Unfortunately (or fortunately), we got stuck in Amsterdam/Rotterdam for 10 days instead of the original 5 we had planned, since we had to get a Visa sorted for our upcoming trip to Brazil, which we failed to organize before leaving NYC – Oops!
For this reason, we got to check out the city of Rotterdam, a newly built city 45 minutes south of Amsterdam, so here’s our guide for both Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
What first struck us about Rotterdam was not only the modern feel of the city but its new, funky architecture built shortly after WWII. We can’t see we’ve ever seen 3D cube houses before!
Apart from the funky architecture, our favourite building in Rotterdam was Markthal, one of the newest. Inside you’ll find a huge food hall covering the first floor + housing for 228 apartments and retail stores. It is one of the nicest, largest, cleanest food halls we’ve seen in Europe.
On the food level you’ll find a huge range of food from restaurants to pop up stores, delis, fresh fruit and vegetables & bakeries. Our favorite was eating a freshly made, gooey caramel stroopwafle (shown below). Stroopwafles are a very famous sweet treat in the Netherlands and is basically a thin waffle that is sliced open immediately after baking and filled with warm cinnamon caramel syrup. When it’s cooled down, the outside is crispy and the inside is soft with a little bit of chewiness. Yummo!
If you have time when visiting Amsterdam, it’s worth checking Rotterdam out for a day trip, but we wouldn’t recommend any longer than that.
When people think of Amsterdam, generally the immediate thought that comes to mind is the “coffee shops” and the red light district, however, there’s much more on offer. You can also indulge in copious amounts of cheese & meat, see beautiful canals, windmills and get around in a pair of super fashionable clogs! Amsterdam has so much to offer, and it’s all best seen by bike!
Where in the world is there a city that has more bikes than people? It is crazy! Although both of us have been to Amsterdam before, it seemed as though the bikes had tripled since our last visit, making for a very stressful ride around the city… for Emily at least! Jacob had no problem, but Emily… well she was a little more on the cautious side and even still, was nearly run down by fellow bikers, people, trams or cars at least 10 times. Jacob had to stop counting. Fortunately, no real accidents occurred but the lesson of “ look left, look right” needed some practice.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
The city centre has many choices, for most budgets, but the city centre is also the most touristic and in some parts, very noisy in the evenings so pick wisely. Avoid the red light district if you’re after sleep!
City centre aside, there are many beautiful neighborhoods to stay in Amsterdam and Airbnb is a great choice. You could even stay in a house boat. If you’re looking to stay out of the hustle and bustle of the city, yet still close enough to access the city, then we recommend staying in Oud West or The Jordaan areas.
Many of Jordaan’s residences are traditional Dutch houses, making for an appealing place to stay in Amsterdam. The canals are lined with 17th century houses and the streets are filled with speciality shops, boutiques and cafes. You wont find many tourists here so the streets are noticeably quieter.
We were lucky enough to stay with a friend in Oud West and it was such a perfect neighborhood.
What to do in Amsterdam… other than smoke
Rent a bike – Typically this is the thing to do in Amsterdam. We rented bikes for 2 days but honestly found walking in the centre of town to be more convenient as we like to stop inside many stores. If you do rent, don’t forget to always lock up your bike! 5 bikes are stolen per hour in Amsterdam.
There are a lot of rental shops located throughout the city but after a recommendation we rented from Black Bikes. They have decent rates including cheaper rates the longer you rent & insurance + you were able to drop them off at any of the locations throughout the city. If you’re renting for more than 5 days then consider buying a second hand bike as it will be around the same cost (€70-100).
Although riding in the city centre was a little crazy, the bikes were a great way to see some of the things outside of the centre of town.
We rode to the Nemo Science Centre, which has a grassy roof with a view over the city, we had a beer at the windmill brewery Brouwerij’t lJ, (shown below) that also offer tastings, tours, food + outdoor seating. We continued on riding east to check out the fancy neighbourhoods in East Amsterdam. If you make it out here be sure to stop in at the Drovers Dog Cafe for some Aussie specialities.
Museumplein – Many museums (Van Gogh, Stedlijk Art&Design) and the I AMSTERDAM sign! Also a great grassy area to relax on a nice day.
Vondlepark – The Netherlands most famous park. Perfect for bike riding, running & picnicking.
Dam Square – The main hub of Amsterdam. People watch, shopping & cafes.
Anne Frank House – A very moving museum which is definitely worth the visit. Tip; go before it opens or be prepared to wait anywhere from 1-4 hours in line. The museum is small so they only allow a certain amount of people at a time. If you are very organised and know when you will be going a month or so in advance you can try reserve tickets online, which will allow you to skip the line. Entry is €9 at the door and €14 online with a 30 minute guide.
Sex Museums/Stores – Well these are pretty self explanatory but they’re definitely worth a stop in. Some of them were quite entertaining with the variety of products they sold… 20″ dildo anyone?
Sandemans Free Walking Tour – I think we can stop explaining what this is now.
Amsterdam has so many areas for shopping, you can find everything you need.
- 9 Streets Shopping District – This area has 9 narrow streets not only lined with boutique shops, jewelry stores, designer brands and vintage stores but also a great selection of restaurants and cafes. The streets are located in the heart of the city’s historic canal district. They intersect the main canals between the Leidsestraat and the Jordaan district.
- Haarlemmerdijk Street– A very lively long street running from east to west towards Amsterdam Central Station. There is something for everyone along here. We found there to be a big selection of “coffee shops” also.
- Kalverstraat and the Leidsestraat – The two main streets in the city. Big brands and typical european branded shops.
- Hema – Hema is a big department store with many locations through the city. The size ranges but you can find almost anything you need in this large department store.
Food, Food, Glorious Food
Considering we were in Amsterdam for so long, we actually didn’t eat at a restaurant once. We cooked at home, we ate on the go and sampled foods from around the city all day, every day. Food halls such as Food Hallen were also visited numerous times.
If there’s just one tip we can give, don’t leave Amsterdam without trying fries from Vlaams Friethuis Vleminckx. Up and running since 1957. They don’t sell anything else but fries here so don’t expect to come here for lunch. The sauce list is long and the fries are crispy.
Secondly, be sure to step into every cheese store in Amsterdam and sample the 100’s of cheeses. Old Amsterdam was our favorite cheese. If you really want to get into it, you can dress up like a farmer at the Cheese Museum… I mean who would do that …. ?!
Nightlife in Amsterdam
What happens in Vegas Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam really does a reputation as a city of sin, with its legal prostitution, lax laws on marijuana and its overall liberal stance… Holland even was the first country to legalize gay marriage.
Coffeeshops, Sex Shows + More
This said, there really is no shortage of fun to be had in Amsterdam. We found ourselves strolling the many canals, people watching and ducking into the bars that looked appealing. We indulged in a space cake, saw a sex show and even sampled a pre-rolled joint. When in Rome, right?
As amateurs ourselves, we made sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The touristy “coffee shop” (smoke shops) chains such as ‘Greenhouse’ or ‘Bulldog’ are very helpful for newbies as they provide all the info you need. Avoid the convenience/souvenir stores as they are just in it for a buck and will not necessarily give you the correct information. Once you have the info & gear, find a less touristy coffee shop to sit down and enjoy.
As a heads up, coffee shops aren’t allowed to sell booze, so many will have a sister bar nearby where you can smoke your purchases.
When you get the munchies – and you will – don’t stress as you can just duck out and grab a heated burger from a vending machine, no joke!
If you’re into hallucigines, such as Magic Mushrooms, there are ‘Smart Shops’ around that sell these in pre-packaged containers with varying degrees of strength which are well marked. Ensure you ask about how to consume them properly – the store clerks are very helpful and will give you all the details, as well as the free brochures they provide.
Red Light District
Strolling around the red light district is quite an experience, and there are all sorts of girls tantalizing you from their brightly red lit windows. Just be aware of the blue lit ones, they’re transgender!
If buying a girl is not your thing, then a sex show may be up your alley… these range from 20-65Euro (cheaper on weekdays), and you will literally see people robots having sex on stage, among various other tricks involving bananas, long ribbons coming out of places they shouldn’t and girls with amazing drawing skills. You’ve been warned!
The more famous shows are Casa Rosa, BananaBar and Moulin Rouge. They run all night so there isn’t a set time you have to go. Usually finishing around 2/3am.
For a less sinful night out, you should check out the areas of Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein with the latter having more restaurants. As for a club, we went to just one and that was the three story club called ‘Escape’ and it was great fun. Anywhere you walk around the city, there is no shortage of places so it would be impossible to list them all. Walk and stop in where it suits! That’s how to enjoy Amsterdam.
Married days survived: 204