Jun 10th, 2017
I had the privilege of living in Amsterdam for a few months last year. The city is, in a word, spectacular. Though many might think of Amsterdam exclusively as a party town, home to coffee shops (marijuana dispensaries) and the Red Light District, Amsterdam is far more than these aspects and a city that everyone should visit should they be given the chance.
Amsterdam was granted city rights and founded sometime around the year 1300. The city would grow and thrive due to a robust trade economy and a people known for their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. By the 17th century Amsterdam had become the wealthiest city in the western world; rightfully so, this period is now known as the Golden Age of Amsterdam.
The city, more or less, is best thought of in semi-circular rings, organized by the many canals that it's known for. Amsterdam Grand Central Station is at the top of those semi-circles. Walking south from the Central Station will take you past such sights at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the Red Light District (should you choose to explore that part of town), national monuments, and the Amsterdam Dungeon. Eventually you'll find yourself near the Leidseplein, Vondel Park, and the Rijksmuseum.
Amsterdam is best explored by bike, allowing you to take in the stunning canal houses, beautiful "pleins" or squares, flowers, and picturesque waterways. It's even rumored that there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people with the bike paths looking more like major freeways in the US than bike paths. Below are some of our favorite spots in the city.
Wilde Zwinjen: Trendy, rustic and full on Dutch cooking. Perfect for a date night - but definitely get reservations!
Restaurant Blauw: Rice Table (Rijsttafel) is a classic Indonesian meal that's all over Holland. A couple dozen dishes ranging from cold to warm, sweet to spicy, soft to crunchy are served at the same, allowing you to mix and match with all the flavors balancing. No better place in Amsterdam for this than Restaurant Blauw.
Toko Kok Kita: This is one of my favorite places in all of Amsterdam. It's essentially take away Rice Table. It's fantastic and much cheaper than Restaurant Blauw. Perfect for a night of binging Netflix or if you've had a day of sightseeing and just want to eat in.
Geflipt: Geflipt is a burger joint (this city loves their burgers) tucked away in the De Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam. Great beer list and really solid burgers.
Roost Koffie: Few places in Europe still make hand rolled croissants. Roost is one of those places. It's a bit of hike to get there but well worth the effort and you get to see a more residential part of Amsterdam.
La Perla: One of my favorite places in Amsterdam. La Perla is a cozy pizza joint tucked away in the Jordaan, a historically Jewish neighborhood turned yuppie. They've got fantastic pizzas but the real reason you go is because they serve Westvleteren 12, a beer routinely ranked the best beer in the world only available in a handful of places in Belgium and Holland.
Restaurant As: Making it as one of Bon Appetit's best restaurants in Amsterdam, Restaurant As is a fantastic date spot. Prepare to be stretched a little bit by the food if you're not as normally a gastronomic trail blazer.
Cafe Chris: Dating back to 1624, Café Chris is one of the oldest bars in all of Amsterdam. Stop by and have a Heineken or two.
Vertigo: Vondel Park, like NYC's Central Park, has a café at one end. It's a great place to have a beer or coffee and people watch, especially on a sunny day.
Anne & Max: A classic chain of Dutch coffee shops. They're easy to spot, fairly prolific and a fantastic option for a quick coffee or treat during a day full of sight seeing.
Vondel Park: Huge park in the heart of Amsterdam. You'll find secret paths, playgrounds, open meadows, and art work. Well worth a visit.
Rijksmuseum: The primary museum in Amsterdam and hope to art from Dutch legends like Rembrandt. The Rijksmuseum is large but not nearly as intimidating as the Louvre in Paris.
Van Gogh Museum: Right across the way from Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh museum. Other than Rembrandt, Van Gogh is possibly the best known Dutch artist of all time. It's small and inviting. There's a great café attached to the museum. We recommend having breakfast there before heading to see the art.
Red Light District: One of Amsterdam's iconic places, the Red Light District is home to the city's sex workers (prostitution is legal in Holland). If you're up for it, the district is worth a walk through, even if just to see and experience something so different than anything you'd see in the US. It's super interesting to see how another country has tackled the issue with, as many report, with better success than here in the United States, with Holland reporting a decrease in sexual assault after having legalized street prostitution.
The Jordaan: Home to the Anne Frank Museum, the Jordaan was historically the Jewish neighborhood in Amsterdam. Today, the Jordaan is one of the happening neighborhoods in town with cozy side streets, great food, and gorgeous homes.
Albert Cuyp Market: Largely considered the largest and busiest day time market in all of Europe, Albert Cuyp Market dates back to the early 20th century and continues on today.
We hope you can make it to Amsterdam someday! We certainly plan on going back.
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