You don’t even need 48 hours before you begin to realise that Amsterdam could be one of your new favourite European cities, trust me! There is so much to do and see in Amsterdam, it would be easy to stay there for weeks. I mean, after day one I was researching the price of rent…
However, if you’re a first-time visitor, you can easily see Amsterdam in two days, and it’s a great holiday if you are on a budget! Granted, you won’t be able to get around to seeing every back street of the city, but you will definitely have time to see all the main attractions. But just a heads up, no matter how much time you spend there, you’ll be planning your next trip as soon as you leave.
The most fun, and traditional, way to travel around Amsterdam is of course by bicycle. The city is well known worldwide for its bike culture. There are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam (that’s more bikes than people!) and the city is really cyclist-friendly, so it’s easy even if you’re not used to cycling. Most hotels in and around the centre have bikes that you can hire from during your stay, making them easily accessible and a cheap way of seeing the city.
Amsterdam is a great place for getting lost in. It is home to over 165 canals and 1281 bridges, each one of them a bit different than the last. When I visited we were lucky enough to have sunshine and blue skies most of our stay, despite it being mid December! However, the city looks picturesque in any weather, thanks to its beautiful architecture. Wherever you cycle, you’re never further than a few feet from a cute independent café or restaurant; if the weather is nice, I would definitely recommend sitting outside and soaking up the city’s friendly atmosphere and good vibes!
Visiting Amsterdam in December promises for an extra magical trip! The city is decorated from top to toe with bright lights and decorations, the narrow streets along the canals look cosier than ever as the locals prepare for the festive season, and of course there is a Christmas Market. Christmas just isn’t the same without visiting a Christmas Market and being lucky enough to visit one in Amsterdam promises an unforgettable end to the year. The market is bursting with festive foods and drinks, stalls selling gifts and decorations, as well as an ice skating rink, which is bustling with people enjoying themselves! What more could you want to get in the festive spirit?
We spent our first day exploring the market, drinking mulled wine, and filling our stomachs with warm stroopwafel and a serving of poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes)! The Christmas Market is conveniently located in the Museum Square, so afterwards we went and checked out the Moco Musuem and the Van Gough Museum, which I would definitely recommend. The cost may be a little steep, but it’s worth every penny!
That evening we explored Amsterdam by boat, another popular way to travel and a fun activity to do whilst in Amsterdam. You can take a boat tour, which also provides you with interesting facts about the city and points out all the main attractions that you may be intrigued to see during your visit. It being Christmas, we chose to do the Light Festival Canal Cruise, which quite literally shines a spotlight on the capital of the Netherlands. 25 national and international artists come together to light up Amsterdam with one of a kind, breath-taking light installations designed specifically for this annual event. The reflection of the artworks sparkling and glistening on the surface of the water create a colourful Winter Wonderland up and down the canal.
On our second day we began the day by cycling from our hotel to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most popular park, which attracts thousands of tourists and residents every day. Everyone was out jogging, cycling or walking in the sunshine, which sums Amsterdam up in a sentence. After stopping off at a quirky independent Dutch Café for breakfast, we then headed over to the Anne Frank House, which is of course, a must-see when visiting Amsterdam.
Here you can see the place where Anne Frank went into hiding and wrote her diary. It is a truly harrowing but remarkable experience and one that will stay with you forever. Being one of their most popular attractions, the Anne Frank House does get booked up months in advance, so think about booking this before your trip! However, each day at 9am they release a handful of same-day tickets, which we were lucky enough to get our hands on, but these may be harder to get come the summer months!
The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that it tailors for both the saints and sinners. Amsterdam isn’t just famous for its bike culture and picturesque canals; it is also incredibly popular for its ‘darker side’.
Amsterdam is well known globally for being able to immerse yourself into its ‘coffee shop’ crawls, Red Light District and the city’s wild nightlife. The Red Light District (known locally as De Wallen), situated in an approximate triangle formed by Central Station, Nieuwmarkt and the Dam, is at the very root of the city’s international notoriety. Visiting the Red Light District by day is a very different experience to night. The district comes alive at night with lights turning on and people coming and going. It attracts 17.4 million tourists a year, meaning there is rarely an hour when De Wallen is quiet!
Amsterdam is popular because it is well suited to a wide array of people, with the city having so much to offer! If it’s art and culture, a wild nightlife, or a city break jam-packed with activities you’re after, then Amsterdam is your city. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!