We’ll I’ll be damned if I didn’t admit that I fell in love with Amsterdam with my weekend trip in the city. It was filled with whimsical canals, intricate architecture, restaurants that served more than just bread and cheese, and some of the most gorgeous fall colors of the season. As I’ve been traveling for work full-time in Europe over the past month, I’ve really made the city-in-24-hours agenda a reality as I rush from one country to another supporting my project go-lives.
Amsterdam was the first city that gave me clear sanity and clarity amidst all the work craziness. I may not have gone to a “coffee shop” (me no likey smoking pot) but I did do plenty of amazing things while I was there. Here’s the bucket list of activities that I would recommend for the most spectacular 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Rent a bike.
Everyone is doing it. And even though the Dutch will be biking waaaaay better than you (i.e., texting while biking while balancing groceries and a dog in the basket), you still gotta do it. It’s a quick way to get around town and you can take some adorable / stereotypical pictures with the canals. My hotel rented me a bike for the day, but plenty of shops around the city will rent a bike to you for a few hours. I found biking around with no destination in mind is a great way to get a sense of the city and relax. The city center is fairly small so even though you get “lost” you’re really only a few kilometers away from your starting place. If you want more structure, plug a destination into Google Maps, turn voice guidance on and wear one headphone. That way you get directions in your ear for where to turn! Check out the following places on your unofficially, official bike tour of Amsterdam.
Snap some pics.
- The buildings. Amsterdam architecture is phenomenal. Each building is unique and full of quirks. Be sure to look up at some point and notice all the hooks hanging from the top of the buildings. People use a pulley system with those hooks to move furniture in and out of the front windows. I actually saw that in action while I was walking around!
- The House Boats. Approximately 2500 house boats are scattered all over canals in the city. They have their own mooring license, water, and electricity. Some are super decked out with patio lights, grills, gardens, etc. If I ever return to Amsterdam, I’m definitely going to airbnb a house boat.
- I Amsterdam Sign. Located in Vondelpark in front of the Rijksmuseum (the Dutch version of the Louve) and across from the Van Gogh museum are some giant letters repping the city. Pro tip: Hordes of tourists will be there by day, but if you want an undisrupted pic head there at night for a clear view.
- Red Light District. Disclaimer you can’t take pics here, but heading to the De Wallen neighborhood is just one of those check boxes you have to check when in Amsterdam. The most ironic part of it all is that there are brothel windows that straight up share a street with a massive church. To explore more of one of Amsterdam’s famous spots, check out this blog by HotelsCombined on The Best of Amsterdam’s Red Light District Nightlife
- Anne Frank House. If you want to go inside the famous attic apartment you need to reserve your ticket many days ahead of time. While I didn’t go on the tour (spontaneous weekend trips don’t allow for much planning), I figured it would probably be fairly anticlimactic and was quite satisfied with riding my bike on by. Put Prinsengracht 267, 1016 GV Amsterdam into your google maps and pedal away.
- Heineken Factory. Putting this on the list only because you’ll inevitably walk by this massive brewery. If you’re super into beer, then I guess the ridiculously long line outside might be for you. But if you’re more into drinking it, I would pass on going on the “Heineken Experience” and just snap a pic of the building instead on your way to a bar.
Canal Boat Tour
If you’re going to spend some money on a tour, I highly recommend a canal boat tour. They’re reasonably priced. You see a ton of the city. You get a bit of digestible history tidbits. And you get to give your feet a break from walking / biking. I went at night and it was amazing to see the buildings lit up. But if I had to do it again, I would definitely try to go during the day time and find a boat that serves wine and snacks (Yes! Those do exist look around!). I paid 16 Euro from Tours & Tickets (they have a booth in Vondelpark #convenience). You can do better!
Yassss. Admit it. You want some souvenirs to commemorate your time in Amsterdam. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops with pot paraphernalia, tulip bulbs, and mini-windmills on nearly every corner in the city center. But if you want to go where the locals go and pick up something special, head over the darling neighborhood of De Pijp and peruse through the vendors at the Albert Cuyp Market. You can find anything from fresh flowers to cashmere scarves to lingerie.
The Dutch love their bread and cheese. You’ll find it at most meals. Fun fact: Gouda (pronounced HOW-da) is a city in the Netherlands. But if you were like me and ate it for every meal for several weeks in a row, you too would be excited to come to the cosmopolitan city of Amsterdam and eat anything but that. I discovered some delightful restauraunts that served light, healthy food that counteracted the heavy traveler’s diet I had been on. Zest, located next to Vondelpark, is a raw vegan juice bar that served everything from sushi to flatbreads. And Bake my Day is a fantastic organic bakery and coffee shop in De Pijp that is perfect for brunch. Also, before you leave the country you’re going to need to pick up a packet (or two or three) of stroopwafels–they’re caramel-syrup filled wafers that are wildly Dutch in nature. Also, check out the fries (served with mayo) and of course the beer.