Destinations, The Netherlands

Top Recommendations for Amsterdam

April 26, 2015

More often than I’d like to admit, I have a pang of longing for Amsterdam, especially when I find out that someone I know is going there! I didn’t realize that I’ve been remiss in posting my top recommendations for places to stay and things to see and do while there. We were there for about 5 days, so it was a good amount of time to explore the city, but we still had to budget our time.  We left feeling like we’d seen a good part of the city, but could easily return to see more.  Here are some of the activities that we absolutely loved while we were there:

To stay

  • B&B Sleep with Me on Utrechtsestraat – central shopping street, close to everything. We had two splurge nights at this B&B. It’s run by Jules (a native Dutchman) and Antoine (a Frenchman). They are are incredibly kind people.  In fact, when our train was terribly late getting into Amsterdam Centraal due to wind storms, they met us with a bottle of wine and even made a restaurant reservation for us at Bar Moustache around the corner. The B&B only has two rooms, so it’s very quiet and intimate. Antoine’s breakfasts are superb. Worth it even for a single splurge night to have his excellent breakfasts and fantastic recommendations!
  • AirBnB in the Jordaan – quiet, trendy neighborhood. This was our budget accommodation after a couple splurge nights. It works well for one person or a couple. 

To eat

  • Albert Cuyp market – a wonderful daily market with fantastic food, ranging from stroopwaffels (thin waffles with caramel) and poffertjes (small pancakes dusted with powdered sugar), to more savory items like fish, bread, and so on.  We went back here at least 3 days in a row for delicious, inexpensive lunches. Check out some pictures here!
  • Bar Moustache – Right around the corner from B&B Sleep with Me, and has the best octopus we’ve ever had. 
  • Red – This restaurant gets its name from the fact that they only do steak and lobster. Their food is phenomenal and a great value. Another one of Jules’ and Antoine’s recommendations that was spot on.
  • Dutch fries. A must. Get them with fritesaus and onions. Fritesaus (fry sauce) looks like mayonnaise but is SO. DANG. GOOD. It isn’t mayo. It’s what mayo wishes it could be. ‘Nuff said. You can go here – we did and it was definitely worth it, though a bit hard to find in a side alley – but honestly even the ones at Amsterdam Centraal (central train station) are great.
  • Small World Sandwiches – Best sandwiches in the world? Possibly. This is what happens when an expat Aussie sets up shop in the Netherlands. (So good. SO good. We’re still trying to figure out excuses to go back to Amsterdam just to get sandwiches here. Run, don’t walk.)

To do

  • Book a private bike tour – a little more spendy, but totally worth it. Biking in Amsterdam is a real treat, but you’ll appreciate having a guide.  We loved this tour company. The lady who runs it is friends with Rick Steves and has all sorts of interesting tales. The cheese and windmills tour was really fun, and a pretty easy bike ride as well.
  • Rijksmuseum – the very best of the best, a Dutch museum with collections ranging from the Golden Age to a vast array of weapons and medieval armor, and even some modern art. I’m not generally a museum person, and I still loved it.  Check out my pictures here!
  • Stedelijk (modern art) museum – a much smaller museum than the Rijksmuseum. We went about an hour before closing and were able to see most of what we wanted. Very interesting art collection!
  • Anne Frank house – book in advance and skip the line, just remember to say you have a Museumkaart if you plan to get one, which makes the trip free.  We got a Museumkaart at the Rijksmuseum and then used it at the Anne Frank house later in our trip.
  • Canal cruise – no need to book in advance. A little touristy? Yes, maybe a little, but it’s also the best way to see all the parts of the city if you’re only there for a short while. I’d consider this a must, especially early on in the trip before you’re familiar with the different neighborhoods.  It was also a great introduction to the architecture.
  • Free walking tour – Yes, I generally hate tours, too, but this was educational, a great way to get introduced to the city, and it’s free. They function on tips only. Just remember to register in advance (and don’t get lost in the Red Light District like we did!)
  • Wander the different neighborhoods. Amsterdam is lovely just to walk around.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What are your favorite places in the city?

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