Polaroid of the week: Canal stroll in Amsterdam


polaroid of the week the netherlands amsterdamI’ve officially kicked off my European train adventure and my first train rides were fantastic! My initial train ride brought me directly from Berlin to Amsterdam (in less than 7 hours), a city I had visited several times in the past. However, my last visit was over a decade ago! That’s why I decided on a whim to include Amsterdam in my Euro train trip – everybody keeps raving about how gorgeous Amsterdam is, but my own memories of the city were vague.

Upon arrival, the city’s unique atmosphere put its spell on me immediately: the canals, the thousands of bicycles, the beautiful 17th century merchants houses with their hoists, the infamous 420 coffee shops and the smell of fresh waffles lingering in the air.

As I wandered the narrow streets alongside the canals that criss-cross the city, I wished I had more time to explore the city, but I made the most of it: I aimlessly strolled through Amsterdam, without a map and without a destination, walked over dozens of the 1,500 bridges that span the canals, sat down by the water and let the scene around me sink in: a weed-smoking older couple that was laughing hysterically right next to me, lovers making out on a bench across the canal from me, a man and his dog passing by on a houseboat, followed by a larger tourist boat, while cyclists whizzed by me on the street behind me.

Amsterdam has a vibe like I have never experienced anywhere else in the world – and I don’t think there’s any other city that compares to it, with its quaint brick buildings on the one hand, and its notorious Red Light District with the (near)naked ladies waiting for clients in the large windows on the other.

What I love about Amsterdam is that it is simply a livable – and yet extremely picturesque – city. Instead of chasing major landmarks, you can spend your days just taking in the atmosphere, absorb local life and explore what is beyond the maze of canals that makes Amsterdam so famous.

Amsterdam, I’ll be back for sure – and hopefully this time it won’t take me a decade to return.

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10 Insider Tips for Amsterdam

Amsterdam at Dusk

I’ve already told you that I loved my trip to Amsterdam last month, but now it’s time to share some off-the-beaten-path Amsterdam recommendations with you! The usual Amsterdam sights like the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House have all been covered in-depth by all travel guides, so I wanted to share some things that not every tourist is aware of – some sights that may not be on your radar yet, and some insider tips that aren’t widely known.

If you’re a first-time visitor to Amsterdam, make sure to also check out these two great itineraries:

amsterdam canal5

Here are 10 insider tips for Amsterdam:

1 Visit Amsterdam’s Western Islands

There are three peaceful, quiet little islands in Amsterdam: Prinsen, Bickers and Realen. The islands are just west of the central station and you can visit all three in about 1.5 hours, making for a lovely walk. amsterdam bikes

2 Stand on the ‘Skinny Bridge’

Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges and you’ll cross many of them during your visit, trust me. Some are ordinary bridges, others have a story to tell, some are special. The Magere Brug (which translates to Skinny Bridge) is one of them. The bridge is a double-swipe wooden bridge and it is one of the most remarkable bridges in the city. This may not be the ultimate Amsterdam insider tip, but if you’re visiting Amsterdam with your lover, visit the bridge at night, when it’s all lit up and super romantic, and you’ll have an unforgettable Amsterdam canal ride

3 Free views over Amsterdam

Head to Amsterdam’s public library for spectacular views over the city. Just take the escalators all the way to the top. There is a restaurant with a lovely terrace, but you don’t need to order anything to enjoy the views. Fun fact: Amsterdam’s library is the largest in all of Europe!

Address: Oosterdokskade 143 Opening Times: Monday – Sunday 10am till 10pm. Extra Tip: Head up to the terrace just before sunset!

Another good place for free views of Amsterdam is the rooftop of the NEMO Science Center. Address: Oosterdok 2; Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 10am till cathedral

4 Visit the ‘9 Streets’ in Amsterdam

The 9 Streets are nine small cobblestone streets that connect the main canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat, known for their unique and innovate independent shops. You find everything here from vintage stores to designer shops, plus several lovely cafes and galleries.

5 Don’t miss North Amsterdam!

North Amsterdam has a completely different feel to it than touristy central Amsterdam. The buildings are more modern, it’s trendy, and where the locals hang out. The waterside offers great views over the city, and there are many cafes and bars right by the water. A hipster favorite is the quirky Noorderlicht Café (NDSM-Plein 102). The best thing about the north? You can get here for free with the free water ferry that leaves behind the Central Station, an easy trip to see Amsterdam off the beaten path. amsterdam love me

6 A different museum experience in Amsterdam

Most Amsterdam visitors head straight to the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum – however, there are other museums in Amsterdam that are quirkier than your usual museum experience and for photography lovers like me, there are two photography museums! My insider tips for a visit to Amsterdam: The Huis Marseilles Photography Museum (the most cutting-edge exhibitions), the FOAM Photography Museum (contemporary photography), the House Boat Museum (see what life on a house boat is actually like!), the Sex Museum (the world’s oldest sex museum), EYE (an impressive film museum) and the Museum Of Bags And Purses (a must for fashionistas!).amsterdam canal houses

7 The best Dutch food and beer in Amsterdam

You can’t leave Amsterdam without having a good meal – the Dutch are particularly known for their Dutch pancakes but also for their love of good breakfasts. Here are some Amsterdam insider tips for meals that won’t disappoint: De Vier Pilaren (Stadhouderskade 11), a traditional Dutch pancake house, Greenwoods Singel (Singel 103) for breakfast (get Eggs Greenwood and thank me later!), Bar Lempicka (Sarphatistraat 23) for breakfast or for a typical Nordic meal of smoked salmon and cream cheese rolled in Swedish flat bread. The best place for craft brew in Amsterdam is Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Funenkade 7).

For an authentic Dutch dining / pub experience, visit a ‘brown café’ (bruin café), which are the typical Amsterdam pubs. The name ‘brown café’ results from the dark brown wooden furniture in these pubs. Some of them date back to the 1600s (The oldest one, In ‘t Aepjen, first opened its doors in 1509)! A traditional Brown Café snack to try are bitterballen, which are breaded and deep-fried balls with a ragout filling, served with various mustards, and of course you can’t leave without trying a regional beer canalside cafes

8 Step back in time in Amsterdam: Begijnhof

Head to Spui Square and look for a wooden brown door, go through it, and you’ll find yourself in another world! The quiet garden courtyard, surrounded by gabled buildings, couldn’t be a bigger contrast to the busy Spui Square. Begijnhof dates back to the early 15th century and is one of the oldest courtyards in the city, and look out for Begijnhof 34 – the wooden house is one of the oldest houses in Amsterdam!amsterdam shophouse

9 Waterlooplein Flea Market

Waterlooplein Flea Market is a huge outdoor market with over 300 stalls, selling anything from kitsch to antiques furniture to vintage clothes. If you love a market stroll as much as I do, you should definitely make Waterlooplein Flea Market part of your trip to Amsterdam, and you might even find an unusual souvenir here. The market, which was created after World War II ended and has attracted hippies from all over Europe in the 70s is still a place where people of all backgrounds, ages and origins come together – every day of the week! It can get pretty crowded these days, so I recommend visiting early or bringing patience.

Another Amsterdam insider tip: The market is located in the Jewish Quarter, which is worth a visit in itself, so make sure to explore the streets around Waterlooplein Square when you’re finished bridge and houses

10 Visit Amsterdam’s Jordaan neighborhood

The Jordaan neighborhood is a young area of the city, with lots of funky cafes, galleries and independent shops. If you happen to be in Amsterdam on a Saturday, don’t miss the market on Lindengracht and the flea market around the canal bridge

Want more insider tips for Amsterdam? Check out the Guardian’s 10 of the best insider tips to Amsterdam.


Amsterdam off the beaten path



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