I know, I know, all you are thinking of is the Red Light District and weed. But I promise there is so much more!
I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times. It really is so unique, it keeps you coming back for more. There is the rich art history, the tulips, clogs, and cheese, the windmills, the bicycles (OH! THE BICYCLES!), cafes, the historical significance of places like the Anne Frank house, Heineken brewery, all situated beautifully on the canals. My total time in Amsterdam has been close to two weeks, and I STILL want to go back because I feel like there is more to see.
So what needs to be planned in advance? What can you wing once you are there? What is a must-see, must-do, must-experience?
Anne Frank House– This moment, this girl’s voice, has given us a glimpse into the true heartbreak of the Holocaust. She lives on her writing, but to actually step foot into the attic where she and 7 other people lived is so eye-opening. I felt claustrophobic being in there for ten minutes, I cannot imagine two years. It was emotionally moving, and the experience has stayed with me beyond that day, that year. Get tickets in advance as this is a very popular attraction!
Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs tour– The moment you arrive in Amsterdam, you cannot help but notice that EVERYONE is riding a bicycle, and they do so in a VERY aggressive way. I would not recommend trying to keep up with the locals. However, biking is part of the Dutch way, and you should experience it. Here is my solution: A leisurely three-hour bike tour through the countryside that brings you to historic windmills, an old cheese factory (yum!), and a clog factory where you can watch someone middle clogs. It’s basically the best of four pieces of Amsterdam combined!
Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum– This depends a lot on your taste in art. I am a huge Van Gogh fan, that was obviously my preference. Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Art museum so it features Dutch artists like Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. Van Gogh museum usually requires some kind of advanced ticket, Rijksmuseum you can usually head into the day of.
Cafes– Now, picking a specific cafe is not easy. There are a ton, and all I can tell you is that you definitely need to experience one. Bulldog and Grasshopper stick out in my mind, but I think I have been to at least ten. There you can partake in a nationally regulated pastime, which makes it even more chill.
Canal Tour- We always associate canals with Italy- but truly, Amsterdam has mastered them. Plenty of room on either side, with houseboats galore lined up. It is a smooth ride, and gives you a different, historical perspective of the city. It was gorgeous and a perfect way to end our trip. There are luxury dinner cruises, pizza and beer cruises, and general sightseeing tours depending on your price range and time frame, you have a lot of options to choose from.
Live Sex Show- Okay, hear me out. If you are looking for something you cannot experience many other places, then you need to go! It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and honestly more theatrical than I would have predicted. Also, more entertaining. It lets you in on some Red District feels without actually fully partaking in the Red District activities, if you catch my drift. We went to the Cassa-Rosso Show.
And that, my friends, is why they call it AmsterDAM!