Visited: March 2012
Amsterdam is a city of bridges, bikes, and canals. There is an enormous amount to see from the gabled houses, coffee shops, and flowers along the water. You’ll love every minute of it.
Where We Stayed
Hotel NH City Centre Amsterdam
This hotel is absolutely wonderful.
The staff is incredibly friendly.They took the time to ask us if this was our first visit and to show us some sites on the map and some great places to eat.
The rooms were fantastic as well. Hardwood floors. HUGE room and bathroom. A lot of hotels in older buildings tend to have small rooms. This was NOT the case. We moved all around the room and had what looked like a full living room set along with our bed. Bed and pillows were that perfectly firm-cool-soft. And of course, the room was very clean. No smells, or mold, or stains.
How We Moved Around:
There are Metro Trains and Trams that take you around the city; but we traveled mostly by foot. We used GPS staying mostly in the city center. Because it is very easy to get lost along the canals and side streets, bring a map or make sure you have a good SIM card.
What We Saw:
de Oude Kerk
Amsterdam’s oldest building in the city. This church is steeped in history and has stood in Amsterdam for over 800 years. The interior is gorgeous with an understated beauty.
Make sure you check out the misericordes. In the Middle Ages, monks sang for hours- standing. It became common for monks to build folding wooden seats into their church choirs. These seats would then be folded down so monks could lean on them and still look like they were standing up. People called these seats “misericordes,” (MEE-ser-i-CORDS) (meaning pity).
The carvings on the seats are inexplicable today, phrases only known to the Dutch or lost since Medieval times. There were plenty more to see, but these were my favorites.
Today, the church acts as a cultural center that hosts exhibits and concerts. There’s a cafe hidden inside. You can catch a tour up to the bell tower where they are still using the bells today. And, around back in the courtyard, make sure you see Belle, a statue dedicated to the work of prostitutes.
Entrance Fee: €10 Adults/ student €7,5 / Children under 13 years and iamsterdam city card Free
Dam Square and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
A gorgeous open piazza for people to hang out and talk. This is a nice, central location with access to many fun highlights. Depending on when you visit, you can see a carnival, protests, or street performers.
The Royal Palace, pictured above, is a beautiful building we walked by maybe five times as we went through the square before we realized its importance. The Royal Palace is one of three palaces of the Netherlands monarch. It is open to the public but we weren’t interesting in a walk through with our limited time.
Tickets: Adults: 10 euros/ Children: Free
We have seen Madame Tassud’s in many places: London, San Francisco, Hollywood, Austria…and had never gone. We decided on a rainy day that it was worth a visit. If you’ve never been, Madame Tussaud’s House of Wax creates beautiful replicas of popular and influential people in politics and entertainment. So what’s the main thing to do here? Taking pictures of yourself with the wax sculptors of course!
Ann Frank’s House
Possibly everyone is familiar with Anne Frank and the timeless observations she gave us of her experiences while in hiding. You can visit the home where the Otto family, the van Pels family, and Mr. Pfeffer hid in that has now become a museum dedicated after Anne’s now famous diary. We walked by the museum and paid our respects, but did not go inside. It was very crowded and I like to take my time in museums. I suggest if you want to go, you book your online ticket and go EARLY. Entrance to the museum can only be purchased online for your time slot. If you forgot to buy them, or if online tickets are sold out while you are visiting; you can come by after 3:30 and try buying your tickets at the museum.
Tickets: Adults: 9 euros/ Children 10-17: 4.50 euros, Children 9 and under: free
Accessibility Note: Anne’s House is part of old Amsterdam and is partially accessible. The Secret Annex room, is not accessible to wheelchair users, but the new building with the exhibitions however are accessible. There are steep stairs which some people may have difficulty walking. There are audio tours available, but guide dogs are not allowed.
Amsterdam Cheese Museum
Who can resist? It’s located across the canal from the Anne Frank House. Explore the museum about Holland famous cheese! If anything it’s a fun check in point to confuse your friends and family following your trip.
Tickets: 1 Euro
See the Canals by Boat
Central Amsterdam revolves around the city’s 17th-century canal belts – engineering that is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The waterways are beautiful no matter when you visit. We came in March when it was raining everyday, but it didn’t take away from the site of the canals and historical buildings at all.
We normally don’t like to do the tourist “trap” kind of excursions but there are so many companies that offer boat tours of the canals, that it seemed like a must do. It was pouring rain that day so we thought it was our best choice: see the city in a warm and comfortable ride or get soaked walking around trying to see anything we could. Our tour was with an English speaking guide, but they had other boats that offered the same tour in other languages that tell you all about the canals and Amsterdam’s history.
The tour was wonderful. We learned all about how the canals and the city that was built around them. The special details of the historical homes, the floating homes that line the canals, as well as a very interesting trade history.
During the late spring and summer, you can rent out pedal boats and tour the canals as a couple. Or, for a memorable date night, have dinner by candlelight on the canals by booking a table on one of the many floating restaurants that cruise through the city every night.
I really cannot recommend the canal cruise enough.
The Red Light District
One of the first things, besides coffee shops maybe, that tourists think of when thinking of Amsterdam, is the Red Light District. We accidentally booked our hotel in this part of the city so we got to walk by the businesses as we came and went.
We didn’t partake in any of the services, but the neighborhood really has a lovely appeal whether or not you approve of the sex industry. The Red Light District is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. It has charming buildings and tree-line canals. We sat every night watching the sunset and the street lights come on. There are pubs, restaurants, and shops for every taste. Before visiting Amsterdam, I imagined the Red Light District to be a little seedy or scummy, with bachelor parties and men lurking on the street. Surprisingly, there were many locals, of all ages, hanging out; making the atmosphere welcoming. Don’t judge. Travel to learn and broaden your horizons.
Tip: There are over 200 windows in the Red Light District where potential customers can “window shop.” The ladies will sit in windows scantily clad, or videos of women will play to drum up business. Don’t take photo’s of them as it might get you in trouble. Be respectable.
Science Center NEMO
Hurrah our only day of sunshine!
Hubby and I are not just about history, we are also all about science! The NEMO Science Center is the fifth most visited museum in the Netherlands. It is centered towards kids and families, but as a young couple we had fun too. There are five floors filled with exhibits and hands-on experiences.
We really liked the exhibits about cosmic radiation and its origins. The Machine ball factory where guests can use coding to send orders and balls flying all over the place – really fun! Playing with mirror illusions and of course bubbles had is feeling like kids!
Tickets: 13,50 Euros per person
The Narrowest House
Amsterdam is known for it’s beautiful architecture along it’s canals. Well make sure you take a walk to Singel 7 for a photo with the building that is barely wider than it’s own door. This is narrowest house in the city and a fun photo opportunity.
If you feel like going inside, they have a tea room on the second floor. Which is now, of course, the smallest tearoom in Amsterdam!
The Bible Museum
This was sort of a last minute choice, but considering Amsterdam’s wonderful preservation of all things Middle Ages and beyond we thought we might be lucky to see some beautiful old bibles.
We were very surprised that the museum had a little bit of everything tucked away in a home. There were bibles, as well as religious icons from Judaism and Islam. There were mummies, artwork, and a beautiful garden.
The house itself is on display as well with history of the architecture and a grand staircase.
Overall it was a bit pricey for us, however the museum was practically all ours that day so that bit of quiet from the crowds was worth it.
Accessibility Note: There is limited access to the building for wheelchair users. Not all of the rooms are accessible by lift. Call the museum before so they can help assist through the museum.
Tickets: 8 euros per person
Where We Ate:
How I wish I had a Maoz near me! This chain only has a few shops around the world and three are in Amsterdam! Maoz serves vegetarian-delicious fast food: falafels and fries that were amazing. You order your falafel and then you can head right over to the bar to add any toppings you want.
If you are on a budget, I suggest Maoz. I think our whole meal was $10 between the two of us.
Sea Palace Restaurant
Enjoy a beer after going to NEMOS in the floating Sea Palace.
The Sea Palace is a bit pricey, so I’d avoid if you are on a budget. Or do as we did, have a pint and some appetizers while enjoying the sunset along the water, then walk to your dinner destination.
We enjoyed Amsterdam very much even though it was just a short stay. And we did managed to cover many places.
Amsterdam is a lovely city and we’ll be back in the future as there are still many other places to still see. I’m sure next time we’ll explore more of the countryside to see some amazing tulip farms.
View all the places we visited in Amsterdam