‚Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.“
So of course a free spirit like me had to visit Amsterdam, especially as I lived in the Netherlands for almost 2 years (hello Groningen!), but never made it to the beautiful capitol. That’s why on the second day of Christmas 2018 I was sitting in a bus to Amsterdam…
The city that has more bikes than its 821.752 residents, that breathes through 165 canals, that moves through 2500 houseboats and blooms through millions of tulips. A city that is filled with people, who love to be free and unique.
How to get to Amsterdam
Depending on your destination you can get to Amsterdam by plane, bus or car. Amsterdam has one of Europe’s biggest airports, the Schiopol International Airport, which is 18km / 11miles away from the city.
You can of course also travel by train but the bus is way cheaper. I took a Flixbus from Germany to Amsterdam for 16,00 € only. If you’re coming with your own or a rented car you have to take the E22 when traveling from Belgium or the E40 when traveling from Germany.
The real heart of the city: the Central Station
The central station is open to the public since 1889. A little bit more than 100 years later 250,000 people are going through that station every day. It really is the heart of the city, not just geographically. Amsterdam Centraal in Dutch or short CS (for “central station”) has not just trains and busses arriving and departing but also ferries and boats. Its architecture is worth a visit, I promise you.
You can store your luggage at the central station or at some of the luggage storages near the CS. I stored my luggage at Drop & Go Luggage Storage in the Prins Hendrikkade 86 (1 minute walk away from the CS) and paid 7,00 € for a day.
Anne Frank House – visit her hiding place
As my first „sight seeing“ spot I chose the Anne Frank House – the place where Anne and her family lived and later hid from the Nazis. Hers is one of the world’s most famous diaries and instead of just reading it, it’s a totally different feeling walking through history. The visit is tough and very emotional, at least it was for me (as a German).
Important to know is that you can only purchase the tickets online. You’ve to decide for a time frame of 15 minutes. Don’t be late. The prize for an adult ticket is 10,00 €.
A nice budget place to stay while being in Amsterdam
I booked a room for 4 nights at Pension Homeland, an „out of the ordinary vintage hotel, restaurant, cafe and brewery in the heart of Amsterdam“. It’s located near the NEMO museum, 20 minutes walk away from the central station. A single room costs 63,00 € per night. I really liked my stay and I can only recommend it.
Take a Canal Boat Ride through the „Venice of the North“
Of all the things you have to do in Amsterdam you HAVE TO do a canal boat ride through some of the 100km of „grachten“, 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The canal ring area of the 17th century including the three main canals Prinsengracht, Keuzersgracht and Herengracht, as well as the Jordaan were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
I booked a ticket at Stromma and did an 1 hour canal boat ride at night, while the Light Festival was taking place. It was a beautiful mix of seeing artwork, culture and beautiful Amsterdam at night and a perfect way to end my first day in this magnificent city. The prize for an adult ticket is 22,50 €.
Renting a „fiets“ – how many bikes are there?
When you want to visit a lot of places in Amsterdam the best way to get from A to B is renting a “fiets” (a bike). Riding through Amsterdam with a bike is like breathing and you simply just have to join the fun. If you combine the kilometers / miles of all Amsterdammers, they bicycle 2 mio km / 1,2 miles every day. There are more than 890,000 bikes in the city – even more than people! I rented a bike at Star Bikes Rental and paid 25,00 € for 3 days (including insurance).
So, I started my second day in Amsterdam with a beautiful early morning bike ride, watching a sunrise at the canals. Don’t miss out on this:
Van Gogh Museum – watching the Sunflowers
My first sight seeing spot that day was the Van Gogh Museum, something I really looked forward to. Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 in the Netherlands and passed away only 37 years later. It wasn’t until the age of 27 that he discovered his talent for painting. In his last 10 years of his life he painted more than 1,000 pieces of art. My favorite is the one with the Sunflowers and standing infront of the original painting gave me goosebumps.
The museum is definitely worth a visit and gives you a wonderful insight into Vincent van Gogh’s life. The prize for an adult ticket is 19,00 €.
The Royal Palace – and the story of Atlas
Right in the city center at the Dam Square you find the Royal Palace, which is one of the residencies of King Willem-Alexander. He uses it for official events such as the Remembrance Day. It’s open to visitors most of the times.
My favorite part of the visit was Atlas, who as a punishment of the gods has to carry the sky upon his shoulders forever. If Atlas ever drops the sky, Amsterdam might fall, too – so says the legend. The prize for an adult ticket is 10,00 €.
Madame Tussaud – who’s your favorite celebrity?
Right on the Dam Square as well was my next sight seeing spot. Madame Tussaud was born in Straßbourgh, France in 1761. She dedicated her life to modelling wax puppets. In the age of 80 she did her last self portrait, which you can visit today in Madame Tussaud Amsterdam – besides many other celebrities as Madonna, Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, Charlie Chaplin, Pierce Brosnan, ET and many Marvel superheroes.
Make sure to take lots of selfies! The prize for an adult ticket is 20,00 €.
Cinderella Ballet – once upon a time…
When you’re in Amsterdam make sure to ckeck out the events that are taking place during your visit. In my case it was the Cinderella ballet at the National House of Opera and Ballet. I’ve never been to the ballet before, so I didn’t know if I would like it. Let’s just say I LOVED IT! I paid 27,00 € for the ticket (first row on the balcony).
Adam Lookout Tower – swing over the edge
In case you`re a fan of views like me you need to get on the Adam Lookout Tower to get a panoramic view of Amsterdam. The Adam Lookout Tower is located in the North of Amsterdam, where you can get via ferry from the central station (for free).
The best part of Adam is not the view though, but Europe’s highest swing, where you can swing 100 meters above the ground over the edge of the tower. I did it and I can promise you it sets free a lot of adrenaline – plus you’ll never forget the view of only Amsterdam at your feet!
The prize for an adult ticket for the Adam Lookout Tower is 13,50 € and 5,00 € for the swing. If you want to keep the photos and the video they take of you, you have to pay another 22,50 € (which I think is way too expensive!).
Rijksmuseum – bring some time
At the Dutch National Museum you can take a look at a lot of art and history. The museum is located in the South of Amsterdam very close to the Van Gogh Museum, It was founded in 1800 (in a different city: Hague) and moved to Amsterdam 8 years later. Considering a visit here you need to bring a lot of time and interest as the museum has 8,000 objects from the years 1200-2000 including pieces of Rembrandt and Vermeer.
If you visit Amsterdam in winter (like me) you can ice skate outside. The prize for an adult ticket is 18,50 €.
The Stedelijk Museum – and what is that?
If you’re a fan of modern art or just very curious (like me) you should consider a visit at the museum of modern art. Stedelijk means municipal. It’s definitely fun to visit, even though you might walk out of there with more questions than walking in. The prize for an adult ticket is 17,50 €.
The Begijnhof – a home for independant nuns
I love secret spots. If you do, too you have to make a little bit of time for visiting the Begijnhof. It was built somehwere in the 14th century giving a home to the Begijnen, independant nuns. When they were forced to give up their church they built a new more hidden church, which you can still visit today. The last Begijne died in 1971, but you can still visit the Begijnhof.
My personal reason for visiting Amsterdam was to see the Bloemenmarkt – the world’s only floating flower market. It was founded in 1862 and since then it’s floating on the Singel canal, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can buy flowers and flowers and flowers – and some nice souvenirs.
A day trip to Zandvoort
Depending on how many days you’re spending in Amsterdam you might consider getting out of Amsterdam for a day. Why? To spend some time at the ocean, which is only a 30 minutes train ride away: in Zandvoort. The train ticket costs only 6,50 €. I drove there early in the morning and had a beautiful sunrise walk at the beach. You can do a little bit of shopping in the cute little town and then head back to Amsterdam.
OBA the central library – a secret tip for an awesome view
Only a 5 minutes walk away from the central station is the central library of Amsterdam, which you can visit for free. No, I wasn’t reading books there. It’s a secret tip for an awesome view plus it’s a nice atmosphere for taking a short break from all the sight seeing.
Oude Kerk – the oldest building of Amsterdam
Oude Kerk means Old Church and old it is. It’s actually Amsterdam’s oldest building, which was founded in 1213. The interesting fact is that the church is located in the middle of the Red Light District.
Polaberry – buy some chocolate
The Foodhallen – where to eat in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam’s “oud west” part of the city you’ll find the Foodhallen, an indoor food market, where you can eat high-end street food and beverages in historic halls. It’s definitely a must for your visit!
Albert Cuypmarkt –where to shop in Amsterdam
The most popular market in the Netherlands is the Albert Cuypmarkt, which exists since 1905. You can buy anything from fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, flowers and plants as well as clothes, jewelry and bags. I spent about an hour at Europe’s largest day market strolling through 260 stands, eating a famous Stroopwafel and drinking a fresh orange juice.
China Town in Amsterdam
Next to the Red Light District Amsterdam has its very own China Town, where you can find Asian restaurants and shops. The most popular tourist attraction is the Zeedijk Buddhist Temple, which is the largest Chinese style Buddhist temple in Europe.
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam – how huge is that palm tree?
Another secret tip or hidden place is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world: the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam. The garden and greenhouses have more than 4,000 plant species which have been planted somewhen in the last 300 years. It’s a wonderful place to relax. I loved the greenhouse with the butterflies in it the most. The prize for an adult ticket is 9,75 €.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – the hidden pink church in the attic
I visited this place for one reason only: the pink church in the attic. It’s a canal house from the 17th century and I really enjoyed walking through the whole museum with the audio guide, but the secret is hidden in the name: ons’ lieve heer op solder = our Lord in the attic. In 1663 it was prohibited to celebrate mass, so the inhabitants built a secret church in their attic – with a favor for pink. The prize for an adult ticket is 11,50 €.
De Poezenboot – also known as the Cat Boat
So before I left Amsterdam late in the evening my last sightseeing spot was another secret tip: the only floating animal sanctuary. Stray and abondoned cats find shelter on this houseboat. The cat boat exits since 1968 and besides being a tourist attraction its purpose is to find homes for the cats. Visits are for free, but donations are appreciated.
My summary of 5 days in Amsterdam
Neitherless to say that my time in Amsterdam was filled with many new impressions, much sight seeing and tons of beautiful memories made along the way. Saying goodbye to Amsterdam was harder than expected. A piece of my heart will stay here, in the canals, the tulips, the happy people. These last 5 days were wonderful and have shown me once more that besides dogs I love traveling. This world is so big and there’s so much to see – and to share!
Amsterdam truly is the city of freedom!
“I love Amsterdam. The city is vibrant and alive. It’s fresh and so open. It’s definitely one of my favourite places.”