Amsterdam is one of the most well-known and visited cities in Europe. Staying in Groningen for my year abroad means I spend a lot of time there. So, I have decided to write some tips for the best way to see the city and what you can expect from it. Since there are so many different things to discuss I’ve decided to break it up into sections.
Typical Tourist Haunts
It’s no secret that Amsterdam is extremely touristy, but there is good reason for it. Here are a few of what I would say are ‘Must See’ attractions. First and foremost, I would suggest taking a canal tour- despite what people think, Amsterdam is actually pretty big to get around and see so the canal tours are great for getting to sit and relax with friends while a tour guide takes the boat past all the best spots and gives you a bit of history on them. Plus, you can get great deals where the price includes free drinks from the mini bars most of them have. The second biggest attraction I think everyone should go to is Anne Frank’s house, it’s a truly harrowing experience. If you are going to do this – book ahead! The lines are crazy and in peak times they won’t let you go if you haven’t pre booked. I would also suggest going to Museum Quarter because it has most of the main museums there (Van Gogh, Mocco Museum, Rijksmuseum). This also used to have the famous ‘I AMSTERDAM’ sign but it has now been taken away. Don’t worry though if you were desperate to get a photo there, there is another place where the sign is that I’ll talk about later. If you visit in the warmer months, I would suggest going to Vondelpark – it’s very pretty and a great place to escape crowds. Finally, I think most people visiting will want to see the Red Light District- I’ll talk more about this one later as well.
These are places that not many tourists know to go to but are fantastic. One of the first things a lot of people don’t even know to visit is the North side of the city. This has really cool bars and is where the other “I AMSTERDAM’ sign is located. So is the A’DAM Lookout Swing. This is one of the highest swings in Europe and you can go to the top floor which has a panoramic top deck so you can see the whole city and, if you are feeling brave, go on the swing where you will swing 100 meters above the ground with the city under your feet. There are also lots of rooftop bars that people don’t know about which give great views of the city like Blue and the Amsterdam Sky Lounge Bar. On the topic of cool restaurants, a great one for any Instagram bloggers is ‘MaMa Kelly’. This is a pink paradise with great foot and really cool backdrops for photographs. For any animal lovers there is the floating cat sanctuary where you make a donation and actually get to go on a boat and play with the cats. Last but not least is REM Eiland, this used to be a broadcasting station for illegal television stations and is now a restaurant and rooftop bar floating on stilts in the water. These are some of my personal favorite places to go and I am always shocked when people say they have visited Amsterdam but never been.
I would say that if you are going to come all the way to Amsterdam, I would not spend too much time in places like Dam Square. Only because there is very little to actually see and it is always filled with tourists. I would also advise against going to places like Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s, Hard Rock Café Amsterdam etc., I only say this because they don’t showcase much Dutch culture and there are far better places to see, but if you strongly feel inclined to go then by all means visit them. I would also advise getting a day tram ticket (remember you can only pay on the tram by card when buying one of these) because Amsterdam has a lot to see and the attractions are not all close together so it saves a lot of time. My final point is, unless you are really desperate to, don’t get a bike and try and ride around the city. I say this only because walking around Amsterdam is crazy enough trying to avoid people, bikes, trains and trams all on the same roads. As well as that, locals will get pretty fed up with tourists who don’t know the road systems for the bikes and won’t give you the time of day, which can be extremely stressful for everyone involved.
In general, Dutch people are very friendly and almost everyone speaks English which was a great relief for me when coming to the Netherlands. Amsterdam is a really fun place and one of my favorite locations to spend time in. Part of the attraction is the liberal aspect of Amsterdam but when exploring it visitors do need to remember to be respectful. Cannabis and prostitution is legal there and many people flock to the Red Light District to see how different this area is. I would say it is definitely worth seeing when you are there but remember to be respectful. A golden rule is never take your phone out to take pictures of the woman working in the Red Light District. Firstly, it is rude and disrespectful to the people trying to their jobs and secondly it is not tolerated. I’ve seen people have their phones either taken off them or even thrown into the canal when trying to do this.
All in all, I would highly recommend visiting Amsterdam, go and explore!