📅 May 17, 2017•
⏱️4 min read
I’ve always had a part of me that craves unplanned adventures, and Amsterdam just happens to be the perfect place for them! Whether it’s ducking down a random street to explore sans map, or hopping on a plane a few days after deciding to visit a new country, the moments most filled with spontaneity always make me the happiest. When we flew into Amsterdam, I didn’t have the highest expectations as the popular vacationing-in-Amsterdam-activities aren’t my usual style, but low and behold was I surprised as spontaneity ruled our trip and kept each step exciting.
One of our first stops was Museumplien. It’s a sort of public square, easy to get to with a tram, that houses The Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk Museum, and Rijksmuseum. The famous I Amsterdam sign is also here! While the lines may be long to get into all museums, the area is nice to explore and museums are beautiful and interesting. Definitely worth the wait! If you plan on visiting museums throughout the city (there are tons outside of the Museumplien), as well as using public transportation to get there, an I Amsterdam card might be right for you. We purchased a 72 Hour City Card. The card got us into every museum we wanted to see and more, had multiple discounts (including a free canal cruise), and provided unlimited intercity travel!
Amsterdam’s Grand Canal, with a view of NEMO science museum
Other museums we visited and loved included the Tulip museum, the Science Museum NEMO, and ARTIS the zoo (I know it’s not a technically a museum the side exhibits which are very museum like!) The Micropia exhibit, a deep dive into the micro-world that is all around us, was fascinating.
Tulips at ARTIS
In between museums, meeting with friends, and eating (another favorite activity of mine), we spent time wandering the city. The amount of bikes can be overwhelming, especially when you come across a bike parking garage! One interesting fact we were told by a local was that bikes have the right of way in all situations, even when it comes to pedestrians. So, make sure you stay off bike paths, and look both ways at every bike and car intersection before stepping out. Bike paths can often be a part of the sidewalk, so it’s best to be aware of your surroundings when exiting shops.
Two story bike parking, outside of Centraal Station
One of my very favorite things in Amsterdam was the presence of houseboats. Coming in all shapes and sizes, the boats were utterly fascinating. Just imagine having a house you could take anywhere that has water! My advice is to gawk a bit, but still respect the home owner’s privacy, and visit the Houseboat Museum (conveniently located in a houseboat)!
A large canal lined with modern houseboats
Although we didn’t make it to the world famous Keukenhof Gardens to see Holland’s beautiful tulips, we did manage to see an authentic Dutch windmill in Haarlem, a neighboring city! Getting outside of Amsterdam is very easy by train (you could even bike to Haarlem if you’re up for a bit of pedaling). And the quaint, bustling streets and markets of Haarlem are well worth the short train ride.
Haarlem’s authentic Dutch Windmill
Haarlem city streets
With our I Amsterdam City Cards, we were able to take a complimentary canal cruise! The docks are busy, but the pass works with multiple cruise providers so the wait wasn’t long. Seeing Amsterdam from the canals is truly a different experience. I quickly developed a great appreciation for our captain’s boating skills as he navigated through passages with quite literally centimeters of clearance on each side. I also grew to appreciate his knowledge of history, and singing abilities as he serenaded us (literally!) while teaching us about the cities roots. One of my favorite facts he shared was that the houses are all at a slight incline forward, and have a pulley system at the very top. This was to ensure people could move furniture into their houses from the outside, as the stairs were too narrow, and the slight incline was to ensure whatever object was being lifted by the pulleys wasn’t going to scrape or crash into the front of the house.
Sunny Canal near City Centre with a standard bridge, note the boat preparing to drive under
Building silhouettes showing the pulley hoist systems used to move furniture
I’ve said in other posts that I put food pretty high on my list of favorite things. Amsterdam is the perfect city to walk around and have constant snacks at your fingertips. Belgian waffles, crepes, churros, and chips galore! Besides sweet treats, Holland has some savory specialties like their own personal version of sushi, raw herring served with pickles and onions. One could spend a whole day walking around, admiring the canals and architecture, while jumping from snack shop to snack shop and sampling lively Amsterdam’s cuisines.
All the sweets your heart could ever desire, including personal sized Nutella jars
Tot ziens from Amsterdam!