Amsterdam is quite possibly one of my favorite places in the entire world. TBH, I didn't expect to fall so head over heels for the old brick buildings, cozy cafes and tree-lined canals. But after spending a week wandering (read: getting lost in) the pretty cobblestone alleys and chatting with locals in some of the oldest pubs in the city, I couldn't help but smile upon every turn.
Sure, Amsterdam could be characterized by its red lights and coffeeshops -- but there is so much more to learn and love about this city.
Here's a list of 10 Amazing Things You Must Do in Amsterdam:
1. SEE THE I AMSTERDAM LETTERS
An iconic landmark of the city, the I Amsterdam Letters have become a popular tourist attraction for many. Climb it, step through it, take a selfie with it -- just do it and cross it off your bucket list. You know you want to. I did!
Travel Tip: If you want to avoid the crowd outside the Rijksmuseum, head there early in the morning to beat the rush. But if you happen to miss your photo opp at this one, there's another set of letters just outside the entrance of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
2. ATTEND A CHEESE TASTING @ REYPENAER PROEFLOKAAL
I highly recommend taking this 1 hour class in the centre of Old Amsterdam -- at €15 per person, it's such a great value for the experience (and let it be known that the portions are anything but stingy). This Tasting Room located under Reypenaer's storefront houses the cutest setup to learn a little something about the history and aging process of Dutch cheese under the guidance of their knowledgable staff. You'll start with a video introduction followed by tasting 4 different cheeses (aged youngest to oldest) and end with a certificate to prove you are, in fact, somewhat of a cheese-tasting connoisseur.
The tasting includes: great quality cheeses, wine pairings (1 white, 1 red, 1 port), and a 15% off coupon to buy all the cheese your heart desires! Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
3. EXPLORE THE RIJKSMUSEUM
Housing a great collection of work by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and more, the Rijksmuseum will give you a historical sense of the Netherlands from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century. Take a guided audio tour or show yourself around -- but stay awhile, there is so much to see!
4. CRUISE THE CANALS
You simply cannot leave Amsterdam without a look at the canals. And by far the best way to take in the beauty of the city is from the water. Splurge on a romantic evening dinner cruise if you'd like, or skip the big touristy (read: expensive) cruise ships altogether and rent your own private boat for less.
Travel Tip: If you want to save a few euro on the canal tour tickets, do your research and purchase your tickets ahead of time, as many tour companies offer discounted rates online.
5. STROLL THROUGH ALBERT CUYP MARKET
6. VISIT BLOEMENMARKT (THE FLOATING FLOWER MARKET)
Although it just looks like a strip of flower stalls over the water, it's a strip of flower stalls OVER THE WATER. I mean, can you go without seeing it? Sure. But if you have the time, drop in to see the world's only floating flower market and leave with a handful of beautiful bulbs you'll only find in Amsterdam.
7. LOSE YOURSELF IN DE NEGEN STRAATJES (THE NINE STREETS)
Leisurely find your way through the maze of picturesque streets and alleys that make up one of the cutest neighborhoods in Amsterdam and you'll discover a surplus of vintage shops, designer boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and cafes to keep you busy for hours.
8. CYCLE THE CITY
Seeing that you can make it from one end of the city to the other on bicycle in a quick 20 minutes, you’ll find most locals utilize this mode of transportation to get around. Riding a bike is an essential part of getting the entire Amsterdam experience. Did you know the city has more bikes than people? Rent a bicycle or hop on a guided bicycle tour to see the city the way the locals do. But be careful of pedestrians and practice safe riding!
9. STOP AT CAFÉ HOPPE (EST. 1670)
Want to feel like a local? Order a plate of bitterballen in one of the oldest pubs in Amsterdam. I spent a couple hours here escaping the cold, chatting with locals, and even stuck around for a latte afterwards.
Undoubtably the most memorable morning ritual during my time spent in Amsterdam was strolling through Albert Cuyp Market with a stroopwafel in hand. Warm, chewy, and delightful, each one is made fresh by the sweet owner while you wait. You'll find everything from food to clothing in the market.
Travel Tip: Take some cash, as this is the only form of payment accepted by market vendors.
10. TOUR THE ANNE FRANK HUIS
Perhaps one of the most iconic museums of Amsterdam's history, the Anne Frank Huis tour is something you do not want to miss. Get there early (the struggle was real) and you'll still wait in line. But having done it, I must say that it's worth the wait. The house-turned-museum still displays some of the original documents, photos, and objects including Anne's diary itself. What a truly moving experience it was to see, hear and learn about Anne and her time spent in hiding.
Travel Tip: I found it almost impossible to find any available tickets online, so if you’re unable to do so, I suggest waiting your turn in line and buying them on the spot. You can purchase your tickets at the door for the same price!