Amsterdam is an incredible place! With so much to do in one of Europe’s most visited cities though it can often be hard to decide which things to do, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in the city. Below are my top 5 things to do in Amsterdam based on my own personal experiences of the city. These offer a combination of the top tourist attractions and a taste of local Dutch culture.
The Free Tour
On my first visit to Amsterdam I was completely strapped for cash. This forced me to look for things to do on a strict budget and The Free Tour was one of the best! Aside from the fact it is completely free (other than the optional guide tip at the end), it was also a great way to get to grips with your bearings of Amsterdam upon arrival. They take you through all the main areas of the city centre, providing a thorough insight into the history of each place and monument as you pass. It was also interesting to hear the history of the famous Red Light District, and find out about how Amsterdam became known for its “coffee shops”. Our tour guide also broke down some common misconceptions on the legalities of marijuana and prostitution in the area – which was very helpful for all us travellers and tourists.
Tours depart every day at 11am and 1pm with two meeting points – The National Monument and Centraal Station. Guides will be wearing bright red t-shirts so you notice them upon arrival. A point to be aware of however is that at the National Monument there is a particular religious group who also wear bright red tops and who try to recruit followers in the same area! Many of the people in my group went up to them thinking they were the tour guide and it took a good 20 minutes to get them to leave! I’ve attached a pic of the t-shirt the guides wear beside this paragraph just in case there is any confusion!
The Anne Frank House/Museum
Amsterdam is known around the world as the party capitol of Europe (and for good reason!) Sometimes however, it is good to remember the history of this city, and the story of Anne Frank is one part of that which should not be forgotten. Being able to view the room in which Anne slept, and the stairs which the Nazi’s stormed up before taking her and her family to the concentration camps was very sobering. The price of entry was a little bit steep at 8.50 Euros. However when you compare this to the price of entry for other attractions in any of Europe’s main cities it’s not really so bad - especially when you consider there will only ever be one Anne Frank House in the world.
Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam, and is located near to the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and The Van Gogh Museum. It’s a great place to go for a picnic in summer after touring the museums, or a quick city getaway if you need somewhere to chill out away from the hustle and bustle for a bit. The best thing about Vondelpark though is that it’s loved by both the local people of Amsterdam and tourists! You will find a huge variety of people here going for walks, jogging, roller skating, walking the dog, or just lazing about in the sun. Free concerts are given at the open-air theatre or in the summer at the park’s bandstand and it is quite simply just a cool place to hang out. It’s also another great free thing to do in the city when you are travelling on a budget.
Have some frites!
One thing that the Dutch love is their frites! Frites are what the Dutch call fries (or chips to us in the UK), however I have heard a few other variations of the word used throughout the Netherlands. When most people think of fries they usually think of the kind you get in McDonalds. In Holland however, all their fries are cooked completely fresh, are served by little outdoor vendors, and usually come with a dollop of ketchup and mayonnaise! Of course, like anything that tastes great it is almost always bad for you, but the Dutch love it! If you go to Amsterdam or anywhere in Holland you have to try the local Dutch frites! They are yum!
Head to the coffee shop
Anyone who’s heard of Amsterdam will probably have heard of its world famous “coffee shops”. Unlike the coffee shops you get in most other places around the world however, the coffee shops in Holland don’t sell coffee, they sell marijuana! Personally I’m not that big into smoking pot, but I’m sure everyone who has been to Amsterdam at some point has smoked it, taken a space cake, or consumed marijuana in some shape of form. They may also have taken a magic mushroom. I guess it one’s of those “when in Rome” moments. That being said, on my travels in Holland out with Amsterdam I was actually surprised by how little the local people smoke it. Most café’s, restaurants, and pubs I went to outside of Amsterdam didn’t allow it to be smoked on premises, and to be honest, if you’re there for more than a week the smell of the stuff really starts to make you want to vomit (although that may just be me!) If you do want to head to a coffee shop while in Amsterdam, shop around, find the best deal, or alternatively head out to some of Holland’s other cities such as nearby Utrecht, and get a cheaper deal!
Amsterdam is an amazing city and somewhere that is always great fun to visit! If your time is limited in the city, or you can’t decide what to do, then the 5 tips listed above should be a good way to get you started!