Amsterdam is a city like no other and it is definitely on my list of top 5 favourite cities. It is friendly and easy going, a place for families, young couples, nomads, tour groups and people from all over the world. Amsterdam has something for everyone.
Amsterdam is unique with its tall brick buildings, gorgeous canals, historic Dutch homes, grand museums, and well kept green spaces and parks. It has a relaxed quality of life with its small cozy cafes, smoke shops (coffeeshops), Vondelpark and Oosterpark, while it is also one of the cultural capitals of the world. With all the art, it’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial scene, international cultural feel, and countless world-class museums.
When my partner and I visited this famous city it was when we were living in Bristol, UK and I had a long weekend off from teaching during February. We had not known much about Amsterdam at the time, just it’s iconic main attractions such as the Rijksmuseum, the canals, the Anne Frank house, and the red light district; although we never realized just how much the city had to offer.
When we bought our airline tickets we found it was cheapest to fly out of London, UK straight to Amsterdam, Netherlands by EasyJet. It cost my partner and I around £80 total for our flights. We tend to always search google flights for the lowest cost on airfare before searching the individual airline websites. Here are the airlines we found to offer fairly good rates round trip:
When we arrived we stayed in an Air BnB, hosted by this peculiar Dutch man who was extremely welcoming. He even bought us oranges and showed us around the neighbourhood so we would be familiar with the best places to eat before riding his bike down the spotless brick road and off into the night. We stayed in the quiet neighbourhood of Javastraat which was around a 30-45 minute walk into downtown Amsterdam where we could explore the museums, the red light district and the beautiful historic city. Since we only had a few days here in Amsterdam it was nice to get out into the hustle and bustle of the city during the day, squeezing in as much as we could then returning to our quiet Air BnB flat in the evening to lay down, relax, and chat about everything we saw during the day.
We recommend staying in an Air BnB flat during your stay if you are with your family, a few friends, a partner, or just like your quiet time in the evening to unwind. Although we have also had great success staying in hostels when we travel, especially when travelling solo so you are able to meet people and have friends to explore the city with. It all depends what you are looking for during your stay. Here are our favourites and the most reliable sites that we use to travel in Amsterdam:
If you’re like most and you only have a few days to explore Amsterdam, here are a list of our top 5 things to experience as a tourist in Amsterdam. Although be warned, once you start exploring Amsterdam, you will most definitely fall in love and return to your hostel each night craving more.
1. First on the list is Body Worlds. At first when my partner was trying to describe it to me, suggesting that we go there I was confused and a bit freaked out but I gave it a chance and went anyway. I am so thankful that I went since this was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. You do not have to be interested in the human body, anatomy, or even science to enjoy this museum. Seeing these cadavers in a variety of positions with all the organs, skeleton, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels in perfect position will truly make you appreciate the human body for how intricate and incredible it really is. You can go with your family, partner, friends, or solo and have a wicked time. It is super affordable at only €15 per adult (with the online discount) or €22 without the discount and has many different floors that you can go through and explore the human body and the effect of happiness on your health.
2. Coming in second place would be Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum with collections of the arts and the history of Amsterdam. It is famous for holding Van Gogh pieces as well as the Rembrandt exhibition. Adult tickets are €17.50 per person, again quite affordable and definitely worth the money as you can easily spend an entire day in the museum. There is a nice cafe in the museum as well if you need a break from reading and taking in the endless history that the museum has to offer. The Rijksmuseum also offers group tours if you would like one to be arranged.
3. Hortus Botanicus – a botanical garden in the Plantage District of Amsterdam – would be our third choice. It is one of the major tourist attractions in the city and contains over six thousand tropical and indigenous trees and plants. There is so much thought and care put into the Hortus Botanicus, it really was a one of a kind experience. Every Sunday they offer free entry-level guided tours that starts at 2pm as well as they have themed tours on various days throughout the year including the journey of coffee and seeds tour (more information is one their website). Entry tickets are one of the most affordable we have seen in Amsterdam at €9.50 per adult and only €5 per child, student, or senior citizen (over 65).
4. When we asked a local what he recommends doing most in Amsterdam, he told us to rent bikes, so that’s what we did. I have to admit I was super skeptical as I am not the most talented at cycling but since Amsterdam was built for cyclers with their own bike lanes throughout most of the city we thought we’d give it a go. Cycling is a great way to explore the city on your own, with a partner or by taking a guided tour. It is far cheaper than taking public transport plus you get loads of exercise without even trying while on vacation (such a bonus!). Wherever you are staying in Amsterdam, within a short walk away there will be a rental shop where you can rent bikes, get fully set up for your day cycling through Amsterdam and learn the rules of the road. Cycling throughout Amsterdam helped us take in more of the city, the parks, and travel around way faster than on foot, we highly suggest renting bikes whether travelling alone or in a group. From our experience here are a few road rules that will help you stay safe while on tour:
- Always signal: When you are crossing over lanes or turning always use the proper cycling hand signals to avoid accidents by sticking your arm straight out
- Lock it up tight: When renting a bike, the clerk will always show you how to lock up your bike right so that your tires or bike can’t be removed or stolen. Bike theft is huge in Amsterdam so make sure you pay attention to the correct method and double check your lock.
- Listen and watch for other traffic: Often motorbikes will zip past you in the bike lanes, so stay tight to the right side of the bike lane and don’t be chatting with your friends side by side or you may get hit or the fellow citizens of Amsterdam will be frustrated with you.
- Do not drive distracted: Like driving a motor vehicle, do not use your phone while cycling, keep your headphones off, and watch out for other cyclers. Keep up with the pace of traffic, and do not follow the examples of Amsterdammers breaking traffic laws, which they are notorious for.
- Stay in the bike lane: These lanes are marked by bicycle symbols and thick white lines on the right side of the road.
5. In fifth place we have the Sexmuseum (if you are 18+) which is such a fun way to spend an afternoon in Amsterdam with your friends, followed by a walk through the famous Red Light District. These places are signature tourist attractions for a reason. The Sexmuseum or Venustempel (the Temple of Venus) is the world’s first sex museum. The museum seems tiny when you enter but grows in such quirky ways to become a maze for sensual love through the ages. It shows different styles of love in different eras and demonstrates how natural sex is. The entry fee is only €5 so I would highly recommend it for a laugh if you have an hour or so in the area. The Red Light District is likely exactly how you picture it, full of sex shops, museums, brothels, bars, and pubs, although because of the popularity of the street with the tourists it is not very dangerous at all. The Netherlands prides itself on it’s free and tolerant attitude towards people being who they are and for those who may be into prostitution, it gives people a way to experience their desires in a safe and regulated way. In Amsterdam, even though prostitution is not legal on the streets, it is allowed if the prostitute is behind a window and in their own room. So when walking down the famous street in Amsterdam you will see for yourself how the Red Light District got its name from the red light hanging above the windows where women are working.
This is how my partner and I spent our time in Amsterdam over a few days and we had an absolute blast! Comment below if you’ve been to Amsterdam, what your favourite part was or if you are planning to go.
Hope you have some ideas of how you too can explore Amsterdam in just a few days.