When you think of Amsterdam, you’d obviously think of hard partying and uninhibited hedonism. Well, we believe there’s a lot more to this amazing city, and we’re here to help you explore the rich culture, history, and art that truly make it a fantastic place to visit. Go ahead and inhale these pure (and fun) Amsterdam experiences that’ll make for one unforgettable trip.
Get Cultured at One (or a Dozen) of Its Great Museums
Take a stroll through Museumplein, the public space that encompasses the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum. Rembrandt House is another great stop for both adults and kids. Avoid the tourists and head to the quieter but equally impressive Tropenmuseum (dedicated to life and customs in non-Western cultures) and the Museum Willet Holthuysen (the home of a wealthy 1800s family where you can learn about their opulent lifestyle). Care for something a bit on the quirky side? Wander on over to the Torture Museum or the Museum of Bags and Purses (yes, it really exists!). The Anne Frank Museum is another must-see spot, but remember to book in advance as waiting times can be quite long. Whatever your interest, the city’s numerous museums and historic locations are a wealth of knowledge, trivia, and fun.
Put Life on Cruise Control While Floating along the Canal
Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometers of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges (Wikipedia), which were systematically devised for defense, water management, and commerce. They are charming, beautiful, and are the crucial arteries that fuel the city’s soul. Taking a canal cruise can help you appreciate the city’s amazing old buildings and enchanting curved bridges. If you want to make new friends, take a cocktail and wine cruise. If you’re a couple, then take a romantic candle-lit dinner cruise. If you’re a family, then the kids will love a ride on a pancake boat — an all-you-can-eat pancake cruise that’s sure to be a hit. Whatever floats your boat, you’ll find a boat for that…well…you know what I mean.
Dig in to the Local Grub
Raw herring is a Dutch specialty and if you want to savor it like the locals do, just find a haringhandel (herring cart) on a street corner. If you’re at a bar and need something to nibble on with your beer, try some bitterballen – a breaded and deep-fried meatball that’s the popular local pub grub. For a sample of the Dutch twist on French fries, ask for patatje oorlog – a fully loaded serving of thick fries that comes with peanut satay sauce, mayo, and onions. If you just want a sweet treat, stop by any street market or bakery that sells stroopwafel — two wafer thin waffles sandwiched by a generous serving of sweet syrup – it’ll have you saying “alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest!” (you won’t believe what this Dutch expression actually means – translate and find out!)
Want to try more delightful Dutch delicacies in Amsterdam? Treat yourself and go there this summer!
Watch Amsterdamers in Their Element at a Park
Sitting and watching the world go by is not something you’d generally associate with Amsterdam, but Vondelpark is the perfect places to take in the leisurely pace of life in the city, watching people picnicking, soaking up the sun, or playing music. Its rose garden is beautiful and there’s a lot of time for silent contemplation by its waters. Just a stone’s throw from the busy Albert Cuyp market is Sarphatipark, another welcome green space in the heart of the city that has a pond, fountain, and enclosed play area. Walk or bike through the lush green terrain of Rembrandtpark, where you can also visit De Uylenburg, the city’s oldest petting zoo.
Check Out the Artfully Delightful Noord
Located a free 20-minute ferry ride away from Centraal station, Noord was once a bustling shipping and industrial district that has now turned into a cool neighborhood filled with urban art, music, skateparks, and old shipping containers that have been converted to bars and restaurants. You can catch an exhibit or screening at the very cool EYE Film Institute. Down a few beers at Oedipus Brewing where their taproom serves up some intricately crafted brews, or nestle yourself with a cold one in the quaint Café ‘t Sluisje that overlooks the water. Grab a bite to eat at the organic and eco-friendly Pillek restaurant or at the hip Rolling Rock Kitchen, and don’t forget to check out the amazing street art on display at NDSM Wharf and the projects on show at the XYZ AMS studio.
Take the Kids for a Ride They’ll Really Enjoy
The museums, cruises, and parks mentioned above are great for kids, but there are more activities they’ll love. Amsterdam is a bicycle-friendly city, so make sure to rent a bakfiet, a utility bike that’s basically a bike with a wheelbarrow in front. The Dutch use them for everything from carting around loads of groceries, carrying tools, and even their tots. Your kids will love being able to see the city while being pedaled around by mom or dad. Ride over to the NEMO Science Museum. The massive ship-like green building on the harbor is full of fun hands-on activities for children. During summer, the museum’s rooftop transforms into a sandy sand beach where you can lounge around and enjoy the impressive view of the city and some delectable snacks.
Know of more cool cultural things to do in Amsterdam? Tell us in the comments!