Best things to do in Amsterdam
2 Day Amsterdam Break
Amsterdam is a great city for a short break or stopover on your trip to Paris or London. A beautiful old city set on 160 man-made canals, it is known as the Venice of the East. The crooked houses that line the canals and the abundance of trees were my favourite features of the city. As much as I appreciated the architecture and history of the city there was one thing that drove me nuts!
So while I liked Amsterdam I did not fall in love with it like I had with most of the other European cities I have visited. Perhaps if I had had a little longer to settle in and explore more slowly I would change my mind. We really had a whirlwind tour in our two days and as we were travelling with our daughter did not explore the seedy side on this visit. In fact we went out of our way to avoid it which at times was difficult.
Below is a little of I enjoyed about Amsterdam. I hope to get back one day to give it another try.
My 5 favourite things to do Amsterdam
- Ride the canals - Try the Canal Hopper - Amsterdam's equivalent of the hop on hop off bus tour
- Wandering around looking at all the lopsided houses - Check out the narrowest house officially it at Singel nr. 7, but there is another at Singel 166 - you decide.
- The great range of good value dining choices in Zeedijk - we chose an Indonesian and a Nepalese restaurant - both were great.
- Shopping in the Nine Streets area - De 9 Straatjes
- Exploring the smaller canals like Bloemgracht and Egelantiersgracht
Would you like to go to Amsterdam?
One thing I did not like about Amsterdam - Bicycles!
This photo was taken at 11pm at the main bicycle parking station near the Central train station. Imagine, you have had a few beers and then find yourself trying to extract your bicycle from this mess.
The cyclists drove me mad.. I found it really hard to avoid them while walking around staring at the sites. I think this page on bicycle safety in Amsterdam is a must read, even more so if you plan on riding one.
Image taken with my i-Phone after 1/2 a bottle of wine - apologies for the quality.
The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum was number one on our list of things to see in Amsterdam so we made it first stop on Day 1. While I was very familiar with Van Gogh's work I knew little of his life. We took the audio tour and I learned so much about his life that the time we had here flew. I would recommend allowing at least 2 hours for a visit.
The museum often has long lines so pre-purchase tickets could be worthwhile in high season; we waited about 20 minutes in April. It is open late on Friday evenings when there is a bar and live music to add atmosphere to your visit.
You might like to download their free You Vincent app for i-Phone and touch.
Image via Wikimedia public domain
My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them. Terry Prachett
The Museum of Bags and Purses - Yes, really a handbag museum
The Museum of Bags and Purses or Tassenmuseum was added to our itinerary by my almost teenage daughter. She did her own research for our trip and was allowed to add one place to our itinerary for each city. I was not expecting much from this visit but it was really very good. If you have an interest in fashion a visit here is something I think you will enjoy. The museum traces the history of purses and bags with the oldest bag dating back to 1664. There are over 3000 bags in the collection and the beautiful building they are displayed in is an added bonus.
Image by my daughter Erin
The Anne Frank House - Get there early to miss the crowds
I ignored all the advice I read absolutely everywhere and did not buy my tickets in advance mainly because I was not sure when I wanted to go. We arrived at about 15 mins before opening to a queue almost as long as the one above. It took about 45 minutes to get inside which was about twice as long as I waited to get into the Vatican early that month. My advice, book in advance
Allow about an hour to visit here. Even though it was very crowded people were respectful and moved fairly quietly around the museum. The video and the written description were very well done. I highly recommend a visit here.
The Diary of Anne Frank
I re-read this just before our visit to Amsterdam. I am not sure if it made the visit more special or if I would have been equally moved but I certainly recommend a re-read if you have not read this book since childhood.
Catch a Canal Cruise - I like the hop on hop off canal bus
There are lots of operators offering cruises on the canals and despite a ton of research I ended up on one of the poorer ones because I was tired and lost and just wanted a rest! Big tip, wait for the next boat if it's almost full. It was impossible to get decent photos on my cruise because we were not allowed to stand up and were jammed in the middle of the boat. If I am there again I think I would do the hop on hop off canal bus.
Image by Brent Simpson via wikicommons
Some less well known sites in Amsterdam - slightly off the beaten track
- Homomonument - The first monument to represent Gay persecution in the world - Three granite triangles similar to the badge Hitler forced homosexuals to wear.
- The Amsterdam Cat Boat sanctuary or De Poezenboot is a canal boat that is refuge to over 50 cats.
- The Dutch Resistance Museum - Learn more about what it was like for the people of Holland during WW2 in this well presented and insightful museum.
- Begijnhof - The hidden courtyard with a history
Amsterdam: The Brief Life of a City
Using historical fact and stories of everyday people this book is a highly readable account of over 800 years of Amsterdam's history. A great insight into this intriguing city.