If there is one European city I could pack my bags and move to tomorrow, Amsterdam would be it. From the moment we arrived, I immediately fell in love. Seaside with blue sky as far as the eye can see, people riding bikes in every direction, a delicious international food scene, and beautiful canals with fresh, blooming tulips, Amsterdam felt like home. This is the type of city — and country for that matter — you immediately understand what quality living is: a balance between work and life, the ability to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while catching up with friends, and the freedom to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in a small neighborhood park. If you’re looking for some travel inspo, here are my top reasons why Amsterdam should be your next European adventure!
I don’t think I have ever planned a trip solely around food, but Amsterdam was a game-changer. From morning to night, our days were planned around where we were going to brunch, grab drinks, and eat dinner. And let me tell you, this was probably the best way to experience Amsterdam! Make sure you check out my Eating & Drinking Your Way Through Amsterdam post, because you’re not going to want to miss the famous Dutch apple pie, bitterballen, or the opportunity to enjoy a glass of rosé along the beautiful canals of Amsterdam!
Famous Dutch Apple Pie at Winkel 43
Bitterballen at De Foodhallen — Dutch fried cheese yumminess
A Mediterranean feast at d&a Hummus Bistro
If you told me the canals of Amsterdam were full of beer, I would believe you immediately. This is a city of craft beer lovers, and for that very reason, Alex and I fit in perfectly.
In the 500 Hidden Secrets of Amsterdam book, I read about Oedipus Brewery, a small, creative craft brewery in an artsy, industrial space. The brewery itself is located outside of the city center — you can take a free ferry from Amsterdam Centraal and then walk about 15 minutes before arriving, but it’s definitely worth the trek. The beers are fresh, the food is delicious, and the space is alive with energy. If you love craft beers, make the trip out to visit Oedipus Brewery — you won’t regret it!
In Amsterdam, there are so many swoon-worthy canal-side cafes to grab a drink, and you can’t go wrong if you at least have a good view! But, my absolute favorite was Cafe ‘t Smalle — a quaint and authentic brown beer pub, with plenty of tables along the canal to watch the world go by.
Cafe ‘t Smalle
Amsterdam is a city of museums with something to offer for everyone. (Did you know, there are actually over 75 museums within the city limits?!) When Alex and I travel, we usually visit one or two museums, depending on what interests us. While in Amsterdam, we knew the Anne Frank House was an absolute must see. We also love World War II history, so when it rained one afternoon, the Dutch Resistance Museum was the perfect escape from the gloomy weather. And, we visited the Van Gogh Museum (over Rijksmuseum) for no particular other reason than we knew who Van Gogh was!
The Museum Quarter in Amsterdam
I Am Amsterdam — Museum Quarter
The Anne Frank House is an incredibly moving museum, as well as historical landmark. In 1942, Anne Frank and seven others (including her father, mother, and sister) went into hiding in the secret annex at Prinsengracht 263. For more than two years, Anne and the others had to keep quite so that they would not be discovered by the Nazis. To pass time, Anne kept a diary, where she wrote short stories, and eventually, a novel titled The Secret Annex. In August of 1944, before Anne had finished her novel, the Nazis discovered the Secret Annex and arrested all people in hiding. It is still unknown how the Nazis found out about the secret hiding spot. Anne and her sister were transported to Bergen-Belsen, where they both died in 1945 from typhus — just one month before the British liberation of the camp.
Anne’s father was the only one of the eight people in hiding to survive the war. After returning to Amsterdam and discovering his daughter’s diary, he published The Secret Annex in 1947. In 1960, the Anne Frank House became a museum, open to the public.
Tickets to the Anne Frank House are necessary and are only available online! (Tickets are released two months in advance — I recommend setting a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to purchase!) Anticipate spending at least an hour in the museum. The tour is very solemn, but also very eye-opening and memorable.
The Anne Frank Memorial
The entrance to Prinsengracht 263
An excerpt from Anne Frank’s diary — one month before she was discovered and arrested by the Nazis
The crowds outside the Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House
In almost every European city Alex and I have traveled to, we’ve visited a museum portraying what life was like during World War II (Dachau Concentration Camp outside Munich, The Communist Museum in Budapest, World War II Walking History in Prague… you catch my gist!) So, when visiting Amsterdam, we knew we couldn’t miss the Dutch Resistance Museum. From May 1940 to May 1945, Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands and the Dutch responded through resistance — from strikes, to forging documents, helping people go into hiding, underground newspapers, and espionage. The Dutch Resistance Museum tells a chronological story, and although most of the videos and recordings are in Dutch, there are plenty of English descriptions. The museum is largely off-the-beaten path, and it’s not necessary to purchase tickets ahead of time. Anticipate spending at least an hour here.
The Dutch Resistance Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the works of Vincent Van Gogh and his contemporaries in Amsterdam. The museum houses the early work of Van Gogh, to the work of his deep personal struggles while in Arles, France. When we visited in May, we saw the Van Gogh & Japan exhibit — an exhibit demonstrating how Japanese prints inspired the work of Van Gogh. You can easily see the entire museum in under an hour and a half.
The Van Gogh Museum
A painting by Van Gogh
Bikes, Bikes, Bikes…
Having lived in Brooklyn for the last two years, I always thought there was a disproportionate amount of bikers compared to other metropolitan cities. But boy, did Amsterdam prove me wrong. On every street corner and canal railing, in front of every house, shop and restaurant, there were more bikes than I could count.
Did you know the Dutch own an average of 1.3 bicycles per capita? And that over 84% of the Dutch population owns at least one bicycle? Or that between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles are fished from Amsterdam’s canals EACH year?! And, over 70% of Dutch urban streets are bicycle safe, meaning designated biking lanes and lower speed limits? There are over 22,000 miles of dedicated cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands!! I know I probably don’t need to say it, but when crossing the street, check both way for bikers!
One of many bike racks in Amsterdam
Bikes in Amsterdam are not only used to transport humans!
More bikes along the canals of Amsterdam
I’m pretty sure I would lose my bike if I lived in Amsterdam…
A City of Canals
I don’t think I could have taken any more canal photos while in Amsterdam (and I think Alex would 100% agree with this statement!). When you think you’ve found the most beautiful canal, you turn a corner and discover another hidden gem. There are over 165 canals in Amsterdam — over 60 miles of waterway, and over 1,200 bridges — almost triple to that of Venice! From canal cruises, to happy hour along the canal, biking the city, and getting lost, there are so many ways to discover the canals of Amsterdam. I guarantee you the views will never get old!
A canal with bikes and blooming tulips… what’s not to love?!
Westerkerk Bell Tower
I took this photo our first day in Amsterdam, when it was sunny and 85 degrees! So many locals were out in their boats, enjoying picnics and drinks with friends and family!
One of my favorite things about Amsterdam was how the sun didn’t set until after 10pm — and the sunsets were beautiful!
The Red Light District
The view from the Magere Brug
Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat — The Most Beautiful Street in all of Amsterdam
I wrote about Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat in my Eating & Drinking Your Way Through Amsterdam post, but in case you missed it — this is the most beautiful street in all of Amsterdam! (OR at least in my opinion!) Largely free of cars, and full of bikes and people out dining and drinking with friends and family, this street is bursting with life and energy. Restaurants with open windows, cafes with outdoor seating, and endless cheersing of drinks, you free obligated to join in on the fun! We grabbed drinks at La Oliva, which was the perfect way to end our evening.
Exploring Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat by day…
…and by night!
NDSM & Pllek Beach
Okay, back to my love for the 500 Hidden Secrets of Amsterdam book. If I hadn’t have discovered this travel series, I don’t think I would have ever heard of NDSM! NDSM is a former shipyard that ceased operations in 1978. Left empty, city nomads, craftsmen and artists settled in, reviving the shipyard to create a cultural hotspot. Today, you can find several restaurants, bars, Pllek Beach, the Amsterdam NDSM Crane Hotel, Sexyland, and the largest flea market in all of Europe.
To get to NDSM, take the free NDSM ferry from Amsterdam Centraal. Depending on your interests, you could spend as little as an hour here or an entire afternoon. Alex and I visited NDSM on a beautiful afternoon towards the end of our Amsterdam trip, and having seen almost everything we wanted to in Amsterdam proper, we kicked back and relaxed at Pllek enjoying a glass of champagne in the sun.
The view from Amsterdam Centraal, waiting for the free NDSM ferry. Do you spot the swing on top of the hotel? That’s A’DAM Lookout!
NDSM Anne Frank — Let Me Be Myself
NDSM Street Art
NDSM Street Art
Sexyland — for 365 days, there is a different owner, every day. The owner decides what kind of club they want Sexyland to be — which can vary from art exhibits to sport events, to concerts and dance parties.
NDSM Street Art
Enjoying a drink at Pllek
The view from Pllek
The NDSM Amsterdam Crane Hotel — there are three small hotel rooms!
The NDSM Warehouse, which is home to the largest flea market in Europe
The NDSM Warehouse
Amsterdam is by far my favorite city to shop! (Even more so than NYC! Can you believe that?!) In every neighborhood we explored, there were so many swoon-worthy boutique shops I fell in love with. Not to mention, European style is something I absolutely adore — simple yet classic, and who doesn’t love wearing something that none of your friends also own?!
If you’re looking for some good shopping, here are some of my favorite neighborhoods and shops — perfect for a new outfit, home decor, or gifts for friends and family!
Dam Square: Sissy-Boy
Cornelis Schuytstraat: Ennu