I fell in love with Amsterdam this time round. Previously, it was my least favorite place of our Euro Trip. It could have been due to various reasons like it was the last stop on our Topdeck trip and we were tired, or maybe it was the feeling I had when we were there, and that there was a serious amount of partying going on. However this time round it grew on me, and slowly but surely it gained a special place in my heart. Amsterdam is different to any other city with all the canals and bicycles and skew lined houses. I fell in love with the language, maybe because it is so close to Afrikaans – my mother tongue – or maybe because it is almost like they sing when they speak.
So I am really excited and sad to share the last of my travel series with you by ending it off with my Amsterdam Travel guide. I really enjoyed sharing these stories with you, as it felt like I was reliving all my own travel memories.
Amsterdam accommodation is quite expensive compared to other cities in Europe. Once again we chose to stay a bit outside the main centre, due to it being cheaper and less busy. The apartment we booked via Airbnb was absolutely amazing and we loved staying there! Without knowing it we stayed in a great area (Helmersbuurt) , close to Vondelpark, with so many little shops and restaurants. If ever I get the chance to visit Amsterdam again, I will definitely stay there!
The Apartments in Amsterdam are built very different to other places. Upon entering the building you stare up at a narrow upright staircase (Luckily we were on the first floor) and no lifts. So some heavy lifting by men is required to carry bags up the stairs! It is always useful to find stuff like this out before booking.
(p.s If you haven’t booked with Airbnb yet register using this link to get R500 off your first trip!)
Believe me, the best thing you can do when arriving in Amsterdam is to book a bike-tour. The guides are great at introducing you to how the cycling system works and where the tourist spots are. This will help you navigate better when returning later. There are bike repair and rental shops around every corner in Amsterdam. The closest one to us was A-bike and the people there were so nice to us! They had a big group booking for the day, but the guy organised a tour guide especially for us four to show us around. The other option is of course to rent your own bike for the day and travel around (this is a cheaper option). This is really such a great way to go anywhere. There are bike lanes and even traffic lights, to make cycling around the city so much easier!
The usual spots you would have covered with the cycling tour are:
- Museumplein – here you will find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. This is also where you will find the I AMSTERDAM sign set up!
- Dam Square – This is the center of Amsterdam, where they started building the city. It was originally a Dam on the Amstel River. From here you can easily navigate to Kalverstraat and the red light district
- The floating flower market – one of my favourites! All along the canal are the floating flower markets, with tulips to take home!
- Central Station – where all the main train lines come into the city.
Kalverstraat is the most expensive shopping street in the Netherlands, and stretches from Dam Square for about 1km. There are many shops lined along this cobble street, and even if you are not looking to buy, just stroll through and experience the vibe! I loved it!
A great thing to do – that we couldn’t – is to rent a boat for the day and fill it with drinks and snacks and cruise all along the canals. The best part, you don’t need a license! (Amsterdam Rent a boat)
We discovered Amsterdamse Bos while looking for a place to cycle outside of the city, and I am so glad we did! It stretches for about 1000 hectares, and is more in the Amstelveen area, so you can just imagine how big it is! We stopped at the grocery store on the way there, filling up on some snacks and made our way to the park. It was really freezing on the bikes when were cycling so we were glad to stop and “unfreeze” our hands while having a picnic. The Amsterdamse bos is lush and green and has endless little paths and hidden gems. It is really worthwhile visiting if you are ever in Amsterdam!
Some other activities are to take a day trip to the countryside (Zaanse Schans). There you can find traditional Holland cultural activities, like visiting the windmills, seeing how they make wooden clogs, and tasting millions of different cheeses!
Then there is the famous Vondelpark. People love to spend time there over weekends as there are playgrounds, restaurants, and open-air theaters which make it the perfect place to get outside! Go for a stroll through the park and enjoy the beauty and the fresh air!
A little hidden gem that our tour guide introduced us to in the middle of city-centre is the serene little courtyard – Begijnhof. It is dead silent inside you can’t imagine you are in the middle of a bustling city. It is still only occupied by single women, as it was originally built for a Catholic sisterhood. Remember to keep quiet and respect their privacy when visiting.
I would suggest:
As soon as you arrive get to know your local surroundings. Find your closest Grocer, bike rental shop and local restaurants. Then find either a walking tour, or cycling tour of Amsterdam to get to know where all the tourist spots are. You can always go back to the spots you want to investigate.
Jan Pieter Heijestraat is really a great street to stroll in. Full of local eateries and little shops. I really enjoyed strolling through this street!
Eat & Drink
- Amsterdam is well known for the amount of Fast-food restaurants around every corner. Especially in the centre where everything is happening.
- You will be able to find any type of cuisine in Amsterdam, so whatever you feel like having will be close by!
- We had the most amazing traditional Netherlands lunch at XXX which included some Bitterballen (Dutch Meatballs) – delicious!
- We found this modern and hip place – Blushing – where we had the most delicious brunch on our last day in Amsterdam. It is pricey, but very much worth it! Great coffee, and great food!
- While walking through Vondelpark on our first day it started pouring outside, so we rushed into Vondelpark/3, it was already late afternoon so we decided to stop for some beer & wine. Also a very popular place, and all the food that came from the kitchen looked absolutely divine!
- The neighbourhood (Especially Jan Pieter Heijestraat) where we stayed was full of fantastic restaurants and we tried to experience as much of the local spots as we could! We ate some amazing Thai tapas at the Golden Brown bar which also has a great vibe!
- As we were strolling down Jan Pieter Heijestraat we found Deegrollers, which is definitely a neighborhood favourite for wood-fired authentic pizzas! If you are ever in the area and craving some pizza, skip the chain restaurants and support these guys!
- A true Netherlands treat – A Stroopwafel – is a must! You can find it in all tourist shops, but we found the best and cheapest ones at the grocery store!
- Taste some cheese and bring some back home to enjoy! In the tourist center there are many shops you can taste all the flavours and variants. They package it so that you can easily fly with it and enjoy it long after your memories have faded!
Good to know:
The currency in Amsterdam is Euro.
The best way to navigate around in Amsterdam is by bike, although there are many trams running in and around the city that will also bring you everywhere you need to be (or close by)
Their grocery stores are easily accessible everywhere and are good to shop at if you want to save a bit! The most well-known chain is Albert Heijn.
This time of year (October – November) is cold in Amsterdam, it is just before the snow season starts! So pack enough warm clothes, (I wish I had packed some gloves and a Beanie for when we were cycling!)
Amsterdam is generally cheaper than the other European cities so it was great to end here!
- Check out the blog your little black book which is a travel blog with so many great tips for everything in Amsterdam!
Hope you enjoyed all my travel stories, please let us know in the comments what else you would like to know about? We are feeling a bit lonely over here, and really love your comments 🙂
Why not head over to our friends over at Positive Health Wellness and read some more about the health benefits of traveling!