one of the largest registered historic city centers in Europe with over 7,000 registered historic buildings, a collection of eight windmills in the city center and numerous streets lined with their iconic narrow houses.
How To Get Around
The Central Station is the center of the city with six major concentric canal rings that surround the Old Centre of the city. The Singel, the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, the Prinsengracht, the Lijnbaansgracht, and the Singelgracht form the Canal Ring. With an extensive public transport system of metro, trams, buses and ferries, traveling across the city is both easy and accessible.
Amsterdam is also one of the most bike friendly cities in the world with separate bike lanes on most major streets. For great cycling routes, check out the I Am Amsterdam cycling guide and the digital bicycle route-planner for Amsterdam. But! Make sure you have a sturdy bike lock as Amsterdam also has one of the highest bike theft rates in the world. Or, see the city by water and hop on a private canal cruise departing from Prins Hendrikkade, quayside Damrak and Stadhouderskade.
What To Do
With an astonishing collection of museums covering a range of subjects, there is something to pique all interests. Crowds for these museums can get quite long during weekends and busy tourist seasons, so make sure you reserve your tickets online. Step into the world of a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter in the Van Gogh Museum, the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings in the world. Preserved in memoriam by her father Otto Frank, the Anne Frank House is a moving exhibition that documents the life and experience of the young Jewish girl who kept a very profound diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in a hidden room at the back of the building.
Get outside and wander through the gorgeous Vondelpark in the south end of the city. Take a stroll or leisurely ride your bike through the 120-acre park and visit the open-air theatre, playground or several bars for a warm glass of mulled wine.
The taste of Amsterdam is located in the Heineken Experience. Established in 1864, take a tour of this historical brewery and enjoy a glass (or two) of the cool and refreshing beer they are known for. This multi-media tour will amuse beer and non-beer lovers alike with their interactive stations that take you on a journey with Heineken over the years.
A trip to Amsterdam is never complete without a stop at one of the local cheese shops. They offer free samples of a variety of Dutch cheeses, both young and old, in an assortment of flavors. Swing by for a souvenir to bring home or stop by for a snack on the go!
For those with a sweet tooth, the stroopwafel (syrup waffle) should not be missed. These chewy round cookies are made from two thin waffles with deliciously sticky syrup in the middle. Available at almost every grocery and convenience store, these inexpensive cookies are the perfect snack.
Recharge with a koffie verkeerd, the Dutch version of a caffe latte or a café au lait. Translating to mean “wrong coffee,” this coffee is usually served with a dash of milk to taste instead of half and half.
Explore The Netherlands
Have a few extra days and looking for somewhere else to explore? Well, lucky for you there are trains from Amsterdam that will connect you with not only other great spots to visit in the country, but also direct routes to other large European cities like Paris, Berlin, Brussels and more!
Here are my top three cities for you to see that are perfect for those who are looking for an exciting day trip or somewhere to visit for even longer.
Only 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Utrecht is a popular student city that has attracted young travelers because of its nightlife and youthful glow. Dating back to 47 AD, Utrecht is filled with historic sites and buildings built along the city’s winding canals.
Connected by train to many of the major European cities, Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and was once the world’s busiest port. Known for the city’s unique architecture, its city center is filled with a wide array of cultural, historic and artistic museums to visit. Wander through the downtown area to see the many iconic monuments (including the Erasmus Bridge) or try and find the seven windmills left in Rotterdam.
Home to the Dutch parliament and government, The Hague is located along the North Sea in the province of South Holland only 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Known all over the world for the many international courts located in this city (such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal and more), this city is a vibrant and multicultural city. It is home to over 150 international organizations.
Have you been to Amsterdam and beyond? What would you add to this list?
Images provided by Caleigh Alleyne