WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Canals | Get lost! In a good way. Wander along the canal district (an UNESCO site) – there are endless bridges, shops and flowers. The 17th century architecture adds charm and a unique personality to the city. One piece of advice – look before you take a photo or saunter into the middle of the street – bicycles are a very popular transportation method, and locals use these canals to cut through the city quickly. See the Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht. These are some of the most picturesque canals.
Canal Cruises | The cruises are worth the 15-20 euros, they take you throughout the entire city, a fun way to explore the area and see the city from a different perspective. The guides also throw in a few historic facts you’ll actually remember. I spent most of the time on the back of the boat where there was a small seating area. It was private, peaceful, and made me feel like I was a spy, silently observing life unfold around me. It’s also almost impossible to get a good shot with rows of other tourists on board, so don’t be afraid to sneak out back! Van Gogh Museum | Van Gogh is one of my all time favorite artists, so this is a must see in my book. Regardless, it is home to the largest collection of the Dutch painter’s works of art, not to mention the structure and design of the museum itself is pretty cool (loved the illuminated quotes along the staircases). To my fellow shopaholic friends, warning : the gift shop is full of Van Gogh adorned pieces from key chains to posters of his most famous works. I thought the Starry Night umbrellas were adorable, and would make great gifts for friends back home, or, you know, for yourself. Tip: Buy tickets in advance to avoid the wait, and visit a coffeeshop before hand to ensure you take your time and appreciate a colorful perspective.
Rijksmuseum | Learn about traditional Dutch art, history and culture within this popular, renowned museum. Walk through the central underpass of the museum and admire the impressive architecture. The building provides a great backdrop for photos, including one of the “IAMSTERDAM” sign located across the front entrance on Museumplein.
Oh, and don’t forget about there’s the red lights and burlesque.
WHAT TO SMELL (yes, smell)
Bloemenmarkt | The floating flower market was full of vibrant colors, books, and of course, flowers. It can make any city dweller want to start a garden. I visited in October, so the market wasn’t exactly in bloom’, but it still had an energetic feel to it and the people there really know their shit. Buy the seeds and take some of the magic home with you!
Coffeeshops | Probably the most surreal experience I had when I was in Amsterdam as I honestly had no idea how things were run, but I’m a quick learner. They have an huge variety with detailed descriptions of the experience you will have, making it easy to navigate for even the youngest of grasshoppers the field. Different coffeeshops have different vibes, so it’s worth it to just walk in to a few and see what the people are like, if you can hang out there, or if it’s more of a grab and go location. Either way, you have more options than you need, it’s just a matter of personal preference. Have fun, and be safe! Kinda like the feeling when you turn 21 and enter a bar. This is legal! I’m legal!
WHERE TO EAT
Amsterdam Cheese Company | Pop in to one of their stores, and sample over 20 different kinds of cheese for the perfect mid-afternoon snack. Just go in, no shame and act like you on the own the place. The only person counting how many samples you try is you and that’s the reason you walked in there in the first place. They have flavors ranging from Pesto to Wasabi to Goat Truffle. My personal favorite: the Dutch Gold aged 14 months. Tip: throw in a bag of their potato chips with whatever cheese you end up purchasing. Voila! You have the perfect on the go picnic or munchies for your hotel (or Airbnb) room. The cheese is also expertly wrapped and can travel home with you.
Dante Kitchen & Bar | Try Bitterballen, a traditional Dutch appetizer and popular bar food made with beef or veal, spices, butter and probably some other things, served with mustard. I tried these for the first time at Dante Kitchen & Bar after I had to run inside to take cover from rain and parades of people celebrating Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). Nestled within the Canal Ring, Dante feels upscale, yet funky, is a spot where the beautiful people and cool kids hang out.
Kessen | A charming place for quick bite to eat in the Jordaan district. Great wine selection, too!
WHERE TO SHOP
Episode | Anything and everything vintage. Fur coats, seventies sunglasses, ripped Levis. You name it, they have it! And for affordable prices. Give yourself at least an hour to sift through the racks, the best treasures are usually hidden! I snagged a vintage leather doctor bag that I carried around the rest of my time there and is still my go to bag.
Marañon | My favorite shop simply for its unique concept (and proximity to the Flower Market). It’s part smoothie & juices and part hammock lounge with an incredible selection of beautifully painted canvas pillows. A healthy, relaxing hippie gem. The painted canvas pillows are incredibly high quality, waterproof, and resistant to fading in the sun. I took home two (~$24 each).
River Island | A popular international clothing retailer that I’ve never been to in person… until I got to Amsterdam. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint with mid-level priced items on both trendy and classic items, never-ending accessories,and a killer sale rack. I walked away with a new hat and casual lingerie top.
These are some of my favorite things to do and see every time I visit. What are must see’s in Amsterdam?