October 30th, 2019
A Quickie in Amsterdam
Not that kind of quickie!
James and I spent 3 days in Amsterdam in August of 2019. We had taken a deviation from our Remote Year itinerary and stopped here on our way from KL, Malaysia to Split, Croatia. Here are our top 7 suggestions for anyone taking a quick visit to the city of canals!
1. Do like the locals do and ride a bike!
There are many bike rental places but I suggest doing a guided bike tour like the one we booked through Airbnb Experiences. In four hours, we learned about history, architectural design, boathouses, and local life. We also explored hidden gems like a former gas plant building that is now an exclusive DJ venue in which the DJ performs from the center of the round room creating the perfect acoustics. We also saw what looked like an ordinary crane that had been transformed into a hotel. Rooms at the Crane Hotel Faralda start at 700 euros a night and at the very top of the crane exists a hot tub with an exceptional view. The following two recommendations were part of our bike tour but can also be explored on their own.
Crane Hotel Faralda
2. Get your guiltless chocolate fix at Tony Chocolonely!
The store feels like a modern-day Willy Wonka Factory adorned with colorful candy bars and a buffet of chocolate samples. The company was started by journalist, Teun van de Keuken, who had done an investigation about child slavery on cocoa farms in West Africa. Shocked to discover that more than 60% of the world's chocolate production comes from child and slave labor, he decided to make his own "slave-free" chocolate bar and challenge the chocolate industry to do the same. Learn more about their story and how to support slave-free cocoa here.
3. Visit the City of Art!
NDSM (Nederlands Dok en Scheepsgebouw Maatschappij) is a former shipyard that is now the City of Art, where you can find hundreds of artists, designers, architects and set builders occupying and creating in this artistic warehouse and surrounding areas. If you're coming from the city center you can take a free ferry to get there. Explore the colorful murals and make your own interpretation of the large orange lettering reading "Make Art not €".
4. Pay homage to Anne Frank!
There is a captivating Anne Frank Portrait called "Let me be myself" by Eduardo Kobra located in NDSM. You can also visit the Anne Frank House where Anne Frank spent two years in hiding during WWII. With 1000s of visitors each day, make sure to get your tickets in advance like we did, three weeks prior to our visit. Many of us are familiar with Anne Frank's tragic story but as I learned about the nuances of her daily life in hiding and walked through the dark rooms where she silently existed for two years, I felt a new sense of understanding for what she had gone through. It was an emotional but necessary experience.
5. Stop in for "coffee" at a Coffeeshop!
Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam and throughout the city, there are several establishments labeled as "coffeeshops" where you can buy and smoke cannabis or eat space cake, a dessert baked with THC. Even if you do not want to partake in the wacky tobacky, you can still stop in for some actual coffee and experience this aspect of Amsterdam.
6. Satisfy your munchies!
Try some of the local delights including:
- Febo, a place with multiple locations where you can grab a quick snack via vending machine style. They have vegetarian options too.
- Van Der Linde, a bakery and ice cream shop with the fluffiest ice cream that looks like a cloud due to their special ingredient.
- Stroopwafels, can be found in many bakeries and consists of two wafer cookies joined by gooey caramel.
- Poffertjes, small fluffy dutch pancakes available at many cafes
- Frites, the best french fires you will ever have. Our favorite place to indulge in these was Manneken Pis which has an array of sauces and toppings, but, if you want to eat like the locals, try mayo on your frites.
7. If you have extra time, add these to your list!
Swinging on Europe's highest swing at A'DAM Lookout
Museum Quarter, an area of Amsterdam filled with art, culture, design, fashion, and food. On their site you can find specially curated walks that can be done in 30 minutes and focus on different aspects of the Museum Quarter. It is here that you can also find the coveted Van Gogh Museum. If you plan to visit, get your tickets in advance and take your time through the exhibits. Not only will you see displays of Van Gogh's impressive works but you will also get a look inside his personal life, his evolution as an artist and his struggles with mental illness. Keep in mind that the famous Starry Night painting is not located here and instead can be found at the MoMA in NYC.
Canal Boat Ride, it is the "Venice of the North" after all. Avoid the overly touristy boat rides located outside of the Amsterdam Centraal Station and look for a more quaint and authentic canal experience. Airbnb has some good options.
A'DAM Lookout, a popular tourist attraction and an ideal place to catch the sunset! You can save €1 by getting your tickets online and for €5 more, you can take a ride on Europe's highest swing. The swing will have your feet dangling over the edge of the building at 100 meters in the air. Somewhat scary but mostly exhilarating!
Red Light District, once the sun sets, you can stroll these infamous streets. It feels as if you are walking through an adult Toys 'R' Us with women framed by windows and red lights looking like half-naked Barbie dolls. If you are curious to experience a small part of the sex industry, try a peep show where you pay €2 to watch 3 minutes of "entertainment" from a small personal room.
Whether you have a few days or a few hours, make sure you make the most out of your visit and leave on a high note!