Amsterdam happens to be one of my favorite cities in the world and the absolute favorite of my hubs. He loves this city for its beautiful canals, the highly evolved thinking and liberalism of the Dutch people and the breathtaking beauty of the Dutch Countryside. The list below are my top things to do in Amsterdam and is not in any particular order. (All the pictures uploaded belong to me.)
1) Dinner cruise on the Canals
Amsterdam is known for the prettiest canals in the world. I have read somewhere that the city has around 165 canals, the total length of these canals reaching around 50 kms. It is fondly known as the “Venice of the North”. N what better way to experience the length of the canals than dining under the stars on a beautiful glass boat. We have been on the canal dinner cruise twice amongst our several visits to Amsterdam. The cruise starts around 6.30 pm and is an excellent way to admire the surroundings, canals and historical bridges at daylight, sunset and against the night lights. It’s a delicious 4-course meal with choice wines and an enjoyable commentary by the captain as the boat crosses important locations. (Mind you the captain is not commenting throughout the journey, so you do have ample quite time to spend with your loved ones) This unique network of canals also serves as a residential area to the many of the Dutch people. There are 100’s of beautiful and colorful houseboats moored along the various canals. I still haven’t stayed in one of them yet, but they are available for rent for the visitors of the city. That is definitely on my to do list for my next visit to Amsterdam.
2) Admire the charming Canal houses
Hubs and I both love to wander the city streets along the numerous canals and waterways to admire the beautiful canal-side mansions. These crammed yet elegant historical mansions are known worldwide for its architecture and beauty. There are numerous exhibitions showing how the Canal district is in actuality an engineering marvel built on swamp land. There is a whole intriguing history behind how in the 1600’s in the throes of its Golden Age, the city of Amsterdam was growing at an exponential rate both in wealth and population. Hence these Canal houses which served as both homes and workplaces for many of the wealthy merchants of the East and West Indian companies, were built tall over any stories and crammed together.
3) Walk down the red light district
I know many of you might be thinking all sorts of thoughts reading this, but honestly it is an area not to be missed as there is more to it than its lewdness. Most of you would have heard of this area before even you read this post and let me tell you that most of the stereotypes are true. The red light district is a cluster of medieval ally ways in an area called De Wallen. Amsterdam being a central trading harbor from the 1300’s, was known by the sailors are traders for its women carrying red lanterns. Prostitution has been legalized since the early 2000’s and since then the lit up windows in the ally ways have been strictly managed by the city officials. There are multiple guided tours along these pathways, where they explain the history behind the area, the profession and the general vibe.
4) Visit the Dutch Country side
I cannot begin to tell you the beauty of the Dutch Countryside - the charming old towns with historical houses from the 1500’s, narrow cobbled pathways, the beautiful canals, churches, markets etc. I have been on several tours that take you to the quaint towns of Edam, Marken and the harbor towns of Vollendam. In these tours one gets to experience the traditional Dutch culture, folklore and craftsmanship. In the fishing town of Marken you visit the traditional wooden shoe (clog) factory where they explain and illustrate how these shoes are made. One gets to hear the history behind the construction of the dykes in the harbor town of Vollendam and eat some of the best sea food one could get their hands on.
5) Eat, enjoy and buy the famous Edam cheese
In Edam is one of the many farms and factories of the famous Henri Willig Cheese of Holland. It this venue a person dressed in traditional clothing from the area demonstrates how the famous Edam cheese is made. This factory is attached to a quaint bistro where one gets to taste a variety of cheeses made from cow, goat and sheep – both young and aged. For cheese lovers, this place has to be heaven on earth.
6) Windmills of Zaanse Schans
I have this thing for windmills - its sheer mechanism based on winds, the enormity of the structure itself and the general romantic vibe it brings to my brain based on several love stories I grew up reading as a little girl. The 18 and 19th century windmills of Zaanse Schans were just as I had always imagined them to be. Tall, majestic yet utterly charming and breathtaking. Here you will also find petting farms with some of the largest farm animals I have seen. The spice mills and the cocoa houses leave aromatic smells lingering with the winds
7) Party on the street on Kings Day
King Day in Amsterdam is a street party you shouldn’t miss. It is celebrated on the 27th of April every year and is the wildest and most fun street party I have been to yet. The whole city bleeds orange and the open air festive atmosphere is one electric vibe of concerts, dj’s, performances and parties city and street wide. It is a pubic holiday on the day with the parties beginning on the eve of the big day. The maddening carnival atmosphere is enjoyed by one and all from the locals to the tourists and from children to the old.
8) Visit the famous tulip fields
We visited the tulips gardens of Kuekenhof this visit and it truly is one of the prettiest spring gardens of the world. They grow around 6-7 million tulip bulbs in these farms with a total of around 800 varieties of tulips. The grounds of Kuekenhof are beautifully landscaped with the choicest of multicolor spring tulips and other flowers. It truly was a delight to the soul to be in the midst of this kind of beauty one only gets to watch in movies.
9) Experience the yummy Stroopwaffles, Poffertjes and local Herring
Holland or Netherlands is known for its Stroopwaffles and its yummy pancakes called Poffertjes. These Dutch mini pancakes are the softest and most delicious pancakes I have eaten in my life. You can chose to put any kind of topping on it, but I stuck to fresh berries, cream and chocolate. YUMMMMM!! I nearly died and went to heaven and even now my mouth waters as I type it all down. Stroopwaffles are these yummy one of a kind cookie with caramel like syrup in the middle. If you are more of a savory person then the Dutch fresh raw herring with pickles is definitely a must have. It has a soft bite and a salty taste to it.
10) Visit the Anne Frank Huis
Amsterdam is known for its famous museums like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House museum etc. Amongst them all one of my favorite is the Anne Frank House. It was in this canal house that the Anne Frank and her Jewish family hid from their Nazi persecutors during the World War II.
Hubs and I had an amazing time in Amsterdam. We were there the last week of April and the weather was cold and rainy, inspite of which we had a blast. My tip for you guys would be to check the weather on a daily basis when in Amsterdam as it tends to change drastically. I kind of reminded me of Melbourne weather, all 4 seasons in a day.
I hope you had a wonderful time reading the post and looking through my photographs. I would go back to Amsterdam in a heartbeat and writing this just made me reiterate the fond memories I have of this charming city.