Here are my tips for the best things to do in Amsterdam.
How to get there
Plan ahead and buy your ticket months in advance so that it's cheaper than a dinner out. We both flew EasyJet for less than a nice dinner out. To get from the airport to your hotel you can take a train from the airport to the central station and then a tram or you can book the very well priced and convenient Schiopol HotelShuttle. My driver showed up at exactly the time on my voucher. The time on my voucher was 1:44pm. Impressive.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the De Pijp neighborhood knowing nothing about what a cool part of town it was. Located just outside the historic canal center and the museum areas of town, De Pijp is filled with a great eateries, a famous street market, a pretty park and lots of cafes.
Take an Eating Amsterdam Food Tour
Building on the success of the Eating Italy food tours in Rome, The empire is expanding and now you have a chance to take Amsterdam food tour. This is a great thing to schedule on your first day in town so you know what to eat for the rest of the trip and don't end up like one of our tour mates, ordering bitterballen for dessert.
We took the Jordaan food and canal tour which began in the groovy Jordaan neighborhood. We ate tart apple pie above a secret tunnel that had once served as a getaway for Catholics in hiding during the 17th century, tasted the freshest herring, learned about salty licorice, craft beer and the per capita consumption of cheese in Amsterdam. Did I mention the relaxing hour long ride in an elegant art nouveau canal boat about three quarters of the way through the tour with champagne and hand delivered hot snacks?
Be a Culture Vulture
Yes I know, Amsterdam is the home of the great Dutch masters but for a change of pace go see some contemporary art. My South African traveling pal was excited to see a Marlene Dumas retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum. These works are bold, full of difficult emotion but not without a touch of dark whimsy.
A friend here in Rome recommended this small photography museum and we bought tickets without even a cursory google search. What a delightful surprise. This light filled industrial space overlooking the Keizersgracht canal is currently featuring grim slice of life snaps by JH Engström and the intensely color saturated works by Daniel Gordon. I was mesmerized by the durational photographs by Owen Kydd.
I unabashedly, unashamedly admit to loving the weepy Young Adult romance The Fault in Our Stars. Of course I had to hunt down the famous bench from the film. You can find it where Herengracht and Leidsegracht meet.
A Few Observations
The cheery disposition and helpful nature of just about everyone we came in contact with was a breath of fresh air compared to the recalcitrant Romans. You can buy tram tickets on the tram, almost everywhere has wifi and they are happy to give you the code. A big surprise was that there are a number of shops and casual restaurants that do not accept cash. Yes you read that correctly. Only cards (with a chip) are accepted as payment for both hygiene and security reasons. If you see a sign that says PIN at the cash register get your security chipped credit card out.
Renting an apartment for your stay in Amsterdam? Stop by Bilder & De Clerq which has the most amazing concept. Stations are stocked with the exact ingredients you need for a featured recipe. The goal of the store is healthy eating and no food waste. If you don't plan on cooking you should still make a stop here, the coffee and chocolate sea salted cake beckon.
Helpful Amsterdam Resources
Your Little Black Book
These two public transportation apps helped us find our way around. Google maps was also very useful for both navigating the twisty canals and which tram to take.
I am Amsterdam
Stayed tuned for where to eat, drink and shop in Amsterdam later this week.