Amsterdam holds a very special place in my heart. My mother first took me there when I was in high school because I wanted to visit the Anne Frank House. My mum is the one who taught me how to travel smartly. She taught me to bring half as much “stuff” and twice as much money and to wear comfortable shoes regardless of style because "I'll be damned if foot discomfort prevents me from meeting people and seeing this world." Her free spirit complements her grounded mind, and I remember coming to that realization while walking around Amsterdam with her.
I returned to Amsterdam while in college. I spent summer of 2010 studying abroad and those were some of the most idyllic months of my life. I lived in a beautiful studio apartment right along the canal and got to develop my own experimental art while exploring a city that so deeply respects art of all mediums. It is a city not to be missed on your Eurotrip. Here are some of my favorite places in Amsterdam:
In general, the food in Amsterdam is pretty ok. It will most likely involve cheese and (unfortunately) is never spicy. Two places that really stand out are:
Winkel - Want the best apple pie of your life? Go. To. Winkel. Sit in the outdoor seating area while watching the boats along the canal and let the apple pie melt in your mouth. This is a ten minute walk from the Anne Frank House (a straight shot down Prinsengracht and then a bit of a left to Noordermarkt), and is an excellent pick-me-up.
Pancake Bakery - Almost on the corner of Prinsengracht and Prinsenstraat lies the beloved Pancake Bakery. I would avoid this at all costs on weekends, as the wait time can be an hour+, but definitely try to come by on a weekday. The pancakes are HUGE, and the menu items are so varied, even the pickiest of eaters will be satisfied. Note: the pancakes are not as fluffy as Americans expect. Rather, they are more crepe-like. Double note: this is about halfway between the Anne Frank House and Winkel
Things to do
There are plenty of things to do aside from museums (although if museums are your style, I recommend hitting up the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, FOAM Photography Museum and Rijksmuseum).
Rent a bike - This really is how the locals get around. Amsterdam is such a bike friendly city, so although it is also a busy city, the experience is nothing like riding a bike in Manhattan. Give your IAmAmsterdam card, which gives you unlimited public transport access, a break and explore the quaint, lovely neighborhoods farther out. Stop at one of the many Albert Jein grocery stores, pick up some snacks (stroopwafel and the pre-made salads which have pasta at the bottom gave me LIFE) and have a picnic in Vondelpark (the Central Park of AmDam) before returning your bike.
Shopping- If you’re into big commercial stores, Zara and H&M, that is all near Dam Square. If you’re interested in more unique clothing, independent boutiques and vintage stores, head over to Nine Straat. Heads up that most of the stores are closed on Sundays.
Sunset at NEMO - Nemo is the Science Museum in Amsterdam. The rooftop is the largest in Amdam and offers spectacular views of the city center.
Art - If you are in Amsterdam during the summer, you MUST see a performance during the Juli Dans Festival. These performances take place all over the city and are some of most breathtaking and memorable contemporary dance and dance-theatre pieces I have ever watched. Amsterdam is such an artist-friendly city, take advantage of it!
If movies are more your style, check out a flick at the Pathe Tuschinski, the most breathtakingly beautiful cinema I have ever seen!
The two main areas for nightlife are Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. I personally found Leidseplein to be more lively and fun. You can take a taxi down there and just hop from place to place. Back in 2010, Sugarfactory and Melkweg were all a blast. I haven’t been back since, so if you go, let me know if they’re still popping!
Heads up: It’s Amsterdam, not Amsterglam. It seemed to be totally fine to roll up to a club in jeans and sneaks.
For when you need a cocktail
Amsterdam is a beer-centered city (home of Heineken and Amstel!) However, if you really need that cocktail fix, head over to Werk (yaaas kween!) They’ve got an extensive cocktail list, New Yorker approved, and a beautiful outdoor space.