The best way to experience any city in Europe is to let go and let it be!
Lose your map and strict itinerary and just go with the flow when exploring Amsterdam. The only planning needed is perhaps to make sure to purchase museum tickets online, as you won’t always be able to buy tickets at the door. Step into the world of historic canals and tilted narrow buildings that make up the vibrantly urban background of Amsterdam Central!
Just wing it and explore the narrow lanes that could lead you to the best bakeries with giant cookies and toppings galore, or little vintage clothing boutiques tucked away in corners you wouldn’t find when Googling for hidden treasures in Amsterdam.
What to Eat:
If you’re as indecisive as me when it comes to picking a restaurant, I can only suggest one solution; treat yourself and try ‘em all! The smell of freshly baked waffles easily lured me in. I ended up leaving with a waffle smothered in chocolate and almost every topping that was available to me in the bakery. There is something for everyone to indulge in. Every second shop offers tantalizing displays of mouth-watering pizzas, pastries and friendly wait staff beckoning you to come in and try their cuisine. How can you say no? I decided to multi-task and have dinner on a boat, that cruises the canals of Amsterdam. I got to feast on a three-course meal, paired with wine or beer… or both in my case. Don’t judge me!
What to do:
Make a stop at the locally known Blommenmarkt (flower market) and browse through an endless stream of tulips and tulip bulbs. The florists take great care to specially package tulip bulbs for tourists to take home. You know nothing until you come across a tulip bulb or a cannabis starter kit packaged in a can, just as you’d find your favorite can of baked beans or sweet corn at the supermarket.
I decided to take a day trip to Keukenhof Garden where I got to see thousands of tulip species, planted in gorgeous designs and patterns that make the garden even more magical than it already is. The garden is planted and maintained by a team of 40 landscapers, who keep the park in pristine condition and actively remove old flower petals in preparation for new ones to bloom. You’ll never look at store bought tulip arrangements the same after seeing bloomed tulips the size of dinner plates.
Take some advice from me and wear something comfortable as you’ll be exceeding your daily 10 000 steps by double!
Want to get around like a pro? Just rent a bike!
One thing you absolutely need to know upon arriving in Amsterdam is that cyclists own the roads. Keep an eye out and listen for the ringing of bicycle bells that warn you to clear the lane. The perk of renting a bike is that you can pull over anywhere and explore one area after the next. It almost seemed that there are more bike lanes than there are roads for cars or trams. I spent a whole day pedaling my way through the streets of Amsterdam, feeling like a local, ringing my bell at darned pedestrians who dared step in my lane. (Yes, I’m a little melodramatic.)
Visit the famous ‘Red Light District’:
This is a unique way to see how the Dutch celebrate sex and the history of the human sexuality over the decades. Contrary to what you might have heard or generally just assume when you think of the idea of ladies openly baring it all and beckoning you in for a ‘visit’, the Red Light District has a fun and welcoming atmosphere where people can explore a topic, that in many cultures are considered extremely taboo. The Sex Museum: Venustemple is the world’s first and oldest sex museum, showcasing a collection of art, figurines, photos and informational guides that lets you delve deeper into the history of sex over the decades.
Once you’ve been there you can’t help but feel like Amsterdam has officially introduced itself to you and exposed you to the erotic culture that is Amsterdam, XXX. Oh, the irony!
King’s Day Festival:
Orange it a sight for sore eyes…
That is how I would describe King’s Day, 27 April. It is a day of celebration where everyone takes to the streets of Amsterdam and turns every nook and cranny into a fun, bright orange party scene. No planning needed, just hit the streets that are sprinkled with happy party-goers, the sound of clashing DJ booths and hop from one pub to the next. Streets were closed and tram drivers take the day off to accommodate the thousands of people and markets that set up shop all over the city.
This 47-hectare park is located in Amsterdam-Zuid and is open to the public to explore on foot or with a bicycle. I easily got there from Amsterdam Central on my rented bicycle. The park consists of lush fields of grass, tall trees, and ponds where people can easily pick a nice picnic spot or read a book with the calm atmosphere that surrounds you. Take a stroll and you might come across a newlywed couple taking their wedding pictures under a Victorian-style gazebo, surrounded by water and the green backdrop of the park.
Visit one of the narrowest houses in Amsterdam:
Referred to as the narrowest house in Amsterdam, Oude Hoogstraat, it was built around 1600. It stands at a meager 2.02 meters wide and only 5 meters deep, with a small room on each floor. Talk about cramping your style! Moving furniture in and out of a regular sized home or apartment is challenging enough, but this is a challenge equivalent to that of an ancient Chinese puzzle. You’ll either need serious skill and combined brainpower, or small and minimalistic home décor to be able to move into this cute yet impractical space.
All in all, Amsterdam has something to do for everyone. Personally, I would suggest packing in a pair of jeans that are at least two sizes up, to make space for the holiday weight you’ll be putting on thanks to the unlimited amount of delicious food you’ll be introduced to!