Amsterdam is a unique city that cohesively combines tradition and innovation. It’s a city where you can feel its influence worldwide, from the story of Anne Frank’s life to the world’s top DJ’s such as Martin Garrix. For the sake of buying the cheapest flight, I made the
stupid financially wise decision conquer Amsterdam in three days..in mid-February…as I was recovering from the flu. However, stepping foot into the city where I see myself raising a family numbed any ailments.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the ITC Hotel on the Prinsengracht. It sits on a beautiful canal, just 20 minutes walking from the train station. I got a single room with a TV for €28 a night. People often stay in Jordaan which is a pretty residential district or De Pijp which is a edgy, yet gentrified southside district. However, as long as you stay within the Canal Belt, you’re never more than 30 minutes away, by walking, from everything you need during your stay in Amsterdam.
What to Eat
The main Dutch delicacy is raw herring, which is basically raw fish soaked in vinegar; it’s often ate between crispy buns and topped with onions and pickles. Also make sure to try stroopwaffel, which is two thin waffles with caramel in between, with your coffee. For breakfast, snack on poffertjes, or Dutch pancake balls. Also, get the best appeltaart, or apple pie, in the world at Cafe Winkel in Jordaan. Amsterdam is insanely diverse which means insanely delicious authentic food from all around the world. I found the eating scene in Amsterdam to be the most similar to the US out of anywhere in Europe.
Bikes!!!!!!! Amsterdam is tied with Copenhagen as the world’s most bike-friendly city, with 250 miles of bike lanes. But if you feel like you’ll embarrass yourself in front of the natives like I did, you can walk anywhere you need to within 30 minutes. There’s also a tram system that runs throughout the city. However, it’s expensive at €2.90 for a one-hour train ticket and honestly, you won’t need it.
Getting out of the Schipol airport is just a €5, 20-minute train away.
Day 1: Quintessential Amsterdam
When you get off the train, you’ll arrive smack in the middle of the city. As soon as you step outside, take an hour-long Canal Tour to explore the city by boat and hear about its rich, industrial history while admiring it’s iconic architecture.
It would be easy to think it was still the holiday season here, as bundles of string lights adorned the shopping street, Damrakstraat, as snow blanketed the city. Here, you can find typical big brands such as Zara or Gucci.
Later, bike (or walk) to Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. The Netherlands is famous for their abundant tulip population, so you’re bound to be surrounded by countless fresh tulips and tulip-themed souvenirs. Anything you want, you’ll find here but tulip-themed. Think Portlandia’s Put A Bird On It sketch, but with tulips.
In the evening, I walked south to De Pijp. Of course, there’s the Heineken Experience where you can see how the world-famous beer is made. De Pijp is a foodie’s paradise; it’s home to over 150 nationalities so you can find any type of food here. For dinner, I stopped by Dim Sum Now to get some dumplings. The portions were small, but the warm, juicy deliciousness was just what my sick, yet recovering self needed.
At night, I walked throughout the infamous Red Light District. This is where Amsterdam gets its reputation as a seedy, adult playground. Anything you’d be ashamed to admit to your loved ones you’ll pretty much find here. The entire time I was thinking how even if a fifth of this was on public display on American streets, the good moms of America would riot. I walked through it once, and don’t care to go back.
Day 2: Artsy Amsterdam
Take a day to head to the posh Museumplein to pretend you know art at some of the world’s most famous museums: the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Both roughly €17, they’re pricey but the Rijksmuseum hosts legendary Rembrandts, a few Van Gogh’s and so much more. As you can expect, the Van Gogh museum hosts his most famous works such as Sunflowers and Almond Trees, my personal favourite. If you choose one museum, choose the Rijksmuseum; there’s a lot more variety.
After the Rijksmuseum, head out to the back to catch the famous I Amsterdam Sign. There are usually tons of people so it’ll be near-impossible to get a photo in one of the letters without someone interrupting your precious moment. I went on a Tuesday morning in February; the picture below is probably the emptiest it’ll ever be.
For something more out of the box, head northwest to Jordaan to the interactive Electric Ladyland Fluorescent Art Museum. This museum will trip you out more than all the things Amsterdam has to offer without the regret and inevitable self-shaming.
Day 3: Historical Amsterdam
Amsterdam has long been a powerful, influential city; that doesn’t mean it was safe from the horrific rule of the Nazis. When Hitler rose to power, many Jews fled to The Netherlands for refuge. This resulted in Amsterdam becoming home to one of the largest Jewish ghettos in Europe. However, the Nazis invaded The Netherlands in May 1940, and out of the 140,000 Jews living in Amsterdam, 101,800 were executed. That’s 87% of the Jewish population, one of the highest percentages in Europe.
The life of hiding as a Jew from the Nazis was a daily struggle, and this was best told by Anne Frank. She lived in the Jordaan District and hid in a tiny annex of an apartment building for over two years, until they were found by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Her house, the Anne Frank Huis lives on and is available for tours. Tickets can be bought online, but after 3:30 pm they can be bought at the door. Get there far in advance, the line will circle around the block. If you want a more broad perspective of Jewish persecution, head to the Jewish Historical Museum in the Jewish Quarter.
Amsterdam is a city of old and new, familiar and unknown. It’s a city of opposites; it’s steeped in a rich art culture and tumultuous history, but lingering under the city is a subculture of hedonism and young tourists publicly embarrassing themselves. Ultimately, as in life, the good (by far) outweighs the bad. Amsterdam is so much more than the stereotype, but you need to come to this incredibly pristine city to see for yourself.
It’s probably my favourite city in the world. There’s a feeling with Amsterdam that I’ve never felt anywhere else; I don’t know what it is but I 100% envision my life there after university. I actually happened to briefly go back in April, and I intend go there again in the next year.
What are your favourite parts of Amsterdam? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!