Travel in Amsterdam for the first time? Here’s 9 things I discovered on my first venture, from the bikes, the buildings, the food and the museums.
People Aren’t Exaggerating When They Say There are Bikes EVERYWHERE
No seriously, they actually are everywhere. I swear people must own at least three each? There were a lot of people riding bikes, but actually not as many as I expected. Mostly they were just all parked up on every inch of pavement that could be found. That could have been because it was mid-winter and absolutely freezing though. Who knows.
All I know is that yes, Amsterdam has a lot of bikes.
I would have liked to hire a bike out and explore the city on two wheels like I did in Barcelona. You would cover so much in a short time and there really aren’t many cars to worry about at all. I would genuinely worry about losing it in the thousands of parked bikes though…
The Buildings Are All So Different and Interesting to Look At
I mean the photos speak for themselves really. Every building has it’s own quirks, whether it’s the windows, the colour, the doors, the brickwork or the roof. Always something different from each building to the next. They’re also all so thin and tall, with various floors so that was interesting to see.
I was surprised actually, going into one, just at how spacious it felt. They look quite small from the outside when they’re all penciled together as they are, but there’s plenty of room inside. At least I know that for a few of them anyway…
Boat Tours Are Super Interesting and You See Loads
I was always planning on going on a boat tour. When there’s a city with so many canals, it’s hard not to want to get on the water and see the place from a different viewpoint. We chose Lovers Canal Cruises and I didn’t expect to get such an interesting audio guide as we travelled through the city though. And that was great.
So many random facts, bits of information that I wouldn’t have found out just by walking around. Interesting to know that the buildings lean forward slightly because a pulley system was/is often used to get heavy furniture up to the top floors through the windows. The leaning front ensured those items didn’t get dragged up the walls. Understandable when you’ve got 5 floors in a narrow house. Getting a couch up there would be a nightmare!
Those Chips With The Sauce Are Totally Worth It
As food often is. One of the best parts about travelling right? Now most people talk about the mayo here, and I hate to break it to you all but I really dislike mayo. So I didn’t try that.
Instead, I happened to stumble across a place that was Vegan (Maoz) and had a range of sauces to try. They did have mayo, but I chose the garlic sauce. What’s better than chips with garlic sauce slathered on top? More of it.
They were really tasty and I’d definitely recommend. I’m sure I’d recommend the usual ones with mayo too if I liked mayo. Chips are the perfect snack in all weather. It’s true.
And So Are The Fresh Stroopwafels
Also a no-brainer here. Stroopwafels are great. They’re even better when the caramel syrup inside is hot and sticky. Even if it does quickly slide into the bottom of the paper bag and you have to dig it out to make the most of it. I’m still kind of sad that we only actually ate one fresh stroopwafel whilst there. How did that happen? Made up for it with the packs I brought home though, don’t you worry.
You’ll Likely Walk in Circles Trying to Find Something You Passed Earlier
Now whilst all the buildings have their own little quirks, everything does look a little samey. There are bikes on every street, a canal is a canal and basically you have to try real hard to remember something that sticks out to keep your sense of direction.
I managed to find a biscuit shop one day, didn’t buy anything and figured I’d go back if I decided I wanted to. Could I find it again? Nope. Could I remember what the shop was called? Nope. Google maps was definitely a great help with direction for the majority of things though.
Saying that, the tram system is also very useful and easy to navigate. So if you don’t want to end up walking for miles then that might be a good option. I just kept walking around, seeing what else I could discover. As per.
The Red Light District In Amsterdam is Surely Something
I wouldn’t call myself a prude but damn, I felt so awkward walking round at night. It was just all a little strange, having never experienced something like that before. And it was a whole lot different to what I was imagining. I wanted to look at all the shops and buildings as I walked down, but then when a girl appeared I didn’t know where to look!
I think the worse thing was seeing a lot of leery guys in all honesty. They made me feel uncomfortable. Even saw one guy whipping his camera out trying to take a sneaky distance shot of a couple of the girls. What I assume was a local quickly noticed and had an angry few words with him.
It was just all a little strange to see as an outsider. Not bad, just strange.
The Museums Are Busy, But Interesting
Okay so the main one we did was Rijksmuseum and didn’t really see much else. I’m not counting Kattenkabinet because honestly although it was very cheap I still don’t think it was worth it. I love a good cat photo, but eh, wasn’t that exciting.
Rijksmuseum is huge and covers so many different things, you could easily spend a few hours in there. There are also dozens of other big museums and plenty of smaller random ones. There is a main museum square with a few of the big ones, but others are dotted around the city.
We discovered a cheese shop that was kind of like a museum, in that they had a small room below the shop with some information on their history. The best part was the fact you could walk round the shop and taste all the cheese on offer. The marketing trick worked, I bought some.
If you want to visit the Anne Frank house, book in advance. Way in advance.
I looked online about a week and a half before we went and it was fully booked. Granted it was for the week in between Christmas and New Year so possibly a busier one, but still… We tried looking online once there as I saw that they apparently released more tickets daily. Still no luck.
So yeah, plenty of interesting museums in Amsterdam but make sure to book ahead for a select few. The Anne Frank one was one of the main reasons I’d always wanted to go to Amsterdam, and I couldn’t do it. Bad planning from my end. Just means I have to go back, right? Hopefully next time in warmer weather.