Okay, I went to Amsterdam during my first Euro backpacking trip and this was my first real experience backpacking for a length of time by myself. While it was a great trip, and I definitely learned A LOT and made a few travel mistakes! I am also a true Southern California girl, so anything below 65 degrees is cold to me. I did this trip in January so you can imagine I was being a little bitch about the weather hahah. Despite some of my obstacles, I had a great time and I would love to visit the Netherlands again.
While I would love to talk about where I stayed, I did this trip 4 years ago and I can’t remember the name of my hostel, so I am just going to jump into things to do lol.
Of course, you can’t visit Amsterdam without going to the Red Light District. The first time I went while there it was just while I was walking around the city and I was like “oh, this is it?” It is literally a few connected alleyways with windows and women standing in them. I then met some other travelers and one of them mentioned she was doing a midnight red light district tour, so I joined her. This was really cool! Our tour guide told us the history of prostitution in Amsterdam and lots of cool, interesting facts. I believe it costs about 15 Euros, but it was totally worth it.
Arguably, the most important thing to do when visiting Amsterdam is go to the Anne Frank House. Please, please, please buy your tickets WEEKS if not MONTHS in advance here. You literally pick a date and an exact time to go in. If you don’t you probably won’t get pre-order tickets and you will be part of the hundreds who line up everyday for hours for the open admittance the last few hours before close. I am a history buff and have read The Diary of Anne Frank a few times, but nothing prepared me for being in the building turned museum. It is dead silent inside because everyone is so emotional and overwhelmed witnessing how the Frank family lived. We must remember so the atrocities of the Holocaust are never committed again.
I feel like Amsterdam is so iconic because I keep wanting to say, “you can’t go to Amsterdam without seeing…” for literally everything haha. Anyways, you have to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Again, buy tickets in advance. I am not a big art person and I find when I go through larger museums, I can get bored. The great thing, at least for me, about the Van Gogh Museum is a) Van Gogh lived a super interesting life so it had that historical story aspect to it b) his art was so unique and captivating.
Of course there are loads of other museums including Rijksmuseum, the Remembrandt House, a sex museum, Amsterdam Museum, Hash House, and so much more. My recommendation is to only do what you are actually interested in and not just go to the museums because you are in Amsterdam and they are famous. I may have made that mistake and went to few just because I was in Amsterdam, and honestly, I got bored and didn’t appreciate them as much as I should have. Museums are great, but can be very repetitive and often expensive. Just be selective and don’t plan on doing more than a few over the course of the days you are there for.
Take a picture in front of the iconic Amsterdam sign. There are a lot of people who do this, so I 100% doubt you can get a great picture of the whole sign, but if you don’t mind people in it you can. Or, if you just want to pick a letter and roll with that, you aren’t alone there haha.
When you think of Amsterdam, you think of all the connected canals and waterways. If you really want, you can get on a boat and do a tour, but it was plenty enough for me to just walk around the City Center and Canals. The architecture and all the bridges are just beautiful and you could literally spend the whole day walking around and finding little different gems. Make sure to check out Dam Square, the Royal Palace, The Old Church, and more. Honestly, I would just look up a guided tour online so you can bookmark all the spots you want to check out or if you really like walking tours, pay for one. There is so much to see and all the history behind it, so you definitely want to make a point to stop at everything. If you are brave you can get a bike to go around, however there were so many bikes and I am not confident in my biking skills so that was a no go for me haha.
Of course, Amsterdam is famous for their “coffee” houses. Being from California, I honestly wasn’t to impressed with the overpriced weed, but I guess you pay for the experience? If you are from somewhere we weed isn’t smoked as widely as it is in CA, then I imagine this would be a lot more exciting haha.
With the coffee houses, Amsterdam has a great restaurants and bar and night life scene. Honestly, there are loads to chose from and I mostly just stuck to having a few beers in what ever bar I came across with whoever I was with, but if you really want to look into it, there are so many to chose from for all different type of experiences! Many take cash only from my experience, so come prepared.
Check out the local markets. The best food I ate the entire time I was in Amsterdam was when I was walking around a local market! It was great because they had small portions so I was able to sample loads of different food and I had the absolute best churros I have ever had in my life! The guy made them fresh in front of me then poured melted chocolate on top and because it was so cold, it solidified and OMG I can still taste them now haha.
If you are in Amsterdam at the right time, you can go check out the Tulips. Tulip season is in the spring so if that is something that is important to you, time your trip just right.
Honestly there is so much more to do in Amsterdam, especially if you are willing to venture a bit more outside the city center. I was only there for a few days so this was plenty! Plan to be there for a long time or plan to have to come back some day haha.
Thanks for reading! Anyone else ever been to Amsterdam? Any other recommendations to add?