Located in The Netherlands, Amsterdam is a city you have to visit when you’re in Europe. This vibrant city used to be a fishing village back in the 13th century, but it’s now grown into a town big for culture and tourism. You’ll see thousands of locals riding bikes through the streets and appreciate being in such a large city that has so few cars. From tulips to the Red Light District, there’s plenty to see in a weekend in Amsterdam.
Transportation in Amsterdam
From the airport, take the train to Amsterdam Centraal. You’ll be in the center of the city and can either walk to your hotel or take the metro.
The metro is an easy and cheap way to get all over the city once you figure out which routes you’re taking. There’s a small office right outside the train station to buy your card for the duration of your trip. The staff is very friendly and will help you figure out which metro to take.
You can also take an Uber to and from the airport, which will cost around €20-30. It can often take you longer in a car though, as Amsterdam is such a bike-friendly city that getting around in a car is difficult. If you have heavy luggage you might prefer this way however.
Spend your first day in Amsterdam relaxing and getting to know the city. Walking around the canals can be confusing at first, but the ones in the main part of the city essentially go in a U shape so keep that in mind to know what direction you’re going.
Rent a bike – Do as the Dutch do and rent a bike for your trip. There are actually more bikes than people who permanently live in Amsterdam! Bike paths are all over the city and they far outnumber cars. Many shops are available to rent a bike and lock. You can essentially ride to anywhere you want, lock your bike up outside, and go in.
Take a canal boat tour – One of the best ways to get acquainted with the city is to take a canal boat tour. It’s a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, and you can find places you may want to come back to later in the weekend.
Stop and smell the tulips – I’ve always been obsessed with pictures of tulips in Amsterdam so was happy to see some even though it was winter when I was there. Come in the spring to see fields of these beauties. There’s also an Amsterdam Tulip Museum you can visit in town.
Savor Dutch coffee – If you love trying different kinds of coffee, get a cup of Dutch coffee while you’re in Amsterdam. It’s a different method of brewing so it’s less bitter and acidic. Mine came with an eggnog liqueur and whipped cream, which was amazing.
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Drink at one of the oldest pubs – Fun fact: there are over 1,500 bars and cafes in Amsterdam. I’ve never had an easier time finding somewhere to pop in. Trying to get a straight answer about which bar is the oldest bar in Amsterdam is tough, but it was documented that Café Karpershoek got its liquor license in 1606. Either way, it’s fun to drink at a bar that’s at least 400 years old.
TIP: Want to save money on Amsterdam attractions? Book your tickets in advance before you even leave for your trip to The Netherlands!
On your second day, start by filling up on a Dutch specialty so you’ll be ready to visit plenty of places in Amsterdam!
Have Dutch pancakes – You must try a Dutch pancake when you’re in The Netherlands. I went to Pancakes Amsterdam and they were by far my favorite treat while I was there. They’re very thin and large, and you can get sweet or savory.
Anne Frank House – Everyone knows the story of how Anne Frank hid from the Nazis in World War II, so take some time to see where she was in hiding and learn more about her history. They show her diary and the bookcase that hid the secret passage. When I was there they only took online reservations, so check before you go.
Amsterdam Cheese Museum – The Netherlands produces some amazing cheese, so stop by this museum to have a few free samples. You’ll also learn how they make the cheese and the history of it.
Jordaan district – This is a beautiful neighborhood with plenty of picture-worthy shots. Take your time strolling through here, grabbing a coffee, and popping into the boutique shops.
Heineken Experience – While there are many beers to choose from in Amsterdam, you can’t visit without having a pint of Heineken. I always find factory tours fascinating and this was no exception. You can see how they make the beer from start to finish as well as the history of it.
Red Light District – You can’t go to Amsterdam without seeing the famous Red Light District. It gets its name from the windows with red lights where women hang out to offer their services. Pictures are absolutely forbidden here, so don’t even try to sneak one in.
There are a ton of places where you can buy edible marijuana. Many places also sell joints that you can smoke in the bars and cafes. I would advise you to be careful with how much you consume and preferably be with a group.
I felt safe here at night and was traveling alone, but I would advise people to be on guard. As with any area that’s a tourist attraction, there will be more pickpocketers hanging around.
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People watch at a cafe – I loved that the mornings didn’t seem rushed in Amsterdam, even for locals who were going to work. Back to Black is a cute coffee shop to people watch and even has a cat that resides there.
Noordermarkt – If you’re here on a Monday, check out this giant flea market in the Jordaan neighborhood. They have clothes, household goods, and even beauty products for sale.
Vondelpark – This giant park is 120 acres and a good place to get away from the city, especially in the warmer weather. Over 10 million people come here each year to relax or catch a show in the open-air theater.
Van Gogh Museum – I’m not always the biggest museum buff, but the Van Gogh Museum has tons of the famous artist’s original work. You’ll also learn the story of his life and see some lesser-known paintings.
Iamsterdam sign – You can’t go to Amsterdam without getting a selfie with the Iamsterdam sign. Go early to try to get it to yourself.
Where to stay
Hotel Museum Lane – For a budget hotel that’s in the center of the city, Hotel Museum Lane is a great option. Restaurants and bars are only a few minutes walk away. It’s right by several metro lines as well.
Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken – To treat yourself a bit, stay at the Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken. It’s on the outskirts of the main part of town, so it’ll be much quieter to sleep at night.
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