Living in Amsterdam, I get a lot of questions from friends of friends about where to go, and what to do while in Amsterdam. I’ve added my tips to my blog, partly out of my own selfish convenience so I don’t have to always rewrite them, and to help you out!
Without further ado here some tips what what not to miss out on when you visit Amsterdam.
1. Gezelligheid : Yes, a word that is nearly impossible to pronounce by non-Dutch speakers, this is the main thing to experience. Gezelligheid means coziness. This can be experienced a lot of ways, but the best is to sit on a terrance in the sun (in the summer) with some friends, or head to a brown cafe lit by candle light in the darker months, order some bitterballen (a must try), and a few biertjes (beers) and spend your time unrushed, chatting, watching the world go by. Gezellig!
2. Rijksmuseum : Yes, this really is a must see. It is very impressive and very much worth the visit. Download the Rijksmuseum App on your phone to listen along to the guided tour (make sure to bring your headphones), so you don’t have to buy the audio tour. Try to book tickets in advance online.
3. Van Gogh Museum : Also a must see – book tickets in advance and make sure to get the audio guide.
4. Vondelpark : A huge park in the center of Amsterdam. As my mom described it “everyone is so happy there!” Its a great location to sit and have a picnic in the summer – if you visit then, you’ll wonder if Dutch people actually work, since so many people will be sitting out on the grass drinking wine in the summer sun.
5. Enjoy a beer at the micro-brewery in a windmill: I developed a healthy love for micro-breweries, having been surrounded by them in Northern California. If you’ve had enough Heineken and want to taste something truly local to Amsterdam, head over to Brouwerij ‘t Ij (Ij Brewery), located inside an old windmill. Take a tour and do a beer tasting on their terrace – the perfect way to spend an afternoon! For more breweries to visit, read my post on 4 great tips in Amsterdam.
6. Boating along the canals : Weather permitting, I really recommend renting your own boat and touring the canals. It is really easy to steer the boats yourself, and you can go where you want, bring snacks and beer, and the company will provide a map for you. This is really the best way to see the city, you can really experience the canal houses in all their splendour from the low perspective on the water. Plus you’ll probably pass a lot of other boats with music and drunken revelry, so that’s an added bonus. There are many companies you can rent a boat from – most cost about €90. A few companies you can rent with are listed below
Below: a sunny day on the canals
Good to know…
Watch out for cyclists! and taxis! and buses! and trams! and cars! : Most visitors to Amsterdam are not familiar with the amount of bike traffic they will experience as a pedestrian. Please, for the sake of me and all the other bikers in Amsterdam, look both ways several times before crossing the street. And unless you are a very alert and good cyclist, do us all a favor and don’t rent a bike.
Drugs : If you want to hit up a coffeeshop and smoke to your heart’s content, go for it! Ga maar lekker roken! Most people in Amsterdam don’t really smoke weed regularly, but you’re on vacation, so go for it. Just whatever you do, don’t buy drugs from people on the street. Your mom was right when she said don’t talk to strangers. In the past people have died in Amsterdam from trying white heroin thinking it was cocaine – and that’s not a good way to start your trip!
Tipping : This must be the most practical question I get. We Americans (well not so much me anymore since I’ve lived here too long), are accustomed to leaving hefty tips of 15-20% for waiters, bartenders, etc. You will be happy to learn that in the Netherlands this amount is not necessary! Wallets everywhere rejoice! After a meal its fair to leave up to €5 as tip, but I wouldn’t go too much over that unless you’ve dropped over a hundred on the meal. Don’t worry about how the waiters will survive – they don’t have the poor pay that ours in the states have – they get by on a salary that can support a decent living standard!
Planning your trip to Amsterdam? I always rely on Lonely Planet and even use it as inspiration for what to do on the weekends here