eight great things to do amsterdam


last weekend i met my dear friend melinda in amsterdam for a long weekend girls’ trip! it was so good for my soul – to be with a kindred friend exploring a new, charming, fascinating place without any rush. we lucked out and got glorious sunny weather, thoroughly enjoyed some amazing food & treats, had excellent discussions and totally fell in love with amsterdam!

i really enjoy and appreciate talking with people who have just returned from a travel destination and learning about how they spent their time and what they would suggest with the experience fresh in their mind. so, even though i’m definitely no expert on amsterdam after having spent just three days there, i thought i’d share eight things melinda & i did that i would absolutely recommend to any future visitor, along with some notes on my experience exploring this lovely, lovely city. if you’re headed to amsterdam, i hope this little recap of my weekend is helpful in your planning!

1. stroll (or better yet, bike!) the canals


as far as i’m concerned, this is absolutely the number one thing to do in amsterdam – just wander around the central canal district! there’s a pretty picture around every corner (i couldn’t stop snapping with my camera, that’s for sure!). pop into shops and cafes, notice all the different, quirky building facades, and watch out for bikers which are everywhere and can come out of nowhere! :)

i love so much that amsterdam is such a biking city. the sheer number of bicycles is mind-blowing! since i know i’ll come back to amsterdam with the boy in warmer weather someday soon-ish (already planning a late-april trip next year so we can see holland’s famous tulip fields!), i decided to save bike-riding for next time. but renting a bike and cruising around the canals sounds even a little bit more fun and lovely than strolling by foot around the canals – i’m excited!

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^^ we heard you could go to the top of this church tower, but then found out the stairs are only open for climbing from april-september. that’s definitely on my list along with bike-riding for next time!! ^^
^^ look at these tulip vases!! so so darling. melinda and i loved popping into the cutest shops along the canals! ^^
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2. visit the van gogh museum


van gogh is my favourite artist of all time, so i was pretty pumped to check out amsterdam’s van gogh museum. but it was even better than i expected! – so, so well curated, stocked with fascinating information about vincent’s life, and fuuuuulll of incredible treasures of paint on canvas. i loved it and insist it is a complete must when visiting amsterdam, even if you’re no art buff.

we didn’t make it to the rijksmuseum, but i am looking forward to checking out the masterpieces there next time i’m in amsterdam. we did walk across the park from the van gogh museum to check out the beautiful building that houses the rijksmuseum collection and the iconic “i amsterdam” sign in front. fun.


3. try dutch foods


melinda and i made sure to try pretty much every dutch traditional food/treat we could get our hands on! (except for the pickled herring…maybe next time…) after church on sunday we went to the foodhallen, a really awesome culinary marketplace in an old train station, and ate some bitterballen (^^) of different varieties – super yummy! we had lots of other food adventures throughout the weekend…

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^^ cheese seems to be everywhere in amsterdam! i love, love, loved happening upon cheese shops – with samples! so many delicious varieties. ^^
^^ behold! the most wonderful slice of dutch apple pie i could ever imagine in my wildest dreams! we each enjoyed a slice from winkel at a sidewalk table overlooking a canal. it was seriously sublime!! ^^
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^^ stroopwafles and fries! ^^
^^ we learned that indonesian food is really popular and delicious in amsterdam, so we indulged in an amazing meal at sampurna. we heart blauw is the best in amsterdam, but it was fully booked when we arrived – so if you want to try it, make sure you make reservations! our rijsttafel (a series of small dishes making up an incredible feast!) at was suuuuuper tasty! ^^
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^^ fresh mint tea is everywhere in amsterdam and don’t you just love it?! mint leaves straight in your mug! and this apple and bacon dutch pancake was super yummy. ^^

4. explore the markets


i was super excited to experience the bloemenmarkt  – amsterdam’s premier flower market – and it lived up to expectations - it's a lively, colourful sensation! melinda and i also happened upon a farmer’s market along a canal, which was also a delightful wonderland! so, as you’re wandering the canals, keep your eyes peeled for markets!

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^^ had to snap this photo for the boy, who is obsessed with collecting magnets in our travels. i needed to show him there are lots of good options for picking out our signature souvenir when we go to amsterdam together! ^^
^^ can we talk about the fantasticness of this flower-covered ceiling in a corner stall at the bloemenmarkt?! divine! ^^
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5. visit the anne frank house


i have always wanted to read anne frank’s diary and somehow it has been continually put off (even when i was given a copy for christmas last year!). now that i’ve been to the house in amsterdam where anne and her family were in hiding for two years during the second world war, i’m so excited to finally delve into that so renowned book!!

the anne frank house is among the most popular attractions in amsterdam, and the line to get in is consistently craaaaazy long! i stood in the freeeeeezing cold for over an hour and a half (after melinda had left for the work meetings that brought her to amsterdam) before i could buy my ticket and tour the house. i was kind of miserable, to be honest. but! seeing the setting of anne’s hiding and writing was pretty incredible and quite moving (and certainly altered my perspective on waiting outside in the cold!).

i absolutely recommend visiting the anne frank house - be prepared for a long long line but also a super neat experience.

6. take a canal cruise


after a lot of walking during our first day in amsterdam, we decided to hop on a boat to see the city from the canals. there are a lot of different options for canal cruises in amsterdam. we chose to go on a smaller, open-air boat, which i think was a really good choice. it was so fun to see the canal houses and bridges and bikes and steeples of amsterdam from a different perspective, down in the boat, and we enjoyed learning more about the city and its history from our tour guide.


7. get a taste of holland countryside


after church and lunch on sunday, we took a taxi out of the city to zaanse schans to see some windwills and catch a glimpse of holland countryside. this was a lovely little excursion, but the taxi ride (which was recommended since public transport takes ages to get out to this place) was super expensive. if i were doing it again, i would pick a “windmills and countryside tour” from one of the plethora of tour operators advertising all over the city. and if i had more time (and warmer weather), i’d take a day out of amsterdam to explore more rural holland. but this little peek was perfect for our sunday afternoon, and golden hour among the windmills was delightful! aren’t these scenes just so darling?!

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8. soak up the charm


my last suggestion for visiting amsterdam, having just returned, is just to take time to notice all the charming details that abound in the city by the canals. keep your eyes peeled for little surprises and delights all along your way – i so loved discovering these!

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^^ tulips in a gorgeous gold vase at a sidewalk cafe // an accordionist making the atmosphere along the canals just perfect! ^^
^^ fun pops of colour and pattern among the facades. ^^
^^ twilight scenes stuffed with charm and a bit of magic! ^^

amsterdam is really, really lovely! so glad i could experience it with melinda last weekend, and (have i said this enough?!) i can’t wait to return!


  1. My dad went to Amsterdam nearly 15 years ago for work and I still to this day (I'm now in my 20s) have the magnet he brought back on my apartment fridge. I haven't traveled abroad yet but the van Gogh museum is on my bucket list. Looks like a great time!!

  2. Glad you had such a wonderful trip; time with our friends is rare and important.

    Sorry to sound harsh but it was really hard for me to read that you thought waiting in line outside in the cold for the Anne Frank house was "brutal." I think you totally missed the point of the visit if that's that thought you were left with. Anne Frank was a teenager hidden in a cramped attic fearing for her life for months without enough food to eat. Then she was shipped off to a death camp where she and most of her family were murdered. That is true brutality. (If you weren't in the mood to stand out in the cold for a long time while pregnant I can totally understand that, go to a cafe or something instead.) You seem like such a nice, cheery, girl with good intentions but this is the exactly the kind of cringe-worthy, self involved, immature, and thoughtless thinking that gets continuously critiqued here in the comments section.

    1. hi jenny - wow, thank you for pointing this out - sincerely! that *was* pretty thoughtless of me to phrase it like that!! crazy how our perspective can be quite clouded by our current circumstances. i meant to write this post as a helpful guide, and i think it's pretty fair and good to warn visitors to the anne frank house that the wait can be quite long -- but you are absolutely right that in the context of the history of the place i was visiting, the wording there is waaaaay off.

      i'm not sure you can apply this mis-step to me generally being immature and self-involved, but it certainly was a mistake, so thanks for pointing it out so i can correct it.

    2. "Super neat"

      I really appreciated your response here and went back to read your edits and am floored that you consider "super neat" to be a more thoughtful response. I recall from your heartbreak posts that you have great ability to express pain eloquently so am extremely surprised "a super neat experience" is what you came up during you rewrite of visiting a site memorializing atrocities. We're talking mass murder here showcased at the Anne Frank
      house on a very personal scale. "Super neat" it is not.

      I was sorry to read in the comments above that I'm being a "troll" by sharing these thoughts. Please let me know if there's a better way for me to express myself in this space

    3. hey jenny, "super neat" was not a rewrite - it's what i wrote originally. this post wasn't intended to be a long-winded report on the emotions evoked by a visit to the anne frank house - i tried to sum it up succinctly and i'm sorry you don't like my word choice. enlightening/inspiring/humbling etc probably would have been better than wrapping descriptors up into "neat," but i just chose not to take a lot of time to define my experience in this particular blog post.

      i think you're being quite nice, and i genuinely appreciate the feedback -- but i'm not sure it makes sense to continue editing words here. i will be more careful of my word choice in the future, thanks to this discussion!

  3. I'm amazed you managed to go through school in the US and attend a fancy college and not have read diary of Anne Frank. Wasn't there a holocaust unit in grade school?

    1. i also think it's wild that i've never read it! we certainly had holocaust units, but anne frank was never required reading for me. i'm really excited to read the book now - i've seriously been wanting to for years!

  4. Good response to Jenny Charity! A good example of "owning it." We ALL need to now and then. (Most people's egos won't allow it.) Bravo and well done!

    1. thanks, anon - i appreciate it! definitely a mistake to learn from :)

  5. Just curious, I lived in Europe (Germany) for a couple years as a military wife and I was always warned about the open use of drugs and questionable "window shops" that were "everywhere" in Amsterdam. Did you come across this, or is this something people have to go off the beaten path to find? I'm just curious because it seems like a beautiful place to visit- but I have always feared going there because of what I have heard about the filth.

    1. i was asked a similar question in an email earlier today. i avoided the red-light district of amsterdam, and so i largely avoided exposure to drug-use, prostitution, etc. i'm quite used to wafts of marijuana due to my time living in san francisco... i encountered a few of those and a few sex-shop windows i chose to not look into. to be honest, amsterdam didn't feel any different to london or paris or prague to me in this regard. but i *was* quite distracted by the charm of the canal houses and sidewalk cafes and yummy dutch foods :)

    2. Thank you for taking the time to reply. I do appreciate your blog and following your fun adventures.

  6. Hi Charity. I know you've heard this before, but thank you so much for sharing your adventures on this blog. I am currently not in a position to do world travel (I'm lucky to get across a couple of states), but your pictures and thoughts/appreciation of your opportunities are so exciting and full of great ideas for the days when I am able to do even more. I also appreciate your enthusiasm for life. The world needs Eeyores and Rabbits to keep us grounded, but also Poohs, Tiggers, and Roos! You know, I try to avoid reading the comments sections on your and other blogs because it makes me feel less than Christlike to read comments from people with holier than thou attitudes, jealousy issues or just grumpy people trolling (I don't think sweet Anne Frank would have cared for all that crap either. She was able to be at times an idealist and romantic during some horrific events which is one reason her diary was so striking to me), but I will say that when I am dumb enough to read the comments, I am often inspired to be a little better by your humble responses in a cyber world that doesn't value humility and kindness very much. I hope as long as you are able and have a desire that you keep up your blog because it is one of my favorites to enjoy when I have a minute to dream or need a smile! God bless everyone (even Eeyore and Rabbit and Grumpy Gus).

    1. thank you for this super kind comment, anna! i really appreciate it!!

  7. My husband and I went to Amsterdam (& Belgium) last summer for our 10th anniversary. If you decide to revisit the Anne Frank house when you return, keep in mind that you can buy timed tickets ahead of time online! My husband and I were stunned that the line was so long and were so glad we were able to avoid that.

    Was the neon-colored cheese in your photo from the Cheese Museum? It was the only cheese shop we popped into, but maybe brightly colored cheese is more common over there. :)

  8. You can also rent bikes to bike through the countryside which is also amazing, but a full day adventure. What a fun girls weekend!

  9. Interesting comment chain! Loved your thoughtful responses and especially Anna's kind comments! Terrific pics!

  10. You've painted such a wonderful picture of your adventures. I'm so excited to explore the city! I'm in the midst of planning a stopover in Amsterdam and will definitely be using your ideas :) Any tips on where to stay?