Amsterdam is a very cute, cozy, historical city and the capital of the Netherlands. It happens now to be one of our favorite cities in the world. So much so that we could make it a yearly destination. There is so much to do and see in this city and probably never enough time to see everything all in one visit. Our first visit here ended up being a full weeks stay which we split into 3 days in one area and 4 days in another. Keep reading for a guide on what we think are essential things you should do in Amsterdam.
It’s worth a mention to talk about how we went about purchasing our flights to Amsterdam because it took a bit of patience and research. We flew into Amsterdam from our wedding in Mexico. It took about two months to find the best flight options (which really is a lot of time but we wanted to make sure we were picking the best option at the best price). While we try to be loyal to one airline group, it can be hard when you are working with a budget so we usually pick the most affordable option. The best option for us was flying AirCanada. Now, I don’t usually use third party websites for flights because I like to be able to be in contact with the airline directly but in this case it was our best option. This time we used Expedia to build our trip because we flew two different airlines: AirCanada from Mexico to Amsterdam (with a 5h layover in Toronto) and United from Amsterdam to Houston. Let me tell you where we went wrong with this choice… I picked a roundtrip flight from Mexico to Amsterdam because it was much cheaper than a multicity trip (Mexico-Amsterdam-Houston). The flight from Amsterdam to Mexico (flight home) had a layover in Houston so our intention was to just get off of the plane and skip the last leg. Well, we checked our bags coming home because we had a souvenir we couldn’t bring on the plane. BIG MISTAKE. In the airport in Amsterdam the person who checked us in said it would be fine and we would have no problems getting our bags off the plane. When we landed in Houston, our bags did not come off the plane because they were routed to Mexico. Y’all, we got scolded by 4 different people in the airport saying that we were breaching security and that we absolutely couldn’t deliberately miss a leg of our flight… blah blah blah. They wanted to make us pay the “change fee” to get our bags which we just weren’t having. Moral of the story… DON’T CHECK BAGS. Anyways, we were glad this was a problem at the end of the trip when we were home and not to start it off.
GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT:
Before trips, I like to do a little research on the easiest ways to get to and from the airport so that we have a plan when we land. In Amsterdam, the best way to travel is by TRAIN. The train station is essentially an extension of the airport and super super easy to navigate from. We bought a ticket to Amsterdam Centraal which was less than $7 and the trip was about 20 minutes long with just a few stops. Pro tip: if you are using a credit card – which is good for no foreign transaction fees – you will need to buy your ticket at the counter because the kiosks will prompt you for a pin. Also, keep your ticket because you will need it to get out of the station. Our hotel happened to be about a 5 minute walk from the station, but don’t fret if that’s not the case for you. Amsterdam Centraal is the main station in the city and you will be able to hop on the next tram or metro to your designated area.
HOTEL AND AIRBNB:
We chose to break up our Amsterdam stay in two. The first 3 days we stayed in the central area of the city in at the CC Hotel booked through booking.com. This hotel was most definitely not our favorite. When we go back we will most likely choose to stay in once of the CitizenM hotels because that chain is our absolute favorite. The reason we chose the hotel we did was simply because of cost. Amsterdam can be an expensive city to stay in and we had a budget we had to adhere to in order to make our 2 weeks work. Hotel CC was rather tiny (most of the hotels are because the canals are so tight), but it was a relatively nice room. There were obviously other hotels that we would have preferred: NH Collection hotels are very nice, as well as Mr. Jordaan and The Hoxton.
The second 4 days we were joined by an amazing family friend so we switched our plans from a hotel to an airbnb apartment in the De Pijp area (unfortunately it’s no longer available). This area is a bit further south but it is close to a good portion of the museums and has a fantastic food scene. It was also a lot quieter than the city centre and seemed to be more family friendly.
By staying splitting our trip between the north and south sides of the city we were able to explore both areas walking rather than using transportation.
Check out how we usually pick between hotels and airbnbs here.
During the first couple of days we wandered and explored the canals. We walked in circles a couple of times to be honest. Be prepared to use some form of a maps app! Both of us have a pretty good sense of direction but trying to figure out the canals is no joke! We walked the Nine Streets, looking for cute little trinkets and enjoying the boutique shops. If you’ve ever researched what to do in Amsterdam, the one thing everyone suggests is that you take a canal tour, especially in the summer time. Definitely do it, and when you do, check out Airbnb Experiences because the best way to do the canal tour is with a local (they know where all the best “coffee shops” are). We chose a covered boat, that was a public tour and included light snacks and alcohol. We learned about the history of the city, architecture, and districts while cruising through the most beautiful scenery.
While on our second stay we learned a little bit more about how awesome Amsterdam’s public transportation system is. If you worry about taking a subway because you miss all of the city being below ground, there is an above ground tram! Both are great options for getting around. Pro tip: don’t use uber or taxis…the canals aren’t super car friendly so you end up taking a much longer/much more expensive trip than needed.
Our most favorite experience while in Amsterdam was the VIP tour at the Heineken Experience. The VIP experience is a bit more money – but you have to trust us, it is absolutely worth every penny. We don’t even like beer (or didn’t at the time) so don’t let that deter you. The tour started with a historical trip through the brewery where we learned how the company got started and how they specifically brew their beer. It ended with us being taken to this small speakeasy bar (hidden behind a wall) where we had a tasting of every beer the company currently makes paired with something delicious – that’s 5 beers if you’re wondering, plus extra if you have the time. When we rejoined the regular tour we we’re offered 2 more beers and sent into this cute bar that is a part of the tour! We left with a keepsake and a lot of laughs!
A good portion of our time was spent eating (because that is what we love to do) and exploring small shops and markets. Staying in the De Pijp area allowed us to checkout the Albert Cuyp Market which boasted tiny stalls full of breads, cheeses, sweets, and souvenirs. We wandered the market sampling foods and buying small gifts.
WHAT WE WISHED WE HAD KNOWN:
Comment with any questions you have regarding our planning and where we chose to stay/how we got around! Want to plan your trip to this amazing city but need help? Put in a quick inquiry on our travel inquiries page… we got you!