Amsterdam was by far my favorite city in Europe that I visited. The diversity of people, the noticeably tolerant and welcoming environment, and the overall laid back vibe made my trip unforgettable. Below, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 10 reasons of why I loved Amsterdam. For those of you planning a trip, I hope you find what my experience was like helpful! If you’ve also been, I’d love to hear what your visit was like below!
1. Amsterdam is the world’s most bike-friendly city
If people weren’t walking, they were most likely riding bicycles. There were very few cars about and of those few, they were all compact cars necessary to navigate the narrow and crowded streets. If my friend and I had stayed longer than the weekend, we most likely would have rented bicycles. Also, having spent the last 4 years of my life at UC Davis, another bicycle-friendly community, I was accustomed to the economic and sustainable advantages of riding bicycles. So, seeing others who shared that interest was a familiar and welcome sight.
2. Canal Cruises
It is almost impossible to walk the busy streets of Amsterdam without losing sight of the intercontinental canals. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Amsterdam got its name from the Amstel River. The first thing Olivia and I did in Amsterdam was go on an evening canal cruise. Luckily, we made it just in time as the boat was about to cast off and we were able to enjoy a tour of Amsterdam amidst its beautiful night lights. If you plan to visit, a canal cruise is a great way to get a feel for the city while sitting back and enjoying the view.
All along the canals and the Amstel River, are the cutest houseboats which form its borders. Their inhabitants can be spotted lounging outside on their porches watching the passing canal cruises. During our evening tour of the canals, we were lucky enough to catch a passing glimpse of a houseboat party in which its inhabitants, numbering no more than 10, were seen lounging about both inside and outside illuminated by night lights.
4. Outdoor Markets
Having grown up around a bunch of farmers markets, I was thrilled when we came across the Albert Cuyp Markt. The large street market was packed with vendors selling things from flowers and produce to vintage trinkets. We ended up buying most of our souvenirs for family and friends here, along with a few unique jewelry finds for ourselves. If you’re a fan of (possibly) cheap and cool finds, this is the place to find a little something for everyone.
5. Heineken Experience
Visiting the home to Heineken beer was not only educational but thoroughly enjoyable. We were given free reign to browse the brewery our selves and explore the beer’s history, brewing process, and learn how to draught the perfect Heineken. There were many interactive parts of the tour that I really enjoyed. Not only was I was able to churn beer, but I learned how to pour it correctly and become a certified Heineken pourer. This is a great way to kill a couple hours and enjoy the occasional free drink(s).
6. Van Gogh Museum
Visiting the Van Gogh Museum and examining his art in person was a transformative experience, especially after taking an introductory to painting course in college. The course enlightened me to how painstakingly long the process of painting could be. I was conscious of how meticulously Van Gogh must have strove to prefect his works. With each painting, I was left in a greater state of awe. When I finally reached the last painting, which was left unfinished before his untimely death, I was destroyed. Someone whose life was composed entirely of creating beauty and life was the unfortunate victim of a devastatingly dark illness. Van Gogh’s unfinished painting reflected a death that was both tragic and poetic in a way.
7. Anne Frank House
During my short stay in Amsterdam, my friend and I were sure to make time for the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank, who died at the early age of 15 in a concentration camp in 1945, is still widely known and celebrated for her bravery today. The house commemorates the Secret Annex where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. Almost immediately upon entering the house, I knew something was different. There was a profound, shared reverence that all of us guests felt and sensed. Though Anne’s story became widely recognized by a tragedy, her legacy continues to educate generations of the detrimental consequences of human weakness and the strength of one girl’s words. Walking through Anne’s house and observing actual, original entries from her diary transformed what had always been a objectively vicarious experience into a personal one. At the end of the tour, guests can write in the guestbook, where many people write encouraging notes thanking Anne for her legacy.
8. Dutch Desserts
You’ve probably heard of Dutch baby pancakes, but how about Dutch poffertjes? The traditional Dutch dessert resembles mini fluffy pancakes with a light, spongy texture. We decided to try this tasty treat at Sara’s Pancake House. I got my poffertjes with chocolate syrup and whipped cream and Olivia had hers with warm cherries and whipped cream. Another delicious dessert we stumbled upon was a Dutch-inspired apple pie at Winkel 43. I wasn’t a huge fan of apple pie going in but, there was no denying the perfect crunchiness of the crust and sweet/tart of the apple and cinnamon concoction. I was sold with my first bite.
Though the infamous Red Light District does give Amsterdam its nightlife notoriety, there is still plenty of other thriving clubs and bars to check out. We ended up visiting a local jazz bar called Bourbon Street and stayed to watch a live band performance by The Hats. The music was great, the drinks reasonably priced, and the overall atmosphere fantastic. Definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of live jazz music. Another plus is that it’s located near Leidseplein which features a fair number of other nice bars and clubs to pass through before Bourbon Street opens at 10pm.
10. English is the city’s 2nd official language
Though Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks fluent English. This was extremely helpful when we would get lost, which would happen occasionally. We tried to ask the least preoccupied passerby, “Do you speak English?” and when we did, we received “a little” in response. Only to find out almost every Dutch person we met was incredibly modest and fluent in English.
So, thank you Amsterdam for being a wonderful host country to us Americans during our short stay. Stay awesome and hopefully I’ll be back soon to visit someday.
Have you been to Amsterdam? If so, can you relate to any of these things? If not, are you planning to? Let me know below, I’d love to read your stories/comments!