I love Amsterdam as a city to visit. There is so much going on and it has a real community feel to it. Best of all, visiting Amsterdam leaves me with food for thought to take home.
I encourage you on your next visit to Amsterdam to leave BoomChicago alone and instead, explore these marvelous ideas on what to do and see, and share in the take-home lessons they offer.
Here are 5 of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam
1. Visit Anne Franks’ home on the Prinsengracht.
Anne Frank lived with her family and four others in the concealed annex of the Anne Frank building. This is where she wrote her world-famous diary. Visiting this site in an incredible experience! It gives you insights into culture, the horror of wartimes, and just how tiny their living quarters were. Take-home thought for you: next time you’re about to complain that your apartment is too small, think back of this experience and be grateful.
2. Eat raw herring at the fish monger.
Next to Anne Frank’s house is the Westerkerk. This church dates back to 1631 and is the highest church in town. It’s also the place where Queen Beatrix was married and where Rembrandt was buried. Of course, the church itself is worth exploring. Go check out the pipe organs, and the giant bell in the clock tower. On Sunday morning’s you can even enjoy mass.
Before or after exploring the church, try something Dutch and order some raw herring at the fish monger right in front of the Westerkerk. If you love sushi, you’ll love this. Besides obtaining the wonderful taste, consuming the fish’s omega-6 fatty acids are what this feast is about. These wonderful fatty acids helps your body cope with the colder weather of winds and hail that prevail in Holland in winter. However, the herring tastes good year round. Take-home thought: In Rome, do as the Romans. In Holland, do as the Dutch and try the herring.
3. Go bicycling along the canals and bring a map.
You can rent a bike from Bike City in the ‘Jordaan’ neighborhood at the Bloemgracht for about Eur 10/day. Just bike away, wander and enjoy the scenery. It’s delight to pass by historic warehouses and grand mansions. You’ll see cosy corner cafes and espresso-sipping locals on outdoor terraces when the sun is out.
When you have enough of biking, just take your map out. As downtown Amsterdam is built in a semi-circle, chances are that you are not that far from where you begun. Take-home thoughts: it’s easy to have fun on a small budget and getting a nice workout can be fun.
4. Get off the bike on one of these corner cafes in the ‘Jordaan’ neighborhood.
The Jordaan is Amsterdam’s oldest corridor. It used to be a working-class neighborhood. Today, it’s a trendy hotspot. This is where you can best experience a uniquely Dutch concept of ‘Gezelligheid’ — loosely translated as ‘cosy’.
What’s special about the old cafes in the Jordaan is that they are like aunty Betsy’s living room. There may even be a central big table as well as individual tables. For sure, there are thick handmade carpets on the table and a barman with ‘attitude’. A nice attitude.
It seems at times that only snaps is served. For an adventurous selection: try out the schelvispekel – an old drink sourced from Rotterdam. It was typically drunk by the fishermen there. It’s sweet with a likable & unique flavor. For a less adventurous but still marvelous selection: try a local beer on tap. It’s easy to spend hours in these cafes. But be warned: don’t drink more than one schelvispekel as it’s real strong. Thought to take home: the good things in life are best enjoyed in moderation, and if you want one more: these cafes remind me of an old Dutch proverb: ‘Gezelligheid kent geen tijd’. It translates as ‘time flies when you’re having fun’.
5. Visit the Brewery….. or ..
Heard of the Heineken beer brewery? It’s right downtown Amsterdam on the Stadhouderskade. Yes, at the end of your brewery tour, you get to sample the beer. It’s particularly fun when you’re visiting Amsterdam with a group of friends.
However…. I’m not a beer drinker, so instead, where I go, is just a few blocks away from the brewery. Whenever I’m visiting Amsterdam, I try to see the Night Watch, Rembrandt’s most famous painting. The painting is hanging in the Stedelijk Museum, also located on the Stadhouderskade.
The Night Watch was painted when Rembrandt was at the peak of his fame and fortune. At that time, he painted the wealthy helped by his arsenal of students. Soon after completing the painting, Rembrandt’s wife passed away, and then his last son. This was a turning point for him. He became both sad and less interested in portraiture of the noblesse. He ended up poor in more than one way. Morale of the story: cherish all that gives meaning in our lives.
Oh, there are about a dozen more things to do in Amsterdam that are top tourist attractions and fun for locals alike.
These are 5 top things to enjoy when visiting Amsterdam when I have international friends with me. What are your favorites ? Drop us a line…