Amsterdam is considered one of the greatest planned cities in northern Europe. That’s the reason it looks extremely organised, functional and beautiful at the same time. But is it possible to make the most of it in just one day?
My first trip to the capital of The Netherlands was supposed to be longer, but I ended up spending only 24(ish) hours there. The idea was passing by Rotterdam and visiting friends in The Hague too. Never happened!
Surprisingly, I could do and see a lot of things in the Dutch capital on such a tight schedule. So, here’s a mini-guide of what I liked most about Amsterdam.
1- Walk this way!
First things first, Amsterdam is a city made for walkers (and cyclists). And its rich architecture and canals need to be explored on foot. I downloaded an app called Ulmon, that provides offline maps of several cities around the world.
It was walking that I found nice graffiti art made by the Brazilian artist Cranio and the great piece on Amy Winehouse, for example.
The app helped me to find the museums, cafes, shops and landmarks quickie. I do recommend it as a time-saver. It’s easy to walk in Amsterdam, anyway, but you can use the canals as a reference too.
And don’t forget that walking is the best way to explore the Red-Light District properly.Brothels, sex shops, peep shows, cannabis coffee shops, nice pubs and what else your imagination permits. Just leave your pre-concept at home before visiting it. ;o)
Of course, the love of Dutch people for bikes is impressive. Bicycles are everywhere. Adults, children, teens. Practically everyone has a bike there! It really surprised me to know that already in 1880’s there was an incentive to people to use them as mean of transportation.
2- Gastronomic Dutch Babel
Eating in Amsterdam is a difficult task. And it has nothing to do with the lack of restaurants, bars, and cafes. It’s the opposite. There are plenty of them. Every type of food for all sizes of pockets.
Burgerfabriek is in one of the narrow streets of Red Light District and it’s also we can find some delicious burgers. The menu is interesting for exploring a bit more of culinary around the world. Japan, Spain, Mexico and the Red-Light District, of course. Everything is represented in a burger.
And what could be a bit dangerous combination, worked well for me. I got the Surf and Turf Burger- homemade black Angus burger with a big shrimp, onion rings, grilled peppers and lime mayonnaise. Expect big portions and the experience of tapping your own beer.
Potato is a star of the Dutch cuisine and there are plenty places in Amsterdam to find the famous city`s French fries. But forget Burger King or MacDonalds. Look for French fries’ shops like Manneken Pis that is located only minutes away from the Centraal Station. Be prepared to join some queue. The place is always packed.
I gave it a go because I was curious about it. It’s a good street food but not the best fries I ever had in life.
I was also impressed with a number of Brazilian restaurants in the city. Amsterdam is a city to meat eaters as well. And the famous Brazilian churrascarias (Steakhouses) are everywhere.
After visiting the Hard Rock Café for a drink and a bit celebrities` memorabilia spotting (Why not), we ended up in a pedestrian street fulfilled of restaurants and bars, where we found Do Brasil.
It’s not a Michelin restaurant but the menu and the price were inviting. I guess having a good caipirinha, chunk streak e amazing cassava chips did the trick quite well. But the place could go with a better décor.
3- Architecture, Canals, and Museums:
I honestly think you must reserve a day (at least) to check all museums of Amsterdam. It’s just impossible to get the ticket at the door of Anne Frank’s house, for example. It’s an attraction that receives at least 1.000 visitors a day. Lesson learnt!
There are many museums and art galleries in Amsterdam. It is impressive. So, next time I will get the Amsterdam`s Culture and Leisure pass to check the Van Gogh`s museum, embrace some Rembrandt`s art and (why not?) the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum.
But it’s still possible to have a glimpse of some museums without necessary visiting them like passing by next to the Heineken Experience or the Rijksmuseum – The Museum of The Netherlands; which is itself impressive from the outside. Big windows allow you to check inside this fascinating museum. But there is an important and extensive collection of Dutch masters’ paintings that deserves to be appreciated there. Next time!
It’s also next to the famous sign I am Amsterdam. So, make the most of it! It’s selfie o’clock.
The Centraal Station is a symbol of industrial days emerging in Amsterdam. I love this building inside and outside. An impressive Neo-Renaissance building dated from 1889 that is Amsterdam’s biggest transport spot, of course. Functional, beautiful and a symbol of the exuberant architecture in the city.
But the best place to spot rich architecture in Amsterdam is walking along the canals. The variety of buildings with different windows shapes, decorative garbles and façades are charming and fascinating.
4- Bars & Cafes. Drikke!
Oh yes, finding a good bar or/and café is a fundamental part of a good travelling experience, on my opinion. You probably will spend some (many) hours in some of them, but it doesn`t mean wasting time, of course. It means embracing the local culture with no rush.
There are over 1,500 bars and cafes in Amsterdam. Blimey! Having a stroll around the city it’s enough to understand why people here like spending some quality time with them. I found some gems in Amsterdam and that was probably what stopped me sightseeing more. No regrets!
Le Patron was one of those gems. It’s located only 10 minutes far from the centrum by tram. But we just popped for one beer and ended up spending some time knowing more about Dutch beers like Jopen, that became the winner beer of the day.
I confess that visiting the Hard Rock Cafe was on my list of things to do in Amsterdam. Cheesy, I know. They are outdated, I know. But there is something about those celebrity’s memorabilia on the walls that make you stay for a beer or two. It’s expensive to have a hard rock café t-shirt nowadays. Music is still great though. Bless them!
The New York Film Academy is in the list of favourite cafes in Amsterdam. No needs to say how relaxing and cosy this place is. An exquisite menu and a latte to die for. It’s located right in the centrum. No excuses!
5- Transport & Shopping
Walking in Amsterdam is a must to do. But I must say that mobility is not a problem in the city because they have a phenomenal public transport there. The way buses, metros, ferries, trains and trams are connected put other European cities to shame. For only 21 euros I got a 2-day travel ticket that was worth it. With it as soon as you leave Schiphol Airport and make the most of your sightseeing.
Practical, straightforward, clean and on time. It is an impressive system for one of the busiest cities in Europe. Just don`t forget to check out every time you exit the vehicles. It was a quite funny thing to remember.
Shopping in Amsterdam is also an enjoyable way of exploring the city. I did it on the last morning I was there visiting local shops for souvenirs and some already known European department stores like Primark, for example.
The local supermarkets are interesting spot to get into local food. Healthy sandwiches and drinks are a must trying.
Hema, one of my favourites, is another shop you shouldn’t miss. Love the little one in Birmingham, but visiting it in Amsterdam took my passion to another level.
Remember the Henri Willig mentioned above? You can find the famous Dutch cheese specialist products everywhere in Amsterdam, but there is always a better seller in the streets of Amsterdam. That local person that have a chat with about weather, travelling and Brazil, of course.
I could keep shopping (or window shopping) in Amsterdam for hours, but I had a flight back to the UK to catch. Oh well, next time!