Those who have never been to Amsterdam or don’t know much about it may only think about it for one (or more) of a few things…

  • The Red Light District
  • Lots of marijuana
  • Windmills
  • Bikes!
But, if you’ve never been, a Beginner’s Guide to Amsterdam is invaluable. First, let’s cover off on the stereotypes…
  • Red Light District: Yep, it’s there – but it’s just a small part of the city. We’ve taken a walk through; of course, it’s a little odd to most Americans, but not too crazy if you know what to expect. And, during the day, there’s not a whole lot going on.
  • Everyone’s high: This wasn’t our experience at all. Read on to make sure you don’t end up somewhere you don’t expect!
  • Windmills everywhere! There are some – but they tend to be outside of the city. The city is more traditional European city.
  • Bikes everywhere! This is true, but it’s part of the charm and reminds you you’re not in America. Taking a spin is not for the faint of heart – just like driving a car, defensive driving is key!

While these are a part of a visit to Amsterdam, here’s our take on what’s a must for your visit to Amsterdam – the “Venice of the North.” Amsterdam Canal at night

  • Art: The most well-known Dutch art museums are very close…less than a 5-minute walk across Museumplein. Check out the Rijksmuseum for the European masterpieces. Then, take a short walk to the museum dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries.
  • History: You can also get your fix of history by visiting the Anne Frank House. It preserves the family’s hiding place and has an exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank.
Shopping & Eating
  • Shopping: There’s a very wide range of shopping – from the local markets (like Albert Cuyp) to designer boutiques on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat. There’s something for everyone! And, you must take at least one walk past the flower market while you’re there.
  • Eating: Also, at the markets – food! In fact, you can find the Original Stroopwafel in the Albert Cuyp market. Another favorite wafel of ours can be found on that walk between the two museums (the first cart on the right – Kiosk Rembrand Van Gogh). Order one with powdered sugar, and you won’t be disappointed! Some other musts for food…
    • Try the fries in the same market (this stand is all the way at the eastern end). Get your double fried potatoes in a cone, and try them with mayo if you dare!
    • Snack on some gouda. There are many cheese shops in Amsterdam. We love the Henri Willig shops (which are more than plentiful, including at the airport).
    • And, no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to a Dutch Indonesian restaurant (see more on this history here). A few of our favorites are: Kartika and Puri Mas.
  • Coffee: If you want coffee, make sure you go to a café or coffee house – not a coffeeshop! Most coffeeshops have noticeable signs so you know where you are before you walk in. But, knowing the right term will help if you’re asking for directions!
    original stroopwafel

    The Original Stroopwafel


Getting Around
  • Walk it: Amsterdam is so pedestrian friendly. We like to walk everywhere so that we can get to know the places we visit. And, you can certainly do that here! Take in the sights of the narrow streets lined with tall, skinny buildings, and stroll along the many canals.
  • Tram it: But, if walking isn’t your thing, try the city’s extensive tram network. A day ticket will provide you with unlimited usage throughout Amsterdam.
  • Sail it: And, even if walking is your thing, we recommend a boat trip on the canals. There are many larger boats to choose from, some with dinner included. More intimate settings are also an option – we took a private cruise, complete with a 4-course dinner from a local restaurant.

Interested in taking your first (or next) trip to Amsterdam? Let us help you navigate your journey! (click to contact us)