Brimming with amazing culture, incredible nightlife, picturesque canals, rich history, and an incredibly vibrant cultural scene, there’s a reason why Amsterdam is often referred to as the Venice of the North. There is an aura of pure magic that exudes from this city!
While the ‘illicit-made-legit’ is a theme that shapes some tourists’ experience of the Dutch city, Amsterdam is equally popular with culture lovers and families. I had a well-rounded experience there, and here are some top things to do if you have a weekend to explore Amsterdam:
Take a canal tour: Amsterdam is home to 165 historic canals with a combined length of over 100 kilometres. This 400-year-old canal network connects every part of Amsterdam with the help of more than 1,700 bridges; it’s one of the best ways to experience the historical marvel of Amsterdam.
Eat herring without traumatizing yourself: Raw herring may sound a little scary, but everyone who visits Amsterdam should try this Dutch speciality that you’ll spot all over the city. Ask for a “broodje haring” to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions – that might make it more palatable! (laughs).
Indulge in the Heineken Experience: There’s no doubt you’ll have a Heineken or two when visiting Amsterdam, but to get the whole Heineken Experience, you’ll need to visit the old Heineken brewery. Here you’ll learn about the production – from the brewing to the bottling, and finally enjoy a beer on the rooftop terrace!
Visit the royal palace: The Amsterdam Royal Palace situated on Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam was constructed back in 1648. The interiors offer marble work that exudes royalty. Definitely worth a visit!
Go on a cheese tasting tour: The Dutch are known for their excellent cheeses. One of the finest establishments to try traditional Dutch cheese is at Henri Willig. They’ve been making fantastic cheese there since 1974.
Explore De Wallen: De Wallen is Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District, and although the area isn’t a good place to take your kids, it’s a perfect place for people watching. Take a quick tour of the area after dark to drink in Amsterdam’s signature liberality. Although De Wallen really comes alive at night, you could also visit during the day for a mellower experience.
Go local in the Jordaan district: This quaint neighbourhood, which once housed Amsterdam’s slums, is now a thriving area with winding alleyways, gorgeous canals, 17th century architecture, boutiques and special shops that will give you a taste of the real. I’d recommend outside seating; Jordaan’s light foot traffic and an assortment of bikers are intriguing to watch during breakfast or over a cup of coffee.
Shop till you drop at the Albert Cuypmarkt: As the busiest market in Holland and the biggest of its kind in Europe, the Albert Cuypmarkt offers everything from food, clothing, gadgets, bikes, and traditional ethnic goods. It’s perfect for souvenirs, too!
Discover Dutch craft, windmills at the ZaanseSchans: To get an accurate impression of life in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries, visit the ZaanseSchans. Just a short trip from Amsterdam, this well-preserved town feels like an open-air museum full of traditional Dutch handicrafts and culture.
Join a bar crawl: Amsterdam is a party destination, and every visitor should definitely experience the party atmosphere. A bar crawl is the perfect way to soak up the Dutch capital’s nightlife with a ready-made gang of drinking buddies and friendly, local crawl guides.
Marvel at the old masters at the prestigious Rijksmuseum: The top art museum in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum offers a stunning array of artwork. The collection mainly comprises paintings and historical objects; there’s so much to see here that you’ll definitely want to stay awhile.
Discover a secret speakeasy bar: If you’re someone who thrives in an atmosphere of exclusivity, book yourself a table at one of the many speakeasy bars in Amsterdam. Hidden behind an unassuming door and welcoming patrons by prior appointment only, speakeasies are the perfect place for the sophisticated visitor.
Savoura delicious Dutch meal at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants: Amsterdam may not be known for high-end dining, but it happens to have a wide range of quality restaurants to choose from. Vinkeles, in the heart of the famous De Negen Straatjes shopping area, offers French cuisine with a touch of Dutch ingenuity – a gastronomic gem and is one of the city’s best restaurants.
I wasn’t in Amsterdam long enough to visit the countryside or go on long drives, but the winding streets and canal banks still offered a kaleidoscope of colours by day. Together with the scarlet glow of an Amsterdam night, the trip proved to be quite an experience!
- Vishal Fernandes