The Best of Amsterdam – City Discovery Series

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AmsterdamAmsterdam is a great city to visit, whether it’s just for a weekend or longer. It’s a place we go back again and again because it has to many facets to explore. In this post, we’ll show you to the best of Amsterdam, so no matter how much time you have to spend there, it will be filled with fun.

Before you you plan your trip, we suggest reading up on the best time to go to Amsterdam. You can choose your best time based on the activities you most want to enjoy while you’re there, but really there isn’t just one best time to go.

Get to Know the City of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands – a huge city with more than one million inhabitants, filled with incredible architecture, museums, food and culture. It is often referred to as the Venice of the North, because of the many canals that criss-cross the city and the 1,281 bridges that can be found along those canals.

There is something for every traveler here, whether you prefer culture and history, poking around in museums, doing some serious partying, or just enjoying the relaxing charm of an old European city. There are many distinct neighborhoods (or districts) within Amsterdam. The Old Centre is perhaps the best known. It’s visited by more tourists than any other area of town. Visualistan has a very useful infographic filled with 25 Insane Facts About Amsterdam to acquaint us with the city.

When is the best time to visit? Shannon McAllister from About Travel says that “In general, most travelers visit Amsterdam between April and September, when the days are longer and temperatures are milder than during other months,” but that the weather can often be unpredictable, so any time is a good time to visit.

What to do in Amsterdam

Red Light District in Amsterdam
Red Light District in Amsterdam

Some of the top things on traveler’s to-do list are the Anne Frank House, exploring the canals by boat, shopping at the floating flower market, the Van Gogh Museum, the Red Light District, and the Heineken Experience. You won’t miss a thing if you check out Netherlands Tourism’s Ultimate Top 50 guide to things to do in Amsterdam. It covers a lot of ground!

See what A Cruising Couple thought were the 7 Cool Things to do in Amsterdam. But don’t be too much of a tourist or you’ll miss out on what the city is really like. Check out Amsterdamming.com’s list of 10 of Amsterdam`s most overrated activities and what to do instead.

yTravel Blog asked a local, Monique Rubin, a Netherlands resident, for her insider tips and recommendations on the best things to see and do in Amsterdam, as well as where to stay, eat and drink.

Amsterdam
(Photo CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – “Amsterdam innenstadt” by Emes2k)

If you’re starting to get a feeling that planning what to do in Amsterdam is overwhelming, so am I. The best way to handle the overload might be to consult Nomadic Matt’s 3 Days in Amsterdam itinerary. Day one starts out with a walking tour of the city center, followed by all the other obligatory things tourists do (see above).

One of the best ways to see the city through a local’s eyes is to book a tour through Viator, who work with local guides to deliver the best experiences. Here are a few of our favorites:

Also try one of these food tours from Eating Europe. We’ve been on many Eating Europe food tours and they are always fantastic. Lots of great stops and tons of good food included.

Where and What to Eat in Amsterdam

On to the most important topic… what to eat! First we need to know what foods we absolutely must try in Amsterdam. Here is an infographic of 10 Dutch foods you must try in Amsterdam. The list is long, so check out iamsterdam.com’s list of 10 places to eat the aforementioned foods. Thrillist has a list of the 8 coolest restaurants in Amsterdam so you don’t have to spend hours combing through reviews.

Amsterdam is well known for its fries (frites) served in a paper cup with curry ketchup and mayo slathered on top. The one pictured below is from a popular place called Vleminckx, but here are five more places to find the best frites in Amsterdam.

Fries from Vleminckx in Amsterdam
Fries from Vleminckx in Amsterdam (CC 2.0 photo by Lisa B)

I like to visit at least one Michelin-starred restaurant in every city we go to (if possible) just to see how the high-end food scene matches up to others around the world. In Amsterdam, some choices are one-star La Rive in the Intercontinental Hotel and Restaurant Vermeer, or the two-star Ciel Bleu on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Okura. Check out this list of the 8 Best Restaurants in Amsterdam for more luxury dining choices.

Where to Drink in Amsterdam

Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam
Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam (CC2.0 Photo by daryl_mitchell)

First thing, we need to know how to say “Cheers!”. Spottedbylocals.com tells us that when raising a glass in Amsterdam, “the cheers for a toast is ‘Proost‘. Most of the time this is accompanied by eye contact and the clinking of glasses, usually only with beer and soft drinks. When drinking wine, the Dutch tend to say ‘Santé‘.” Now we’re prepared to find the best drinks in Amsterdam.

If you’re well traveled you probably already know that Heineken is found on tap in almost every bar in the world. It’s brewed nearby and you can join the Heineken Experience tour and tasting at the old brewery to learn more about this Dutch beer. There are other Amsterdam-based breweries that are putting out some good local brews. And here are 15 Specialty Beer Bars where you can try just about any Belgium beer you’d like.

For a wider selection of drinks, Thrillist tells us about the 8 coolest bars in Amsterdam. At House of Bols, you can learn to make your own cocktail using their liquors, or just tour the facility and allow their bartenders to mix you up something good.

Another great city to explore!

A big thanks to all the websites and blogs featured here for putting together some terrific information on the best of Amsterdam.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Heading to Amsterdam soon? We like staying near Dam Square in central Amsterdam. It’s fun and lively, close to or within easy walking distance of many of the top attractions, and easily accessible for public transportation. Below are the hotels we recommend. You can read reviews or book directly through our affiliate links below. (We always appreciate your support by clicking through our links!)

Find and book Amsterdam tours and activities on Viator.com. Book ahead to save time and money!

The Best of Amsterdam – City Discovery Series

2 thoughts on “The Best of Amsterdam – City Discovery Series

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