TOP 5 FOR AMSTERDAM
- Visit the Van Gogh Museum – filled with the largest collection of the famed artists paintings in the world, this is something not to be missed. The cost is 15 euro and it’s open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with extended hours until 10 pm on Fridays.
- For nature lovers – it might sound odd, but if you find a hotel near the airport, the surrounding area is absolutely GORGEOUS – overrun with snaking bike paths and beautiful forests, perfect for a stroll or a ride.
- Sip a Belgium beer or coffee at one of the numerous canal-side cafes. There are many local breweries serving up their special take on Belgium strong beer, and enjoying one in the sunshine watching the world go by is pretty fantastic.
- Red Light District – yes, it’s touristy, and a complete spectacle. But it’s one of those things that needs a check in a box. Venture there during the days to see some of the prostitutes which cater to “adventurous” tastes.
- Take a Free New Europe Walking Tour – to learn about the very interesting and often overshadowed history of Amsterdam. I have only ever had good experiences with free walking tours, which are offered in most large touristy cities and require nothing more than what you feel is an appropriate tip at the end. The guides are always enthusiastic, friendly, and knowledgeable. You can find New Europe Tours here.
Steigenberger Airport Hotel – an easy 20 minute train ride to the city center, and as I mentioned surrounded by beautiful landscape. We managed to get a Groupon deal for a two night stay here, making it very affordable. The hotel includes a sauna, spa, & pool.
Van Speyk – a local brasserie with a unique menu featuring French and Mediterranean inspired dishes. The mezze appetizer plate (below) was great, as were the Moules Frites. Prices are mid-range (~20-25 euro for an entree), but the quality and ambiance are worth the few extra euros.
Any Dutch Pancake (Pannekoek) House – you don’t have a choice! You have to try one! Larger and thinner than American pancakes, these are often topped with apples, sugar, or Nutella, and rolled up to eat. Delish!
Amsterdam, above most other cities I’ve been to, is the quintessential lazy town, where it’s perfectly acceptable to while away the day in the sunshine. Excepting the suicidal bikers riding at breakneck speeds down narrow streets and very nearly killing all pedestrians in their path, most people seem relaxed, at ease . . . it could be the famously legal lethargy-inducing substance sold at every coffee shop, but who knows? I love the mixture here – canals meandering beside you, flower vendors selling their fresh takes for the day, and bleary-eyed hippies floating in and out of coffee shops. It makes for great people watching 🙂