Like many other places in Europe, Amsterdam is ridiculously appealing. Canals along the majority of the main roads. Museums with some of the world’s best art. Bicycles as the main form of transportation. Comfort food. Porn. Hash. I mean, how can you go to Amsterdam and have a bad time? The answer is, you can’t. There is a reason it’s one of the most visited countries, and I didn’t fully understand it’s charm until I went myself.
Amsterdam was the first stop on our month long adventure that included getting married at the Oktoberfest, and honeymooning in Greece and Egypt (more on all of that later). Besides the fact that it was a couple hundred dollars cheaper to fly into Amsterdam than directly into Munich (again, Oktoberfest), I figured we’d take the extended vacation as a reason to mark up a few more countries on our wall map at home.
While Amsterdam wasn’t in the original plan, I’m so glad we found a way to work it in. I highly recommend visiting to anyone who has thought about it. Here are a few (although there are many) places you shouldn’t miss when going yourself.
1. The Van Gogh Museum
I’m not the type of traveler who likes to spend all of their time in museums. I’d much prefer walking around the city, taking in the natural sites. However, I do try and get to a couple everywhere we go, especially if there are works that I care about present.
When I learned there was a whole museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh in Amsterdam, I knew I wanted to spend some time there. And it didn’t disappoint. As a fine art major, I could go on and on about how gorgeously tortured Van Gogh’s works are, but I’d like to keep this post on the short side. The Van Gogh museum is worth your time though, even just a couple hours in the morning, which is when we went. It does get crowded though so I’d get your tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait.
Quick side note: They don’t allow for you to take photos except in certain spots. I snapped this photo of my favorite Van Gogh and then immediately got run down by security. So go in educated and don’t be like me!
Book here: Van Gogh Museum Ticket
2. The Red Light District
The Red Light District is fascinating, in my honest opinion. One minute you are sipping a cocktail at a dainty little bar and restaurant, and the next you’re turning down an alley filled with the famous red lights, walking past the women standing (or sometimes sitting down playing on their phones) in the windows, on the clock for the night. Walk a little further and you are in the whole district.
With a canal running through either bank, here you will find legal prostitutes, sex shops, and porn shows galore. The whole red light aspect of it is eerily beautiful. Note that you cannot take any photos of the workers in the window… but honestly, don’t be that tourist anyway.
We didn’t partake in any of the events, instead opting to walk along the banks and take the whole scene in. If you’d like to know more about the history of the red light district, however, there are tours that run daily.
or if you’d like to get into some of the shows, I’d again recommend booking online, as we saw plenty of long waiting lines. I’d like to go to one of the shows the next time we get to Amsterdam, just for the experience of it all.
Book here: Casa Rosso Erotic Theater Entry Ticket
3. A Coffee Shop
As I mentioned earlier, legal marijuana is a huge selling point for people traveling to Amsterdam. And you can find shops all over the city to partake, or even just buy. Even if you aren’t a smoker, the atmosphere in most of these shops is really chill, and they actually do sell coffee, so check it out.
There are many different themed coffee shops, and we didn’t have time to go to a lot of them, but one note worthy one that we did go to was called De Dampkring (or Original Dampkring). It has gorgeous wood working and the intimate lighting makes for a good vibe all around. It was also featured in the movie Oceans 12. I liked that there were larger tables where you have the opportunity to meet and talk to people, both local and travelers.
My one word to the wise on the place is stay clear of the bathroom. It was the only coffee shop bathroom I tried to go into, so I doubt they are known for their clean toilets, but I walked in and just about ran right back out.
4. A'DAM Lookout
This was a highlight of the trip for me. The A’DAM lookout is a tower across the water from the main train station. There is a bar at the top and also an electronic swing… that goes over the edge of the roof! After a beer and trying to keep warm from the harsh winds, Anthony and I decided that we wanted to go on the swing.
Mind you, I’m not a fan of heights. I was terrified the whole time we were waiting in line, telling myself I would just keep my eyes closed. But it was awesome! It’s only 90 seconds and you’re strapped in tight at the waist, but you get an awesome view, I didn’t close my eyes once! I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try and conquer their fear of heights. I’m so glad I didn’t skip it while we were up there.
But even if you don’t ride the swing, it’s so chill being under their pretty lights, drinking a beer (or a hot chocolate), listening to music, and taking in everything around you. There is also an inside bar and restaurant with great views and warmer temperatures.
Another place where you can skip the lines and get your ticket online: Amsterdam: A’DAM Lookout Premium Ticket Including 2 Drinks
5. Take A Canal Cruise
I love taking little cruises down the river banks everywhere we go, it’s a guilty tourist pleasure of mine, sue me. I love being on the water in general, so kicking back, relaxing, and looking at all the pretty sights around us for an hour is appealing. Not to mention it’s an easy way to kind of give you a quick insight to the city, even if just from the waterways.
I recommend if you take a cruise to get on one that has an open air portion. Ours was open in the back and it was so much better than being cramped inside with a bunch of other people who are on headsets listening to what the guide is saying (and I’m sure it had some valuable information… I’m just more of a visual learner). There are some that are completely enclosed, which is why I make this suggestion. Of course the enclosed ones are helpful if it’s raining, and have glass dome roofs so you can still see… but still, I like being outside.
You can typically find a museum ticket and cruise combo pack, so if you’re looking at going to the Van Gogh museum, or the Rijksmuseum or one of the other many museums Amsterdam holds, than look and see if there is a combo somewhere first.
There is really so much to see and do in Amsterdam. No matter what you interests are I feel like you can have a good time. From museums, to parks, to beer and more bicycles than one will ever see anywhere else, Amsterdam is truly a uniquely wonderful place.
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