I receive a lot of questions from friends about Amsterdam. Most people know just about the Red Light District and not much more but it is one of the best places in the world to spend a weekend. From seeing Van Gogh and Rembrandt to cruising the canal homes there is so much to do year round. The city is bustling no matter when you go and it never lets down while transportation around the town is incredibly easy and efficient. So to answer the question on what to do I have wrote about one of my favorite cities in Europe. Below is a quick guide to a short weekend in the city.
Take the direct train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to Amsterdam Central train station which cost about €9.50 (10 USD). The trip takes about 15 minutes and departs about every ten minutes. From Central Station walk to your hostel/hotel ( I recommend the Flying Pig Hostel) and check in. Get settled in your room and freshen up for the night.
Head out to the Red Light District for a drink and some early people watching. It’s always interesting to see the different types of people strolling the area. There are bars on every corner to grab a beer. If you want a cool nautical themed bar stop by the Cafe Old Sailor. It’s located in the heart of the Red Light District and is right on the canal. It has a bunch of antique nautical items all over the bar and best of all they serve ice cold beer. (On a side note: if you grab a window seat you can watch all the johns exchange pleasantries with the workers and it’s quite interesting).
After some drinks to loosen you up go by and visit the erotic museum on the other side of the canal. I recommend a few drinks because the museum can be very in your face (no pun intended) and having a few will get you into the mood of the city! After visiting such a interesting museum you can go back to the hotel with you partner to rewind from the experience or you can stroll down a block to the original Bulldog coffee shop to partake in some weed. I would definitely take it easy if you are not an avid smoker. I smoked a whole joint my first time and got waaay to high! I got lost and almost fell into the canal if it wasn’t for a local grabbing me right before I fell in! Yikes! So don’t do that!
Take the morning in with some pastries at one of the many pastry shops around the city. After breakfast find one of the many bike rental shops and rent one for the day. I recommend Yellow Bike Rentals located in the downtown area. They are bright yellow bikes so its easy to locate them when you go in somewhere. After leaving there hop on the bike lane across the street and ride it down to the Rijksmuseum and sip on some espresso in the park out front before stepping into the museum. The crown jewel of the museum (in my opinion) is Rembrandt’s Nightwatch. It is a masterpiece that you learn about in school and when you see it you realize why. The painting is massive in size and the detail is incredible. The rest of the museum is absolutely fascinating and you could spend hours in here but since you have just the weekend spending the morning is a good amount of time to experience the museum and its wonders.
After the museum grab some lunch at cafe and take your well deserved rest. I love museums but a whole morning walking around with all the crowds fighting to see everything can get quite exhausting. Go through your pictures and talk about them over lunch while you make your morning instagram posts! After lunch make your way by bike to the famous Vondelpark.
Riding a bike through Vondelpark is an amazing experience that should not be pasted up. Riding the bike lines around town can be quite intimidating but once you make it to the park it is quite peaceful and relaxing. While you explore the park you will find couples laying out enjoying the sun, picnickers sharing lunch, wonderful ponds and gorgeous homes lining the park. After cruising around the park for awhile come back out and head over the the Van Gogh Museum. I would buy your tickets early so you can get priority access and get in quicker. Van Gogh’s works are simply amazing for the time period and shouldn’t be missed. After spending time at the museum, grab your bike and ride around the city exploring. I have found simply getting lost in a city leads to some of the best experiences I have had in all my travels.
At night go out to a club or go see one of the famous sex shows in the Red Light District. This is a very popular thing to do. I would also stop by the bull dog or one of the many coffee shops in the city to stock back up on some weed if you are partaking. Then head over to Rembrandtplein square, this area is known for its nightclubs and is quite lively at after dark. Spend the rest of the night here partying or go back to the Red Light District as it is always busy and there are plenty of bars.
Start the morning off at a local pastry shop again and sip on some espresso. Once you wake up from your night of partying head over to the Rembrandt house and enjoy the masters work. Another option is to head over to the Heineken factory and enjoy the tour with some fresh beer. Then head back to Central station and hope on a canal tour.
The canal tours are a great way to take in the city with a hang over if you were not able to go to Rembrandt’s house or the Heineken factory. The tour is about an hour long and is very interesting. You will cruise along the canals of the city while an audio guide tells you historical facts about what is passing in front of you. After your tour head back to gather your bags and head to Central station to head back to the airport. Keep in mind it is about 20-30 minutes by train to get back to the airport.
While this is a good intro weekend to the city it by no means an exact guide. This is something I recommend to my friends who are looking for a quick weekend in the city. It gives you a taste of the culture of the country combined with the insane nightlife that goes on after dark. I find Amsterdam is like two cities in one. By day, a beautiful and colorful canal city with hints of modernity. By night, the red glows can be seen around the city with debauchery and hints of weed around every corner. A true weekend getaway for all types of people.
I hope this helps people who have not been before gather an idea what to do when they visit for the first time and when you come back replace elements with things you have not done. There is so much more than just the bikes, prostitutes and weed in Amsterdam. So get out and explore all the city has to offer!
What are your favorite things to do when visiting Amsterdam? Comment below!