Hey! My best friend and I are taking on Amsterdam in September and are looking to live like a local would. Where are the best places to eat, shop, activities? We'd love to be outside as much as possible. We're both in our mid-late 20's and would love a recommendation on where to stay. Budget isn't really an issue but we'd love recommendations on somewhere not too expensive!
So many things to do, so little time :-).
Most tourist stay within the canal area, which is such a shame. There is so much to see and do outside this touristy area (which is beautiful if you dismiss all the tourists :-) ).
I would recommend to stay one day within this area to see the highlights and the other day to do some out of the box things.
So this is your more tourist itinerary, but still really nice:
Wake up early to go to some museums. I would just do two at the max. I love Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Beautiful building and you will see some fine Dutch art (Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh etc.). You can spend a whole day here. I would also recommend Anne Frank Housebut buy tickets in advance, otherwise you spend at least one hour in line.
Walk around de Jordaanarea, which I think is beautiful. Go to Noordermarkton a Saturday for some local goods and products (not your touristy souvenir market at all). Walk to Haarlemmerstraatfor some nice shops and also just walk along the Brouwersgracht(I think the most beautiful canal in Amsterdam). Also go to the Negen Straatjes(nine little streets), for some nice boutique stores.
Skip the Red light district! But if you must, go to Mata Harifor lunch or a quick bite. This is almost the only nice place in this area.
On your second day go outside of the canals and just explore. Like Lauren says, just walk (or bike) around and don't worry about getting lost. Also, just ask a local for directions, we don't bite :-). Go to the West area of town around De Clercqstraat and Bellamyplein. Here you will find Foodhallen, kind of an indoor foodcourt, but then with nice food, a huge bar and just a general good atmosphere. It is always really busy though!
Go to the De Pijp neighborhood around Gerard Doustraat and Gerard Douplein. Here is where mostly locals go for a drink on the weekend. Chill out at Sarphatipark if the weather permits. And just take some side streets randomly. You will find a nice store, cafe, coffeeplace, little restaurant anywhere :-)
I live in the east part of town, which I think is the best part :-). If you go to Beukenpleinyou can find several great bars and restaurants. No tourist will go here. Go to Bar Bukowski or Henry's Barfor a drink and go have dinner at de Biertuin (this is sort of a trendy beergarden). Or to Smokin' Barrels for great hamburgers and lobster. In the 'middle eastern' part of town at around Javastraatyou will find more and more nice stores, cafes and restaurants opening. Such as Walter's - The Walter Woodbury Bar and Wilde zwijnen.
I would recommend renting a bike for this second day. Just makes these areas a little bit more accessible. Amsterdam is not big, but if you just have 2 days, you are just everywhere a little bit faster (don't try public transport, it is horrible). Just be careful! We Dutchies go fast on our bikes! Just keep to the right and watch out!
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So many recommendations for you! We stayed at B&B MNQUE rented through Airbnb and loved it! It's a studio with a queen bed but she may have other units with a different sleeping situation if you're looking for something bigger. We loved the location and the apartment was simple and perfect-we had wine and snacks with the windows open overlooking the cafes below every day!
We had some fantastic breakfast in Amsterdam - twice at the super small and cute Gartine and other days a Singel 404 and Broodje Bert. Make sure to make a reservation for Gartine. (eggs from Singel below)
If you haven't been before you have to go to the Anne Frank House, such a moving place to see, just make sure to reserve your tickets online ahead of time. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and Van Gogh Museum are also well worth a trip, even if it's a quick walk through.
One thing with Amsterdam is that you can get lost and easily frustrated with the streets and canals-just let it happen! Walk around and don't worry about getting lost, it's how we found some of the coolest places on our trip. If you do get lost just pull up google maps and you'll find your way - you can get a SIM card for your trip at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport :)
On a nice day make sure to grab a seat on the Leidseplein and enjoy a few drinks and great people watching.
For more deets on how we spent our 4 days you can check out my blog posts. As much as I loved Prague, Amsterdam still ranks as my #1 European city, have so much fun and let me know if you have any other questions!
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I lived in Amsterdam for 12 years on and off, mostly in the centre.
Do you like museums much? There is so much better things to do in Amsterdam if you only have 2 days there. Skip the museums.
Rent a bike for both days there and cycle around and get lost is the best thing you can do. I wrote about cycling in Amsterdam that you can read here:
There is some fun bars that are good to hang out in late in the evening where it's almost all locals and a really nice vibe. Check out Cafe Roest, in my opinion one of the best places to spend a sunny evening for a drink.
You should go down to the Red Light District at night time but I would suggest just for an hour to see why it's famous worldwide. Personally I think all the bars around there are mostly dull, but you could check out Belushis Bar for liveliness and many other travellers.
Also around the Red Light there is one of the best breakfast and lunch places in all of Amsterdam called Bakkerswinkel.
Don't take a canal cruise, they are seriously boring. Much more fun getting lost around the canals on a bike.
Check out the Jordaan area, one of my favourite places in the centre.
Some of the other answers here have some good recommendations, except for the one about not checking out the Red Light District. I mean I don't really like that area much anymore but it's famous worldwide and your in the city so go and take a look!
If you don't normally smoke weed and think you will give it a go because you are in Amsterdam then just be aware that it can be very strong! I've seen many tourists puking in the streets having tried some, mostly by people who stupidly mixed it with beer when they were not used to it.
But if you do smoke weed then welcome to paradise! Check out the original Dampkring coffeeshop for a coffee even if you don't smoke, it was part of the setting in Oceans 12 and will give you an idea what a smokers coffeeshop is like.
Hope that gives you a bit of a different perspective :)
If you want to live like a local, then check out lodging at https://www.airbnb.com/ where you can stay in apartments instead of hotels. Often times these are less expensive and much nicer than hotels.
The Dutch all speak English beautifully, so talk to people and walk everywhere. Ask locals where they like to eat. They're friendly and will tell you. I've spent most of my trips to Amsterdam exploring the Canal Ring area, but I've never eaten at the same place twice. It's beautiful and jam packed with shops and restaurants. Go to a cheese market and try some of the local gouda. The nettles one is amazing as is the graaskaas and pesto cheese.
If you want to truly be a local, rent a bike, but DO keep close attention to bike rules. These people are professionals. They ride fast and confidently. I got yelled at quite a few times for stepping in front of a bicycle while taking pictures.
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