When I first found out that we were visiting Amsterdam during our mini Euro-trip, I was not too excited, as I believed that there were only a limited number of sites that were worth visiting there. As this was one of my husband’s dream destinations, we decided to go for a five-day stay.
Amsterdam had us amazed from the moment we left the train, as the station is by the water and the way the city shimmers at night is just spectacular. The city is also futuristic and modern where everything appears new or renovated while still maintaining its authenticity.
We took the fast train from Paris to Amsterdam for three and a half hours, which proved to be the perfect choice. Even though it is the same price as a budget flight, you can save time and costs to and from city airports, as the train leaves from one city center to arrive at the other. If you have a lot of luggage, you do not have to pay for any extra weight as you would for the plane.
Amsterdam proved to be as picturesque as it is in pictures, with beautiful flowers, trees and bikes everywhere and each part of the city overlooks a canal and bridge. Benches are placed at every corner so you can sit and enjoy the view.
The city’s architecture is very unique as they have a special design for the buildings especially those around the city center, which are short, with a medieval but authentic style.
We stayed at the Citiez Hotel, which was around 10 to 15 minutes away by tram from the city center. Even though we were near the outskirts of the city, we still had beautiful views of canals, architecturally detailed bridges and gorgeous flowers.
The hotel was very modern and one of the cheapest we found. Each room is decorated to resemble a certain city, however, the rooms are small, but I believe it is all you need for a short stay. Please keep in mind that accommodation in Amsterdam is generally quite expensive, even if you consider Airbnb.
Right across the street was a huge lake and a park, which was perfect for a picnic during the day, a common activity done by locals.
Activities and Places to Visit
Shopping in Europe is quite expensive, especially after the inflation, but during the sale season, items are affordable and even cheaper than buying in Egypt. They also have a wide selection of brands. All the shops you need are at Dame Square in the city center.
Around the area is the Red Light District that many people are interested in checking out, as it is a unique experience that is outside most people’s comfort zone. This area’s lights and themes are red, and the buildings’ windows are at eye level where “ladies of the night” present themselves to passers.
A known fact about the city, certain types of drugs are legal, but despite all the legalities and drinking, it still remains a safe city with very little or even no harassment. Just make sure, especially when you are at a “coffee shop”, that you do not order something with hash in it as it is normal there, especially in baked goods.
The Parks are numerous. One park I would recommend is Vondel, which is home to fountains, lakes and beautiful mini canals. Residents go there to picnic, usually on Sundays. It also includes a running track.
Residential areas are also magical, with beautifully designed architecture and colors, where it is also common for every house to have a little garden near a park.
Even though Amsterdam is not really classified as a city famous for its museums, they have a few that are must-sees. The Van Gogh museum is incredible and has a small souvenir shop. Right outside the museum, there is the big “I (heart) Amsterdam” sign that every tourist takes a picture with. You can also visit a museum that displays all the types of tulips in the city center.
You might want to visit Anne Frank’s house, the famous young Jewish girl who was one of the holocaust victims, and who had books and plays written about her and the fact that she hid in that house for years. However, be prepared to wait in a long line.
Also, Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history, is worth a visit. The building’s exterior alone is a large enough statement that reflects the city’s incredible architecture.
Even though the food is not cheap, there is without a doubt an endless variety. I would not suggest a specific restaurant, but I would recommend just walking around the city center and choosing whatever you are in the mood for, trying something new everyday.
If there are budget concerns, cut out on drinks during meals and buy them from any local supermarket. You can also find ready-made waffles at fair prices that come in all shapes and forms and are only for a couple of Euros, great for a quick breakfast or dinner.
Cheese is everywhere! You can find cheese shops, cheese samples and cheese museums at every corner, where hundreds of shops are solely dedicated to selling all types. Prices are the same as in Egypt for imported cheese, but with a wider variety and fresher options. All shops offer free samples and the store owners can get offended if you refuse to taste. The cheese sauces are to die for, as well as the honey mustard, cranberry sauce, sweet chili and many more that are available to taste with your favorite type of cheese.
Transportation in Amsterdam is very flexible. Of course, you can use a bike to get around and enjoy the hidden parts, or you can get a city pass for the number of days you are staying. Trams are a great option to help you get anywhere within the city as there is a station every five minutes if you are walking on foot. You can also go to the airport with the city bus that runs every 20 or 30 minutes from specific stops.
To get the best out of this city, take a walking tour, which many companies offer for free, during your first morning there just to understand which areas are worth visiting as the tour guides are pretty informative and would provide you with useful local tips.
Amsterdam should be on your list of European cities to visit as it is an experience on its own.