Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities that I’ve visited, and one of the few European cities that I could actually see myself living in sometime in the future. There is a large diversity of activities and food offered in this city, ensuring that you won’t get bored during your visit. Here are my top recommendations when visiting Amsterdam:
- Bike like locals: Amsterdam is an extremely bike-friendly city. Most locals own a bike and use it on a daily basis, and the mass majority of roads are also paired with bike lanes. If you are nervous about biking on big roads in a new city, a great space that is safe to bike is Vondelpark, a large public urban park of 47 hectares.
- Van Gogh Museum: Van Gogh is one of my favourite artists. On Friday evenings, the museum is open until late (10 pm), and the lobby serves cocktails while playing music.
- Canal Tour: There are also so many beautiful canals in Amsterdam, sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North.” There are over one hundred kilometers of canals and 1,500 bridges in the city. The three main canals are Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. The 17th-century canal ring area, which includes the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Haarlem: From Amsterdam, I would recommend taking a short trip to Haarlem. Trains come very frequently and it only takes about 20 minutes to transit. Haarlem seems like a much calmer version of Amsterdam, and we found shopping in this district to be cheaper as well. Here, you have to check out Jopen, a former church that has now been converted into a brewery. There are lots of local craft beers to try, as well as Dutch specialty foods including croquettes (deep fried bites stuffed with cheese or meats and sauce).
- Anne Frank Museum: This is one of my favourite museums in Europe. Unlike most museums that are divided by exhibitions, the Anne Frank museum flows as a story from room to room about Anne’s journey. Make sure to book tickets in advance since the line gets really long.
- Cheese Tour: The Dutch are really big on their cheese. Although there are a lot of cheese shops around Amsterdam that offer free samples, I would highly recommend doing a cheese tasting at Reypenaer Proeflokaal. They offer a cheese and wine tour with the original maker, where you can learn about the aging process and traits of different cheeses.
Amsterdam has one of the best street food scenes in Europe. From cheap eats on the street to fine dining, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this culinary city.
- Blue Amsterdam is a great spot to spend your first evening in the city. It’s a beautiful glass-fronted cafe at the top of a shopping complex that gives a panoramic view of the entire city. On every table is even a pair of binoculars! This cafe offers salad, sandwiches, fries, and is reasonably priced.
- FEBO is one of the more unique places to check out in Amsterdam. This fast food chain could likely be assessed as being worse than McDonald’s because it doesn’t require any human interaction. You order your “fresh” fast foods from vending machines, which mostly offer deep-fried croquettes and hamburgers.
- Stroop Wafel: This is probably my favourite street food – ever. You can get it from vendors on the street and in markets, as well as at cafes (Banketbakkerij Lanskroon is the original one). They are most delicious served piping hot.
- Raw Herring: In Amsterdam, fish stands sell raw herring, a soused raw fish with a strong taste. In Holland, people have been eating raw herring for over 600 years. It tasted like sushi and was quite inexpensive. You get two large slabs of raw herring for 2.50 euros. I would recommend getting it from Frens HaringHandel, one of the best in the city.
- Street Waffles: There’s this one stand by the Museum Square that serves it fresh off the griddle with soft serve. The waffle itself is perfect; crispy on the outside yet tender and sweet on the inside. With ice cream, it’s a divine hot & cold combo.
- Pancakes: The Dutch are also big on their pancakes. Below are the Poffertjes, mini pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and served with butter. Although you can get them topped with sauces like Nutella or chocolate, I recommend getting them as they are in order to taste the delicious buttery sweet flavour of the pancakes. There are also tons of pancake shops around the city. I found Dutch pancakes to be thinner than the ones I am used to in Canada, and sweet on their own. We got the “Indonesian pancake” filled with curry, chicken, and vegetables.
- Reypenaer cheese: I would recommend doing a cheese tasting with Reypenaer. My favourites of the sampling were the Reypenaer XO, which smelled like vanilla, wood, and hazelnuts, and had a crumbly texture with sugar crystals, as well as the Chevre Gris, which had a similar texture but a milder taste.
- Jacketz: At this local favourite, you select a base (salad or potato) and get if stuffed with a variety of different toppings of your choice. We shared a pulled pork jacketz with mustard sauce, and a salad with beet mix. Both were amazing.
- Fries: There are tons of small shops on the streets that sell them to-go in paper cones, and many restaurants have them on their menu as well.