I had the luxury of going to Amsterdam for a few days recently so I thought I’d share some of the things I really enjoyed about the city!
From what we learned while in Amsterdam, there are no specific dishes which are a must try in Holland. Throughout the history of the city as a trading point, food from all over the world has been adopted by Amsterdam’s residents. Amsterdam was one of the first places in Europe to have access to different spices. There’s a lot of indonesian restaurants in the city. More traditional places tend to serve meat, potato and a sauce just like the rest of Europe.
One thing I fell in love with was Poffertjes – they are like little pancakes but use buckwheat flour and yeast unlike pancake batter here. You can eat them with sugar and butter or other typical pancake toppings like nutella. There are many street food stands around Amsterdam, some of which sell the Poffertjes.
Anne Frank’s House is definitely somewhere you must go in Amsterdam. The queues there can get very long so book tickets in advance if you can! Most of the world know the story of Anne Frank and her diary. It continues to be a remarkable part of history and being in the house where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis is a humbling and pretty intense experience.
I also enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum, particularly their temporary exhibition titled ‘On the Verge of Insanity.’ I enjoy art but I’m not particularly knowledgable about it so struggle in art galleries sometimes. The temp exhibition was so great because it combined my love of art and interest in mental illness. It detailed Van Gogh’s experience of mental illness through his art, time spent in asylums and the ongoing attempts at diagnosing him based on evidence available. Highly recommend visiting the exhibition whilst it is still there. It was also really interesting to see Van Gogh’s art progress over time – a lot of work I saw there was stuff I had never seen before or had never known who the artist was.
There are lots of other museums in Amsterdam that we did not visit including the Rijksmuseum – the building is beautiful and home of the I amsterdam letters that have become so iconic.
Walking and Canal Tours
We went on a City Free walking tour on our first full day in the city. Walking tours are always good to go on to get a feel of the city you are visiting and an overview of its history. While I have been on more enjoyable walking tours, I did learn a lot about the city which was great. The tour inevitably went through the Red Light District which was quite the bizarre experience. But, the highlight for me was walking through Begijnhof – a courtyard near the city centre. Upon entering, it seems pretty but dull. There is a church in the centre surrounded by houses. However, the history of the place makes it much more special. During a period of intolerance of Catholics, people had to find creative ways to practice their religion. Some of these homes were converted into Catholic worship spaces. From the outside, they look ordinary but the inside is full on Catholic church. It’s really quite amazing!
I would definitely recommend going on a canal tour as well. Amsterdam is well known for its canal system and narrow but tall houses lining the streets. We went on a night tour of the canals, it was beautiful to see all the bridges lit up. I would suggest that people book a tour which is not on a fully enclosed boat (weather permitting) as it is much nicer to see the city without looking through windows.
In terms of transport, trams/trains/buses are very reasonably priced and run on time unlike the public transport of England. However, walking around Amsterdam was my favourite way to see the city. If you’re feeling brave then hop on a bicycle and join the many cyclists that live in the city. Note that lots of the cyclists are unforgiving and be wary of crossing cycle lanes.
Amsterdam has a fair few parks scattered around the city. We fell in love with Vondelpark which has lakes and fountains everywhere. There were also plenty of dogs to watch running around if that’s your kind of thing. It’s a lovely place to go and relax but very busy when the weather is nice.
Amsterdam is a city with a rich history, full of interesting people and wonderful stories. Final word of advice: learn the different between ‘cafes’ and ‘coffee shops’ before you go there or you might be in for a shock.