[Netherlands] Travel Guide to Amsterdam
My travel guide to Amsterdam on where to stay, what to eat and what to do around the area!
Where to Stay:
For something different other than staying in a hotel near the city center, how about staying in a houseboat instead! Having lived in Seattle for a few years, we have always wondered what it would be like to live in a houseboat so we decided to go for it in Amsterdam. There were quite a few houseboats to choose from on Airbnb and the one that we chose was located on the edge of the city center. There's actually no engine on this houseboat so it's not really a boat but more of a house floating on water. Pictures online don't always translate into reality but the interior of our houseboat looked even better in person! The room we stayed in was super posh and well-designed with its own mini kitchen and bathroom. Our host was also very gracious and stocked the kitchen with fresh bread, drinks, eggs, fruits and even stroopwafels for us to help ourselves to during our stay!
What to Eat:
Check my other posts on the fine dining restaurants I've visited in Amsterdam but if you're looking for casual eats, read on below for my recommendations:
Bocca Coffee will satisfy any coffee snobs as the roaster was crowned as the Best Coffee Roaster in the 2014 European Coffee Awards! Even though they were coffee roasters for many years, their flagship shop was only established last year and it was roomy and expansive with a large bar counter in the center. The casual vibe reminded me of the cafes in San Francisco and it's got different pockets of space for people to drink their coffee whether it is at the communal tables, bar counter or wooden sofas by the windows. The coffee menu is quite simple with two choices: black or white. Don't miss out on their pastries either - my raspberry brownie was simply luscious with a rich and velvety layer of chocolate!
Two For Joy Coffee Roasters
Two For Joy is another Third Wave coffee cafe that roasts its own beans. We actually passed by this cafe many times during our stay, and we finally popped in on the last day. The flat white was not as good as Bocca's though but the lemon meringue tart was irresistible and the cafe had a lot of different areas (both inside and outside) to chill as well.
This indoor food market is perfect for rainy days with over 20 different food stalls to choose from. Located at the De Hallen culture center, you can enjoy a casual meal or snack with a wide range of choices from Vietnamese to burgers or even a drink at the large island bar in the center of the market - there's something here for everybody. We had heard good things about Viet View which serves a kick-ass banh mi and we couldn't resist getting some Iberico ham as a take-away to munch on.
Hummus bistro d&a
As the name suggest, this is the place you want to go to in Amsterdam for hummus. And it certainly didn't disappoint because it was quite possibly the best hummus I've ever had! The texture was so airy and light while the flavor had so much depth - this really was some next level hummus.
The apple pie at Winkel 43 is famous for being the BEST apple pie in Amsterdam! It is a deep-dish pie with a crunchy cookie-like crust and chunky apple slices served with whipped cream on the side, and it was the best apple pie I've ever eaten. The cafe has both indoor and outdoor seats, and we enjoyed ours outside with some people watching. Remember to try the mint tea as well!
Upstairs Pancakes is apparently the smallest restaurant in Europe with only 4 tables! You need to climb a very steep staircase to reach the dining room and then you will be rewarded with your choice of savory or sweet Dutch pancakes. I ended up trying the King with fresh Dutch strawberries and cream, and it was super delicious! It's best to make a reservation ahead of time as I saw a lot of people being turned away due to the limited space.
Prepare yourselves for the best stroopwafels ever! Located in the Albert Cuyp Market, the stroopwafels here are prepared fresh to ordered in two flavors - original and chocolate. It's delivered piping hot onto your hands and be sure to hold it flat so the delicious filling doesn't fall out.
What to Do in the City:
There are lots to do in Amsterdam and for first timers, I'd recommend checking out the major museums like Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum! Whenever I'm visiting museums, I always like to check ahead of time the best possible way to avoid queues like buying the tickets online. Another great way to navigate the city conveniently is to purchase an I Amsterdam City Card which provides free access to over 60+ museums and attractions, public transport, canal cruise, and more. Just remember that for highly popular museums like the Van Gogh Museum, you will need to book online in advance even if you have the city card.
Having some fun at the Stedelijk Museum - a modern art museum next to Van Gogh.
I highly enjoyed the canal cruise tour which is really the best way to experience Amsterdam in my opinion! Included in the I Amsterdam City Card, you can choose from 4 major cruise operators with no reservations necessary. We picked Lovers Canal Cruises and just hopped on the next available boat. Everyone is provided with headphones so you listen to the audio guide in the language of your choice.
Blessed with gorgeous sunny weather while we were in Amsterdam!
I also love taking walking tours and the most popular operator would have to be Sandemans which offers FREE tours (gratuity encouraged). The free walking tour covers all major sights like the Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, the World's first stock exchange and many more!
One way to see how the locals live is to visit some of the neighborhood markets like farmer's markets, the Waterlooplein flea market or the Singel flower market on floating barges.
Lastly, just wander around the picturesque city, get lost and admire every canal you come across because each one is different and charming in its own way.
What to Do Outside Amsterdam:
One of the main reasons we were visiting Amsterdam in Spring was to see the tulips at the Keukenhof - one of the world's largest flower gardens with more than 800 varieties! Located 40 minutes away from the city, the easiest way to get there without a car is to catch the Keukenhof Express bus 858 from Schiphol Airport. For the best value, be sure to check out combination tickets which include both transportation and entrance fees online. The park is closed now but will be opened again from March 21st to May 19th in 2019.
Another fantastic day trip from Amsterdam is Kinderdijk - home to 19 windmills from the 18th century! They are one of the best-known Dutch attractions and have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The area was so scenic and picturesque, and you can just walk or bike around, have a picnic, row in the canals and just spend the day lazing around without a care in the world. From Amsterdam, take the train to Rotterdam where you can then take water-bus 202 to Kinderdijk.
The last day trip we did was to exploring Giethoorn - a water village with no roads (walking and bike paths only)! We had a great time puttering around the idyllic town on a small electric boat which can be rented from many canal-side restaurants. And apparently for unknown reasons, this village is especially popular among Chinese tourists.
Sun-kissed with windblown hair - what a great way to spend the day!
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