A visit to Holland in the Spring to see the colorful tulip fields in their prime is nothing short of amazing (a bucket list item, perhaps!). We spent the weekend exploring Amsterdam, walking along its many canals and visiting the various neighborhoods and outdoor markets. In addition to the canals and bridges, Amsterdam is covered in bicycles and bicyclists ...and be mindful, they have the right of way! We rented a tandem bike for the first time, and rode through the city’s parks and went on an open boat tour through the canals. Be sure to get a fresh Dutch stroopwafel from one of the various stands - they are delicious! It was quite interesting to experience the juxtaposition of the red light district and the charming historic canals so close by.
Top Things to do in Amsterdam
Located in Holland’s town of Lisse, Keukenhof is the famous tulip field and garden about 45 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal. The tulip gardens were beautifully manicured and landscaped, with so many varietals and colours. The pleasant fragrance of flowers is everywhere around you at Keukenhof. We also walked out to the tulip fields themselves - think rows and rows of tulips as far as the eye can see! A must see when visiting Holland in the spring. Keukenhof is open annually between mid-March and mid-May.
Tips: Buy the combi ticket on their website. It includes an express bus to/from Keukenhof from easily accessible locations, such as the airport, by train. Try to get to there in the morning, as it gets very crowded by late morning and early afternoon.
Red Light District
Mainly an adult-only area for reasons that should be obvious, but this area also boasts some really great restaurants, shopping, micro-breweries, and pubs. It is centrally located and contains many picturesque canals and architecture. At night, it is worth a walk along some of the “red light” areas, just to see what is all about!
We recommend taking an open/small boat tour through the canals. This enables you to see more of the canals and neighborhoods that you may otherwise not see. Our tour was a nice mix of the large and the small (quiet) canals, and a great way to see a lot of Amsterdam’s interesting architecture. Interestingly, most of the now converted buildings were once warehouses; you can see the pulleys that stick out from the top floor. There are also a lot of leaning buildings, including the “Dancing Sisters”, a cluster of old warehouses that are all leaning opposing ways on each other!
Tips: Book an open boat canal tour in advance. We recommend the company Stromma, departing from Damrak Pier 6. You can book here.
Albert Cuyp Market
Located in the De Pijp area, this street market covers at least 3 long blocks full of clothes, souvenirs, cheese, shoes, vegetables, toiletries and much more. You can also get a bite to eat from the food carts. A nice area to walk through on a sunny afternoon!
Flower and souvenir market, said to be the world’s only floating market of its kind. You can find all kinds of flower and plants, including tulip bulbs and even cannabis “starter” kits, as well as other souvenirs like tote bags, small trinkets, and Dutch wooden clogs.
The Nine Streets
Located between the canals of Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, the Nine Streets are known to be some of the nicest and most charming streets in the city. Cute cafes and quintessential architecture line the canals in this area. A great area to walk around and enjoy a drink alfresco.
Amsterdam’s large public urban park (120 acres), full of many ponds and nice grassy areas, making it a nice area to bike through or bring a picnic to enjoy.
Tips: Rent a bike (singles, tandem or cargo) from A-Bike, located right next to Vondelpark. You can reserve daily rentals online
This upscale area is located west of central Amsterdam and contains specialty shops and restaurants as well as many art galleries, mainly modern art. It is characterized by the orientation of its streets, that run diagonal to the canals today (canals used to line these areas until they were filled in during the 19th century).
Visit the canals near Prinsengracht, along the southeast portion of the canal loop near the metro stop. Here you will find the canal lined with houseboats, including the oldest houseboat in Amsterdam. These babies aren't cheap either; one of the “old” houseboats we saw had recently been purchased for $400k. Two interesting facts about the houseboats: 1. The boats are all connected to the city’s water and sewer systems via pipework. 2. The rule is, if you want to get a new houseboat, it must be the same length and style as the old one.
Central town square with notable buildings, including the Royal Palace and De Nieuwe Kerk, and frequent events and festivals (there was a carnival going on when we were there). Close to Dam Square is the busy shopping pedestrian street of Kalverstraat. The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is located about 5-10 minutes from Dam Square is also a nice piece of history to visit, and is the oldest building and parish church in Amsterdam, founded in 1213.
Other things to do
Anne Frank House, Eastern Docklands and De Gooyer mill, Heineken Experience, Museums (Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum)
Food and Drink in Amsterdam
A must have! These crispy, caramel/sugar filled waffles are down right delicious. You can find them all over Amsterdam and at Keukenhof.
Located between the Grachtengordel-West area between Herengracht and Keizersgracht canals, Seasons is an intimate Dutch restaurant with a cosy feel and delicious food. They serve seasonal traditional, as well as fusion style dishes. You must try the Dutch Pea Soup - amazing! Their Dutch Apple Pie is also a delicious.
Pancakes is a must to get an authentic Dutch pancake. Think of a crepe, but denser. They have savory and sweet pancakes to choose from, or a make-your-own option. They also serve American pancakes, if you are craving a little taste of home.
A really cute cafe in the Jordaan district, PIQNIQ serves delicious and healthy sandwiches, soups, salads and more, making it a great place to stop for lunch. They offer small and tasty items that you can mix and match.
We stumbled upon this bar near the Jordaan and enjoyed some evening drinks. They have a large outdoor boat terrace, where it is fun to watch the canal traffic go by.
This lovely little pastry shop serves some delicious sandwiches with fresh and local ingredients. We recommend getting sandwiches to go and enjoying them canalside. Find a bench or just sit with your legs dangling over the edge like the locals do! A great spot to grab a light and quick lunch.
Located in the central part of town near Oude Kerk and red light district, Mata Hari is a super cute and homey restaurant serving up hearty and sustainable Modern European dishes. They also have a canal side terrace and are known for their great cocktails.
A few to check out: Brouwerij de Prael, In ‘t Aepjen, Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman