Some time ago I agreed with my wife that we will visit at least one European city each year. Just the two of us – no kids allowed. This time we decided to visit Amsterdam for the first time. Needless to say that it was a really great choice and today you can find out about it as I’m going to give you a full relation of this trip. Read on to know how did we spend our one week in Amsterdam.
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Let’s Go To Amsterdam
Last year I was traveling in business to China with KLM and I had a layover at Schiphol airport. Looking at the Amsterdam from above I thought that it looks great. Just after my come back I said to my wife that I’m taking her there.
Just after we planned a few days off in May 2019. Not long after I’ve booked tickets and accommodation and we were ready to start our one week in Amsterdam.
Day 1 – Arrival
We got to Amsterdam by plane. I managed to find a really cheap offer for a direct flight with Transavia (170 EUR for 2 return tickets) – Dutch low-cost airline. After arrival at the Schiphol, we picked our luggage and decided to reach our accommodation with public transport.
Public Transport and Some Hints About Trains
Let me give you some hints on how to get to the city center. Uber is the best choice if you travel with family, getting to the city center will cost you about 35 EUR. In case you travel alone or in a couple, pick the hourly ticket for the train. You can buy it on the yellow ticket machines.
Unfortunately, we decided to take a one-way ticket to the city center. The problem is that we had to change later the train to go to the Amstel station, therefore it’s better to have an hourly ticket.
When you have your ticket, don’t forget to „check-in” and later „check-out” on the readers as shown in the photo above.
The accommodation prices are quite high in the whole city. We decided to rent a spacious and climatic house via Airbnb in the Amstel district.
And here is a bonus from me – using this link to register on Airbnb, you will get around 25 EUR discount from Airbnb on your first booking.
I think it’s worth to mention something typical for Holland – they do not have curtains in their windows. Literally, you can see everything inside of each house. That was a bit strange for me but there is an explanation for that – centuries ago, when Holland was a colonial empire, sailor’s wife’s got rid of the curtains as they wanted to manifest their faithfulness to their husbands while they are away from home.
Just after arrival we decided to take a look around in the neighborhood.
The Amstel river was very close to our house. On the way, we passed a few skyscrapers. In general, this was a quiet neighborhood.
There was also a park nearby, called Park Frankendael. A little further up the road from the park, we had two supermarkets (Lidl & Vomar) and there’s a big Albert Heijn (the most popular supermarket in the Netherlands) close-by as well.
As we were hungry we stepped into the restaurant Merkelbach located in Frankendael Park. This is an old coach house turned restaurant. It’s tied to the slow food movement and has some really great Dutch ingredients. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The other restaurant which we have visited is De Kas. It’s in the same park as Merkelbach. A little bit more upscale. You need a reservation for lunch or dinner. They grow almost all of their own food and it’s been a very popular restaurant since their opening. They are vegetable-oriented from the beginning and their flavor combinations are great.
Amsterdam is not a big city – following Wikipedia it’s just 850k inhabitants, which makes it great for biking. The amount of bikes is unbelievable which is the reason for heavy biking traffic. On the other hand, the infrastructure for biking is well developed. That’s why we said that it would be a big mistake not to try to ride bikes having this one week in Amsterdam. That’s how we came to the point that we are going to rent bikes.
We used uncle Google to direct us to the nearest bike rental. It was a company called WielMaat run by, as it appeared our fellow-countryman. We paid ~80 Euro for renting two bikes for 5 days. On top of that, you have to leave 50 Euro as a deposit which will come back to you after the return of bikes. In case you are going to rent bikes at WielMaat, please say hello from Lucas to the owner 🙂
Just after a short introduction of the bike, we have learned some rules. For example that bikes have priority over pedestrians and cars (with some exceptions). Besides this following rules are worth to remember:
- Use the ring to warn pedestrians and other bikers
- Leave some space on the left to make it possible for faster bikers to take over you
- Never stop at the paths of bikes – this could cause some serious risk.
Take a look at this movie to feel how heavy is the biking traffic in Amsterdam:
Anyway, it’s really worth to rent the bike but keep in mind that the traffic can be a bit crazy though, so please be aware!
Walk Around Amsterdam Centrum
Next, we’ve got to the city center for the first time. We parked our bikes and we had a little walk around the city center.
Day 2 – Heineken Experience
On Tuesday we planned to visit Heineken Experience – the museum of Heineken brewery. We booked our tickets in advance using Heineken’s site – you can get there here. At that day I had my birthday so that a kind of present for me as Heineken and me – it matches. Unfortunately, the weather was not too good, we had some heavy rains in the morning that’s why we decided to take Uber. This is one of the best ways to travel bigger distances in Amsterdam, much more convenient than public transport (if you travel at least in the couple).
In the museum itself, you can learn about the brewery process, know a little bit about the Heineken’s history and, what’s most important, taste a fresh Heineken. Your ticket entitles you to three glasses free of charge. One you get after leaving the multimedia presentation, the other two you will taste in the pub – you will get your beer in exchange for small tokens which are attached to the wrist bracelet which you get at the entrance. You better don’t lose it 🙂
In general Heineken Experience is one of the must-see places when you have one week in Amsterdam.
O’Donnell’s Amsterdam Pub
After leaving Heineken’s Experience we felt a bit hungry, so we started to search for some nice place to sit. After a couple of minutes of walking, we decided to snack something at O’Donnell’s Pub. Pretty cool place with good beer and food.
Walk Along the Amstel River
Some hours later, we decided to come back to our house. As the weather becomes better we took a long walk along the Amstel river.
Day 3 – Van Gogh Museum
Thursday was the most intense day of our one week in Amsterdam. In the beginning, it did not appear to be the one full of the attractions because the weather in the morning forced us again to call Uber, but later the sun has shined again.
For this day we planned to visit Van Gogh’s Museum. If you go for one week in Amsterdam, this place has to be on your list. Of course, we purchased our tickets online here – I recommended this solution to save some of your precious time. We have spent there for around 3 hours. That was really interesting to learn about his life and art. In the museum, you can find hundreds of Van Gogh’s letters, around 800 paintings and sketches.
Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam
After visiting Van Gogh’s museum we felt hungry. On the way to the city center, we’ve spotted Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam. As we love to eat there, we’ve jumped in for some burgers.
Here’s a funny thing – the plan was to take some photos of these delicious burgers, but I was so hungry that I completely forgot about that… Now you know why I put so few food photos 🙂
As the weather became better we decided to take the Canal Cruise. You can buy the tickets online and use them at any starting point. Buying online you get a small discount. All the details and online tickets shop is here.
Canal Cruise is one of the best ways to know the city – especially with the good weather. After the cruise, you will more-less recognize what is where.
In general, we have learned that Amsterdam urban architecture is similar to the onion, each layer is separated by the canal circle spreading layer by layer out of the circle.
Wandering around Amsterdam Centrum
Just after jumping out of the ship we decided to wander a little bit around Amsterdam city center. After one hour we made a break having great ice cream at the small Italian restaurant.
Anyway, we had to move on – we set the Dam Square as our next destination.
The Dam Square
Dam Square is Amsterdam’s town square and one of the most well-known and important locations in the city and the country.
You will find there important buildings like:
- Neoclassical Royal Palace, which served as the city hall from 1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808.
- The 15th-century Gothic New Church
- The National Monument, a white stone pillar rise to memorialize the victims of World War II
Also on the Dam Square, you will find the 5-star Hotel Krasnapolsky. It was quite interesting for me as this hotel was founded in 1865 by my fellow-countryman Wilhelm Krasnapolsky.
Red Light District
As we were just a couple of blocks away from the Red Lights District, we said that it’s must-see place when you have one week in Amsterdam. Well, I heard about this district before but I didn’t realize that it’s in the core city center… 🙂
Well that was really funny being there.
Day 4: Rijksmuseum
For Friday we planned to go to the Rijksmuseum – Dutch National Museum. Again, the weather was bad in the morning and we took Uber. Tickets, as for all other places of interest we purchased online. If you want to do the same – here you are.
Rijksmuseum is really big. You can find their famous works from Rembrandt („Night watch”), Van Gogh („Self-portrait with grey felt hat”) and typical national arts like dutch porcelain. Having 3 hours you can only have a rough look at the exhibits. In the end, that’s what we did.
Remember what I’ve written about photos of food? Yes, usually I’m so hungry that I realize that it would be good to have the photo of the food for my readers at the end of the meal.
But anyway, I want to have a few words (no pics…) on Dutch food. From now on I know that, Dutch love french fries (with mayonnaise), cheese, bitter balls and mustard as an addon to almost everything. I’m ok with french fries with mayonnaise. Cheese is fantastic, way better than that what we have in the other parts of Europe. Bitter balls it’s not my story – simply I don’t like that… Sorry 🙂
Bloemenmarkt – Tulips Market
Tulips are one of the most things which are linked with Holland. Walking around the city center, we crossed by the biggest tulip market in Amsterdam – Bloemenmarkt. You can find there hundreds of seeds and flowers. Everything is colorful and typical dutch.
Passing by buildings in Amsterdam, you can spot that many of those are crooked. This is mainly because of wet ground and constructions made a hundred years ago starts falling apart causing buildings to slowly collapse.
Shopping in Amsterdam
Time for shopping. On each trip, there comes the time when you will hear from your lady that it’s time to check the shops in the neighborhood. You will find plenty of those in the 9 streets area. I took below picture laughing a lot. You can see 5 males waiting for their ladies while they shopping… of course I was one of them 🙂
Magna Plaza is a kind of mall in the city center. What is unique is the architecture – it looks like a palace from both outside and inside. Worth to take a short look.
This is the old part of Amsterdam and one of our favorite. Narrow streets, old architecture, unique atmosphere, and many shops with really great arts and awesome souvenirs. We were walking for hours around that place.
Day 5: Zaanse Schans
On Saturday we had to return our bikes and then we planned to see Zaanse Schans.
Do you know Don Kichot? He was a medieval knight who was fighting with windmills in Cervantes novels. He thought that windmills are giant monsters… Well, I wanted to see these „monsters” on my own eyes for a long time. Nowadays it’s really something unique to spot old windmills and in Netherlands, you can still find some of those. That’s why we decided to jump out of the city for a couple of hours.
We took a train to the Zaanse Schans, a place not far away from Amsterdam (40 minutes by train). This is a really beautiful place – just must see if you are having one week in Amsterdam. It looks like the time stops.
On the other hand, there is a giant cocoa factory, so depending on which side you are taking photos, you can show untouched village or village eaten by industry:
But let’s focus on this more sweet part of the Zaanse Schans:
Some of the windmills are still operating:
As you can see the place is really busy – full of people and as we were told, it was not even the high season when we were there…
Our tip – try ice creams in the shop/snack bar close to the mini pet zoo – as my wife says, these are delicious.
After some time of walking around we decided to eat something. As the restaurant close to windmills was fully booked we said that it’s better to come back to the Amsterdam center and eat something there. On the way to the train station we spotted small restaurant and we decided to eat there.
Slager Aan De Schans
And that was a really good decision. The restaurant’s name is Slager Aan De Schans and is located in front of the windmill on the way to the train station. It’s really great – nice service, good prices, and delicious food. We spent there more time than planned. Definitively worth to visit when you are in Zaanse Schans.
After lunch we came back to Amsterdam. We arrived to the Central Station and the plan was to buy a good Dutch cheese and a bottle of red wine. This will be our dinner.
First, we bought the cheese at Cheese & More by Henri Willig. It’s a great cheese store – you can try all the kinds and pick the one which tastes you best. Our pick was blue Baby Sheep.
It’s also a place where you can buy some quality souvenirs. So did we 🙂
That was our last day – we said good bay to the city center and came back to our house for our dinner with wine and cheese.
Day 6: It’s Time to Go Back
At 4:00 o’clock in the morning we called Uber and 0,5h later we were at the Schiphol departure hall.
Not long after we were sitting in Transavia plane heading to our home.
Is it Worth to Spend One Week in Amsterdam?
Answering the question given in the heading I can say – yes, yes, yes! It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and after our first one week in Amsterdam, we are going to come back there in the future.
Next time we are going to see the city in the night. You can ask why we didn’t do it this time? Well, we were staying in some distance from the center and it was not dark until 23:00… We were just too tired to move to the city center in the night. Maybe we were too lazy 🙂 Or better let’s say that this time we had other priorities.
If you liked our path in Amsterdam, check also our story from one week in Barcelona.
Photos and featured image: Lucas