Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: On and Off Beat!

Amsterdam is a city which gets on almost everyone’s bucket list and I am very lucky to call it “home”. It is not uncommon anymore that often a Facebook message pops up from a friend asking how to have a great time in Amsterdam. I have been living in Amsterdam for over 2 years now and if I am being brutally honest with you, I would say I am still discovering something new everyday. Yes, you heard it right! Amsterdam might look like a very cute little city, but there’s just so much to do having something in offer for everyone. My post takes you through a journey within Amsterdam listing its top attractions including tips getting offbeat if you want to. Following this list will help you get a vibe of the city even if you are around just for the weekend!

Don’t miss my  tips on Seasonal attractions in the end of this post! 😉

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How about a picture like this? My friend almost started crying  for mercy by the end of this shoot when I was (maybe) fully satisfied 😛

1.Walk in the city/Bike around –The best way to see Amsterdam is by foot. You can take the free walking tour starting from the Dam Square. These tours orients you well with the history of Amsterdam. There are many walking tours available and you can check them here. They are free and typically they last around 2.5 hours, but please be kind to tip your guide afterwards. If you have a good sense of balance and legs which function well, then just rent a bike for a day. Bike rentals are plenty in Amsterdam city centre and prices vary from 8-10 €/day. You can either do a bike tour which is organized by a company, or you can just bike around the city by your own. I suggest the later, because all biking lanes in Amsterdam are car free zones. It’s said there are more bikes in the city than humans. But please and please don’t be one of those tourists who are hated by locals as they don’t know the directions well, so be kind to us and ask for a map when you rent the bike! 😉

How to get Off Beat? Check out the neighborhoods of Jordaan and de Pijp. Both of them have different things in offer. Jordaan has the rich elite class locals of Amsterdam with canal side cafes, restaurants and bars; while Pijp is more of a nice shopping place offering great international cuisines to explore! Just stroll around, sit down in a place of your choice, appreciate the surroundings and I promise you will return back happy to your hotel! Apart from this, visit the NOORD Amsterdam. This area can be accessed only by ferries (free) from the central station and is absolutely stunning! Often overlooked, but this place has so much in offer and recently a lot of interesting things are going on this neighborhood. Check out the  biggest flea market of Europe IJ -Hallen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam Noord.

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Most of the times you can find me riding a rental bike because my bike has been stolen 3 times already 😮 !!! In this picture, I am a rescuing a friend get back to her hotel. Hehehe
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Beautiful canals of Amsterdam
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Jordaan neighborhood, Amsterdam
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How pretty are these houseboats? This is in the Jordaan neighborhood
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Albert Cuyp market in de Pijp, Amsterdam

2.Do the Canal Cruise/Rent a boat – It’s a crime to visit Amsterdam and skip the canal ride! Yes, its really touristy, but it gives you a historic overview of all the beautiful canals in the city. The ride takes usually 1 hour and is really cheap (12-15 €). There are many boat companies just in front of the Amsterdam central station where you can hop on a boat from one of the companies (LOVERS is my favorite). Be careful, the queues can get very long and hence keep some spare time in your hand for the activities you have planned afterwards.

How to get Off Beat?  Not many people know this, but you can actually rent a small boat and cruise the canals of Amsterdam by yourself. Driving small boats don’t require a license and the rates vary from 55-70 €/hour. How cool is that? ;). Apart from this, you can head to Giethoorn which is absolutely a stunning place and often referred as the “Venice of the North”. Here you can hire a small boat for as less as 15€/hour and appreciate the beautiful village with stunning Dutch landscape while sipping your wine. The village has no roads and houses are accessible only by boats. Do this and you will thank me forever!

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Interiors of the canal boats in Amsterdam. This picture is from the boat company called LOVERS
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Canal cruise boats in Amsterdam close to the main central station
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Beautiful Amsterdam Central station
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Picture with the canal boats

3.Visit a couple of the museums in the city – You may not be a huge history buff and entering museums might seem boring and waste of time, but no visit to Amsterdam is really complete without visiting at least a couple of the museums out of hundreds it has in offer. My favourites are the Annie Frank’s house, Rijk’s Museum, VanGogh’s Musuem and NEMO (Science museum). Visit the Stedelijk museum to appreciate modern and contemporary art. If there is absolutely no time, then just do the Annie Frank’s house and/or the Rijk’s Museum and you won’t leave disappointed! Rijk’s museum is one of the places where you can also get your pictures clicked with the iconic IAMSTERDAM sign! Avoid the huge queues at museum entrances by either getting an e-ticket or just the Museumkaart if you plan on visiting more than 3 museums (much cheaper).

How to get Off Beat?  Visit the Jewish Historical museum because there is so much to explore here. It gives a great overview of the Dutch culture with respect to the World War 2 and the holocaust. I also like the National Maritime Museum because it has a real boat used by the Dutch East India Company in the early 1600s! It’s one of the places I have been several times and the canal views from the museum are just amazing.

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Posing in front of the Rijks Museum
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Rijks museum with the tulips in front
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Maritime Museum, Amsterdam
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Spectacular interiors of the Maritime musuem
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View from the Amsterdam Maritime Museum

4.Parks of Amsterdam – Go to Vondelpark for some relaxation when you are too tired walking in the crowded streets of Amsterdam. It’s very green and with a bright sunny day, it gets very lively! You can bring in your own food and drinks. Sit down, eat a sandwich and get a bottle of wine to enjoy your time with your friends and family. Barbequing is also very common here! Try to head to the huge fountain in the middle of the park, which can be great also for the kids!

How to get Off Beat?  I personally like the Oosterpark and the Westerpark far more than the Vondelpark because the tourists are much less here which gives it more of a local feeling. I would recommend walking to the Oosterpark from the city centre. Even though half an hour walk, you are rewarded with great views of Amsterdam, which you would never come across otherwise!

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Spring in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
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Typical sunny day in Vondelpark
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Posing in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
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Park entrance from Leidseplein
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Tulips in Oosterpark

 5.Nightlife in Amsterdam – Last, but not the least, Amsterdam has a great nightlife!! Apart from the famous Red Light District, there are hundreds of bars, coffee shops and clubs. You might be too overwhelmed at some point :P. Check out my post about top bars in Amsterdam here if you want to have a great time. Dutch people are known to be very easy-going and “relaxing” is a part of the culture. “De Wallen” is the best place to check out the Red Light District and its very safe too. There are several bars there where you can enjoy a coffee or a beer across the canal terraces. Eat at the BIRD Thai snack bar in Zeedijk for an authentic and cheap Thai food! I also have a brief post on the top nightclubs in Amsterdam, which might be of help.

How to get Off Beat?  You can do the usual Canal cruise (perhaps the “dinner cruise” if you want to go fancy) in the evening instead to check out the great night lights across the canals and bridges. It’s really gorgeous. Coming to Amsterdam “coffeeshops”, Bulldog is the oldest and the most popular one among tourists, but if you want to see how locals enjoy it, then head to Amnesia where you can sit outside across the canals and smoke it up ;).

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Red Light District, Amsterdam
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Amsterdam canals during the night
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Amsterdam night lights
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Great friends make my life easy and a lot better in this city 🙂

SEASONAL ATTRACTIONS IN AMSTERDAM:

  1. March – May: You need to visit Keukenhof which is the most beautiful tulip garden in the world if you are in Amsterdam at this time of the year. Its just a 20 minutes bus ride from the Amsterdam Schiphol airport and is totally worth your time.
  2. April: You need to be in Amsterdam to party during the King’s Day! Its every year on April 27. Check out my special post on King’s Day celebrations  here.
  3. July: End of July starts the famous Amsterdam Gay Pride which is absolutely stunning to watch with a lot of street parties going on!
  4. August: This is the time for the classy theatre festival Amsterdam Parade  which has a tent set-up and it can keep you entertained the whole day. Even though most of the acts are in Dutch, there are still options in English , and you need to visit it to see how Dutch families get together and dance along the live music. Absolutely spectacular!
  5. November – December: There are many many cute Christmas markets from the end of October till Christmas to explore in Amsterdam. The most famous one is in the Dam Square and it shouldn’t be missed!
  6. December – January: This is the most gloomy time of the year with the cold and rain kicking in together with full force. Amsterdam Light Festival arrives just on time to save us from the depression and darkness! It definitely cheers everyone up  in the city as the canals are beautifully decorated with lights and you will fall in love even with the darkness! Check it out here.
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Last advice, don’t forget your cameras when you are in Amsterdam! 😛 This picture is in Keukenhof

I hope you enjoyed reading my post, check out the best bars in Amsterdam here. Have a great trip and feel free to ask me more in the comment section! Safe travels everyone 🙂

P.S. – All pictures are mine, feel free to use them after giving credits :).

Top 5 bars in Amsterdam: something for everyone!

Today I am compiling a list of my favorite bars in Amsterdam that you can try over this weekend with each of them offering very different feels of the city! Amsterdam life can be hectic with so many cafe and bars to try from (ahem ;)) and I try going to a new place every week or so. However, we all have those couple of places which we keep going back to because they take a special place in our hearts. Bloggers might have already written about good bars in Amsterdam, but what’s special about my post is after living in Amsterdam for over 2 years and hopping around hundred bars, I am listing only the ones which I think can give every tourist a local feel of this city <3 <3 <3.ALCOHOL-MAY-NOT-SOLVE-YOUR-PROBLEMS-BUT-NEITHER-WI

1. For great cocktails, head to Door 74: Classy is the word to describe this place! When you have this weekend date coming up on your “agenda” (sorry, I am Dutchified enough to follow an agenda too :p) and it keeps you completely confused thinking where to take her to impress her without burning a hole in your pocket? Ah, then look no further and head to Door 74! Even though it’s in a touristic location in one of the most crowded districts of Amsterdam (Rembrandtplein), it’s very much hidden from everyone meaning you might get lost if you don’t know the exact address! This indeed adds fun to your date! Door 74 is very American in few ways and holds the “prohibition era” custom where people wanted to keep their social gatherings a secret! Yes, that is why it’s very hard to locate DOOR 74 because you will for sure miss it (like me) if it’s your first time there. It’s just a regular door which you need to knock and after they confirm your reservation, you are allowed to enter. I was spell-bound when I entered because the underground bar is nothing close to what you would expect from outside! How cool is that?? Your date is already impressed 😉 ! But please remember to MAKE A RESERVATION here. They are a cocktail paradise and even though their cocktails are a bit pricy (ranging from 14€-16€), it’s totally worth it. You get the fresh olives and cocktail nuts for free (unlimited servings :-D).

Must try: “The horny mountain troll” cocktail
Crowd: Mixed crowd(both tourists and locals)
Serves food: Snacks (vegetarian too)
Neighborhood: Rembrandtplein
Price: Expensive (14€ – 18€ for a classy cocktail)
Opening hours: 8pm-4am (Fri-Sat); 8pm-3am (Sun-Thurs)
Phone:  +31 (0)6 34 04 51 22
Website: door74

2. Want some hipster vibe, then head to Cafe Brecht: Yes, the name itself tells you that its German and indeed it has a very east Berlin feel to it. Rightly so because its named after the famous German writer Bertolt Brecht! The atmosphere here is very hipster with a living room (turned into a bar) filled with comfortable sofas, vintage furniture, vintage cutlery and decorated with wallpapers with flowers imprinted on them. There is always something going on in Brecht related to Germany and/or Europe like an act, movie screening, music concert, etc.  There is a piano if you wish to play and also many board games which  you can enjoy with your friends. Its more for the ambience that I keep going to Brecht. They serve all kinds of alcohol with POPCORN (yum), but their Moscow mule cocktail is my  personal favorite! 😉 I often find myself sipping a cup of hot coffee inside Brecht on a raining afternoon watching people pass by while working on my computer.

Must try: They have good cocktails. my favorite is Moscow Mule
Serves food: They serve lunch till 3pm and snacks after that (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Depend on what time you go ( mostly locals)
Neighborhood: Heinekenplein (de Pijp)
Price: Cheap (4€ for a Belgian beer from the tap; cocktails priced at 7€)
Opening hours: 12pm-2am (Fri-Sat); 12pm-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: cafebrecht

3. For great craft beers, head to Gollem: Do you like special craft beers, and like me, are you also very choosy about what you want in your beer? Then, look no further, because this is your place! The first Gollem opened back in 1970s in a small alley between Singel and Spuistraat (close to Dam square) which still makes it easy to miss. But now, it has three more sister pubs (in Overtoom, de Pijp and the other at Waterlooplein) and together with its three siblings, Gollem is known for Belgian beers. All four of them holds a very Dutch brown cafe ambience with the beer menus written on black boards in the wall. There are a many special beers (mostly brewed in Belgium and United States) which are hard-finds anywhere else, including great porters and stouts. They also have amazing IPAs, Trappist beers and special draught beers on the tap! Although food is served, food range isn’t great and I always make it a point to load up my belly before heading here! 😛 Gollem gets crowded on the weekends (mostly locals), but this shouldn’t stop you from going there. The bartenders are very helpful with good knowledge about the beers; but be patient with them as they are always under-staffed :-(. Gollem usually requires no reservations (unless you plan to dine) and has a very chilled casual vibe!

Must try: All the beers on the tap are amazing. My personal favorite is the “Viven Porter”
Serves food: Burgers and finger food (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Mixed Crowd (mostly locals)
Neighborhood: Singel, Overtoom, de Pijp and Waterlooplein
Price: Cheap to Expensive (5€ for a Belgian beer from the tap; craft beers are a bit expensive – 12€ mostly for a 700ml bottle)
Opening hours: 11am-2am (Fri-Sat); 11am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: cafegollem

4. For a great view, head to Hannakes Boom: This is my absolute favorite place to go grab a drink when the sun is shining. It’s really huge and the whole set up of the place is just amazing! It’s always crowded (mostly locals) and the best part is on a beautiful day you can sit outside in one of their colorful picnic tables sipping your beer/wine overlooking the canals. It’s a 5 minutes walk from Amsterdam central station. They have amazing warm meals for dinner at good prices (also vegetarian). If you are lucky, there will be a live music show in the bar going on which you can enjoy for free!

Must try: Eggplant melanze (Veg) and Rabbit dish (Non-veg) with a La Chouffe beer
Serves food: Both lunch and dinner (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Local crowd
Neighborhood: Amsterdam central station
Price: Cheap (4€ for a Belgian beer from the tap)
Opening hours: 11am-3am (Fri-Sat); 11am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: hannakesboom

5. Want to go to a rooftop bar in Amsterdam, then head to the W Lounge: This is the talk of the town as its very new one on the list of rooftop bars in Amsterdam. It’s located on top of the W hotel in the city centre just next to the Dam Square. It’s location makes it a perfect getaway from your hectic shopping day in Kalvarstraat which is Amsterdam’s famous shopping street. Usually you can find me here either sipping my coffee in the afternoon or enjoying a glass of pinot grigio in the evenings. I love the look of the place as the interiors are classy a very modern vibe. If the weather is good, sit outside in front of the swimming pool which is my absolute favorite thing to do here. You can even ride a duck on the pool outside!! how cool is that :P. The view from the rooftop isn’t as great as the famous “Skylounge” in the Hilton Doubletree hotel, but W lounge surely does wonders to your pockets as the drinks are very affordable. They don’t accept reservations, which is amazing, just enter the hotel and press the lounge button in the elevator! W hotels in itself boasts from their great interior designs and this place lives up to your expectations! If you are in a mood for a fancy dinner afterwards, head to Mr. Porter restaurant downstairs :).

Must try: cocktails
Serves food: Both lunch and dinner (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Local crowd (sometimes tourists too)
Neighborhood: Dam Sqaure
Price: Moderate (4-5€ for a glass of wine)
Opening hours: 9am-2am (Fri-Sat); 9am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: W lounge

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a drink in a place of your choice and write me a comment afterwards if you like it or not! 🙂 

P.S. – Few pictures in this post are not mine and are taken from Google :).

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