Get ready to spend some time in a storybook.
1. Bike, bike, bike
You might die, but it will be worth it. I’m exaggerating, but only a little bit. Riding a bike is definitely the best way to see this city, but there is a bit of a learning curve. The Airbnb we stayed at was great because they gave us two bikes to use during our stay, and it was a big part of why exploring was so much fun! If your lodging isn’t as cool as mine, there are places all over to rent bikes.
There are bike lanes everywhere, but be sure you stay to the far right edge of them because faster bikers and motor scooters pass on the left…and they aren’t very forgiving. Also be sure to watch out for pedestrians, cars, and trams! There is a lot of transportation happening, but pedaling over the countless canals is so worth it.
2. Bakers & Roasters
So, once you have your bike, pedal on over to this adorable brunch spot! We had to wait for a few minutes, but the amazing coffee and (Kinda Classic) Eggs Benny is some of the best breakfast you’ll have.
3. Van Gogh Museum
This is one of the best museums I’ve been to (and I lived in Paris). This museum allows you to truly step into Van Gogh’s world. The story of his art is told throughout the galleries, which are arranged into collections displayed on different stories. As you work your way up, you see the progression of his inspiration and style.
Be sure not to miss some of the classic faves: The Potato Eaters (you wouldn’t accuse this of being Van Gogh if you didn’t know, but he used to focus his painting on peasants), Sunflowers (he was a mellow yellow fellow…until the whole cutting off his ear thing), The Pink Peach Tree (I bought a print of this one), Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (dude painted himself a lot, but this is one of the classics), The Bedroom (a bedroom…nothing else to it), and Irises (beautiful).
This visit is on the expensive side, but the €17 unlocks some of the most vibrant art you’ll ever see from one of the world’s most influential artists. But hey, if you’re under 18, it’s free! Youth is wasted on the young.
4. Anne Frank House
I don’t care when your trip is or if you’ve planned anything, just get online right now and buy tickets. They seriously sell out so fast, it’s best to get them more than a month in advance. People with tickets have an assigned time between 8:30 and 3:30, and after that, they open up the museum to the long line of people waiting to buy tickets at the door (of which I was one). We got in line around 1:30 and there were a lot of people in front of us, but the amount that lined up behind us was ridiculous.
That said, this is one of the most historic places in Amsterdam. Whether your middle school English teacher made you read the book or not, it’s definitely worth hearing her story here.
5. I Amsterdam Sign
Every place has “the picture” that everyone takes, and this is Amsterdam’s. The iconic letters are located right outside the Rijksmuseum, which is a renowned museum that I was too broke to visit after going to Van Gogh, but let me know how it is if you go!
6. Vondel Park
This beautiful park is the favorite leafy retreat of just about everyone. Whether you prefer people-watching or picnicking, this is your spot! That sounded pretty guidebook-ey, but it’s a park, what do you want from me?
7. Canal Cruise
If your legs are over biking for a bit, use the break to take a cruise through the canals in the city. You’ll see the wide, flat, glass-covered boats all over the place when you’re biking around. They have that shape to maneuver around the tiny canals and glide under the many, many bridges.
8. Heineken Experience
So I actually bought a ticket that was a combination of this and the canal cruise, which is a pretty standard move if you’re planning on doing both. However, even if you’re not into canal cruising, I would recommend buying this ticket online in advance because it lets you skip the line. This was really fun because Heineken was born in Amsterdam, and this is their first brewery that has been converted into a museum. You get to walk through the history of the beer, the process of how it’s made, blah blah blah you get two free beers at the end! It really is interesting though.
9. Bulls and Dogs
Right after you finish your second beer, walk over to this place. Seriously. If you don’t take any of my other recommendations, take this one. It’s a ten-minute walk and they have some of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. They’re served on pretzel buns with homemade fancy ketchup and there are good vibes all around. Also, they have the most extravagant milkshakes out there. Order one, I dare you.
Tulip season runs from the end of March until mid-May, but the flowers are usually at their best halfway through April. I wasn’t there during prime time, but they were still beautiful! I love flowers. So this was a huge draw. I didn’t have time, but there are also some pretty amazing tulip fields to see if you venture outside the city a bit. Woulda, coulda, shoulda gone.
Enjoy this amazing city! And seriously, go buy your Anne Frank tickets.