If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Amsterdam for a couple of days, you are in for a treat! Amsterdam exudes charm, and even though she is a bustling and energetic city, she manages to wrap you in her warm and inviting embrace. If I ever find myself with unlimited resources, I think I will buy a little flat and roam the canal-lined streets, while eating copious amounts of stroopwafels, (we’ll talk more about those later). For now, I’ll settle for two days in the “Venice of the North”.
Anne Frank House
Anne Frank needs little introduction. She is best known for her diary chronicling her life during World War 2. Anne was born in Germany but moved to Amsterdam with her family as a young child. After the war broke out, her family was forced into hiding, until sadly, they were discovered, and sent to a concentration camp. Anne and her family (sans father) met their fate within the walls of the camp. Following her tragic death and the end of the war, her father returned to Amsterdam and discovered her diary, which he had published in 1947. Since it’s original publication, it has been printed in over sixty languages and to this day is one of the world’s most widely known books.
Today, you can visit the Anne Frank House, a museum housed within the Frank family’s hidden quarters during WW2. Since it’s opening in 1960, the Anne Frank House has offered a glimpse into their lives. The curators have done a wonderful job preserving the space, including original pieces hung by Anne in her room, enclosed safely behind glass. In the museum, you will not only see pages from her diary on display, but also other important exhibits pertaining to the Holocaust. The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam’s main attractions, and for good reason. Its significance in our culture radiates through the museum.
With 165 canals coursing through Amsterdam, there are over 100 kilometers of waterways to explore the city. A canal cruise is a unique and relaxing way to see the endless bridges, houseboats and famously crooked Dutch architecture… and you’ll learn some history, too! Cruises typically take about an hour and are well worth the money.
Red Light District
I know what you’re probably thinking, but it’s seriously fascinating. Lining the canals are trendy bars and restaurants, interspersed with live sex shows and museums dedicated to the deed. While wandering around the area, stop and get an order of French fries (what did you think I was going to suggest?!). They come with a variety of dipping sauces, and although I am not a fan of mayonnaise, it’s a must for these fries!
Explore the Jordaan Neighborhood
The neighborhood of Jordaan was created for the working class citizens of Amsterdam during the early 17th century. Today, it is one of the most visited parts of the city. The peaceful, narrow streets, canals, and art studios make it the perfect spot to explore. If you’re in the area on the weekends, check out their various markets selling food and other goodies.
Wander Through Vondel Park
Amsterdam’s Vondel Park has over 47 hectares of tree covered land to explore. It’s a great spot to stop and enjoy a snack and people watch. Each year, the park sees over 10 million visitors! While there, check out the open-air amphitheater and the various statues housed throughout the grounds.
Bike to the Flower Market on the Singel Canal
Start your morning nice and early, before the crowds of people spill onto the streets (biking is less intense when there are fewer people to dodge). The flower market along the Singel Canal is the only floating flower market in the world! It’s full of beautiful smelling, lush-colored flowers, and other Dutch novelties. Along the market strip you will find many restaurants where you can grab breakfast before heading out for a half-day trip.
Half-day Trip to Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken
Although I typically don’t recommend the touristy-style day trips, I think this is a great one. You start out at Zaanse Schans. It may not sound familiar, but it looks familiar. You know those big, wooden, famously Dutch windmills? That’s the spot to see them! The little town just outside of Amsterdam is home to colorful windmills, charming cottages and a variety of shops. While wandering around the area, make sure you take your picture with the wall of wooden shoes and order a stroopwafel!
Let’s take a quick moment to talk about stroopwafels. OMG. STROOPWAFELS. A stroopwafel consists of warm melted caramel sandwiched between freshly made, paper-thin waffles. They take the waffles, place them on a piping hot griddle, and pour delicious, creamy, gooey, caramel sauce in between the two pieces, close the lid to grill the cookie, and out comes an INSANE masterpiece.
Ok, thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
From Zaanse Schans, head to the town of Volendam, a fisherman’s village known for their fish and their delicious cheese! There are plenty of spots to pick-up a souvenir or grab a drink, but be sure to check out a cheese shop. They will often offer a presentation of the cheese making process and let you taste samples. That’s some GOOD cheese!
From Volendam, you can take a ferry to the little village of Marken. Marken is known for its wooden houses and wooden shoes. Here you can tour a clog making factory where they do live demonstrations and also sell the famous wooden shoes. To save room in our luggage, we opted for the less traditional, and much softer, slipper clog!
With all of these places being about an hour or less from Amsterdam, it makes them an easy and well-worth-it day trip.
There are endless things to do in Amsterdam, no matter your preferences!
Have you been to Amsterdam? Did it exceed your expectations? What other parts of the Netherlands have you visited?