Amsterdam is a fun place to visit for a weekend (or a week or a month). Its easy to access by plane or train from most of Europe and there is so much to do once you are there. The sites, food, entertainment and general beauty of the place make it such a great choice for a quick visit. But lets be honest, to get a proper taste of the place you are going to be busy while you are there. My recommendation is to go in spring. There are a few reasons for this. There will be less tourists than in summer and the weather is better than in winter but the biggest reason is the tulips! They are just stunning. It is one of those things (that rarely happen) where the real thing far outweighs the photos and videos you have seen.
Here are a few of our favourite places for the perfect weekend in Amsterdam.
Breakfast & Lunch
It is hard to go past Pluk for a good cafe food and excellent coffee. There are two locations both in the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) neighborhood (see below). Aside from delicious coffee and simple, tasty, cafe style meals, they also have a small range of homewares and gifts. I can highly recommend their flat white (it is a true flat white!) and their avocado on toast with perfectly poached eggs. If it is a simple lunch on the go you are after then try De Laatste Kruimel. It is little hustling cafe that offers up a beautiful range of pies, quiches and sandwiches along with some very yummy baked treats! If you are lucky you can get a seat on their tiny terrace overlooking the canal. It is up a side alley close to the Equestrian statue of Queen Wilhelmina.
Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) are nine picturesque little streets that offer some of the best shopping in Amsterdam. There are a few high street brands but mostly it is unique little boutiques, artisanal businesses, funky cafes and galleries. You can easily while away an afternoon ducking in and out of charming little shops and boutiques. It is smack bang in the middle of the World Heritage Canal Belt and has been a hustling hive of activity for over 400 years.
There are so many amazing sites in Amsterdam it is hard to narrow it down to just a few. If you are lucky enough to be there in spring then you can not pass up on going to the Keukenhof. It is a stunning display of tulips. The planting is so well planned out and the colours are truly amazing (photos can not do it justice). Their web site has great information including how to get there from wherever you might be staying in town. Children probably have a 3 hour threshold but honestly I could spend 12 hours there. There is a playground and petting zoo that is fun for younger children. Food is available but you can also take your own picnic.
There are a lot of museums in Amsterdam and it is hard to settle on just one or two. The Rijksmuseum is hard to pass up. It is a stunning building with a wide range of collections. Ideally you need to plan out what you want to see in advance to make sure you cover the areas that interest you. The museum app has some great highlight and themed tours to keep you focused.The Van Gogh Museum is also a fabulous museum. They have some fun activities for children that really keeps them engaged.
The two other places I would recommend if you just had a weekend would be the Anne Frank House and the Museum of our Lord in the Attic. Both offer a fascinating insights to life during two different times periods in Amsterdam. Their webs sites are great and provide all the information you need to get there and get tickets. The Anne Frank House has an audio tour that is suitable for children as well as adults. Be aware that the tickets for the Anne Frank House sell out quickly. Preferably you would get them at least a month in advance but if you want to get them on the day you need to play around for a few days before hand to figure out what time you need to get online in order to get some. 20% of tickets go on sale at 9am for that day but you need to figure out what time to get in the queue in order to get what you need. For us it was a busy period and we needed to get in the queue at 8:30am.
If beer is your thing then check out Brouwerij De Prael. It is a local brewery with a tasting room and restaurant in the old town. They have opened some new locations so look at their website to find the one closest to you. They have a good selection of beer so there should be something for everyones’ tastes but you can order flights to experience a few beers and still get yourself home. If you want to limit your drinking to only Dutch craft beers then Proeflokaal Arendsnest is the place for you. They have around 50 beers on tap. On Monday nights they have a Dutch beer tasting evening. Right next door is their sister bar The Beer Temple that bills itself as an American Beer bar and offers beer from all over the world. They also offer beer tastings every Saturday around noon. At both places you can book in private beer tastings with their beer connoisseurs.
There are so, so, so many good snacks in Amsterdam! Poffertjes, french fries with mayonnaise, stroopwafels, herring, licorice (so many different varieties to chose from), kruidnoten cookies and Dutch pancakes (kind of like a huge Yorkshire pudding with delicious toppings on it). There are lots of speciality shops that specialize in selling just one of these snacks but if you want to try them all in a walking feast then check out the Albert Cuyp market. It is the largest daily market is Europe and can get busy at times. It is open every day except Sunday from 9-5pm.
Amsterdam is not a cheap place for accommodation. In 2017 entire home listings on Airbnb in Amsterdam were limited to 60 nights per calendar year in order to provide a better rental market for the locals. This has meant it is harder to find apartments for families and larger groups and has of course pushed the prices up. Hotels can also be very expensive. Take some time to look around various sites and compare prices. The earlier you book the better. The upside is there are lots of good areas around the city to stay so you don’t need to limit your search to one specific location.
Travel direct to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol from any major city in the world. It is easy to catch public transport from the airport into Amsterdam. There is also a great train system in the Netherlands with a lot major cities in Europe having direct trains to Amsterdam.
Rachel Nelson is a New Zealand expat who has lived and worked in the US, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar and Germany.