Amsterdam City Guide

I spent a week traveling around Holland at the end of August. I was lucky to get sunny days and high 80s temperatures. This trip was my third time in Amsterdam, and I was so excited to revisit! My great-grandmother immigrated from Holland.  A Dutch friend met me there the first day and took me around the city, I think that's what gave me the confidence to later explore on my own. The map of all the canals intimidated me, but later I found Amsterdam is actually a reasonably sized city to walk around and completely flat. Did you know there are 165 canals inside the canal belt? Amsterdam has more canals than Venice. On Sunday so many people were on little boats cruising the canal with their friends while enjoying drinks.

I took so many pictures of these cute gingerbread houses. Since most houses don't have air conditioning, in the evening a lot of people put a table in front of the house and ate dinner there. Each house has a different shape at the top (gable) and some of the houses are leaning forward. On the gable is a hook and rope to pull  furniture into their homes through the windows since the staircases are very narrow.

Where to Stay
Hotels in Amsterdam are expensive. I stayed at the Ibis Styles airport hotel for $104 a night which had free regular shuttle buses to the airport around the clock. It made my day a little longer but I had a huge beautiful room, in a safe location and saved a ton of money, including not paying for an airport taxi to/from the hotel. The train from the airport is 2 stops (15 minutes) from Amsterdam Centraal train station in the center of town. Or you can take the longer scenic route on a tram. I tried it both ways. It was really easy.

What to See
I only had 2 days in Amsterdam but the city itself offers so much to do and to see so I felt a weekend in Amsterdam wasn't enough time.  I took a canal cruise, explored Dam Square (the center of the city), went to the Moco Museum, and walked through the Red Light District. I was warned to watch out for the pick-pocketers around the Centraal train station and Dam Square because it's so crowded there.

I immersed myself in the food of Amsterdam by eating my way around the city. I had a list of places I wanted to eat at, and literally spent the whole day walking from one place to the next. One of my favorite things about traveling is eating. This method allowed me to see so many different neighborhoods wandering the canals, exploring the Nine Little Streets of Amsterdam while working up an appetite to eat again while burning all those calories. I logged 35K steps in one day in Amsterdam!

I used the CityMaps2Go app which works while your phone is in airplane mode! I first used this last year in Portugal. The way it works is you pre-enter all the places you want to go on the map, then when you're there, the map moves as you walk. I discovered so many neat neighborhoods like the Jordaan and felt like I really got a feel for the whole city zig-zagging all over the place. I felt I found myself in places I never would have seen on a traditional tour. Sunset on the canals is best seen at the start of the Brouwersgracht canal. There you will see multiple canals lit up by fairy lights at night.

MOCO Museum 
MOCO stands for the Modern Contemporary and it currently has exhibits from artists like Banksy, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Daniel Arsham, plus the garden has life sized artwork! It's a very quirky museum and must see if you like modern art. It's housed in a large house so lots of walking up and down stairs. When you buy tickets from their website it recommends which times have less people so I bought my ticket online for 1 hour before closing when tickets were discounted at 13 euros. It's right across from the Rijksmuseum if you want to see that next. Next time I'd definitely like to check out the Van Gogh museum.

Where to Eat + Drink
A little terminology here, coffee shops in Amsterdam are where they sell weed but if you want to get coffee you go to a cafe. Didn't get a chance to try either. But I did get expensive drinks with a view of the city at the Skylounge, located next to Amsterdam Central train station at the top of the DoubleTree by Hilton. Ground floor has a Starbucks where you can get your Starbucks Amsterdam mug if you collect them. Then take the elevator to the rooftop terrace for a stunning view over Amsterdam. They have a DJ and both inside and outdoor seating. Drinks are 18 Euro but the vibe is nice.

I don't drink beer, but found myself in front of the Heineken Experience building. The Dutch beer company Heineken was founded in Amsterdam in 1864, but in 1988  the neighbors said the brewery made the whole neighborhood stink so they moved the brewery outside the city and turned the building into a museum. At the interactive museum you can learn about the history of beer making  and get 2 beers with your ticket.

Stroopwafels The most popular Dutch dessert that you can't leave without trying. They are very skinny waffles stuck together with caramel syrup. If you go to Van Wonderen, they add fun toppings to your waffle. They also sell them in packs in a tin so you can bring them home.

Pluk is a great restaurant to go to for breakfast as they are known for the fancy smoothie bowls. I got a delicious smoothie to go.

The Dutch are also famous for their pancakes. Whether it's the large thin plate sized pancakes that are rolled up like crepes. Or the mini sized Poffertjes which are a fluffy treat. You'll find pancake shops throughout Amsterdam.

French Fries ok so technically they are from Belgium, but walk along the Damrak street from Centraal station to Dam Square and it's lined with french fry shops with many condiment options. I went for the traditional Dutch condiment of Mayonnaise over my thick fries.

Cheese Tasting You will also find lots of cheese shops around Amsterdam selling all different types of Gouda. The cheeses don't need to be refrigerated so you can take them with you. Some stores will tell you which cheeses you are allowed to bring back to the USA. There's also a cheese shop in the airport if you want to wait until then. Or you can do a  cheese and wine tasting pairing.

Mama Kelly, located outside of central Amsterdam near the Olympic stadium is where you can go dine at Barbie's pink palace! They have delicious cocktails and lots of insta worthy backdrops on each floor.

Bam Boa  is a restaurant by the Berlagebrug rowing club on the Amstel river where a ton of people were out sunbathing and swimming. Bam Boa is such a pretty restaurant with a really diverse menu and multiple sangria flavors.

Public Transportation 
I didn't find Amsterdam's public transportation to be friendly to tourists. First I had to buy an OV chip card at the airport (which required showing my ID to pay with a credit card) for a non-refundable €7.50 ($8.30) card that included no actual rides. Then I had to add money to the card for rides. A minimum card balance of €4 (public transport) and €20 (train) is required to be on the card and is taken off as a deposit on check-in when you board a tram.  See when you board trams you have to swipe to check-in, then swipe again to exit. You lose your deposit if you don't check out when you leave the tram. I wanted to ride the train one time, and was told I couldn't purchase a ride at the kiosk for one ride, the minimum I could put on my card was €20. So I had to stand in line at the train station to buy a one way ticket. Cash is no longer accepted on buses and trams. One hour tickets can be bought from the conductor on the tram for €3.20.

Amsterdam does have an all day ticket you can buy at an outdoor kiosk at the airport for 1-day (€ 17) or 2-day (€ 22.50). In hindsight I wish I had bought that, but didn't think I was going to be riding  € 17 ($18.84) worth of rides in one day. But now that I know that purchasing a regular OV chip card you lose the non-refundable cost of €7.50 plus every ride is about €3.20, so it adds up quick so an all day ticket would be worth buying.

Amsterdam does have uber and I heard that taxis are expensive and can only pick up and drop off in designated taxi ranks as it is a canal/bike city.

There were a huge number of bikes everywhere and they have the right of way! Streets have separate bike lines painted red and you always need to look both directions before crossing streets to make sure you didn't get hit by a bike. The bikes drive fast, I saw no one wearing a helmet, often saw people pedaling with one hand because the other hand was holding a bag, surfing on their phone, or holding a child bicycling next to them. I also saw a few people having a friend sit on their front tire as they biked! There were so many bikes parked everywhere, I don't know how people find their bike? They don't typically lock their bikes to things, they lock the tire to itself. But bike theft is still a problem there and a lot of bikes end up in the canals. I heard that people typically have two bikes, one for the weekday commute that is ugly in case it's stolen, and a prettier bike for weekend fun. Next time I go to Amsterdam I would like to rent a bike only to ride through Vondelpark.

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