Only in Amsterdam
No matter how long you’re stationed in Europe, there is not enough time or money to see it all. Whether you spend hours or days in Amsterdam, begin with the one-hour 100 Highlights canal cruise for a city overview. And read on for tips to exploring my favorite Dutch destination.
What to see
Museums: The Rijksmuseum houses valuable antiquities, photographs, sculptures and paintings. Vermeer, van Dyck and Rembrandt are among the artists represented.
Contemplate “The Bedroom,” “Sunflowers,” “Irises” and more than 700 other works at the Van Gogh Museum. Special exhibits are also rotated throughout the year.
The Anne Frank House brings the words of the girl’s famous diary to life and offers a personal account of the Holocaust. Enter the secret annex where two families hid before their arrest and transfer to concentration camps.
Gardens, Parks & Pleins (Squares): After touring the galleries of the Museumplein, head to the bustling Damplein for lunch at a sidewalk eatery or a quick bite at a food truck. Finish a busy afternoon with a cocktail at one of the bars along Leidseplein, and scope out Rembrandtplein’s club scene.
The Hortus Botanicus was established as a medicinal garden in the 17th century. Today, the grounds include an indoor rain forest, green houses and gardens with more than 6,000 plant types.
Escape the urban chaos at the Begijnhof, a peaceful green space tucked among medieval houses. Listen to summertime open-air concerts at Vondelpark, the city’s largest park. From March to May, make a day trip to Keukenhof for the tulip blossoms.
Red Light District: Women bear all in this area of brothels and adult stores. Take a wrong turn and you will end up in this area by mistake. As long as you don’t snap photos of the ladies in the windows, you have nothing to worry about.
Things to do
Eat: Brunch is a big deal in this city, especially for those who’ve had a rough night in the Red Light District. G’s has a brunch boat and two land locations dishing new twists on eggs Benedict and burgers. Book a table via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For a sophisticated omelette, go to the Omelegg, where filling choices of chorizo, gorgonzola, dates and chili con carne tempt adventurous eaters.
Dozens of restaurants in Chinatown serve Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean and fusion cuisine. Recreate these Asian specialties at a Dun Yong cooking class in the city’s most prominent Asian store.
If living in land-locked central Germany has you missing seafood, visit the Seafood Bar. Menu offerings include fish, crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, clams, and mixed towers for two. Reserve through www.theseafoodbar.nl.
For an afternoon espresso, go to a café, not a coffee shop. Customers at the latter are looking for something stronger than caffeine.
Spend: Red lights aren’t the only thing shining in Amsterdam — buy diamond bling from Coster or Gassan. Peruse the daily market at Albert Cuypmarkt and Nieuwmarkt’s antique fair held on Sundays from May to October. Browse the vibrant floating flower market or eclectic Dappermarkt. Find fashion by exclusive labels on sale at Bijenkorf during the “crazy days” (dwaze dagen) in autumn.
Celebrate: Amsterdam hosts several annual festivals worthy of repeat visits. To commemorate the ruling Orange-Nassau family, the citizens of Amsterdam gather in the streets for concerts, parades and flea markets on King’s Day or Koningsdag, formerly Queen’s Day. The city is bathed in orange, so pack your funkiest carrot-colored attire to blend in.
From late November to mid-January, the Amsterdam Light Festival brings cheer to drab, dreary winter. The themed installations are best witnessed by boat.
In August, you can hear classical music performances at every square and canal. The Grachtenfestival encourages musicians of all ages and levels to share their passion.
Stay: House boats are an affordable alternative to hotels and hostels for groups and families. Amsterdam’s house boats are permanently docked in the canals and linked to municipal water, electricity, cable and Internet. Most have patios, furnished kitchens and multiple sleeping spaces for a self-catered getaway. A quick Google search will show you dozens of options.
Lace up your comfy shoes, pack survival snacks, charge your camera and download an offline city map for your adventures in Amsterdam.