Some things have changed since my last visit to the Dutch capital three years ago, others did not.
I must admit that I liked it much more this time – I think I’ve finally discovered the side of it that I really like.
Well, actually it might be that this is the very nature of Amsterdam – a city where everyone can find something for oneself and if you didn’t enjoy it from the first several tries – just try harder, it’ll reward you in the end.
If you’re based in London like me, trips to Amsterdam have also become more comfortable recently.
You used to have to change trains in Brussels – and from April’18 on it’s a quick Eurostar train which in just 3h41min takes you to the Netherlands’ main city.
The ride from Amsterdam to London is still indirect (Thalys first and Eurostar then) because while there are appropriate passport check-in areas arranged in Brussels and London, the one is still missing in Amsterdam.
The governments are still discussing how to make the passport checks as secure as possible, and the direct Amsterdam – London train is expected to start operating in 2020.
Well, now let’s get to the essence of my post – these are the activities that are capable of forcing even the pickiest traveller to fall in love with Amsterdam!
1. Take a ride along the canals
Riding a boat is a great opportunity to observe Amsterdam’s life.
It allows one to see many vitally important buildings from the water if you’re limited in time – depending on your itinerary, you can have a glance at the Amsterdam Centraal station, St Nicholas Church, Noordermarkt, Anna Frank’s house and many other must-see buildings!
There are a number of different riding options starting from Hop on – Hop off boat to Cheese & Wine tasting boats, just choose the one that suits you and your budget the most!
Interesting: No surprises that the canal belt is listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage sight.
2. Explore the historical areas
Amsterdam is bursting with its historical heritage. Obviously, you cannot see all the areas without permanently living in the city, but here are some of them – some well-know, others more hidden.
No doubt you can’t miss the Dam Square, the spot that witnessed how the the city was born in the 13th century exactly when the dam on the Amstel river was constructed to prevent floodings.
Now the square is really flooded – with tourists, pigeons and marvelous buildings such as the Neiuwe Kerk, the National Monument dedicated to the losses of WWII and the Royal Palace that is still used for some official ceremonies.
If you come to Nieuwmarkt unprepared you can easily mistake this building for something what it’s not.
No, it’s not a castle. It’s de Waag, the former city gate and the part of fortifications around Amsterdam’s centre.
Interesting: De Waag is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam! Ground floor is now a restaurant – and I must confess that the food there was really good!
Another area that is worth your attentions is a hidden courtyard where residents are only single women.
It might sound bizarre as long as you don’t learn the history behind it. This is the area where the Begijntjes, catholic sisterhood lived starting from the 14th century.
Interesting: Het Houten Huis built around the 1420 is the oldest house in Amsterdam. Amsterdam became Protestant in the 16th century, but the Catholicism remained alive in Begijnhof as the houses were owned by women living in them and were thus untouched by the state.
Tip: please respect those living in this area now and their privacy.
Jordaan is a pure pleasure for the eyes and is exactly what you expect from Amsterdam.
Penetrated by canals, it’s a nice area with various cafes, museums and vintage shops. Did I mention that the name is likely linked with the French word for ‘garden’ – Jardin and many streets are named after flowers?
3. Shop at Noordermarkt
Walking around the Jordaan area proceed to the Noordermarkt and the North Church Noorderkerk.
There has been a market here since the 17th century and it celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023. And it’s a nice place to buy some fresh food, antiques and other stuff.
Check the Noordermarkt opening hours before visiting!
4. Take home some Delftware pottery
White and blue Dutch ceramics is so iconic isn’t it?
This colour combination is not unique in the world of pottery – think for instance about the Russian gzhel and Chinese blue and white porcelain. Nevertheless, the ware originating from the city of Delft is very traditional – and your friends would definitely be happy to have a something blue-and-white for a gift!
5. Visit Natura Artis Magistra
I know that some people sympathize animals living in the zoo but you definitely won’t get such feelings when visiting Artis, the oldest zoo in Netherlands (see the slides below)! With its wonderful spacious enclosures and an aquarium it also has many cafes, restaurants, playgrounds.
It was founded in 1838 and the public access to it was limited for a long time – it was only in 1920 that its doors opened for the general public.
6. Buy flowers at the Bloemenmarkt
Flower market has been heavily packed with tourists every time I visited but I still think that it’s an essential stop for every tourist.
Depending on the season, you can encounter both fresh and wooden tulips while various seeds, tulip bulbs and souvenirs are available for sale throughout the year.
Tip: before buying some bulbs make sure that you are legally allowed to take them to your home country / country of your next destination! There are some legislations that forbid it in certain cases.
7. Оbserve the city from A’dam Lookout
For some panoramic views head to the A’dam Lookout observational desk and restaurant right on top of A’dam tower.
The highest swing in Europe named Over the Edge (no one can argue with the truthfulness of this title!) but unfortunately I didn’t have time to check it out myself. Maybe you did?
8. Poffertjes & waffles one love
There are many kinds of food that you should try in the Dutch capital such as Gouda and Edam cheeses, Stroopwafels (syrop waffles), herring and so so many meat and seafood dishes. But my heart forever belongs to Poffertjes, small pancakes made out of batter, yeast and flour.
Having over 6 years of Instagram blogging experience, I didn’t manage to take the photo of them before eating – so here go the syrup waffles instead 🙂
9. Dive into the museum atmosphere
As you might’ve noticed, I’m a dedicated Museum goer and I never miss an opportunity to learn something or to see something with my own eyes.
Quite obvious that I would be happy to recommend you as many museums as I can-thankfully Amsterdam provides me with the long list of museums of great importance for the humanity. I’ll actually write a separate post about Amsterdam museums but if you are to pick up the top of the top – think Rembrandt (Rijksmuseum and the painter’s house), Van Gogh and Anna Frank.
Anna Frank’s the museum is located exactly in the rooms and the secret annex behind the bookcase where Anna, her sister, mother, father – the only survivor out of 8 people and the one who prepared Anna’s writings for the publishing procedure – and four other Jews were hiding from Nazis for about 25 months.
Tip: make sure you book your tickets online wherever it’s possible!
10. Respecting the sex workers of district of Red Lights
Obviously, no Amsterdam guide is full without a brief talk about Red-lights district. Now you can meet some neon red windows outside of this area even in a daylight but De Wallen area still remains rather specific. Full of overexcited tourists, cannabis and erotic shops, it’s not a place for everyone to enjoy but definitely worth paying a visit to.
Please note that photography is forbidden and ladies work legally and pay taxes as all of us (hopefully) do. This approach at least partially protects sex workers from abuse and from being forced into prostitution. It benefits the health safety as well as there are medical checks and hygiene standards observed by authorities.
But I still have a question: why in the age of gender equality there are still only ladies standing in the red light of lamps behind the doors?..
Interesting: don’t miss the Oudekerksplein square nearby in heart of the Wallen district with the Old Church Oudekerk that dates back to the 13th century and went through the transmission from Catholic to Calvinist place of worship.
It’s name is also linked to a bit confusing to non-religious people ‘Amsterdam miracle’ of spitting out the sacramental bread by an unknown dying man. After being thrown to fire by servants, this vomit was left untouched by fire and became sacral. The destiny of a dying man remains a mystery but it’s likely that he just died.
Hope you enjoyed my today’s blogpost!