In February of this year, a couple girlfriends and I took a weekend trip to Amsterdam making this my third trip to Amsterdam. A lot has changed in the eight years since I had last been to this city, but a lot has stayed the same. Amsterdam still has the same charm that I remembered. The cobblestone streets, amazing cheese and of course it’s unique nightlife. The biggest change for me was the amount of tourism. Longer lines and wait times and even being turned away from some attractions was something I wasn’t expecting. All in all, Amsterdam still remains one of my favorite cities in Europe and a place I could go back to over and over again. Check out what I was up to during my weekend in Amsterdam and some tips for anyone traveling there anytime soon.
Amsterdam is home to some of the best museums (in my opinion) in Europe. Start your morning at The Rijksmuseum. This museum is home to many paintings by Rebrandt, including The Night Watch, 1642. Paintings by other artists such as The Milkmaid, 1660 by Johannes Vermeer and also self-portraits by Van Gogh cover the walls of the museum. I didn’t have to wait in line to get into this museum which is always a good feeling when you have a lot to accomplish in only a weekend. My favorite part of this museum wasn’t even a painting but The Cuypers Library. The library is truly amazing and it happens to be the oldest historical art library in The Netherlands.
The Van Gogh Museum is just a stone’s throw away from The Rijksmuseum so you’ll be able to do both in the same day. This museum beautifully portrays the life of the painter, from his early years until his death, with each floor separating the different stages of his life and art. You’ll experience crowds and long wait times unless you buy your tickets ahead of time.
Tip: You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside The Van Gogh museum. Having just been at The Rijksmuseum right before where you can take pictures, I didn’t read the signs and got yelled at. Oops.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House should be on everyones ‘must see’ list. I had decided before this trip that I wouldn’t visit the Anne Frank house. Having already visited the house during my first and second trips to Amsterdam, I wanted to save money where I could. I still remember the house really well too, another reason why I decided not to visit. The bookcase leading up to the secret annex, seeing all of Anne’s photos which she describes in her diary are all still fresh in my mind.
Tip: Because of the increase in tourism, book your ticket ahead of time. Be sure to check the website for the exact times and more information before going. You’ll only be allowed to enter at the time on your ticket so plan carefully. There is no guarantee you’ll even get in if you don’t already have a ticket, it all depends on how many other people are also waiting in line for tickets.
The Heineken Experience
For me, the Heineken Experience has changed the most in Amsterdam. It didn’t used to be so crowded like it is today. The brewery was still enjoyable but expect large crowds and even long wait times for some of the attractions inside. We did a self guided tour, learning about the history of the brewery and even sampling some Heineken on new rooftop bar overlooking the city.
Tip: Book your tickets online. You may still have to wait for a little bit before you can enter, but the line will be a lot shorter than if you decide to purchase your ticket at the brewery.
Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours are always one of my favorite things to do in Europe. I try to do them in every big city that I can and in my opinion they are always worth it. Again, because of the increase in tourism we were turned away from the morning walking tour! That has NEVER happened to me in any city before, I was so surprised. We ended up being able to go on the second walking tour in the afternoon which was amazing and lasted somewhere around three hours, the longest walking tour I’ve ever been on.
Tip: You should also book these tickets ahead of time. I never thought I would have to book tickets for a free waking tour but it was highly recommended to us after being turned away from the morning tour. The tickets are free, so getting tickets just means that you are reserving a spot and have priority on the tour. The tour we went through was Sandemans which I recommend.
Explore the canals
My favorite part about Amsterdam is exploring all the canals throughout the city. You can explore them by foot, or by bike. I’ve done both and both are great ways to see the city. If you want to feel like a true Amsterdammer, I would suggest you rent a bike for the day or even just for a few hours. You can definitely cover more of the city by bike but just be careful of cars and other bikers. I remember my first time in Amsterdam rending a bike through MacBike but there are so many bike shops throughout the city offering bike rentals so you won’t have a problem finding one.
You can’t go to Amsterdam and not get a pancake the size of your head. You can find pancakes all over Amsterdam and you can get either sweet or savory or both!
Another sweet treat that you need to take home with you are stroopwafels. You can find them in pretty much every gift shop and go best with a warm cup of coffee in the morning.
Also, don’t forget to try the cheese. There are so many cheese shops around Amsterdam and they always have samples! I don’t know how many different types and flavors of cheese I tried but I think it was close to twenty.