5 to Survive: Amsterdam

Every year my sister and I take an international trip together. This helps us bond and experience new cultures simultaneously. Last year we visited the United Arab Emirates and this year we explored 5 countries in Western Europe (Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, and Denmark) over the course of 10 days.

I had no expectations for any of the destinations, however at the end of our trip, my sister and I both agreed that Amsterdam was our favorite city. The people were extremely friendly and even though we encountered some rainy weather, that did not hinder us from getting out and exploring the city. I’ve compiled my top 5 tips for the city in hopes that it will urge you to visit.

  1. Lodging is pricey. Finding affordable accommodations in Amsterdam was difficult. I was shocked during my search to discover that the average hotel price in Amsterdam was more expensive than in Paris. I browsed VRBO, Air BnB, and Booking.com in search of a room for under $150/night to no avail. It could have been due to the time of the year I visited the city, however, my friends who have visited had similar experiences. I was finally able to find a hotel that came out to $203/night, which was fair when split between my sister and I. However, if you will be visiting the city solo I recommend considering hostels as an option. The city offers an abundance of hostels that are both affordable and in central locations.
  2. Amsterdam is an extremely walk-able (and bike-able) city. When visiting most major cities I have relied on Uber, taxis, or public transportation to get around. I can count on one hand the number of taxis we took while in Amsterdam. If you stay in the city center you will be close to a majority of the popular tourist sites. When walking, be aware of bikers. Amsterdam has dedicated bike lanes and it not uncommon to see more bikes than cars.

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    Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. Amsterdam has a great food scene. When discussing tasty food in Europe France, Italy, and Spain often top the list. However, I had some of the best meals in my life in Amsterdam. Notable restaurants:
    1. Ristorante Italia Oggi, Binnen Bantammerstraat 11, 1011 CH Amsterdam, Netherlands – Every single course was delicious; from the focaccia and olive tapenade appetizer to the apple tart dessert.
    2. Harlem Soul Food, Haarlemmerstraat 77, 1013 EL Amsterdam, Netherlands – If you have the chance to visit this restaurant try the nachos. They are life changing! Seriously, they were so good my sister and I went to the restaurant two days in a row. The inside of the cafe is small, however there is outdoor seating and the staff is extremely helpful

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      Nachos at Harlem Soul Food
    3. Pancakes Amsterdam, Berenstraat 38, 1016 GH Amsterdam, Netherlands – This is a breakfast restaurant that serves tasty, affordable food. I ordered a Dutch pancake, similar to a crepe, and was pleasantly surprised by how filling it was. American pancakes and traditional Dutch poffertjes are also available. Be advised that the restaurant only accepts cards for payment.
  4. Don’t bother learning Dutch. How do you pronounce eekhoorntjesbrood? If you can’t figure it out, don’t be discouraged. I am usually an advocate for learning some words in another language when traveling internationally. However, I could not grasp Dutch. Fortunately everyone I met spoke English. Signage is in English as well, so getting around is easy. The one Dutch word I did learn, proost (cheers) proved handy on our trip to the Heineken Experience.
  5. If you book no other activities, book the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting and Heineken Experience
    1. While doing research for my trip I came across “The Reypenaer Cheese and Wine Tasting“. It was one of the top rated activities on TripAdvisor and under $30/per person so I booked it without really expecting too much. This tasting was the highlight of my sister and I’s trip. Our teacher was extremely knowledgeable and humorous. The cheese and wine portions were generous and the gift shop has the cheeses you try during the class available for purchase along with a cool cheese guillotine.
    2. Heineken is undoubtedly one of Amsterdam’s most famous beers. A trip to the city would not be complete without completing the Heineken Experience. Calling the factory a museum would be doing it a disservice. It is truly an experience. From the moment you enter until the moment you leave there are tons of interactive elements. You must be 21+ to enter, as you’re given several free beers. If you’re looking for something quick and fun to do while visiting the city, definitely buy tickets.
  • *Bonus Tip* Cafes in Amsterdam serve more than just coffee. Amsterdam is well known for its “green” friendly environment. Those looking to indulge in marijuana can stop by a plethora of cafes to partake. Although these shops are legal, be aware of the fact that smoking outside of the shops is prohibited.

Altogether Amsterdam is a great city. There’s not too many cities outside of the USA I’d consider living in, but it is now on my list. Before leaving for my trip many people who hadn’t visited the city remarked on The Red Light District and marijuana. However, there is a lot more to Amsterdam than that. The city is bursting with museums, restaurants, and amazing architecture. I can’t wait to return!

If you have any further questions or need help planning your trip to Amsterdam, email me here. If you’ve gotten the chance to visit this beautiful city share your tips below in the comment section.

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