Before going to Amsterdam last week, I really knew nothing about this incredible city. Yes, it’s a haven for stoners and 18 year old boys exploring the Red Light District but the distinct history, art, and lifestyle made me Google: “How to move to Amsterdam” my second day there.
For those travelers who are worried about language barriers, let me start by saying everyone in Amsterdam speak English at least conversationally- Bartenders, museum staff, train conductors- don’t worry, you’ll be fine.
Below is my 3 day itinerary for Amsterdam. Again, we didn’t know anything about Amsterdam before showing up at 7:00am on Saturday morning so the first day was spent spontaneously exploring, walking around, getting our bearings, and figuring out the transportation system. After talking to hostel staff, seeing advertisements around the city, and talking to cafe/coffee shop staff, we developed a list of things to do for the following few days. And FYI, I was an art history major, so this trip is pretty museum heavy…
Drop off luggage at the hostel/hotel. We stayed in Meininger Hotel and it was clean, affordable, and in an amazing location. If you’re staying at an Airbnb leave your luggage in a locker at Amsterdam Centraal Train Station so you can wander without exhausting yourself.
Grab a map – You can get them for free in a hotel lobby or tourist information center. Refer to this article for more details on how we start off our spontaneous trips on the right foot.
Buy a multi-day train pass and take a train to Amsterdam Centraal to wander around the Red Light District (we didn’t know it was the Red Light District until the sun went down).
Find a cafe, sit down with some coffee, and get your bearings on that handy map you picked up this morning. We ended up finding some great places to sit around the Waag (near the Red Light District) where we ate lunch and figured out which direction we wanted to wander.
Museum- on our first day, we stumbled upon the Rembrandt House Museum and spent a solid hour wandering around the former home of the famed Dutch painter. We also passed the Anne Frank Museum but couldn’t go in. *WARNING* The Anne Frank house is always crowded and it’s now under construction. You must buy tickets online and in advance (the next tickets available were in three weeks) if you’re interested in going inside.
Walk south out of of the Red Light district and into a stunning neighborhood (the name of which none of the locals could tell me) for drinks at Bar Moustache. The simple elegance and homey-vibe will win you over even before their specialty cocktails hit your taste buds. For dinner, we walked directly across the street to a vegan restaurant called Golden Temple. Here, you’ll find a seriously cool chef who came out and talked to us for a bit as they were closing up for the night. The food is delicious and the ambiance is very chill- what more could you want after a long first day in Amsterdam?
Museum- The Van Gogh Museum, Modern Art Museum, and Stedelijk Museum are all right next to each other. They’re all amazing but if you really want to immerse yourself in everything Dutch, go with The Van Gogh Museum.
Brunch- Near the museums listed above is a trendy eatery called Coffee and Coconuts. They have tons of vegan options and some AMAZING smoothie bowls so you don’t weigh yourself down with the potatoes and meat dishes traditional of this region. The waiters are also very cute.
Tour- We booked a walking tour online with New Europe Tours called the “Alternative Tour” and I LOVED it! We covered topics like gentrification and the current state of housing, the history of biking in Amsterdam, smart shops, sex work, and even popped into Cannabis College for about 15 minutes. The tour was 3 hours long and well worth the 14 Euro plus tip. If you want to do a free tour instead, this same company offers a daily tour of Amsterdam that explores the history of central Amsterdam.
We were exhausted after the walking tour so we indulged in a brownie from a nearby coffee shop (yes, this brownie contained weed) and found a small bar/restaurant near our hostel to eat dinner before turning in for the night.
If you can get a ticket to the Anne Frank House, go first thing this morning. If not, walk around some more and enjoy a long breakfast or coffee at a cafe.
Tulips- If you’re in Amsterdam in the spring, you MUST go to the Keukenhof Tulip Garden! The array of flowers and colors are breathtaking and something you won’t see anywhere else in the world. We booked an 11:15am tour with Tours & Tickets that bussed us to a bulb farm and then to Keukenhof and brought us back to the city at 6:00pm. This ticket was a bit pricy (as you can see in the photo), but they have cheaper options if you just want to get a tour bus to the gardens.
Another tour- We don’t usually go on so many tours but there’s just something about Amsterdam that made me want to learn as much as possible about the city’s history during our very short stay. We took a “Red Light Tour” with New Europe Tours that focused on the history of sex work in Amsterdam. If you only have time for one walking tour, I would suggest the Alternative Tour, as the Red Light Tour involved a lot of walking through streets packed with tourists ogling at sex workers in windows. The tour, however, was informative and gave some fascinating insight into the relationship between Amsterdam’s churches and sex work throughout history. The tour ended just before 10:00pm so we grabbed some dinner from a take-out place on the way to Amsterdam Centraal and went to bed ready for tomorrow’s adventure.