Venice of the North, Sin City, or simply ADAM. These are just a few of its nicknames. Here, there are more canals than in Venice, there are more bikes than people, there is so much freedom than anywhere else in the world. Welcome to the city of Amsterdam, the city that has something for everyone from mouthwatering food to exquisite museums and everything in between, all in A’DAM style.
The city is well connected from Centraal train Station to not only Schipol airport but also to other neighborhoods with a sophisticated rail system and of course the efficient canal system. And there are bikes everywhere in the city with a designated bike path to ride anywhere making it one of the best and safest modes of city transportation. That being said, let’s go for a ride?
Hotels around Centraal Station are good to book. They are not really pricey and it makes exploring the city so easy at any time of the day/night.
Here are the places to visit in Amsterdam, we named it, city of surprises-
Start the day at the Pancake bakery
It couldn’t get better than starting the day in the best neighborhood in the city – Jordaan which is close to Centraal Station. Walking in the streets along the canals, over the historic bridges checking the rustic old shops and restaurants is the perfect start to explore the city. One of those dark, mysterious, and vintage buildings is The Pancake Bakery.
Located right on the shore, this place is not so easy to find with a very small sign and the old building, as if it really wants to hide. The interior is dark with lights sufficient for each table and is very quiet to enjoy the food in peace. It has the best pancakes we ever tasted combined with exceptional service. Dutch Poffertjes are a must-try, these fluffy mini pancakes with spongy texture give a kick when served with cherry liquor and vanilla ice cream. The best satisfying meal in recent days.
It is easy to burn these calories with lots of places to see around. Anne Frank House turned into Museum is only a couple of blocks away which showcases all the troubles faced while escaping from Nazis during World War II. Online booking is a must-visit this place at least a day in advance. If craving for more sugars, Zoet & Hartig Haarlemmerdijk is the highly-rated cake shop to check out in the area. Carrying cash is a must.
Check out the best flea markets
Flea markets are the perfect way to explore new cities. They have lots of local cultures, food, clothes, tradition – all bundled right here. Waterlooplein Market (closed on Sundays) is the must-see market in Amsterdam which can be easily accessed from Centraal Station either by bus or bike. A short walk along the canal brings to Bloemenmarkt – the colorful flower market in Amsterdam. Very beautiful market with lots of tulips year-round and several souvenir shops. There are even hallucinogenic mushrooms or magic truffle shops.
There is a paradise inviting just across the canal. It can be easily recognized by the long lines in front of a relatively small store. Vleminckx Sausmeesters serve the best fries in the world, topping with sauces. They have a variety of sauces to choose from and we personally loved special curry with onions and garlic sauce. We are glad we took some extra napkins.
On the other side of Bloemenmarkt is Foam, a famous canal-side house converted into a photography museum. Check out the area if interested in photography.
A couple of blocks south along the Vijzelstraat is the Heinkein experience which we have not been to. But this area is home to the best brands for shopping and food. After enough window shopping, we headed to Albert Cuyp Market only to devour the best stroopwafel in town served by an extraordinary chef who loves to talk and reveal the stroopwafel secrets. We tried the ultimate stroopwafel and stuffed it along with the other chocolate waffles. It is just a stand named Stroopwafel but is easy to find. Walk along the market and stop at the place with long lines. Albert Cuyp is also famous for De Bazar Amsterdam B.V., one of the best North African restaurants.
Carry cash at all times in Amsterdam. Several stores appreciate cash and it is easy to tip as well.
Explore the top museums in the world
Amsterdam has the best museums most of them around Museumplein, I am not a museum person but loved the Rijksmuseum. There are several best Dutch paintings and we are amazed to see the Dutch exhibits. The sculptures and art is surreal, so lively, and indulged us to explore more.
Van Gogh Museum is also here and anyone will love it if into his paintings and letters. IAMSTERDAM sign is no more here, thanks to all overexcited tourists who abused it. In summer, walking in Vondel Park is an ideal way to spend the evening and end the day at Foodhallen, the best food court in town with lots of food choices.
Stroll in the nifty neighborhoods
Be it any city, there is real life outside downtown. Those quiet neighborhoods are the soul of the city holding to the roots and exhibiting the actual culture and traditions. And of course, Amsterdam is no exception. From jolly Jordaan to nerdy Noord, from ravishing Red Light district to majestic Museumplein, Amsterdam is the perfect example of ‘something for everyone ‘.
A few steps from Centraal is Dam square, a huge public square and probably the most colorful tourist spot in Amsterdam. This place is surrounded by malls, branded shops with decorations all around, and also the perfect place to sit and enjoy the street shows. Madame Tussauds is also right here. On the Damstraat (Dam Street), a block away is – worlds away. Totally one-of-a-kind experience, only imaginable in Amsterdam which comes to life after dusk. De Wallen aka Red Light District can be visited by everyone. It is not all about legal prostitution behind the windows, there is XXXl more to do here. Erotic Museum, Sex shows, Cannabis Tours, Coffee shops especially The BullDog for the best ‘smoking’ experience, Condomerie for that unique and special souvenirs/condoms from Amsterdam and lastly even the oldest church in Amsterdam – Oude Kerk. This neighborhood is totally another kind.
A short 10 min walk from De Wallen across Amstel river is Rembrandt Square, good to hang out like a local and nice neighborhood for cheese-tasting. 11 min bike ride from here, along with the zoo, brings to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, the only place to drink the best beer in Amsterdam and to end the day in style.
From Centraal, a short bike ride away is Het Scheepvaartmuseum, a maritime museum with a beautiful interior and NEMO science museum. One of the must things that cannot be missed is across the river, a free ferry away – A’dam Lookout, an observation deck with Europe’s highest swing and Eye Film Institute, a must-visit for anyone who loves films.
That’s a long list and we tried to explore as much as we can, picking only the best. Exploring all of them can be possible if visiting the city for more than a week.
Go back in time at Zaanse Schans
A half-hour comfortable ride from Centraal and about 15 min walk from the station are some of the beautiful windmills that are still at work, around Amsterdam. The place is touristy but worth visiting. Walk from Zaanse Schans train station is enticing by itself with chocolate factory smells in the first half and windmill views the other half. Stopping by Banketbakkerij De Wijn at the end of the Stationsstraat (Station Street) to grab some chocolate and koekjes (Cookies) for the rest of the walk. The service is very friendly and the bakers love to talk.
Windmills are free to visit except to peek inside the structure at least for one of the 13 mills. There are happy vibes all around and just looking at these historic structures gives so much joy. It is a uniquely pleasant experience one can only get in the home of windmills. Watch our video at the end if you like to see to believe.
Architecture center of the world
In Europe, it is very easy to do day trips with a well-connected rail system, it can be even across the countries. 45 min ride from Amsterdam Centraal is a very well-planned city with awe-mazing buildings on every corner – Welcome to Rotterdam. Starting from the Rotterdam Centraal to the Euromast tower, every building is an architectural beauty. No wonder, Rotterdam hosts International Architecture Biennale.
A short ride from Rotterdam Centraal is Rotterdam Blaak which is a great spot to begin exploring the city. Just outside the station is Markthal (Market Hall). It is a very interesting building with a marketplace in the center surrounded by office and residential space. What so interesting you ask? It doesn’t end there. The marketplace is under a dome that is made of several panels filled with art. It is one of the first buildings in the world that could be seen by augmented reality.
Just outside Markthal is Skyview DinnerWheel, if one would like to view the city skyline in style. And when finished another architectural wonder is waiting on the other side. Kijk-Kubus (Cube Houses) is innovative at its best. Designed as the urban style of living by optimizing the space, these colorful cube houses are peculiar and hard not to view, with a surprised face. There is a museum and one can even stay a night to experience them to the fullest.
Walking is highly recommended in Rotterdam, it is an experience of its own.
We walked along the streets checking out the trendy shops and eateries to Erasmusbrug nicknamed ‘De Zwaan’ (The Swan) after its elegant shape. It completes the magnificent skyline of Rotterdam in style.
Further south along the Mass river is Euromast, one of the highest towers in the Netherlands. Its rotating glass elevator makes it so unique which offers seamless views of Rotterdam. Walking back to Rotterdam Centraal along Westersingel is fun too – checking out the bridges, coffee shops, and amazing art. Rotterdam is such a cool city to explore.
Doors of Heaven
Amsterdam airport and train station are the doors to the world of happiness. But even the doors are a bundle of joy as well. Centraal train station is a beautiful building and the architecture is outstanding. And the Schipol airport is a delight by itself. There is so much to do at the airport from the library, relaxing spa to Heinkein bar, casino, and sophisticated rooms for quick naps. Of course, world-class restaurants and duty-free shopping for the world’s best drinks. We loved the terrace of all, which has panoramic views of the airport and also an in-flight experience of KLM airways where we could step in the model and experience the cockpit. Schipol is like a sweet ending to an already classic movie.
I can go on forever admiring Amsterdam and there is nothing like it for being Gezellig. This is one word to learn, as it can be heard several times in Amsterdam on various occasions. Spelled probably heh-SELL-ick, it merely translates to cozy but is the right way to define Amsterdam. One has to see it to believe and that doesn’t mean to catch a flight right away. Enjoy this exclusive video and don’t forget to comment on your thoughts –
Looking for other beautiful stories? Check out my experience with locals in Rome, Paris, solo trip to Cancun or mesmerizing Great Pyramids.
Cheers and Safe Travels.