Amsterdam was never on my bucket list but when my husband mentioned going there, of course I was on board (I never say no to traveling anywhere). Being the nature lover that I am, it’s typical for me to get more excited for travels geared towards the natural world. Therefore, as excited as I was for Amsterdam, I never thought I’d be as thrilled walking her cobbled, narrow streets as I was roaming the sandy, desert trails in Southern Utah. Man, was I taken by surprise! I never expected to fall so head over heels in love with a city-based trip.
When asked why I love Amsterdam so much, the best way I can sum it up is: the vibes. The city was ALIVE with people from all walks of life and all getting along while enjoying the beautiful fall weather outdoors: bicycling, dining, sightseeing, window-shopping, boat-touring and more. At night, it awakened to new levels. The streets were packed with laughter and vibrant smells; the lights glistened off the countless canals. I had such an incredibly fun time in this wondrous place and I completely fell in love with how free, happy and accepting this place truly is! I could honestly see myself moving to this amazing city for some time.
Now, with that long introduction, you may be wondering what is there to do in Amsterdam (and nearby places)? Let me give you some wonderful recommendations of some of my FAVORITE things to do in and near this phenomenal city; things that made my visit utterly unforgettable (in no particular order)….
A’dam Lookout & Swing ‘Over the Edge’
Swinging 325+ feet above Amsterdam on Europe’s highest swing at sunset is a pretty dang awesome thrill! I highly recommend venturing up to A’DAM Lookout in the evening so that you can witness the endless views painted in warm and brilliant hues (yeah, that totally rhymed). The lookout, itself, is a rad and chic place to hangout and have a couple drinks. It’s an open deck with 360 degree views complete with a bar and comfy lounge pillows. The evening breeze, the music and the camaraderie all added to it’s lively and intoxicating atmosphere.
Then, there’s the Over the Edge swing to ride! Combined with your ticket to the Sky Deck (top of A’DAM Lookout), your total ticket cost will set you back just € 17,50 – it’s worth every bit.
This whole experience, from the light show in the elevator to the red horse statue on the Sky Deck, was a definite highlight along our trip. Oh, and the photo opportunities are out of this world!
Shop my look (color: red) by clicking on image below:
If you’re aching to see authentic Dutch windmills amid the picturesque Dutch countryside, Zaanse Schans is a must-visit! It’s the perfect day trip to escape the bustling city and is easily reached within less than an hour from Amsterdam Centraal via public bus or train (we opted for the train since it is faster). From Amsterdam Centraal, use a stoptrein towards Alkmaar and get off at Koog-Zaandijk (the fourth stop). The total duration of the train ride should be approximately 20 minutes and then you will have a 15 minute walk through a modern suburb from the station to reach Zaanse Schans.
Strolling throughout the village, I felt as if I stepped onto a quaint and darling movie scene; Historic green houses, willow trees, arched bridge footpaths, farm animals, museums and mills all line the waterways.
Furthermore, each windmill has its own designated function (i.e. sawmill, dyemill and mustardmill) and some are even still in use. For a small fee, you’re able to walk inside the windmills and see them at work, learn about their history and even purchase some goods. You are even permitted to climb on top of the deck (in a few of them) and bask in the countryside’s scenic views.
There’s a delicious lunch spot on the premises where we grabbed some light fare and caffeine to further soak in this quiet village.
Don’t forget to find the giant Dutch clogs that you’re able to slip on and goofily wobble around in!
Check out my short video to see much more of this place (and Amsterdam as well): Mindy on the Move in Amsterdam (VLOG)
Take a tour on the Smoke Boat
The Smoke Boat is the world’s first original smoke boat and is a unique plus rad way to explore Amsterdam at night. You are permitted to smoke a joint (yes, marijuana) plus herbal mix on board but must bring your own for the ride. The boat tour begins in front of a quality coffeeshop (where you can purchase marijuana and pre-rolled joints) in the Red Light District at the address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 195.
I opted to sit on the outside deck in the back of the boat for the majority of the tour so that I could optimally enjoy the sites along the canals while feeling the night breeze through my hair. Also, I’m a rookie smoker and I didn’t need any further assistance getting high with all the second-hand smoke in the cabin (lols).
Not only did we have some great laughs among strangers, but we relaxed to the tunes of Reggae music as we drifted past countless iconic sites. And yes, the captain of the boat gives a tour during your journey as well – pointing out and describing things along the entire route. So not only is it fun, unconventional and beautiful but it’s informative, too!
I can’t think of a better way to see Amsterdam at night.
On board the tour, there are soft drinks and beers offered for a small added fee.
All in all, I will absolutely take this exact tour the next time I return to Amsterdam. The captain and personnel were a hoot to be around and the whole experience was superb! Another one of my favorite things to do in this vibrant city, without doubt!
Not into smoking MJ? Take the Plastic Whale boat tour instead.
It’s a canal boat ride that takes visitors on a tour of the city while they clean up the waterways (each person is given a long-handled net to pick up trash). What a perfect way to aid in keeping this beautiful place…well, beautiful! It’s a feel-good activity for sure!
Eat outside on the array of terraces
Shop my look (color: purple) by clicking on image below:
Blessed with the most perfect weather during our time here in early October, we took every opportunity to dine and drink outside. And there are plenty of places to do so! From the cafes to the restaurants, from the bars to the dessert shops, there’s always an outdoor eating option and, thus, we rarely ever ate indoors (I think we did once?). Eating along the cobbled streets next to the charming canals is a peaceful way to take in all the beauty and abundance Amsterdam has to offer. There’s always something interesting to feast your eyes upon; people watching, bikes peddling past, boats cruising by, etc.
As much as I enjoyed my cappuccinos (I drank at least two per day) and meals, the dessert in Amsterdam is what I lived for: stroopwafels, merengue, appeltaart (Dutch apple pie), pannenkoeken (Dutch pancake), cookies, cakes and more! The only reason I didn’t gain weight was thanks to all the walking I did throughout my visit. But honestly, any more time spent in Amsterdam and I would’ve needed to loosen my belts a few notches, sheesh! Their desserts are too good.
Some of my favorite restaurants to eat outdoors in Amsterdam are:
De Haven van Texel (photo’d above)
Take a self-guided bike tour
Grab a bike from one of the many rental companies, such as Black Bikes, ranging from €6,50 – €9,50 for 3 hours and ride around the city like a local. This is a faster way to explore vs. walking and is ever-so prevalent amongst the Dutch.
People do not seem to be lazy here – EVERYONE rides a bicycle EVERYWHERE! I’ve never, in my entire life, seen a hundredth as many bikes as I did during my time in the Netherlands. What a way to keep the environment clean AND gain exercise! Apparently, marijuana doesn’t equal laziness as most close-minded people presume. 😂
Truly, though, I could spend an entire day just peddling through the streets and along all the canals. Over every bridge, there’s yet another stunning view of the city. Colors, architecture, smells, people, boats, flowers… the beauty is endless.
Fun fact: Did you know, Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, Italy?!
Some attractions and museums to see and visit along your way:
– just to name a few!
Go out in the Red Light District
I literally wrote an entire blog post on the Red Light District, so for a full account of this enthralling neighborhood be sure to check it out: How Raunchy is Amsterdam’s Red Light District, Really?.
My experience in the Red Light District was fun and certainly unforgettable (even with the smoking of marijuana – haha). Yes, it’s raunchy! But, it also gives one freedom. I literally fell in love with how free, happy and accepting this place truly is! Amsterdam is a land of progress and hope; hope for more open-mindedness and acceptance to grow in the future all around the world. To say my time in the Red Light District was my favorite wouldn’t be stretching the truth much at all!
Doug and I both knew our curiosity would get the best of us and it wasn’t long until we decided we were going to spend a risqué night enjoying the raciness and spice that this area is ever-so famous for. First stop: a live show at the Moulin Rouge (recommended to us by friends who have visited in the past).
What I expected? Lots of stripping and, as the name suggests, live sex!? I was a bit weirded out by the thought of it..but, then again, I watch it on raunchy television shows all the time. So really..what’s the difference? haha! (My thought process).
What it was actually like?…
We paid 40 euro for admission (each), which included two free drinks (each) as well. We were instantly escorted into the “theater” where there is a stage, a bar, and theater-like seats surrounding. We sat somewhere among the middle, hoping to remain inconspicuous. We ordered our drinks believing that a greater buzz would ease the awkward tension.
Then all the crazy + weird entertainment began… (read my above blog for more details and story-telling).
If you’re in search of a Red Light District staple, that’s both cheaper and less raunchy, may I introduce you to their well-known Peep Shows at The Sex Palace. For the low cost of 2 euros, you enter a secluded booth (a man and woman, or two woman can go in together) and peep what is, essentially, a stripper doing a naked dance on a rotating bed.
More Sex Tourism
No only do sex shows, peep shows and prostitutes aplenty exist in the Red Light District, but there’s also an abundance of sex shops and even a Sex Museum. One of my favorite stores we came across was none other than the ridiculously hilarious: Condomerie. A store purely dedicated to creative and whacky condoms! Some condoms even had fish, Pokemon and windmills at the ends. Who knew there were so many various condom designs!?
And lastly, the weed cafes
Amsterdam is also, if not more, famous for its liberal and tolerant views on marijuana and thus, there are a multitude of cafes in which people can purchase and smoke weed. Our personal favorite was the The Bulldog – the oldest in town, founded in 1975. Not only can you buy marijuana – White Widow being our go-to choice – but you can also get smoothies, drinks and dessert waffles (which were utterly delicious) to enjoy along with your joint. If smoking isn’t your thing, they offer edibles as well (however, being a noob marijuana smoker – an edible sounded like too extreme of an experience for me to handle). Furthermore, the Bulldog has a patio section right along the canal in which we relaxed on for some time. The Bulldog also has a hotel and restaurant nearby. What more can you ask for?
Even though I don’t typically smoke marijuana, the whole atmosphere was conducive for the act and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience (opposite from my time eating an edible in the wild of Colorado, lol!). As we hung along the canals on a warm fall night, smoking together and chatting up a storm, we fully observed just how tame all the drunks amongst us were behaving. This can’t be a coincidence: weed equals a calmer and happier atmosphere.
There’s over 17 million people living in the tiny country of the Netherlands (most of which reside in Amsterdam) and an absurd amount of visitors. If you put together these massive numbers and combine them with countless bars and wild nightlife, you’d surely expect chaos, right? Well, nope. Not here. And I can’t help but credit the wide usage of marijuana to such peace *shrug*.
Hop on a Flixbus from Amsterdam to Bruges, Belgium for one day, one night.
Due to the Netherlands’ small size, it’s quite convenient to travel to nearby cities and towns in neighboring countries. Do you need to leave Amsterdam? Heck no! The only reason we did: We’re probably not going to make our way to Belgium again for quite a long time and this granted us the perfect opportunity. I was also yearning for some GOOD BEER. No offense to the Netherlands and Amsterdam, but their beer is: Amstel and Heineken (unsatisfactory beer for my tastes).
I’m so happy we made the short voyage to Bruges because it’s such a nice change of pace in comparison to Amsterdam. I LOVE the city life, but some times it’s nice to escape to a smaller, quainter town. Bruges is still a hopping destination but lesser than Amsterdam with much less grounds to cover and explore.
The 3 key things to know when visiting Bruges:
1. Belgian Beer
2. Belgian Chocolate
3. Belgian Waffle
These Belgian delights were enough to make me one happy gal! However, of course we did much more sightseeing around iconic places such as Rozenhoedkaai (photo’d above with me in it), The Market Square and Walplein Square.
We even visited the Bruges Beer Museum where guests have an interactive experience and history lesson: learning the beer-making process, touching and smelling the beer-making ingredients, seeing historic brewer photos and hearing stories from their brewing past. At the end of the comprehensive all-things-beer tour, each person is offered a chance to taste three of their sixteen beers on draft (you get three full-size glasses of beer for free). This tour was right up my alley! Heerlijk!
Best part (besides the beer): The bar has the BEST view over the Market Square down below (ie. beer photo above).
Now I know there is so much more to do in and near Amsterdam, but with that being said..these are good things to start out with! We had the most amazing week in Amsterdam (+ detour to Bruges). I’ve left pieces of my heart in many places I’ve traveled to, Amsterdam being no exception. I fell in love with this tolerant, clean, vibrant, diverse, poetic, canal-abundant city and the beautiful Dutch countryside all together. It took me by surprise, to say the very least, and swept me away in a whirlwind of incredulity and bliss. I loved it so unbelievably much that I even added tattoo number 7 to my arm in honor of the Netherlands: a Dutch Windmill.
I want to thank the Netherlands (plus Belgium) for being such a wonderful part of my unique life journey. My time there will forever be cherished and I long fo the day when I will return (because, I will).
I hope you all get to experience this gem and grow to love it as much as I do! If you go and try one of my recommendations, let me know how it went in the comments below. OR, if you’ve already been, what’s one of your favorite things to do in or near Amsterdam?
The photos in this blog post that were taken by Doug, here are a few items he used to capture them (click on the image for more information + to shop)…
Much love and happy travels,
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