Spoiler alert: the I AMSTERDAM sign has recently been removed from Museumplein. According to reports on NY Post and The Guardian, the Dutch want to stop promoting Amsterdam as a tourist destination. Add this problem to the list of problems of the millennium’s new millennium: too much tourism isn’t good for certain cities. Too much is too much, I understand… but let’s just hope that Amsterdam won’t follow Italy’s path and start mistreating tourists.
Nah. That wouldn’t ever happen! Dutch people are quite amazing (just not that guy from 90 Days Fiancee!). And the more I get to know Holland, the more impressed I am by this small country that has huge influence and impact in the world.
Anyway. It’s hard to get to you out of the ‘best places to go’ list, Amsterdam. We love you. My husband and I, that is. He is a pothead so that helped, but our favorite city in Europe goes much beyond that – after all, now cannabis is also legal in Canada and we still want to keep our tradition of visiting the Netherlands every year.
I have wanted to write this post since last year’s visit, but life got busy [add excuse here]. Now my good friend is going and I promised I’d write this mini guide for her. But I really just want to keep editing this post with my new favorites after every visit… for my own future reference!
Where to Stay
I’ll keep this short. Although Amsterdam seems smaller than it actually is, you can’t go wrong. We normally prefer staying near Leidseplein & Museumplein – can’t beat the location of the Marriot there. However, I loved when we rented an AirBnb near Westerpark (the Sunday market there is great), but even better if you get one at Jordaan, one of the coolest neighborhood within the city’s central area. Or you can choose somewhere in the surroundings of Vondelpark.
I personally think that staying too near Central Station or Rembrandtplein is too touristy and busy, yet at least you’ll be very central and right-on-the-middle-of-the-mess.
PS: once we got a great rate for the 5-star hotel Okura – it is a beautiful hotel, but a little too far from everything.
Places to Go
Well, the basics are:
- Vondelpark – go for a bike ride or a walk, simply chill and people watch, or go for food or a drink at the beautiful Vondelpark3 Kitchen & Bar [https://www.vondelpark3.nl].
- Anne Frank Museum – the house where young Jewish Anne Frank hid during World War II is remarkable – worth waiting in line for!
- Van Gogh Museum – see the life and work of the eccentric artist that cut his own ear for love.
- Museumplein – even if you don’t want to pay to see the Van Gogh exhibition, you must go walk around the area where its locate. There was also where the instagram famous I AMSTERDAM sign was – now hopefully the park will go back to being just a nice place to be.
- Red Light District – it’s controversial, but I do enjoy seeing the girls behind the windows. I have enormous respect for them and think it’s quite beautiful. Go after sunset for a fuller experience. Looking for a another reason to be there? Visit the Sex Museum.
- Flower Market – don’t miss it. Besides the beautiful tulips and flowers, there are the cheese shops and everything Dutch, really.
Beyond the basics, I recommend:
- Amsterdam Zoo – say it’s childish, but renting a bike and cycling to Artis Zoo is one of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam. The animals feel, somehow, free and happy. I still don’t understand how the lion doesn’t simply jump to his escape.
- Rent a boaty – perhaps you have no boating experience and wouldn’t ever think of sailing through Amsterdam canals, but with Boaty, you can. The little vessel moves slow enough that is easy to maneuver, no license is required, a map and a cooler (!) are provided. Just bring your drinks and show them who’s the captain.
- Check the agendas – of the iconic venues Paradiso and Melkweg; and of the parks. As I mentioned above, I love the Sunday market at Westerpark; and in 2018 we were lucky to catch De Parade event on Martin Luther King Park. These local experiences are what you need for capturing the real and wonderful dutch spirit.
- Get out of Amsterdam – go see how they beach at Zandvoort; or check out the cuteness of the university city of Utrech.
- Go to the Supperclub – expensive but a night full of weirdness and sensory experiences. Prepare to feel embarrassed, happy, uncomfortable, deliciously drunk, and have an unforgettable night.
Places to Eat
Move along, Italy and France. Holland has the best bread, cheese, and food in general. One of our favorite things to do here is eat eat eat. Here’s where:
- Wok to Walk – it’s our tradition: get to Schipol, hop on bus 397, check in at hotel and go straight to Wok to Walk for their delicious stirfry. You choose your base, your toppings and your fav sauce and the wok experts create the magic. So good! There are several locations, but we always go to the one right there by Leidseplein.
- Cafe Loetje– hummm just thinking of that steak makes me drool. It’s a restaurant quite popular with locals with outside seating or a cozy inside area. Order the steak with Loetje’s gravy and whatever else you like. But get the steak! – Johannes Vermeerstraat 52
- De Vier Pilaren – this pancake house is a staple in Amsterdam, probably due to its location – by the bridge that connects Voldenpark and Leidseplein. Great spot for breakfast, although it’s open all day. My husband loves the pancakes, but I say go for the proper experience and order the Dutch Poffertjes, the little pancake coin-sized puffs that makes me want to go back every time.
- Bakkerij Simon Meijssen – talking about breakfast, this bakery is SO good. You can also go to grab a savory and/or a sweet one and take it to eat the park (it’s in between Museumplein and Voldenpark).
- Foodcrib at Museumplein – this stand have some delicious sandwiches and hotdogs. Seriously, out of this world street food.
- Fondue & Fondue – perhaps this is just personal. We love fondue and therefore we found this place that was pretty delicious. It is also out of the touristy path, which I like.
- Small Talk – a great find from last year’s visit. Very diverse menu on this very traditional spot that has been there for over 40 years. Get an omelette, a sandwich, a salad, pancake, schnitzels… the list goes on and on. Or just grab a beer.
- FEBO! Obviously one cant go to Amsterdam and not do the febo experience. The fast food (my fav is the croquette) is displayed inside little windows that will open once you insert the right amount in coins. It’s like a vending machine but with a real person on the back feeding the empty slots. Cheap, dirty, delicious.
And last, but not least… the “coffee shops”
Há! Had to leave this for last just to annoy my friend Ligia – she’s a pothead that asked me a million times for tips on where to go. Actually she wanted me to ask my husband! Like I couldn’t help. Urgh.
I’m not that addicted but do love cannabis and hashish. And when in Amsterdam, it’s part of the visit. But do be aware that synthetic drugs are NOT welcome. I know of people that have been kicked out for life of nightclubs there for carrying ecstasy pills. Just stick with mushrooms and mary jane, ok?
One thing I love is the herb mix that most coffee shops have available to mix on hash, since tabacco is not allowed in any of them.
Anyway, Li, I’m sorry to say but this was Darren’s answer when I asked which coffee shops were his favorites: “all of them!” haha. But here are three we always stop by:
- Amnesia: this is one that Darren discovered when staying in Jordaan, and last year I finally got to know it. It’s pretty cool, not dark, with lots of smoking paraphernalia. They also have some pretty good non-alcoholic cocktails and coffee. Herengracht 133
- Get Down to it: located in a very touristy area, but I do enjoy going down the stairs and having a coffee at the bar.
- Bulldog: call us cheesy but we still purchase weed from the traditional Bulldog every time we visit.
That’s it, folks. Sorry, Li – but luckily Time Out made this list [https://www.timeout.com/amsterdam/restaurants/best-coffeeshops-in-amsterdam] so you can go crazy. Literally!
Any other tips and suggestions for Amsterdam? Please comment. I cant wait to go back.