It’s that time already, time for part 2 of my Amsterdam trip guide. It’s been over a year since our honeymoon, so It’s well past time, and I’m so excited to share all of this information with all of you. During our visit, we were lucky enough to experience the beauty of tulip season, as well as the March for Science in the museum square. Our trip was truly magical, and I have memories that I would never want to give up. As I mentioned in part 1, I originally planned to review my Amsterdam post all in one, however, I found it impossible to fit all of that action into a reasonable sized post. Instead, I decided to break it up into sections. This is part 2, and I am excited to talk about all that there is to see and do in Amsterdam proper. Part 1, covered travel and accommodations, planning and expectations. Part 3 will cover the eating, drinking, and shopping recommendations we have, and part 4 covers day trips from Amsterdam. Let’s get started!
After jet lag kicked our butts, husband and I made our way into Amsterdam proper on day two of our trip. We made a b-line through the old port city, using guided tours from a Lonely Planet Guide book and discovering some cool hole in the wall sites that I otherwise would have walked right past. On our first day we picked up the Museum Pass and wandered thoroughly through the Van Gogh Museum right before it closed. We strolled the city streets and were out way later than we intended, before accidentally hopping onto a bus and riding it to its end. When the bus driver hopped off and ushered us along with him, we had no idea where we were, and hustled for security back on to the next bus to head back to our Airbnb in Amstelveen.
There are a ton of museums throughout Amsterdam proper and the museumkaart gives you access to over 400 of them. We only hit a few of the museums included on the card because we were very quickly museumed out, but I wish we had done to more. From those covered with the pass we hit: the Rijksmuseum, the Diamond Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum.
The Rijksmuseum is MASSIVE. It holds over 8,000 masterpieces chronicling over 800 years of Dutch History, but you will want to plan ahead. If you only want to see the Rembrandt’s Night Watch, the legendary library, and the Battle of Waterloo then use the app to plan your route through the maze like museum. We spent a lot of time wandering through ancient weaponry and I was utterly bored. The thing I wanted to see the most for the entire museum was the library. I have pinned so many pictures of this beautiful solitude that I felt my heart racing as I approached. It nearly brought me to tears, my husband had no clue why I was so emotional over a room full of books, but it was a sight to behold.
The Diamond Museum is much shorter, with a variety of interactive exhibits, and it was much less crowded. I actually learned a lot about diamonds and the history at this stop, about the history, the economy, and the rise of diamonds as the standard engagement ring stone.It all felt very fitting. They also have a great shop at the end of the museum, if you have deep pockets. They had diamond and gemstone jewelry as well as watches and trinkets of all types.
The Van Gogh Museum was a huge draw for Husband and I, as he was one of the reasons we bonded early in our relationship. Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of my favorite works of art, it even inspired the color scheme for our wedding. The first time I went to his home, he had a rotating screen saver of Van Gogh paintings, which caught my eye. Something to note; the Van Gogh Museum includes much more than just his works, it includes drawings and paintings from the artists who inspired him, worked with him, and were inspired by him.
While the museumkaart covers admission to hundreds of museums, it is not going to cover entry into an equal number of smaller sights. Amsterdam is full of quirky museums as well, and some of these are quick, easy and interesting. I highly recommend the tulip history museum over by the Anne Frank House, as well as the cheese museum, and the Diamond museum. All of these were actually fascinating. I loved learning about the history of the Tulip industry in Amsterdam, and then taking the train out towards Zandvoort aan Zee and seeing the farms in full bloom. I am a little bummed we didn’t have the opportunity to go into the sex museum or the torture museum, but they were not included on the museumkaart, and our budget was pretty tight.
Museumplein is like a park, thought it’s really just a square lined by Museums and filled with art. In this space you will find one of two iconic Iamsterdam installments that tourists climb all over for selfies and insta-worthy pictures. They have a few fantastic installments here, and entertainers gather here as well. This is also where we were able to participate in the March for Science!
Aside from the numerous pleins, or squares, around the city, there are numerous parks or green spaces to keep the Dutch grounded and happy. These spaces are perfect for picnicking on the odd warm day or even just taking in some nature. Many of these parks have bike rentals for locals, with miles of trails, as well as cafes and attractions hidden within their depths. Much to my husband’s frustration, we did not make it to any parks. On the few days that we slotted the options, the weather was either awful or I wasn’t feeling well. There are three large parks in Amsterdam: Vondelpark, Rembrandtpark and Sarphatipark.
Vondelpark is by far the largest, with an open air amphitheater, multiple dining venues and a rose garden with over 70 species of roses. This is a great place for sunbathing, picnics, and people watching, and its right across from the museumplein, yes I feel even guiltier about not going knowing this information.
Rembrandt park is a bit farther away from the center of town, but it a green oasis, with playgrounds, beautiful ponds, and the oldest petting zoo in Amsterdam!
Sarphatipark is located near the Albert Cuyp market in the Pijp, so its a great place to take a break after shopping, or also for snacking on beer and cheese you picked up at the market. This small park has a beautiful, ornate fountain at the center, and enclosed playgrounds.
These three are just a taste of the parks available in Amsterdam, and don’t even touch on the numerous outdoor spaces available throughout the country or even in the suburbs of the city proper. Each park offers something special with hidden art and pop-up events and speakers making their opinions known. I highly recommend you work a visit to some of these into your visit, even if you’re just passing through.
If you’re anything like my husband and I, you will get tired of museums pretty quickly and will want to look for other forms of entertainment. There are tons of alternatives in Amsterdam, before you even have to think about day trips. From canal rides to musical performances, or even a banana show, this city has everything. If you’re looking for PG fun, a Canal ride or even a horse carriage ride through the old city is a must. They also have a drinking bicycle tour, where the guests pedal and power the cart, all from the comfort of a cart and with a pint in hand.
There are numerous places around town where you can participate in a cheese tasting, beer tasting, or even a gin tasting, really whatever kind of tasting suits your fancy, as well as numerous attraction worth checking out as well, which I will discuss more shortly. If food and beverages do not define entertainment for you, there are tons of speciality stores, or you can take visit any of the infamous coffee shops that are on nearly every corner throughout the city.
If you want to stick with the cultural aspect of traveling, the National Opera and Ballet is located right off the bus line, whether you plan ahead, or are more of a last minute traveler, you can still attend events here, though planning will save you time and money. If you decide spur of the moment to attend a showing, don’t fear! All unclaimed tickets are sold 30 minutes before curtain in number order with a maximum two tickets per person.
Aside from museums and activities, Amsterdam is host to a variety of attractions.
You can visit the Artis Royal Zoo located over by the Rembrandtplein, the Anne Frank House, where the diary was written. Definitely check out the Amsterdam Dungeon, which delves into the gory history of the Netherlands and Amsterdam proper, if you have visited the London or Paris Dungeons, you will know what to expect. There are also a number of escape rooms around the city that cater to a variety of nerdom’s and other interests, so if this is on your bucket list, it’s a great place to scratch it off. If you enjoy shopping or street food, the Cupy Market is a great thing to see and it’s just a 10 minute walk from the Rijksmuseum, as is the Flower Market in the spring, which takes up an entire street, canal side. Outside of Museums and markets there are also quite a few interesting sites around the city like the attic church and the smallest house in Amsterdam.
On the other side of the IJ waterfront from the main train station sits a fantastic visual art museum and The A’dam Toren, a 22 story tower with a revolving restaurant, outlook bar, a rooftop patio with hydraulic swings, plus much much more. $13.50 Euros Gets you to the look out and for an extra $5 you can swing on the hydraulic swing over the edge of 22 stories, which is heartstopping by the way, Downstairs has a full bar and restaurant along with a history of the building and a beautiful gallery and view. Here we had an Red Vermouth Spritz, and some croquettes. Not able to get a reservation at the restaurants Madame or Moon, the rotating restaurant, we opted to head back across the Ij on the ferry and quickly found a fantastic alternative, this great restaurant on a boat house where I got salmon with veggies and fish bowl of a Gin and Tonic and James ordered a pint with a burger. The food and service were excellent and the ambience was, well, hygge.
We didn’t make it to the zoo, or the gardens, or the parks, which is a real disappointment. We didn’t take a canal tour because it was cold and windy, which I regret, but I loved the places we did get to visit. While I like to leave time for spontaneity while I’m traveling, I do wish I had held to my guns about the things I wanted to do. Alas, I will just have to go back. Have you been to Amsterdam, or is it on your wanderlust list? What makes you want to go there, or anywhere around the world for that matter? When you travel, do you like to visit museums and gogogo, or do you like to laze about and take your time? Do you enjoy hearing about our planning process? I love hearing from you, so please comment below or email me at email@example.com!