Get high on life in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is the capital and largest city in the Netherlands. Compared to other large cities in Europe, Amsterdam is quite small. However this hip city ranks as one of the top five most visited cities in all of Europe, known for its artistic culture, free spiritness and intricate canal system with narrow colorful houses. Amsterdam has much to do and see in this little city and all are within walking distance from each other including museums, red light district, coffee shops and a great variety of restaurants and pubs. Below we have highlighted our most favorite activities while visiting this busy city.
Wander around the canals
The most popular and eye appealing attraction in Amsterdam is undoubtedly the 165 canals that make up this beautiful city. The long water ways with old historical buildings are a unique sight that can not be found any where else in the world. As Amsterdam is a city below sea level on the Amstel River, in the 14th century the city decided that building the canals would help the city in numerous ways. As the main reasoning was to drain the swamps and control the water flow through the city, this also helped accumulate soil, defend the city center and transport goods. Today, the main purpose of the canals is still transporting goods and also the famous canal tour boats for the tourists visiting the city.
Experience the local “coffee shops”
What is better than ordering a cappuccino with a side of Blue Dream Kush?! The coffee shops in Amsterdam are a tourist destination of their own. The idea of licensing the sale of cannabis was introduced in the 1970’s for the purpose of keeping hard and soft drugs separated. Today there is almost 200 different dispensaries throughout the city of Amsterdam, most located near the red light district. Coffee shops cannot serve any alcohol or hard drugs with risk of getting shut down and also tobacco is forbidden because of the Dutch smoking ban. Most shops provide their own herbal mix used as a tobacco substitute.
From very local shops to more touristy, each of Amsterdam coffee shops has its own atmosphere. You will surely find one that suits you perfectly. They are not only to smoke weed but a real social place where you can easily meet people and spend some good times with friends. All of the shops have a menu with cannabis on one side (by gram, pre-roll, edibles or hash) and on the other side listing coffees, sodas and snacks. When purchasing weed, the staff will provide a tray, grinder and papers for the ease of rolling up OR if you feel more adventurous they usually have bongs for rent behind the bar! After going to 20+ shops we really loved the vibes and ambiance of 420 Cafe right in the center, off the main road. The staff was always very welcoming and knowledgeable of the products and since we came to this shop everday, they soon knew our regular order.
Be inspired by the story of Anne Frank
One of Amsterdam’s most popular and important museums in the city is the Anne Frank House. The house is located on the Prinsengracht canal in the center of the city. It contains the secret annex where the young girl Anne Frank and seven others hid from the Germans during WW2. It was here in this building that Anne Frank wrote her world-famous diary. Now converted into a museum it contains a meaningful exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the war, as well as discrimination in general.
A visit to the museum takes about 60 to 80 minutes. Add extra time if you also want to visit the museum’s café and the bookstore. As this is one of the most popular museums in the city, beware of the lines!! Starting with the line outside for your time slot queue (our time slot was 1:30-we finally made it into the museum at 2:15). Once you are in, you will receive an audio guide which is offered in many different languages. As you move through the museum your audio will change from room to room. It is extremely moving to see the photos exactly as Anne had stuck them to the walls, or the chalk lines her father drew on the wall to mark how his daughters were growing.
For those of you who are interested in visiting this museum but did not think ahead and reserve a time slot (which sell out 2 months in advance) you are still in luck and can visit, STAY POSITIVE. 80% of tickets are released two months in advance at noon local time, and 20% are released every day on the day of at 9 am local time, costing 10 Euros per person. We recommend that you visit the website at least five minutes prior to 9 am just to get ready for when the time changes. The first day we tried getting tickets we were put in a queue of 700+ and did not get tickets. The next day we tried and received the tickets at a time slot we could not pick, however we were very happy we received them and planned our day around our time slot! Another option without reserving in advance would be to go 1 hour before the museum closes as they may have room for a couple more visitors (worth the shot!!!).
Visit the infamous Red Light District
It is very likely that you have heard about this neighborhood and to be blunt, everything you have heard is probably true. From brothels to sex shop museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. You’ll find prostitutes dancing and offering their “services” from behind a window with their red light on if they are open for business. Amsterdam takes pride on its liberal and tolerant attitude, accepting the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography and that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all. The Amsterdam Red Light District is not only about prostitution and coffee shops. You can find a great variety of sex shops, peep shows, strip clubs, sex theaters and typical Dutch pubs.
Take a day trip to Haarlem
It may be very hard to tear yourself away from the city of Amsterdam, however once you have taken a day trip to the city of Haarlem-you wont be disappointed. With only a short ride from the city center and only costing about 11 Euros per person, you will be in love with how less crowded this city is. The center of Haarlem is a maze of cobble stoned streets and medieval architecture. The Church of St. Bavo, with its Gothic architecture, is the centerpiece of Haarlem. While visiting Haarlem- you must go dip your toes in the chilly North Sea just miles away!!
Swim in the North Sea
Relax, hit the beach, have an ice cream or a beer in the sand. Visiting the North Sea is a short journey from Amsterdam and lets face it, we all need some relaxing and peaceful time from that crazy biker city!! After visiting the city center of Haarlem, we got back onto the metro for another VERY brief ride to the coast. We visited Zandvoort Beach, which was just a short walk from the last metro stop. This beach is very popular and busy, mainly because it is only around 15 miles away from Amsterdam, so is one of the nearest beaches from the capital. After taking a swim in the ocean, hit up one of the many different cafe, bars and restaurants located on the coast of this beach.
Bike through the city
Did you know that the city of Amsterdam has more bicycles than people!!?? This city is well-known for its bike friendly roads and locals using them as their main source of transportation. Since the city of Amsterdam is flat as a pancake, this makes biking the easier way for people to get around this crazy busy city. Make sure if you rent a bike in Amsterdam to follow the basic rules….
- Ride with with speed of traffic
- Always bike sober
- Stick to the paths
- Try not to look like a tourist (NO SELFIES)
- Make sure to lock it up (5,000 bikes get stolen each month)
As a pedestrian in this bike crazy city, WATCH THE FUCK OUT! As this is one of the most biker friendly countries in the world, the bikers seems to always have the right away here. As well as owning the roads, the bikers also do not seem to care much about the rules and regulations while riding. So, not only do you have to watch for cars when crossing the roads but these bikers literally come out of no where. I definitely almost died a handful of times from not paying attention while bikers zoom by.
Take a boat cruise through the canals
One of the best ways to explore the beautiful canals in the city is a boat tour. We found an amazing tour company through Airbnb called The Holy Boat Smoke & Lounge in Style which suited our high expectations 🙂 This company picks you up in the Red Light District and takes you through all different canals, telling you about the history, providing snacks and drinks and making sure everyone is having a great time. The staff was very knowledgeable of their city and super friendly with everyone. If you are looking for a relaxing and comfortable evening in the city, check out this beautiful experience we highly recommend.
Fill up on Holland fries and pancakes!!
Voted #1 frites in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam location of this chain called Menneken Pis attracts SO MANY tourists munching away with their fingers and always dipping in mayo. When visiting the city be sure to visit this local favorite for a paper cone of piping hot frites. They are chunky, fat and crispy on the outside and soft and velvety on the inside. This vendor only sells fries in three different sizes with many different dipping options. We prefer the more traditional dips like ketchup, mayo or cheese sauce!
Everyone loves pancakes and every country has its own characteristics of a pancake. Pancakes Amsterdam has been voted the best pancakes in the city, serving both Dutch and American style pancakes. With six different locations throughout the city of Amsterdam, this restaurant uses only fresh and high quality ingredients from local farmers. Whether you are stopping in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midday snack, this chain serves over 30 different pancake options for everyone to enjoy!
Enjoy an ice cold Heineken
The Heineken brewery was established in Amsterdam in 1864 by Gerard Heineken and four generations later, the Heineken family is still passionate about brewing this premium beer. Today Heineken is one of the three largest beer producers in the world and sold in 192 different countries. Heineken’s rich and successful history is on display at the first built brewery in the center of Amsterdam called the Heineken Experience. You can learn about Heineken’s heritage and brewing process in a self guided tour, costing around $20 per person. At the end of the tour you can, of course, enjoy two Heineken’s included in your ticket price.
OR if you are more into drinking rather than learning about the history and brewing process, simply stumble into a local pub where all are serving the delicious beer straight from the tap in an ice cold mug!!
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Moxy Amsterdam Houthhavens which is about two and a half miles north west of central Amsterdam. This hotel is a new, hip and modern building right on the pier, surrounded by water and views of the Amsterdam Harbor. The hotel provides a refreshing welcome drink, bar and restaurant 24/7, buffet breakfast, pool and sauna, exercise room and spa treatments. With a very relaxing feel just outside of the city center and chaotic crowds, this hotel is just a hop on the public bus to get anywhere.
WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED ALL OF OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE CITY OF AMSTERDAM!! NOW GET OUT THERE AND EXPLORE!!!!