Life in the Dam

I’ve written a lot about all of the places that we went in 2017 (see earlier post for comprehensive list), but I haven’t really done a post about our Amsterdam visitors, or the activities we like to do in Amsterdam. So here is that post.

We were very fortunate to have so many friends and family members that wanted to visit us last year. The grand total was 22!
Denice & Milton – March 2017
Lauren & Vik – April 2017
Hope & Raney – May 2017
Mallory – May 2017
Michelle & Dan – June 2017
Jim & Sue – July 2017
Brittany & Chris & Chelsea & Derrick – August 2017
Austin & Catherine – September 2017
Ed & Liz – September 2017
Meghan & Josh – September 2017
Jeff – November 2017
After so many visitors, we’ve perfected the top things to do in Amsterdam. Here’s my guide to seeing the city in a weekend.

Boating through the canals

By far, the favorite method of transportation around Amsterdam of our guests was boat. It’s a fun and easy way to explore the city, and we take our own snacks and drinks which makes it cheap too! Tyler has become quite the boat captain, expertly maneuvering down the narrow canals while simultaneously avoiding the large and annoying cruise boats. We usually take a route that includes seeing the beautiful houses on the Princengracht, hoping to catch a glimpse of the giraffes and elephants at the zoo, and stopping for a bathroom break at the windmill brewery, Browerij ‘t IJ.

Exploring Amsterdam by foot

If it’s a little too cold for boating, it’s also just nice to walk around the city. Amsterdam is a really walkable city that also has great public transportation options. We’ll often start by taking a walk around our neighborhood, De Pijp, before venturing to Museumplein to take in the beauty of the Rijks Museum and take photographs with the touristic IAMSTERDAM sign. Also located nearby is the Van Gogh museum. Although I have never been to the Rijks or Van Gogh (with the exception of MuseumNacht which is where there’s a DJ and booze at the museum and you don’t see any art), a few of our guests have enjoyed both places.
If our guests have some free time while we are at work, a free walking tour of Amsterdam is always a crowd pleaser since the guides know way more about Amsterdam than we do. There’s also a pretty good self guided tour in the Rick Steve’s book if you happen to have a copy.

Other musts

If you are brave, by bike is really the best way to experience Amsterdam like a local. I love taking a Sunday afternoon ride through Vondelpark when the weather is nice. It can be a little overwhelming and you will definitely have angry Dutch people ring their bells at you, but it is an experience.

Probably the most well known attraction in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House. It’s so popular that you have to get tickets 3 months in advance or else stand in line for a few hours. They release a limited amount of tickets every day for the 3pm slot and that’s how Tyler and I ended up scoring a pair. It’s really fascinating to see the house and hear the history, even more so if you’re a fan of her diary. It is also very crowded and you’re basically just standing in a line the whole time to see the house, so I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

There are several outdoor markets in Amsterdam that are fun to take a stroll around. The most conveniently located one to us is the Albert Cuyp market which has everything from fresh flowers, fish and produce to phone chargers and Elvis coasters. It also has some delicious homemade stroopwaffels, a local cookie. To do my ‘farmers market’ shopping, however, I like to visit the ZuiderMRKT which is only open on Saturdays. They have plenty of local organic fruits and veggies as well as fresh bread, meats from the butcher and cheeses. Another popular market is the bloemenmarkt which is a street filled with flower shops, mostly tulips. Here you can buy tulips to take home to the US with you.

Drink like a local

Here’s a list of some of our favorite bars:

Gollem – typical Amsterdam brown bar with a gezellig atmosphere. Bonus is that they also have a bar kitty.
Helst – formerly known as the Watering Hole, we love this bar with 32 rotating taps where you can always find something new
Arendsnest – this was actually the first bar we went to in Amsterdam on the day we arrived and we still love it! It has a big selection of local Dutch beers.
Cafe Brecht – jokingly referred to as the living room, this eclectic bar with mismatched couches as seating arrangements has some of the best gin and tonics in the city
Tales & Spirits – if you want a fancy cocktail, T&S is a must. Their drink presentation is funky and a favorite drink is the General Jackson that comes out in a car that plays the theme song from Dukes of Hazzard
Browerij ‘t IJ – the windmill brewery located on the IJ waterfront. They brew some of our favorite beers in town and if it’s a nice day outside the patio is the place to be

If you’re looking for more of a drinking experience than bar, the Heineken Experience is a cool place to go. It’s basically a brewery tour with interactive games. You can ride bikes while singing karaoke, make patterns on the floor when you dance, and learn how to correctly drink a beer.

Eat like a local

The food scene in Amsterdam is on point. There are so many places to try that we haven’t even touched the surface. While Dutch food isn’t exactly my favorite thing (i.e. hutspot and erten soup – aka meat and potatoes and pea soup), there are many other cuisines to try.

Blauw – a hip and delicious Indonesian restaurant. Indonesian food is huge in Amsterdam and this place is one of the best. We usually opt for the rijsttafels where you get several different dishes to share amongst the table.
Foodhallen – a food court type of place that has several different options so it’s a win-win for everyone. My favorite is the taco place.
Pancake Bakery – while in Amsterdam, you must try a Dutch pannenkoek. They are more like crepes and can be sweet or savory, but are always super lekker.
Little Collins – a cute place to go for brunch or dinner that has healthyish food
Orestis – a Greek tapas place that’s always a crowd pleaser. You can pick lots of different items for the table to share or pick the surprise menu where the chef picks for you.
Vinkeles – if you’re looking for upscale dining, Vinkeles at the Dylan Hotel is simply delicious. Their tasting menu is pricy, but probably one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.


If you happen to be lucky enough to visit while the tulips are in bloom in April-ish, going to the Keukenhof is a must. It’s a park that has over 7 million tulip bulbs arranged in amazing displays. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of tulips! It’s also nice to just drive through the countryside on the way to the Keukenhof because there are fields of flowers everywhere.

Coffee Shop

We would be pretty bad hosts if we didn’t show our guests to one of Amsterdam’s top tourist attractions, the coffee shop. No, this is not a place where you get coffee, those are cafes. A coffee shop is home to Amsterdam’s favorite legal activity, marijuana smoking. Although there are many scattered around the city, we enjoy one in our neighborhood called Katsu. We’ve also taken a few visitors to the Bulldog, which was one of the original coffee shops.

Red Light District

While we’re on the subject of illicit activities, walking through the red light district is also a must. We typically just do a quick walk by with our guests as this area can get pretty crowded and a little gross.

Neighborhoods to visit

De Pijp – Our neighborhood which is about a 12 minute bike ride from the city center. It’s a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and a cool park.

Jordaan – Area near the Anne Frank House which has a lot of beautiful houses on the canals

Centrum – the city center where all the action is. Dam square is located here where there’s always street performers doing something, whether it be naked lady painting or dancing.

The nine streets – great shopping district

Amsterdam is such a fun city to live in and visit. If you’re planning a trip and want more information, feel free to reach out!



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