We have visited Amsterdam for the first time a few years ago, when we didn’t have the ‘travelling bug’ yet and our experience was one of an usual tourist. Then, all the museums were on our todo list and at the end of our trip it felt like we saw too little and knew almost nothing about the way of living/culture of the city. This spring, after we kept wanting to go back for a while, we arrived in Amsterdam with only one plan: feel the city. Even though the weather in May is not the best in Netherlands, we did almost everything on our list and our impression of Amsterdam is now more complete. Here is our favourite things from the week we stayed there that we recommend you to do it too.
1. Enjoy a view over Amsterdam from A’DAM Lookout
A’DAM Lookout is an observation deck where you can enjoy a panoramic view over the city and spend some time relaxing in the sun. There is no time limit of how much you can stay up top. Having said this, the drinks you can have at the bar or the comfy pillows on which you can relax make it worth the while. The 360 degrees views are pretty spectacular and for photograph addicts there are special spots where great pictures can be taken. Bonus: for the most courageous ones, there is a swing you can try for the feeling of flying over the city.
Tip: If you would like to have a meal with a view, one level below the rooftop there is an indoor lounge that can offer you that, prior a reservation. Keep in mind, though, that the place might be more crowded than an usual restaurant as it is also an observation spot. Because of this, a lot of people that just want to see the views and not to have lunch will be there.
2. Take a day to visit Haarlem
Haarlem is a small city at approximately 30 km from Amsterdam which we didn’t know much about at the time we decided to go there. Our friends had it in their plans for the day and because we didn’t have work to do, we decided to join them. We didn’t have high expectations about it, because it would be a good work break anyway. And what a good decision that was! You can get to Haarlem by public transport in under a half an hour, by train or by bus. Tip: if you are a group of 4, you can take an Uber like we did, as the price will be the same as with public transport, only more comfortable.
The city has the same look and feel as Amsterdam, only it is more romantic and less crowded. With good walking shoes, you can see it entirely by just exploring its streets in just an afternoon. We most enjoyed walking around the emblematic windmill of the town and having a cappuccino in the sun on a terrace in the Haarlem square. After more streets exploration walking ‘with no map’, like one of our friends would say, we stopped for beer and lunch at a local brewery located in an old church, called Jopen. We highly recommend this place as we tasted some of the best crafted beer ever.
3. Visit Keukenhof gardens and rent a bike to go see the tulip fields
When we previously visited Amsterdam, it was during July, so a visit to Keukenhof was out of discussion because it is open only until the 15th of May. This time around, we planned the trip especially for these gardens, as seeing the tulips in the country of tulips sure is a must.
Keukenhof gardens are at approximately 45km from Amsterdam and the tickets that we bought had the transportation included. Tip: Buy the tickets directly from their website as they are cheaper than the ones the other agencies are selling. In that area, the tulips can be seen either in the gardens with the tickets you bought or by going to the tulip fields to admire them in a whole sea of colour. We did both and we could not have been more pleased.
The tulip fields are not exactly near the Keukenhof gardens and it takes a while to get to them by foot. But have no fear for your legs, a bike rental place can be found right in the parking lot of Keukenhof. For 10 euros, you can have a bike for the day and they also provide you with a map that will show you exactly where the tulip fields are. We decided to go see the tulip fields first and after we will get tired enough from biking, to go in the gardens to relax. Biking through the streets of Lisse, where the colourful tulip fields are, was the bonus of the day as its houses and roads were so wonderful and quiet that we stopped several times just to admire them. The journey to the fields took approximately 3 hours and we found 3 locations worth the stop to photograph the colourful flowers. Even though we were tired, going back to the gardens was a good solution to recharge our batteries. We have never seen so many flowers in a park, planted in patterns of colours and organised in such a way that just looking at them makes you feel at ease. We had some food at one of their restaurants as we were starving from biking, did a longer walk through the park, visited their greenhouse and called it a day.
4. Try some local/street food
We made a promise to ourselves to try more of the not so popular food places wherever we go, so in Amsterdam we tried for the first time an AirBnb food experience tour. It was a great one as we would have never known about the places we went and it was great occasion to try foods we never had before. What we liked the most from where we went:
- The most tasty french fries from Dr. Pieper. The place was decorated in steampunk style and with a great story behind it. The only thing on the menu was the potato and it was cooked in such a way that the french fries were perfectly crispy and soft at the same time.
- The Albert Cuyp street food market, where we tried marinated herring, 4 way hummus with mango, avocado, cabbage or vegetables and also the most amazing bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. Because the fruits from the market looked so good, after the tour we went back and bought some fresh strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
- Tromp cheese shop where we fell in love with the local gouda cheese.
5. Have lunch at Blue Amsterdam cafe and enjoy a view over the city
Blue Amsterdam cafe is one of those places that is described as Instagrammable. Located at the top level of Kalverpassage Shopping centre, it is a great spot to have lunch and a great dessert, while looking over the city. The most praised in our group was the apple tart and my favourite, pastel de nata.
6. Rent a private boat and navigate the canals
Well, I am cheating with this point, because we never got to do this activity even though it was on our wish list. Because we didn’t know how the free time will be for the week, we didn’t make a reservation for a boat in advance. Unlucky for us, when we wanted to do it, no available boats were available in the whole city. Nevertheless, it is an activity that everyone that goes to Amsterdam should do it, especially in a group of friends. Most of the private boats to rent are for a maximum of 8 people and they are stocked with drinks and snacks making the ride a day of fun. Tip: book a boat a few days in advanced to be sure you will not miss the chance, like we did. A good company from where you can rent the boat is Mokumboot.
Some other photos from our trip:
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