So now you know how to visit Amsterdam on a shoestring but now perhaps you find yourself wondering what to do with your 72 hours in this beautiful city. This city break is ideal for couples, friends or even a family holiday, I checked the safety score on Geosure for Amsterdam and its ranked as ’25’ a very low risk and safe destination as you can see:
Take a look at my top five suggestions for what to see, where to eat and what to do in the ‘Venice of the North…
For two years during the Second World War, Prinsengracht 263 held a secret Annex which acted as a hiding place for Anne Frank, her family and several other Jewish friends and colleagues of her father Otto Frank. Anne dreamt of being an author and wrote exceptionally moving passages in her diary during her time in the annex reflecting on daily events, her fears and occasionally she dared to dream of what a life after the war would be like.
“One day we’re laughing at the comical side of life in hiding, and the next day (and there are many such days), we’re frightened, and the fear, tension and despair can be read on our faces.” Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 26 May 1944
Tragically the family were captured and Anne died in a concentration camp just two weeks before the camp was liberated and shut down by British troops. In 1957 The Anne Frank House was established with the aim to preserve the hiding place for future generations and continue Otto Frank’s mission
“We cannot change what happened anymore. The only thing we can do is to learn from the past and to realise what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means.”Otto Frank, 1970
A visit to Anne Frank’s House is quite frankly a must for any trip to Amsterdam. Not only is it a powerful insight into the holocaust it also serves as a reminder of the constant battle against prejudice in our society. I visited back in 2007 and I was incredibly moved by the whole experience, everything in the house has been left exactly as it was before the families were discovered and captured so there is an overwhelming sense of eeriness and loss.
I wondered around looking at the various rooms, the photos on the wall and I tried to imagine just what it must have been like, every time I read Anne’s diary I am blown away by her talent for writing and her awareness of something so horrific combined by her insistence that the world will eventually be a better place. She will always be a famous representation of a nation that were so badly treated, but Anne also got her ultimate wish of being a world-famous writer and if she hadn’t died I can only imagine that we would have been treated to even more incredible pieces of writing. More recently in September this year my two friends Madi and Kaya visited Anne Frank’s house and were equally blown away by the historical poignance of this annex.
Amsterdam Experiences offer a trip to explore the other key Jewish sites in Amsterdam enjoy a 10% discount when you book a group tour using my exclusive code ‘ellegoesglobal’. They can even help you to book tickets for Anne Frank’s House.
Elle’s top tip: If you plan on visiting I highly recommend you booking in advance. 80% of the daily tickets are sold up to 2 months in advance with the remaining tickets sold online every day at 9am (poor Madi and Kaya had to set their alarms early) I’d recommend visiting early in the morning 9-10ish, late afternoon after 5pm or around lunch time as these are the quieter times meaning the annex will be less crowded as you walk round. Take a look here for tickets.
When we started to talk about our visit in September 2018, very high on our list was the Heineken Experience . We purchased our tickets at a tourist attractions shop and saved ourselves €3 with a ticket price of €18 each. With our time slot booked, we explored a market nearby before joining the queue. The queue was quite long and a bit disorganised but we were kept occupied by a masters Tourism Management student’s questionnaires about the perception of Amsterdam – I had a really interesting conversation with her.
The beginning of the experience was a fascinating insight into the history, culture and branding behind Heineken, there was so much that I wasn’t aware of before visiting, did you know it was founded in 1864 by a 22-year old Gerard Adriaan Heineken and that Heineken were the first brewery to implement the use of bottom-fermenting yeast. Or that they shaped the modern style of the bottles that many other breweries adapted for beers and lagers and Heineken is still still a family-run business to this day.
Being a Marketing nerd, I loved learning all about the branding and story behind the product – had you noticed the ‘e’ are shaped like smiles to associate the product with happiness? I won’t give you too many spoilers though or else you’ll know everything before you ever get there! I found the signs they had up “skip the culture” quite hilarious so for anyone visiting who isn’t keen on learning more about the brand and just wants to head to the bar follow those signs… bit silly though because you could have saved yourself €18 and just gone to a bar down the road if you don’t want to learn about the history and production!
Throughout the experience you are given a bracelet with two drinks tokens on which I’ll come back to later on. You are given two half pints of Heineken to enjoy as you go round, with one explaining the key flavours behind Heineken and teaching you to say Proost!
Aside from tasting the gorgeous beers (they taste best in Amsterdam) the experience gives you the chance to walk around the brewery and learn more about the production methods in a very interactive way. There are places for you to take fun group photos and even try your hand at mixing the yeast and barley. We even tried a sample – It tastes just like Horlicks!
As you move through the building there is a series of artistic displays of bottles and showcases of key marketing campaigns. Prepare to lose those sport lovers to the Rugby and Football areas along with promotional adverts and interviews with famous stars, there are games like ‘score a goal’ and even a foosball table! Afterwards you can try your hand at pouring a beer and even pay to personalise your own beer bottle with your name or special message.
The Heineken experience finishes where every that’s good thing should – at the ‘best dam bar’. This is when your two drinks tokens come into fruition. There aren’t any seats in this area though, something that I think would be a really good way to improve the bar as after spending two hours walking round our little feet were quite tired. One of our favourite attractions in the city, I’d highly recommend you go as it really is an incredible and fun day out.
Elle’s top tip: Book your tickets online in advance and save yourself €3 and you’ll even receive a map of Amsterdam. If you are wanting to make your own personalised bottle either upgrade your suitcase to go in the hold or drink the beer before you get on the plane. And finally order one of your beers at the main bar, enjoy it and then head over to the side bar and pour your second beer for yourself – something I really want to do next time I visit Amsterdam.
3. Canal Cruise & Jordaan
The canals in Amsterdam are so iconic that they have UNESCO World Heritage status. Take a canal cruise and admire the dutch architecture (my photos really speak for themselves here). You might want to take a beer cruise, a weed cruise or just a traditional tourist cruise complete with the background of the key sights. Jordaan is one of the most famous neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and where you will find Anne Frank’s house. There are some wonderful bars and restaurants around here for you to explore.
Elle’s top tip: Visit a tourist information centre on the first day of your stay and pick up a leaflet with a discount voucher for a canal cruise. We went with Lovers and got our tickets for €13 each.
4. Foodie Delights
Who knew Amsterdam was such a wonderful foodie destination. With such wonderful street food to sample why not take a group tour with Amsterdam Experiences and taste the best local food, enjoy an exclusive 10% discount when you book a place on the group tour by using my code ‘ellegoesglobal’. Their ‘Amsterdam Street Food Tour‘ takes you on a 3 hour tour where you can taste the variety of flavours in the Dutch Kitchen including Gouda Cheese, Syrup Waffles and Herring. Guided by locals you will experience the real, authentic side of Amsterdam.
Another foodie must do is buying a syrup waffle or stroopwafel as it’s know. Made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle, these syrup waffles were first created in Gouda but have become very popular in Amsterdam. I’m sure you’ve seen it on social media but my top suggestion is that you visit Van Wonderen where you can choose from three sizes and several topping options.
I choose a salted fudge caramel topping for my stoopwafel and I can honestly say it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. Warm and oozing with a caramel filling, trust me you should buy one for now and save one for later!
Elle’s top tip: If you are looking to buy stroopwafels to take home either as a treat for yourself or as a gift for a loved one avoid buying them from Van Wonderen or the airport as this is the most expensive way. Buy a pack or two or even three (can you tell I love them) from a supermarket, they are exactly the same quality but just half the price.
5. Red light district & the coffee shops
As Amsterdam’s oldest neighbour ‘de wallen’ or as its more commonly know ‘the Red Light District’ there are a high concentration of prostitution windows, brothels and other businesses associated with the sex industry. It originated due to the consistent influx of sailors and traders passing through the area, thus attracting a large number of sex workers. With streets of sex stores, brothels and sex rooms, the neon red lights illuminate the rooms where sex workers are avaliable to ‘engage with customers’.
We walked through the area fairly late at night when the main hub of activity was just starting, of course there were the usual suspects the stag parties but we didn’t ever actually see anyone go in a room with one of the workers. Instead it seemed the large majority of people were just walking along looking at the women in the window, it was an enlightening experience and actually quite sad to see. All the women were the same figure (barbie thin) with plastic boob jobs, nose jobs and large lips – clearly this is what men seem to find attractive, it all just seemed very dirty to me. But it’s definitely worth taking a walk around… especially when you stumble across beautiful buildings like the castle restaurant below.
Another aspect of Amsterdam’s liberal nature is the coffee shops, I can’t proclaim to know much about them or even say I’ve experienced them but I’m sure if you are looking to enjoy some weed they are a lot of fun, take a look at some tips for visiting here.
Elle’s top tip: Wonder down the side streets after 11pm to see the Red Light district thriving with activity. Don’t take any photographs or tap on the windows, the ladies of the night get very aggressive if you do so – look but don’t touch.
6. I amsterdam Sign
Did you ever go to Amsterdam if you don’t visit the I amsterdam sign? I know it’s stereotypically touristic but sometimes I just get swept up with the tribe. And it’s number of visitors is even marked on google maps, this place is always very busy and we had to wait a while to get a photo.
Elle’s top tip: I’d suggest visiting very early in the morning or late afternoon/evening this is the time when the sign is likely to be less busy and crowded.
More information on:
Amsterdam Experiences focus on organising tours for small groups, with no more than 10 people per tour. That means all tours are very personal and there is a great dynamic with the group. You start as strangers and end as friends. They only work with local guides that have lived in Amsterdam for at least 4 years and know the city pretty well. As you can see on TripAdvisor people really love the tours and when you use my exclusive discount code ‘ellegoesglobal’ you can save 10% on any of the group tours you book.
Geosure – “Our safety ratings are specially derived to be relevant to you — on your time, on your turf. Our conviction: Whether on business, for leisure, or schooling, when you’re aware and prepared, traveling is both safer and more enjoyable.Trusted by countless users in over a hundred countries, GeoSure has developed the most highly scaled, standardised system in the world for easily understanding your personal safety.”
And if you are staying longer why not check out….
Vincent Van Gogh Museum – Admire the world’s largest collection of works by the famous and extremely talented Vincent Van Gogh including my favourite the ‘starry night’ painting.
The Clog Museum – About 40 minutes from the city centre the city of Zaandam is home to the clog museum. This is high on my list for my next trip to Amsterdam as you get to watch demonstrations of the carving and decorations of these tradition dutch shoes.
Windmills – Aside from clogs and cheese the first thing you probably associate with the Netherlands is the windmills! Head to the open-air museum at Zaanse Schans, this free outdoor park is full of a collection of historical windmills – close to the clog museum and a cheese farm.
Light Festival – Held every year between November and January sculptures and bewitching light installations illuminate the city’s streets and waterways. You could even take a special boat cruise along the route. This is on my travel wish list for 2019.
Tulip Festival – Every spring people from across the globe come to the city and the surrounding areas to see blooming tulips at 85 locations. There’s even a flower parade and you could book a flower fields tour to visit the stunning tulips in the towns close to the city.
Hit the beach – Sun, sand and sea – not exactly the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Amsterdam. But a short distance from the city lies Zandvoort which is where we spent our final few hours in Holland during our recent trip.
A’DAM Lookout – Ascend to the top of this observation deck for unrivalled panoramic views of Amsterdam. Overlooking the historical centre, port and famous UNESCO world heritage canals, this is a great way to start your trip in the city and admire the sights. And if you are feeling extra adventurous why not take to the ‘over the edge’ swing on the sky deck to swing 100 metres above the ground with Amsterdam below your feet – a adrenaline pumping activity. Book your tickets here.
The Foodhallen– As the first indoor foodmarket in the Netherlands, this renovated tram depot houses a variety of different food outlets and bars. Inspired by the ‘Borough Market’ in London wander around and enjoy a selection of small signature dishes, Michelin star food, international street foods and quirky bars. A foodie hotspot like no other!
I had a really wonderful weekend away with my friends Alison, Kaya and Madi – full of laughter, celebrations and LOTS of heineken! We proved that you really can make the most of a short weekend away and still only have to take one day or even half a day off work to do so. It’s even included in my Where did Elle go in 2018 post. I love how beautiful and liberal Amsterdam is (just watch out for those bikes!) and I would happily visit the city many more times throughout my lifetime, because there is still plenty for me to explore and lots more food places for me to try. Thank you for reading! For budget tips about Amsterdam have a read of my post here. Have you visited Amsterdam, What did you get up to during your time there? Or is this city on your travel wish list – which activity are you most excited to try? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below