Amsterdam has to be one of my favourite cities to visit, just because there is so much to do and see. It is a city that I would find extremely hard to get bored in, and I know I will carry on returning to for many more city break trips.
I thought I would compile a list of things to do in Amsterdam that differ from the ordinary touristy attractions such as the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Hermitage, etc. Although they are must sees, there are so many other things that you can do to pad out a week in Amsterdam, so here are a few ideas for you.
One of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam, that I make a mission to do everytime I visit, is to stroll through the ‘Negen Stratjees’. These are nine shopping streets in Amsterdam, side by side, that contain individual and unique shops and cafes. You won’t find any chain stores along here, which in my option is fantastic. You can easily while away an afternoon flitting between the shops, and if you need a break from all the browsing (and of course purchasing!), I can highly recommend a cafe called ‘Pluk’ which serves up delicious juices, salads, and cakes. The best thing of all? They have lots of little interior items that you can peruse whilst you wait. Perfect.
If you have an hour to spare and fancy something a bit different, you could head to the Museum of Bags and Purses on the Herengracht. It is only one of three museums in the worlds specialising in this field and its collection is the largest, with over 4,000 items, with handbags, purses and suitcases dating back to the 16th century. It also has exhibition changes, and at the time of writing, the current one is exploring the use of beads in the craftsmanship of the pieces.
If the weather is good, the best thing has to be to hire a bicycle and head to the Vondelpark. My suggestion is to pick up a few lunch items from Marqt (the BEST grocery store) so that you can spend the day picnicking in the park and taking in all the sights. If you are there during the summer months, check out the Vondelpark website, as there is often entertainment on that you can go and watch for free.
Another lovely thing to do if the weather is good is to hire a canal bike (pedalo). If it is a first visit to Amsterdam, I would say that a boat ride is the best option as you will travel most of the canals and hear lot of information about them and the canal houses. However if you’ve done the canal boat tour, then the canal bike is a must. It’s likely you won’t get very far, but its just great fun to be out on the water, trying to avoid crashing into all the boats, with the added bonus of getting a workout!
If you have a week in Amsterdam, I would say it is also worthwhile taking a day trip out of the city. Trains run regularly from Amsterdam Centraal, and there are many places to see within an hours travel. Den Haag is 50 minutes away, and although nice, I would not return here as it just didn’t have the same buzz as Amsterdam. However if you do find yourself here, a trip to Hop&Stork is a must a they have the most amazing slabs of chocolate that you can break off and mix and match.
The day trip I would recommend is to Delft, with a train time of 55 minutes. Delft is the perfect size for a day trip, in that it is small enough to walk around and there is enough to visit. Delft is renowned for its blue and white pottery, and there are three factories still producing this in the Delft area. On Thursdays there is also a market held in the main square of Delft and craft stalls set up on the banks of the canal. A visit to a Delft factory is a must, and of the three, I would visit the Royal Delft factory (Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles). This is located just outside of Delft, so you can purchase a shuttle bus ticket from the information office for €2. At the factory you can visit the museum which shows the history of Delft pottery, as well as see how it is made and painted. A the end you will face the conundrum over which pieces of pottery to buy!
If eating and drinking in Amsterdam, you will probably face a similar dilemma of where to choose, as there are hundreds of places to pick from. However it is very easy to fall into the tourist traps, so here are a few places I would go.
I’ll start with breakfast, and for a good price, you can eat at Toon. This is a small cafe which has juices, pancakes, eggs Benedict and a scrumptious granola. For a fresh juice and main breakfast dish, the bill will come to under €15. The service here is also very good, with friendly staff.
For ‘elevenses’ nothing quite hits the spot like a little tart from ‘Petit Gateâu’. They have two stores in Amsterdam, one on Haarlemmerstraat, and one on Bellamyplein. There is a great selection and you can see them being made as the kitchen is in store.
Lunch is an easy choice for me. Any place serving frites and bitterballen is after my heart, however one restaurant which really impressed me was ‘George Loves Martini’. This restaurant/bistro is packed full of locals, and is a good alternative to a picnic in Vondelpark, as it sits just outside the gates. Expect simple dishes, done well.
If you’re in the Dam area, then lunch at the Bijenkorf is always a winner. They have a selection of different cuisines, all cooked fresh in front of you. The added bonus is that if it’s a good day, there is a roof terrace to enjoy your lunch on.
Pre dinner there is always time for a cocktail or two, and the bar at the Hoxton hotel certainly gets my vote. They have an interesting list to choose from and the atmosphere is great. Although dinner here at Lotti’s is good, it was fairly basic and in future I think I would just come here for a cocktail and then go elsewhere for dinner.
For dinner there are so many places to talk about but here are are my favourites.
The first is Cuarenta y Tres on Rembrandtplein. Although this area is full of touristy restaurants, this one really serves up something quite different. The few times I have eaten here, I have left fully satisfied. The risotto I had this time was simply delicious. They also do some great cocktails. (I can recommend the Moscow Mule)
For something a bit different you could try Ali, located just at the end of Utrechtsestraat. This is a turkish restaurant who offer the most amazing hummuses and dips, as well as their hot pillow-like flat breads, that you’ll be thinking about long after you leave.
My best dinner though has to have been at Guts and Glory. This modern restaurant has no menu. When you arrive all your are given is the theme, which changes every three months, and the option to order 5, 6, or 7 courses. You are asked if you have any allergens, but apart from that, the rest of the evening is a complete surprise! When we visited the ‘chapter’ theme was Italian, however expect no pasta. Instead we were delighted with dishes such as osso-buco with saffron risotto, melon granita with parma ham, and plenty more to tickle your tastebuds. Be prepared to book this restaurant in advance though during busy seasons.
After dinner, Door 74 is a great place to venture to. You do need to book in advance as it is speakeasy style where the outside looks like a rundown building, but inside you are greeted to a small cosy cocktail bar. However if you are after a bit more atmosphere, you cannot go wrong with having a couple of post dinner drinks on Rembrandtplein, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night when it really gets busy and there is a great buzz.
All in all Amsterdam is a city where there is always something going on and there are always new and exciting places to visit. I hope this has given you a couple of ideas of things to do, if, for some unknown reason, you find yourself with nothing to do. Highly unlikely I know..
(Oh and if you’re really looking to push the boat out on your city break, why not book a room at the Waldorf Astoria as it mean you can relax in their pool after a hard day out exploring the city.)