I have five friends so naturally when three of them came to visit I tried to impress them. I failed miserably. I was living “outside” the city in a place called Amstelveen so that didn’t help. Years later when my brother and sister-in-law came to visit, I lived closer to the city centre in Buitenveldert near the RAI convention centre and I had bikes to spare. This is key. Walking is pleasant but riding a bike in Amsterdam is pleasant-er.
Back to my three friends. It was November if I am not mistaken and no offence to Amsterdam but she can be a tad irritable in terms of the weather on any given day of the year. It was on and off again rain but mostly cloudy and cold. My group of friends are known as the Frugal Four. Frugal meaning we don’t pay for public transport when we can use our free legs. If I remember correctly, our itinerary was as follows:
- take the metro to Nieuwmarkt (had to because I was so far outside thee city)
- walk the red light district
- walk to the Albert Cuypmarkt
- walk past the Anne Frank House (don’t pay to go inside)
- walk to the Rijksmuseum/ IAMsterdam sign (don’t pay to enter the museum)
- shit, it’s f n cold let’s go inside somewhere
- Madame Tussaud’s/ look at the Dam square from the window (decent view but the window sheen makes your photos look rubbish)
- go to a brown bar near Leidseplein
- back to the apartment
I love blaming other factors rather than taking responsibility for myself so not having bikes, the weather being shit, living so far out of the city and me studying so much I had only been into the city a few times before they came to visit were all the reasons why my tour guiding was horrendous. It had nothing to do with me.
What I actually recommend for people who come to Amsterdam is this:
- travel during the summer or on a nice fall day (this is the stupidest recommendation since it’s out of your control)
- rent/ buy a bike (you can buy them for 60 euros sometimes if you are staying for a long while so see what is cheapest and most practical)
Bike from Amsterdam to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel following the Amstel River. Stop into Amstel Park if you are wanting to have a nice quiet walk and go to a free petting zoo (just follow the children and when you come to a gate, open it but make sure the goats don’t run out. It’s free). You technically are not supposed to ride your bike in this park so not my fault if you get in trouble. Back on the bike trail next to the river, continue along until you see a windmill. Awe in its glory. Ride all the way to the end town of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel where you can enjoy some ice cream or a beer or even a full lunch. Brassiere Paardenburg looks nice but the food is meh and the service is rubbish. Basically, they forgot about us outside so after 2 hours and asking repeatedly if we could go inside because it was freezing they let us inside then no one realized our order was forgotten so we waited an extra 45 minutes for them to serve us. Loetje aan de Amstel is quite lovely so I would recommend going there. You can bike back along the other side of the Amstel if you want and it will take you back to Amsterdam.
I had a museum card which gives you free entrance to the museums once you pay 50 euros (10 years ago) so if you are going to three of the heavy hitter museums or more this is a good option for you. The heavy hitters are the van Gogh and Rijksmuseum since I think they are 18 euros each or something like that. The card is valid throughout the Netherlands for an entire year so think about it. My favourite museum is the Ons Lieve Heer op Solder, which may not be for everyone. If you are going to the Anne Frank House buy tickets in advance since the line is always mental. They need to be booked at least a month in advance during the summer.
The Kalverstraat is the main shopping street which you can access via the Dam square so if you are looking for big names like Primark or Mango go there. If you want more boutique-style stuff visit the 9 streets (Negen Straatjes). The street near the central station called Haarlemmerstraat/Harlemmerdijk is also great for food and little shops.
As is the case most everywhere, eating out is more expensive than going to the supermarket. Here is a list of some of the cheapest to most expensive supermarkets:
- Lidl/ Aldi
- Vomaar, Dirk van den Broek
- Albert Heijn, Marq
If you decide to fork over your hard-earned cash, here are a few notable places that I have eaten:
- Bulls and Dogs – this is my all-time fav. so much so that I shortened the word favourite. They have those freak shakes (crazy milkshakes with cookies and doughnuts on top) along with various sausages that are served in a PRETZEL BUN. A bun made of pretzel dough. Their fries are also unreal.
- Pasta Pasta– there are a few locations around, it serves fresh yummy pasta at reasonable prices
- Foodhallen- expensive but so so good! All types of food, all under one roof. The only trouble is trying to find a table and once you have a table, you basically need one person to stay put while the others get food.
- The Avocado Show– pricey with small portions (I had to buy two meals: Heart Beet & Very Berry Waffle) but really delicious. I also eat a lot so normally one meal would suffice the average person.
- Bagels and Beans– they are a chain around the Netherlands. Not crazy expensive. Nice bagels and don’t forget the hot chocolate, it’s unreal. The kind where you are given the chocolate chips separately to melt in. That’s right, I said separately.
- De Bakkerswinkel- high tea is done proper here. Try the scones with passion fruit jam. Sort of expensive, but that’s high tea always.
- C T Coffee and Coconuts– a super chill place that used to be a movie theatre.
- Patisserie Holtkamp– this is placed as the best kroket in Amsterdam. 3/3 of my Dutch/ Belgium friends agreed. It isn’t served in a bun but you don’t miss it because it is that good. They will heat them up for you so you can shamelessly eat them before you’ve even left their bakery.
- De Bekeerde Suster– Great place for a drink and their nachos are mesmerizing. It’s located at Nieuwmarkt, which makes it even more fun.
- Little Collins – if you are like me and look at the online menu to pick your meal before you actually go to a restaurant, you may say “girl, you’re crazy, these food dishes look exotique”. They are crazy combinations but so so yummy.
- Bakers and Roasters-mmmm mmm (it is the sound you make when the food is good) I had the banana bread French toast and it was delicious.
(The Breakfast Club, Corner Bakery and Eastside are okay, a bit overpriced for the quality. Omelegg is mediocre at best.)
- Van Ness Cupcake- best cupcakes in town and the owner is a gem. *This has now been moved to online only*
- Van Stapele Koekmakerij– they make one thing and one thing only and it’s done proper. Chocolate cookie with white chocolate filling. They cost 1.95 each as of April 2018.
You probably noticed that I don’t have many sit-down type restaurants and that’s because I haven’t gone to many and the ones I have were meh. As a word of warning, stay away from all food near Dam Square. It’s all overpriced and terrible tasting.
- pick a museum you would enjoy going to (pre-book)
- see a movie at Tuschinski (main zaal theater)
- wander the canals, Red Light District, Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, Bloemenmarkt with an umbrella or rent a bike and put on your rain gear
- have a drink with bitterballen inside a pub
NON- RAINY DAY
- get a hold of some bikes, I don’t care how and bike around the city center, under the Rijmuseum and/or to Oudekerk aan de Amstel. You may shit your pants in the city centre but hey that’s life. The bike to Oudekerk is calm with big bike paths.
- buy some cheese and eat it on a bench by a canal
- visit a market like the Albert Cuyp and enjoy a Dutch stroopwaffel
- wander around the Red Light District, Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, Bloemenmarkt
- see a museum (pre book)
- sit out on a terrace with a beer and bitterballen