Amsterdam in a day (+24hr+ BONUS)
Ah, Amsterdam… home of the historical Dutch East India Company, wooden shoes, the International Tulip Festival, famous World War II hide outs, mass bicycle and canal transportation, mayo with french fries, marijuana cafes, the Red Light district, and Heineken. Just to name a few. You’ll likely have to pick a few of these options to focus on your day here, but hopefully you’re able to stay a little longer or come back through perhaps on your way home from your next adventure (Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport serves as one of Europe’s connecting hubs, so it’s easy to make another stop when you’re jet-setting.).
This is an easy, breezy (read: bring jacket) way to get a good tour of the city and offers a few stops along the way, should you decide you’d like to check out on of the locale’s the tour guide announces. There are several companies leaving at all times of the day, so grabbing tickets walk-up style is no problem. Don’t worry if you haven’t donned your thermals if it’s chilly out: most boats are covered with in door seating available.
Anne Frank House.
I’m not sure if her diary is still on required reading lists for schools (or even if those still exists), but I hope Anne’s story continues to reach further into history. I had the opportunity to walk along the halls where her family and friends lived in hiding for several years during the Nazi occupation in WWII. Even though it had been a long time since reading her book as a child, I instantly relived the pages when I actually saw those pages and heard them read aloud through the speakers in the house. Though it’s an incredibly somber experience, I encourage you to push your comfort zone to honor this young girl’s life and memoirs, lest we forget. Be sure to purchase tickets online ahead of time for your exact entrance time. You can no longer buy tickets at the house so you will need the tickets printed out or saved on your smart phone for entry. We recommend arriving a little early for your entrance time as this is generally a popular and crowded attraction.
Check out the Heineken Experience for some fun and education into the process behind the “Champion of Beers.” This is also a pretty popular spot, especially in the summer, plus it offers a great rooftop beer garden to hang out in with a few brews after your tour. Complete with games, the Heineken Horse Stables, and even a chance to personalize your own Heineken bottle, this is definitely a more fun brewery walk through than you’ve probably ever seen elsewhere.
The Red Light District.
Though it’s not a part of our western culture, it would seem negligible to leave out the Red Light District for our Amersterdam article. In the series of canals that connects the city, this historically accepted and legal section of the streets is a short walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Brace yourself to see the women in lingerie advertising in the windows as you walk by. I actually really recommend Bird Thai restaurant right around the corner… seriously, go early because the line will form, rain, snow or shine.
If you time your visit just right, and you have a little more than 24hours, you can check the next spot off on your bucket list.
Grab your tickets at the Tourist Center by Amsterdam Centraal (or online, or maybe at your hotel) for the Tulip Festival about an hour’s drive away at the Keukenhof Gardens. During the Tulip Festival in Holland during April, you will see gardens galore in several nearby cities, but the Keukenhof Gardens are home to more than 7 million flowers making some of the most creative creations around. But book wisely if this makes your list (and it should): the Gardens are only open 60 days a year and it is a delicate three-week maximum that these beautiful bulbs are in full bloom. This was definitely an amazingly Dutch experience!
Van Gogh Museum.
I have not been able to find the time to check out Van Gogh’s Museum just yet, but it is certainly on my list since I have heard great reviews and am a Van Gogh fan myself. It’s not specifically in the middle of the city but it is located nearby and near several other shops sites. Depending on what time of year you go, this is definitely a good spot to hide from the rain or wind in the colder months (plus there are large malls nearby with great cheese shops to keep you fueled on the way).