Amsterdam is a place famous for a lot of things and the city is really what you make of it. You can have quiet, peaceful holidays or you can go full-on and party with backpackers from around the globe.
It was our first time in Amsterdam as well as the Netherlands in general. We made our way through Schipol Airport, passing throngs of businessmen, one of whom I witnessed convert his carry-on into a scooter and proceed to zip through the airport.
We made our way past arrivals and purchased train tickets to the city from the ticket machines. The cost is around 10 euro for a return trip and the machines don’t take American Express.
After dropping our bags off at our airport hotel, we made our way into the city on the train.
Entering the City
Arriving into Amsterdam from Centraal Station is a fantastic way to first see the city. A much better experience then the graffiti lined walls you see, coming in to the Gare du Nord in Paris.
Leaving the station and following the flow of people-traffic you’ll end up outside, facing south with a view of trams, traditional dutch architecture and throngs of tourists walking down the main streets. To your left is the east, notoriously known for the Red Light District and to your right is the west, known for the Jordaan neighborhood, a typically Dutch area.
Walking straight, you’ll pass by a small harbor lined with tour-boats offering you the chance to explore the city by its world-famous canals.
Another thing you’ll quickly realize is how many bicycles there are in the city. In fact, there are more bicycles than people in the city! This, combined with the fact that cycling through Amsterdam is such a popular tourist activity results in the need to be on your toes while you walk through the city. Cyclists fly threw the streets, sometimes headed the wrong way down one ways. Looking out for these is difficult enough in a clear state of mind, so be extra careful of this if you visit one of the cities numerous “coffeeshops”.
Hundreds of options for pretty much any sort of leisure activity you could want to do line the streets. Eating, drinking, culture, various others…
Food in Amsterdam is a major thing. For a tasty, typically Dutch food item, you can’t go wrong with a Broodje Hollandse Nieuwe; a raw herring sandwich lined with chopped onions and pickles. Don’t let the idea of raw herring deter you, it is amazingly delicious and well complimented by the onion and pickle. Make your way to the Albert Cuyp market in the southwest and have one of these after a wander through the stalls and vendors.
Pancakes are another must-try when in Amsterdam. Although you can get them pretty much everywhere I’d also recommend Poffertjes. Poffertjes are tiny little pancakes cooked by the hundred on massive griddles with hundreds of tiny little pancake holes and taste delicious when covered in nutella.
There are also fine dining establishments throughout the city however we mainly stuck to eating at markets, cafes and smaller local restaurants.
Evening in Amsterdam
As the evenings drew near we enjoyed walking through the canals as they became lit with the lights on the bridges.
You will find the city stays alive after the sun goes down if you are in the touristic areas, especially on the east.
The Red Light becomes more adult as the window-girls check their instagrams whilst on display and stag and hen do’s flood the streets in droves. If you aren’t ready to partake in either drinking, smoking or the other options you’ll likely want to avoid the area. It’s worth walking through at least once at night just for the shear spectacle. Amsterdam is not like other cities.
Whether it’s for a couple days or longer, Amsterdam has enough to keep you occupied. It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular tourist destination.
I’d highly recommend the DoubleTree hotel in Amsterdam Centraal. The rooftop Skylounge offers a place to get a drink with amazing views of the city and is right next to Centraal Station.