Amsterdam: A Few of Our Favorite Things
Amsterdam ranks as one of our new favorite European cities. It’s lively and chill, trendy and welcoming, chic and casual, all in one pretty little box. If you’re from Chicago, Wicker Park is Amsterdam’s jealous younger sibling. Here are some things we loved about “the dam”.
- Getting Lost in Amsterdam’s Canals
The network of canals winding through Amsterdam are truly beautiful and a lifeline for the culture. A stroll along the canals gives you a look at what makes Amsterdam so great. The thousands of bikes locked to the quaint bridges set the stage for the city’s love of, and dependence on, bikes. Locals and tourists lounging along the canal eating, drinking, and smoking give you a heads up that everyone is here to have a good time. The wonky, leaning buildings as you look across the canal give you a glimpse into the quirk and uniqueness of the city. As you explore the many distinctive neighborhoods along the canals, you are seeing what Amsterdam is all about. So, pop a squat along the canal and watch the world (and adorable wooden boats) go by.
Fun Fact: The houses are leaning because they were originally built with wooden posts as support and skinny little bricks on the facade to allow for the houses to shift as the swampy underground shifts and rots the wood. It’s a Dr. Seuss story come to life!
- Seeing “The Dam” by Bike
Amsterdam isn’t the bicycle capital of the world for nothing. Bikes are at the top of food chain here. First, bikes and scooters rule the road and sidewalks. Second, trams. Then, people. And finally, cars. Amsterdam has one of the world’s best biking infrastructures with dedicated bike lanes and bike stoplights.
Tip: don’t play chicken with the bikes. You will lose.
To appreciate this system and the city, you have to get on a bike. There are tons of places to rent bikes, but we went for a tour and it was totally worth the money. We went with Mike’s Bikes Countryside Tour.
This tour starts with an exciting (and somewhat terrifying) ride through Amsterdam. Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like dodging about 50 other bikes, trams, people, scooters, and cars as you cross the street in hopes of keeping up with your guide. Oh, and no one in the city wears helmets (and the two women on our tour who chose to rent a helmet were mocked relentlessly by our guide). But we survived and got to experience Amsterdam through the eyes (and wheels) of a local!
Then, we headed out to the countryside to see an old school windmill, cheese farm, and wooden clog factory, where a crazy and somewhat inappropriate farmer shows you how he’s survived as one of the three remaining clog makers in the Netherlands. He’s kind of a big deal, ok? The countryside is truly beautiful (and where all the rich people live). It’s worth the 28 euro for the five hour tour, but you’ll still leave wondering who the hell is still buying clogs?!
Tip: If you book through Mike’s Bikes, get there early and head across the marina to the NEMO Science Center for a bird’s eye view of Amsterdam from their FREE and trendy rooftop café/restaurant.
- Eating and Drinking in De Pijp
We stayed just south of city center in the hip neighborhood of De Pijp. De Pijp used to be a working class neighborhood, but has since been taken over by the younger generation, which has driven up rent. That being said, it’s an amazing neighborhood.
This chill neighborhood is packed with kickass bars and international restaurants. Unlike Paris where all the cafés looked the same and we worried about finding one with legit food, the cafés of De Pijp are totally diverse and all yummy in the tummy. We enjoyed doner sandwiches, a Turkish specialty, at Donnie’s, where they love you as much as their doners. The square where you’ll find Donnie’s is lined with other great restaurants and bars so pick your poison.
Troost is also a baller brewpub in the neighborhood. They brew about 10 of their own beers, infuse their beer with rotating flavors, have a delicious gin and tonic, and top-notch burgers. I.E. Troost was our jam.
De Pijp is also home to the well-renowned Albert Cuyp Market, which is open everyday from 9am-5pm. While fun to walk around, the real winner in this market is getting a made to order stroopwaffle. Think fresh wafer with gooey carmel in the middle (and optional chocolate on top). Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Stroopwaffles for life!
Other popular markets that we enjoyed were the Bloemenmarkt (flower market along the canal) and the Lindengracht Market on Saturdays in Jordaan—check out the Dutch Cookieman for delicious cocos and croissants.
- Visiting a Coffeeshop
Much like visiting the Louvre in Paris, we’d be remiss to leave out the coffeeshops in Amsterdam. One of the (very) unique things about Amsterdam is that smoking weed is legal and can only be purchased in said coffeeshops. It’s a part of the culture that can’t be ignored. In America, we have Starbucks on every corner. In Amsterdam, they have coffeeshops on every corner (not just in the Red Light District). Even if you don’t indulge, it’s worth swinging through one to see how it all works because it’s nuts. It’s surprising because the coffeeshops have created a very well regulated and calm environment—even in the Red Light District. We envisioned Amsterdam seeming like a total free for all and it’s not. Now, the Red Light District is still a sight to see and still gets wild, but it’s not because of the coffeeshops. Blame the dollar shot deals in bars and clubs, oh and that whole prostitution thing. While you’re taking in the sights of the Red Light District, The TonTon Club is a fun spot to stop for good beer and arcade games sans any cannabis, girls, etc. Jenga, anyone?
IMPORTANT: after a day/night out in Amsterdam, make sure to hit up one of their many fry stands for delicious Dutch-style friends smothered in toppings like melted cheese, ketchup, or mayonnaise. You’re welcome.
Now, we just need to schedule our next trip back to Amsterdam for tulip season!