My induction to Amsterdam included a repertoire of go-to's such as: visiting the nearest bar with the biggest sign, indulging in street food, getting high off my face and staring at a wall in a coffeeshop and taking photos of canals. These whilst being being acceptable for the time being, grew soon to be tiresome. Thus the search for; and discovery of the real magic Amsterdam has to offer.
If you're here to visit and want to avoid the typical bullshit, live here and have friends & family visiting or live here and don't know what you're doing yet, then the following activities are guaranteed to impress.
1. Visit Amsterdam Noord
Directly across the water (known as ‘the IJ’) behind Central Station, Amsterdam Noord boasts the best of contrasting worlds: vast green expanses and charming little villages plus some of the city's most cutting-edge architecture, exciting festivals, artist studios and stylish waterside hangouts with beautiful terraces. A free ferry from behind Central Station will take you there in minutes; so don’t miss the chance to explore this unique area of Amsterdam. Two personal favorites are Pllek (pictured above) which has a man-made beach, a killer bar and an open air cinema; and Cafe de Ceuvel which makes the most of an industrial shipping yard area and hosts sustainability workshops.
Above: Noord Graffiti Art
Above: Cafe De Ceuvel
Runs every 10 minutes.
2. Check Out The Coffee Scene
Above: Lot Sixty One
Amsterdam is well renown for its small but vibrant coffee roasting and drinking scene which makes stopping by a few cafe's whilst here a must do. Take the chance to kick back and savor the aroma and flavor of specialty brews whilst absorbing the trendy ambiance that most have done so well to curate. While the number of quality cafe's are growing, it’s still possible to visit most, if not all, of them during a short visit and still have time for some of the city’s other cultural and recreational treasures. Check out Seven Best Places to Drink Coffee in Amsterdam for my personal picks incl. locations and opening hours.
3. Explore De Hallen
Above: De Hallen
Nestled in Amsterdam's vibrant 19th century Oude West district sits De Hallen, a center for media, culture, fashion, food and crafts. This building was once where the first electric trams in Amsterdam were serviced has since been granted a new life. De Hallen houses a cinema, independent stores and a boutique hotel, as well as the impressive Food Hallen – a food and drink heaven where visitors can munch their way through a selection of upmarket street food from one of many vendors located around a central bar. Visit on a Saturday for the weekly local goods market sets up stall in the building’s central passage way. See Quality Food & Drink Amsterdam: De Hallen for more info about this upmarket, industrial creation.
Above: Local Goods Market
4. Chill In A Park
Above: Het Amsterdamse Bos
If you're lucky enough to win the gamble with Dutch weather, then checking out Amsterdam's numerous, beautiful parks should be on your to-do list. Het Amsterdamse Bos is number one on my list which houses a pancake house and a goat farm. If you want, you can also hire a canoe or pedal boat with which you can drift through the trees listening to the birds with the sun on your skin. This is followed closely by Vondelpark due to its vast expanse of greenery and positive energy brought to it by hoards of picnic goers, families, slack-liners and mushroom trippers. You'll also find in most of Amsterdam's parks free outdoor gym equipment which are a great tool for working off your heavy Dutch street food.
5. Hire A Boat
Above: Prinsengracht Canal
There exists here a number of budding boat hire companies such as Sloepdelen (I've used this one many times) and Mokum Boot with which you can captain your own small ship (without licence I may add). This gives you the freedom to bring your own alcohol, smoke, music and atmosphere of which is not offered by other, bigger companies. The cost works out to be quite reasonable also when splitting between friends. By 'hire a boat' please let me make it clear that I don't mean jump on one of the 100 person-or-so canal cruises by big names such as Lovers and Canal. The general atmosphere observed of them is one of grey hair and boredom. And make sure that if you're the designated captain to make yourself aware of the canal's traffic rules, to not be too smashed and to turn the music down when the police pass by.
6. Get On A Bike
Above: Outside Centraal Station
I know, I know. You've heard this one before. But so many miss out on the joy that is pinning through Amsterdam's busy streets on a fixed speed bike. The city has over 500km of bicycle lanes alongside canals, rivers, through forests, parks and among 19th century architecture. In my opinion, coming here without getting on a bike at least once is not experiencing the city. Here for a short stay? Head to a rental shop (Mikes Bikes is pretty good) where you'll find a bike for about seven euros per day. Live here? Well then I'm sure you're already well acquainted with how and where a majority of locals and expats acquire a cheap bike. Know somebody with a GVB Public Transport Chip Card? Then they'll be able to hire you a GVB bike from one of the bigger metro stations around the city for only two euros fifty per day.
7. Find Waterside Hangout Spots
Above: Hannekes Boom
Many of these spots are seriously charming and humming with the chatter of locals and clinking of cool craft beer mugs. Most waterside hangout spots in Amsterdam are also hidden a little away from the city centre too, which makes stumbling upon them all the more exciting. Check out Amsterdam’s Best Waterside Hangouts: Top 5 for details on what to expect and on how to find them. A personal favorite of mine is Hannekes Boom, a trendy, vibrant dockside bar just a skip away from Centraal Station.
Let me know in the comments below if I've missed out any important activities and I'll be sure to check them out and include them in future posts. Happy exploring.
With love - M
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