I live in the city center of Amsterdam. About 5 minutes from Dam square and Leidseplein, in an area called the Jordaan. You can find lots of restaurants, small boutiques, canals, bridges and cute houses. Heard of Anne Frank? Her house is also located in the Jordaan next to the famous Westerkerk. You are about to find out the best kept secrets, things to see and do when you visit Amsterdam! Whenever I am at home, you could actually find me in one of these places.
By bike or foot
Let’s start with the beginning. Are you a person who loves to walk or go by bike? Personally, I do almost everything on foot but when you have a limited amount of time to spend in Amsterdam, it is more efficient to go by bike! You can easily rent a bicycle and hostels as well as hotels are known to provide their guests with bicycles during a stay. Keep this in mind though, there are more bicycles than human beings in Amsterdam. People grow up riding bicycles and it’s considered normal to not wear helmets. Practice a bit before actually taking a bicycle for a spin and avoid busy shopping streets.
Coffee & Tea
Interested in the skyline? There are multiple rooftop bars all around the city. My favorite place is located near Amsterdam Central Station. It is the Skylounge of the DoubleTree Hilton hotel. You would expect loads of tourists, considering it’s on top of a hotel and all but it’s actually one of the less busier places. Enjoy a quiet drink while enjoying the amazing views this bar has to offer.
I go there quite often and always order a latte macchiato or green mint tea. It comes with a free “refill” and Dutch people love free things. In case you are hungry: their nachos are the best! Talking about nachos, another great place where you can find me all the time is Van Zuylen, a little cafe on one of the canals. It’s located in the Jordaan near Anne Frank’s house. Some other places I like: Coffee & Coconuts, KoffieSpot, Blue, Bagels & Beans.
Even though I am from Amsterdam, I have never tried a cigarette or visited a coffee shop in my life. Unfortunately, I have no clue which coffee shops are the best for you to visit. I guess the only thing you need to do is to follow the crowd and the smell. It will automatically lead you to the plants. The same counts for women in the area called the red light district or De Wallen. I can’t tell you more about that either but I am sure there are lots of reviews on the internet.
De 9 Straatjes / The 9 Streets
A visit to Amsterdam is incomplete unless you walked though the 9 streets, in Dutch: ‘de 9 Straatjes’. It consists of 9 small streets, separated by canals. There are loads of boutiques, unique coffee places and restaurants. Make sure, make absolutely sure you take a (glutenfree) wrap on the go from The Lebanese Sajeria. The atmosphere is great and you will not find anything like it. Hence, you will see tourists making pictures all the time and I am guilty as well. The view with the boats in the background is always impressive. Nowadays the area is becoming popular but it’s still one of the lesser known secrets of Amsterdam.
It is a crime to stay in Amsterdam and not eat fries with mayonnaise and a Frikandel Speciaal. A Frikandel special is a sort of sausage with curry, mayonnaise and onions. The first thing I do when I arrive back in the Netherlands is to proceed directly to the snack bar and buy that combo. I suggest you do the same and find a place where they sell fries. My favorite places: Snackbar Vleminckx or Mannekepis. Basically, any snack-bar will do. For the hardcore fries lovers, take a bike and cycle to Par Hasard. A place where you can eat some of the best fries in a restaurant environment!
Mannekepis is located on the Damrak and it’s the only reason to visit this street. It’s touristy and it’s full of souvenir and candy shops. Just around the corner you can find the best Ice cream you ever tasted, it’s called Van der Linde. More into pie? Go for a piece of apple pie at Winkel 43, don’t forget to add some whipped cream though! You can find all sorts of food in Amsterdam, some of my favorite restaurants: Castell, Happy happy joy joy, Rakang, Pazzi.
For the shoppers amongst us, make sure you visit the Kalverstraat. This is the main shopping street where you can find all the known brands. Weekends are crowded and Monday morning is the best time to shop. There are a couple of department stores as well, like the Bijenkorf or Hudson Bay. Everything is located within walking distance and since you are around anyway, why not take a healthy Juice from Juice House? I always take the Appleberry Lush with extra ginger. I love ginger!
The Haarlemmerstraat and Utrechtsestraat are lesser known shopping streets but also interesting when you have plenty of time in Amsterdam. Into Markets? Check out the daily Albert Cuyp Market as well as the surrounding neighborhood “De Pijp”.
There are plenty of solid options when it comes to lodging! The hotels downtown are of course a tad more expensive but they are worth it. Staying downtown means you get to truly experience Amsterdam. Everything is within walking distance and you get to see all the best spots. More into budget opportunities? Look for a nice Airbnb or a hotel a bit further from the center.
Visiting Amsterdam in April? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself amongst loads of people dressed in orange clothing. On the 27th of April we celebrate Kingsday, it’s basically a huge party (nationwide) and great fun! In August another well known event takes place: Pride and the famous canal parade, you don’t see this everyday. In October it’s time to dance during the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). If you happen to be in Amsterdam during one of these events, you are expected to take part!
Nature & Relax
People who love to relax should visit one of the many green parks. I live nearby Vondelpark which is one of the biggest parks in Amsterdam. It is quite busy though, so don’t expect to be the only one! In case you go, visit Albert Heijn to buy some drinks and snacks and take a blanket with you to sit on. You will have a great day! At some parks you can still take a barbecue 🙂
Rent a boat!
Still possible nowadays but that might change at some point. It’s one of the best ways to experience Amsterdam! It’s not that expensive and you don’t need a sailor license/certificate, happy days. Weather forecast looks promising? Make a reservation as soon as possible because loads of other people have the same idea;) There are plenty of nice spots along the channels to go for a bite to eat or just a refreshing drink. Some examples: Hannekes Boom, Waterkant, Loetje aan t ij, Strand Zuid and many more.
You probably didn’t fly to Amsterdam to watch a movie. But if you did, there are multiple cinemas in the city. Pathe and the Filmhallen are the most popular ones. We are a small country, so instead of creating voice overs we just add subtitles. Meaning: the movies are displayed in the original language. We also have Escape rooms, Theater, Cabaret, Casinos and a vivid night life scene but I guess you already knew that 😉
Whenever you have a limited amount of time, skip the museums. Many tourists visit Madame Tussauds, Anne Frank House or Heineken Experience which is great when you have a couple of days. However, these museums come with big queues, starting in the early morning.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Amsterdam is by airplane. Schiphol is one of the biggest airports in the world and I am sure you will find it easy going, it’s truly well designed and I am not just saying that because I am Dutch 😉 From Schiphol you can take a taxi, bus or train to the center of the city. Renting a car is also an option of course.
- Taxi: A taxi ride costs between €35,- and €60,- depending on your exact destination.
- Bus: A bus ride costs around €6,- and it takes you to Museumplein, Rijksmuseum or Leidseplein. From there you can take trams anywhere. When you exit Schiphol Plaza, go for bus 397. Click here for more information about this connection.
- Train: The fastest way to get to Amsterdam Central Station is by train, it takes 14 to 17 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at Schiphol Plaza. More information here.
The public transport in Amsterdam is great. It makes sense, works most of the time and it’s cheap. Get yourself a OV Chipkaart add some credit and you are good to go. It’s used to pay all public transport options in Amsterdam (trams, busses, subway and trains). Buying one at Schiphol Plaza is probably your best option.
Not that interested in city trips? Check out the Philippines or perhaps Thailand! In case you need to figure out how to get through your ATPL exams before you have time to travel again, check out this article about the ATPL exams. Either way, you should definitely come over at some point. In case you have tips of your own or want to share your experience, please leave a comment below.