Amsterdam Travel Guide: Where to Stay and What to Do

Updated: Apr 26, 2019



Quick travel guide to Amsterdam

A few weeks ago, we met up with some amazing friends of ours from back home in Amsterdam! Their names are Colin and Paige: they have been friends of ours for years! Paige has an awesome blog too, by the way! Head over to therecoveringperfectionistblog.com for all your anxiety and self-care needs! She doesn't disappoint.

Oh yeah, did I mention this was a Babymoon for them?

See noted adorable-ness (it's a word, ok?) here:


Back to Amsterdam,

I have no qualms with a liberal lifestyle and stoners galore, but I had my reservations about this picture perfect city allegedly full of sin and canals...but wowza. I was blown away. Many of the places that we visit, we talk about going back to. But rarely are we already planning another trip before we even leave!

Amsterdam was this place. It's not what you think. It's more. There's history and art and food and great people and tons of fun to be had. We found ourselves saying to one another, almost in unison, "so when do you want to come back" practically the first day.

That said, Amsterdam is very expensive compared to other major European cities, but if you plan and know where to go it is such an enjoyable city!

Here's my guide on what you should most definitely see, eat, and where you should stay while in Amsterdam.

What to do and see:

-Museums-

Van Gogh Museum:

The Van Gogh museum located in the borough of Amsterdam-Zuid (Amsterdam South) holds the world's largest collection of Van Gogh works. There are no pictures allowed aside from designated areas. Our friend Paige was the best tour guide! She had a copy of Rick Steve's Amsterdam guide that gave a great walk-through the museum.


Anne Frank Haus:

The Anne Frank house is an experience that I think everyone should have. The audio tour walks you through the attic where the Frank, Pels, and Pfeffer families hid together in constant fear of discover. It is a sobering experience and an eye opening view of what that time was like for the Jewish across Europe. You can buy tickets for 10 euros. (audio tour included)


Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a great place to view works from all the dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. It's enormous and contains works dating back as far the 11th century, so be prepared to spend a good deal of time here! There is also an amazing library that you have to check out! (pictured)


Torture Museum

I noticed this little hole in the wall on our first day and decided I had to peek inside. I'd read quite a few iffy reviews online about lack of authenticity and how there were several more horrific torture museums throughout Europe. Nonetheless, I love some good gory history so I figured why not? Sure, not every artifact was original, but we burnt 30 minutes before catching our flight and got to mull over some of Europe's most cruel eras. Here you will find things like the chastity belt, Iron Maiden, and Spanish Horse along with less heard of devices like The Pear of Anguish (pictured and much scarier than it looks), Judas' Cradle, and The Garrote. For 7 euros, you really can't say no.


-go outside-

Explore the canals

Amsterdam has about 1,500 bridges and most of them have lovely picturesque views like this! Spend an afternoon walking and admiring the bicycles and flowers galore. You can also do a canal cruise; something I plan on doing whenever we go back! Most companies will even allow you to bring your own food and drink, too!


Vondelpark

Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam and is also the most famous park in The Netherlands! Grab some snacks and drinks and head over for a picnic! You could also spend the afternoon strolling or biking through the park. Since we were there in the Fall, the colors were beautiful!


red light district, obviously

Really, just do it. It's nothing to be scared of. I found the free spirited view of prostitution and substances sort of....refreshing(?) If you are imagining streets lined with hookers on every corner hooing and hawing at every person and missing half their teeth, you won't find that here.

Prostitution is so regulated that unless you pay mind to the glass rooms lit red, you don't really notice them like you'd expect.

Side Note: Majority of the Red Light District strictly prohibits photos of any kind.


DAM SQUARE

Such a fun place to walk around. The Dam Square holds hundreds and hundreds years of history. Surrounding the square, is the Royal Palace (pictured below), Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, "Nieuwe Kerk" or New Church along with a sculpture titled The National Monument honoring the victims of WW2. Many times throughout the year, the square is also used as a carnival!


Rent a bike

To be frank, bikes in Amsterdam are one of the truest stereotypes I've witnessed. I love it! Amsterdam is 100% a cyclists city. Do like the Dutch and grab a bike for around 10 euro and explore the city!


coffeeshop

So, you may not like to smoke weed. But c'mon, you're in Amsterdam. At least go inside a coffeeshop. The biggest tell is 'coffee shop' being spelt without a space. These places typically have a bar section as well if that is more your speed or you can have a cigar/cigarette if you're not big on cannabis. They have smoke rooms as well equipped with TVs, music, and seating. Check out the Bulldog one in the Red Light district! It's considered by many as "Amsterdam's Living Room."

Side note: since marijuana is regulated here, it is considered very high quality. This is mainly because it's not being peddled on the streets so it's not laced.


-grab a bite-

't smalle

Cafe Smalle is a perfect spot for lunch and is situated right on the canal! The interior is a "brown bar" vibe with a lovely patio outside where you can enjoy the weather and a nice drink. (wish I had pictures of the patio because it is seriously perfect!) This restaurant is a low to average cost for Amsterdam and you can expect to spend about 15 euro a plate.


toastable

Only the cutest brunch spot ever! We grabbed a chai and a few bites here on our last day while burning time before the airport. The atmosphere is seriously so cozy! The entire place only seats, I'd guess about 30 people, tops? And it's set into the ground as you can see in the picture. Expect to spend about 10 euro for coffee and dessert.


ASSAGGI

A great spot for Italian eats! The staff is warm and friendly and the pizza is AMAZING! Expect to spend about 25-35 euro per person for a drink and entree. A perfect spot to hit up after the Anne Frank House; it's about a 10 minute walk.

The Pancake bakery

The perfect amount of sweet and savory! Classic dutch pancakes served up however you like! This was the last place we ate with our friends and it really hit the spot! I'd recommend trying the Thai with veggies or any of their classic breakfast themed pancakes. Expect to spend about 15-20 euro per plate.


pompa

Great and I do mean GREAT fish and chips with affordable plates (by Amsterdam standards at least!) Expect to spend about 15-20 euro per plate. The fish and chips are SUPER filling and cost about 15 euro. Sit upstairs with the candle light if you can! PS I was very happy to be here, just exhausted :)


Moeders

Quirky and whimsical restaurant that serves up loads of typical Dutch food! They are one of the highest rated restaurants in Amsterdam from locals and tourists alike. According to their reviews, locals like the Hotchpotch and the lobster soup. Expect 15 euro for an entree.

*Hidden gem*

We had been traveling from Valencia since 3 am and couldn't check into our hotel in Amsterdam until 2. It was around 10, so we were looking for a bite. We saw a patio tent that read, "pancake house" so we thought we'd give it a go. Once inside, we noticed it was actually a sports bar(???) Whatever it was, it definitely wasn't a pancake house. They had an enormous menu with at least 50 items to choose from. Think Cheesecake Factory but smaller and older.

Given that it was 10 in the morning and the place wreaked of cigarette smoke and beer, I thought we should leave. But we were exhausted and decided we would grab breakfast anyway. WOW! I had the vegetarian breakfast and it was so yummy! Brett ordered a Dutch Pancake and practically inhaled it!

Don't judge a book by it's cover, this place was unexpected and delicious. Expect to spend about 10 euro per plate. (very cheap for Amsterdam, plus we got tons of food for this price)

Location: across from the H&M and bus stop on Leidseplein. Can't miss it.


-wet your whistle-

Proeflokaal Arendsnest

Please, for me, go here! We met our friends here on their last night in Amsterdam and I wish we'd discovered it sooner! You can enjoy your pick from over 100 Dutch beers, 52 of which are on tap. It's hidden away on a small section of the Herengracht canal and just screams, "I'm old as dirt and full of great staff, come in." This made for one happy beer gal. I'd tell you to try 2, 3 and 41. But they change the list, I believe. The staff are amazing! Just tell them what you like and they'll know what to whip up for ya.


Absinthe

I am one of the maybe 2% of people that enjoy the hazy green drink. I've had the knockoff from Specs and I've had the real thing, in New Orleans, but that's a story for another time. Van Gogh famously enjoyed Absinthe and in Amsterdam, it's famous. I somehow managed to run out of time and didn't get to sip any! Time flies when you're having fun. This is why we plan on going back! If you are there, at least have a sample! For me!

't smalle

Mentioned above this is also a great spot to grab a drink! I'd recommend stopping by during sunset to see if there is room on the patio that sits on the water. If not, inside is great too! You'll love the brown bar vibe.

Pulitzer's Bar

Ya'll. This little bar made me think of the old Film Noirs where swag detectives would go order a "whisky. neat." and chain smoke while the try to solve a crime. Just me? See for yourself.


-where to stay-

van gogh hotel €115/night

This is where we stayed and I assure you, it is the cheapest and most affordable in Amsterdam. Typically we don't spend more than 50-80/night on accommodation, but Amsterdam is very costly. This spot is actually a hostel, but it does have private rooms like a hotel if you book early enough. It is very close to the Museum area and is very well connected to the rest of the city via public transport. Van Gogh Musuem is across the street as well as Vondelpark and you pass a tram stop on the way there! If you're fine with bunking and making new friends, you could always save some bucks and do the hostel option!

AIRBNB €120/NIGHT

As I mentioned, we visited after peak tourist season but during a business convention. This shot our odds at being as budgeted and last minute as we usually are with Airbnb, but there are still so many gems! The key is to book WAY in advance!!! I'd recommend about 6 months prior and you can save some serious cash. I also lovely the homey feel of an Airbnb.

The times €175/night

This place will charm your socks off. Our friends stayed here! This place was so adorable and is in a great location! It is centrally located so walking to any attractions or grabbing a decent bite is not hard at all. They have rooms with stunning canal views and if that wasn't enough, all of the rooms have a COCO-mat bed. (ZZZZzzzzZZZZzzz)

The Hoxton €300/night

If you're looking to splurge, The Hoxton is perfect! The hotel is set in two old canal houses right on Herengracht that have been redone to make it into a swanky hotel with character. Fun fact, one of the canal houses, used to belong to the Mayor. It's chic as hell and any furniture lovers dream. Each room is unique and the hotel carries a unique design throughout! I'm not quite rich and famous enough for this bad boy yet, but it's on my dream list!

-some lingo-

Everyone speaks perfect English! Better than some Americans I know...from what I've read, especially in the service industry, the Dutch appreciate the effort, but aren't always interested in giving a Dutch crash course. They simply see it as easier to speak English since it is so widely known in The Netherlands.

However, if you're still wanting to talk the talk, here are some helpful phrases that Brett put to the test!

Hello: Halo (easy enough)

Thank you: Dank Je (donkya)

Goodbye: Doei (Do-Ee)

I hope you enjoyed this post! I'd love to know if you have been or plan on going to Amsterdam! Let me know in the comments! Most importantly...

Have a great time!








#TheNetherlands