Amsterdam – a city of funny and ironic juxtapositions. Brimming with amazing culture, incredible nightlife, picturesque canal network, rich history and vibrant cultural scene, there is a reason why they call this city the “Venice of the North”. Honestly, there is an aura of pure magic that just exudes from this city and therefore I’ve been longing to visit ever since and finally did during a recent trip to Europe.
So when I told my friends about my weekend visit to Amsterdam, their mind immediately showed them the squalid images of the Red Light District and pungent coffee shops. But while the illicit-made-legit is a theme that shapes most tourists experience of the Dutch city, Amsterdam is equally popular for its cultural lovers and families as well. And therefore, I made sure to incorporate experiences from both sides. Here’s some of my top things to do if you have a weekend to explore Amsterdam.
1)Take a Canal Tour: The city of Amsterdam is home to 165 historic canals with a combined length of over 100 kilometers. These 400 years – old canal network connects every part of Amsterdam with the help of more than 1700 bridges. One of the best way to experience the historical marvel that is Amsterdam is by cruising through the city’s waterways.
2)Eat Herring without Traumatizing Yourself: Raw herring may sound a little scary to the uninitiated, but everyone who visits Amsterdam should try this Dutch specialty that you’ll spot all over the city. Ask for a “broodje haring” to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions.
3)Indulge in Heineken Experience: There’s no doubt you’ll have a Heineken or two when visiting Amsterdam, but it’s best to get the whole Heineken Experience that is held at the old Heineken Brewery. Here you can learn all about the production, from the brewing process, to the bottling and of course enjoy a beer on the rooftop terrace.
4) Visit the Royal Palace: The Amsterdam Royal Palace situated on Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam was constructed as a town hall back in 1648, but it has served as a palace since the 19th Century. The interiors offer gorgeous marble work that screams royalty.
5)Go on a Cheese Tasting Tour: The Dutch are known for their excellent cheeses. One of the finest establishments to try traditional Dutch cheese is at Henri Willig that has been making fantastic cheese since 1974.
6)Explore De Wallen and its Wild Parts: De Wallen is Amsterdam’s famous “Red Light District” and although the area isn’t a good place to take your kids, it sure is a perfect place for people watching. Take a quick tour of the area after dark to drink in Amsterdam’s signature liberality. Although De Wallen really comes alive at night, but visit during the daytime for a more mellow experience.
7)Go Local In the Jordaan District: This quaint neighborhood, which once housed Amsterdam’s slums, is now a thriving area with winding alleyways, gorgeous canals, 17th-century architecture, cafes, boutiques and specialty shops that will all give you a taste of Amsterdam below the city’s touristy surface. I’d recommend outside seating; Jordaan’s light foot traffic and an assortment of bikers are intriguing to watch during a nice early morning meal in the sleepy city of Amsterdam.
8)Shop till you drop at the Albert Cuyp Market: As the busiest market in Holland and the biggest of its kind in Europe, the Albert Cuypmarkt offers everything one might expect from a market – food, clothing, gadgets, bikes, traditional ethnic goods. If you want to take back some souvenirs for family & friends or just want to take advantage of a steal-of-a-deal, this is the place to do it.
9)Discover Dutch craft, windmills at the Zaanse Schans: If you wish to get an accurate impression of life in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries, visit the Zaanse Schans. Located just a short trip from Amsterdam and this well-preserved town feels like an open-air museum full of traditional Dutch handicrafts and culture.
10)Join a Bar Crawl: Amsterdam is party destination and every visitor should definitely experience the party atmosphere. The Bar Crawl is the perfect way to do that with a ready-made gang of drinking buddies and friendly lovely local Amsterdam crawl guides – the best way to soak up the Dutch capital’s atmospheric nightlife.
11)Marvel at the old masters at the prestigious Rijksmuseum: The top art museum in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum offers a stunning array of artworks. The collection mainly comprises of paintings and historical objects.
12)Discover a secret speakeasy bar: If you are someone who thrives in an atmosphere of exclusivity, do yourself a favor and book a table at one of the many speakeasy bars in Amsterdam. Hidden behind the unassuming door and welcoming by prior appointment only, the speakeasies are the perfect place for the sophisticated visitor.
13)Savor delicious Dutch meal at one of the many Michelin-starred
I wasn’t in Amsterdam long enough to visit the country side nor go on long drives, but the winding streets and canal banks still offered up a kaleidoscope of colours by day, and the scarlet glow of an Amsterdam night that proved to be an experience in itself.