Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam

It's easy to spend a few days exploring Amsterdam and fall in love with its colorful house-lined canals, cute cafés, and fascinating history. My husband and I travel to a new place each year for our anniversary; this year, we decided on the "Venice of the North" and it did not disappoint. The city itself was way more spread out than I had imagined. The canals that characterize Amsterdam aren't just a section of the city, they make up the entire city and wind around for miles.  We explored mainly on foot, but also by train, ferry, tram, and canal boat! 

Highlights of the trip included:

  • The pancakes! Dutch pancakes are delectable, as are their dessert cousin, stroopwaffels.

  • The Van Gogh Museum. Get tickets beforehand for the earliest slot of the day and you can be one of the first inside the doors, allowing you to soak in the artwork without obstruction or distraction. Seeing his well-known art right in front of my face was even more impressive than I'd imagined.

  • Zaanse Schans. About a 20 minute train ride outside of Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans is a preserved historic windmill village (and the windmills are still in use!). It gives you a glance into Dutch history and is a splendid place to spend an afternoon away from the city.

  • Strolling through Vondelpark on a sunny day.

  • Taking the ferry over to Amsterdam-Noord to check out Oedipus Brewing with its lively taproom and delicious craft beers.

  • Canal cruise boat tour. We always do a touristy bus or boat tour because it turns out to be the best way to get around from sight to sight while being informed on the history of the city!

  • The Anne Frank House. It feels a little weird to say that this one was SO cool, but it really was. It was extremely surreal to be in the famous Annex where Anne's family was in hiding during the war and to learn a lot more about her story as well as about Amsterdam at that time. You MUST buy tickets in advance for this as the line for walk-ins gets ridiculously, insanely long.

  • Jordaan. This was my favorite neighborhood of Amsterdam. It has the most picturesque canals, lined with restaurants and cafés, as well as lots of unique shops and galleries. Grab a beer on the water's edge, observe the boaters and bicyclists constantly cruising by, then go for some pizza at La Perla!

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, rich in culture and history, and a wonderful place to spend a few days exploring.