Hello friends! This past October I had the opportunity to take my first trip across the pond. The company I work for is focused on expanding globally and opened an office right outside of Amsterdam. I was asked to travel over to train a new employee for two weeks. Not only was this a great opportunity for my career but I also had free time to explore the city of Amsterdam and a little of the surrounding area. My boyfriend tagged along and visited a friend who lives in Münster, Germany for a few days while I worked. I am hoping I can convince him to write a few tips for you guys in a separate post - stay tuned. For now, read about my favorite places and must-know tips for Amsterdam below.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Download the Ulmon Amsterdam App for IOS - I was so happy to have this app on my iPhone during my time in Amsterdam and highly recommend downloading before traveling. Once you have downloaded the app, you have the option to download an offline map of the city. You are able to bookmark locations you are interested in and do not have to worry about using your data while walking around to find those places.
Check out the I Amsterdam city card - This is a physical card that you are able to purchase at different locations throughout the city (including the airport) that provide entrance into various museums and attractions around the city. The cards are activated for a specific number of hours depending on what you are interested in. As soon as you scan your card, it is activated and will expire after the specific number of hours have passed. Purchasing this card was worth the price for us considering everything we were able to do. However, depending on how long you plan to be in Amsterdam and what you would like to do, it may not be worth it. A little research never hurt anybody.
With the card we were able to:
- Use the public transportation (GVB)
- Take a canal cruise throughout the city
- Visit the Van Gogh Museum
- Visit the Stedlijk Museum
- Visit the Houseboat Museum
- Visit the Tulip Museum
- Visit the Dutch Resistance Museum
Blue Amsterdam Restaurant - I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Amsterdam. My boyfriend found out about this place and was determined for us to go. It was hard to find and you have to take an elevator up to get there but wow, the view is amazing!
The Jordaan Neighborhood
Anne Frank House
Cute unique shops and restaurants
Red Light District - The Red Light District is a must.
Vondelpark - We randomly stumbled upon Vondelpark while walking around and absolutely loved it! There were people walking, riding bikes, and just hanging out. This is a perfect spot for a picnic or to do some people watching.
Floating Flower Market - The floating flower market was not at all what I expected it to be. I pictured a large booth with fresh cut flowers available for purchase. While there was a booth with fresh flowers and bouquets for sale, there were also booths full of souvineer items and the area was touristy in my opinion.
Den Haag - (aka The Hague) is not the capital of The Netherlands but is where the Dutch government and courts are located - about 45 minutes from Amsterdam. We had dinner Rootz. The food was great and the selection of beer was even better!
Zaanse Schans - The nearest train station is Koog-Zaandijk. From there, Zaanse Schans is about a 15 minute walk. Zaanse Schans is an older neighborhood with historic windmills and houses. We ate at the pancake restaurant and visited all the little shops on site.
KEEP IN MIND:
- There is no such thing as free public restrooms. You will have to pay to use a restroom somewhere if you are not a paying customer. This includes McDonalds...
- Most everyone is friendly and speaks English.
- You do not wait to be seated at restaurants - seat yourself and ask for the menu. You will most likely also have to ask for the bill at the end of your meal. The customer does most of the work when eating out. It is not required or expected to tip the waitstaff at restaurants. However, when you do receive great service and want to tip, 10% is plenty.
- When in the states, I usually order water with my meals and it is free. I quickly learned that water is not free in Amsterdam and you are going to pay about 3EUR for one glass and there are no free refills. A couple days into the trip, I decided it was going to be better to purchase water bottles at the grocery store to carry around and keep in the hotel room. We found that beer was the same price or cheaper than water so Heineken became the drink of choice!
- If you plan on visiting the Anne Frank House, go ahead and purchase your tickets today. I only had about two weeks to prepare to visit Amsterdam so missed out on the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank House since tickets sell out in advance.
I hope this helps you plan your trip to Amsterdam. I crammed most of these activities into my nights and one weekend so there is no excuse for missing out! Please comment below if you have any other suggestions for Amsterdam or with any questions. Happy Travels!