A Whistle-Stop Weekend in Amsterdam
Find yourself completely captivated by the wonder that is Amsterdam. When you arrive at Central Station, it feels like you’ve stepped into the pages of a story book: lights reflect off canal waters, bicycle bells ring through the air, and Central Station lights up the background like an oil painting. Travel in Amsterdam is made easy with laid-back, English-speaking locals and accessible transportation – just hop on a tram or cycle around the city! Spend time exploring the streets on old-school bicycles and wind your way through the hidden lanes of the Jordaan. Tease your taste buds with creamy cheeses from a plethora of Dutch cheese delis. By night, take in the craziness of the infamous Amsterdam Red Light District. And when dining, don’t forget to sample bitterballen (savoury Dutch meatballs).
- Arrive and settle into your hotel
- Spend the afternoon or evening taking in the city’s beauty
- Visit the Van Gogh Museum
- Take a photo at the “I amsterdam” sign
- Stroll through Vondelpark
- Eat your way through Dutch cheeses in gorgeous delis
- Visit the infamous Red Light District at night
- Spend a morning exploring the artsy suburb of Jordaan via bicycle
- Visit Anne Frank’s House
- Take a canal cruise
Amsterdam has been on my bucket list for years and with fantastic flight deals taunting me, it was time. The online weather forecasts promised me two cold days of sunshine. Experiencing Amsterdam in a weekend is intoxicating: the city appeals to one’s inner adventure and stimulates the senses. Whether you are seeking culture, history, food, drink, or just getting lost, Amsterdam has it all. Here is how we spent our weekend:
Day 1: Arrival in Amsterdam
We arrived in Amsterdam in the early evening. From the airport, it is easy to hop on a train and arrive in magical Amsterdam twelve minutes later. There is a lively, energetic bustle outside the station, everyone floats around with an air of contentment, while the bikes, buildings, and trams are illuminated by bright street lights and canal reflections. Trams are lined up and clearly numbered, making it extremely easy to get around.
Through our airline, we found a deal at the four-star Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre hotel situated only one tram stop or a 10-minute bike ride away from the station. The hotel is convenient, clean, and charges around $150 per night, including breakfast. It is important to remember that Amsterdam is a tourist city and, although it is not the most expensive European city to visit, you do need to factor fairly high expenses into your budget for accommodation, food, and drink. The breakfast at Moevenpick is buffet style, which is satisfying enough that you may choose to skip lunch. Plus the buffet serves poffertjes – mini Dutch pancakes topped with icing, sugar, and syrup (an absolute must-try while visiting Amsterdam). If hotels chains are not for you, there are also some great bed and breakfasts options in the Jordaan and Vondelpark districts.
Day 2: From Van Gogh to the Red Light District
After a blissful meal of poffertjes, creamy scrambled eggs, and coffee, take the tram to the Van Gogh Museum. This museum has four floors that take you on the journey of Van Gogh’s artistic life. As well as his fascinating history, the panoramic views outside from the museum are awesome.
After culturally vulturing your way around the Van Gogh Museum, take the obligatory photograph by the letter of your choice at the “I amsterdam” sign. This sign lies in front of the Rijksmuseum in Museumplein, one of the most popular city squares. Continue walking to Vondelpark, a great green, public space made up of 140 acres of park, an open-air theater, a couple of bars and restaurants, and interesting statues such as ‘The Fish” by Pablo Picasso. Stroll around, eat a pancake, and enjoy the happy vibes!
Amsterdam is a fairly small city so navigating back to your hotel after sightseeing isn’t too tricky. As you wander back, stop in one of the cheese deli’s along Leidsestraat (I recommend Henri Willig Cheese & More). There are samples of every cheese imaginable, from soft and creamy goat cheeses to bright red and green pesto cheese.
In the evening, grab a drink in the infamous Red Light District and be prepared for some jaw-dropping sights! There are plenty of tasty restaurants in Amsterdam so you won’t have any trouble finding good food for your evening meal!
Day 3: Riding through Jordaan
On your final day in Amsterdam, pretend to be a local and rent a bike. There are rental shops all over Amsterdam, and some hotels even rent them to guests. Start the day pedaling through the streets of Jordaan, a delightful, artsy district full of boutique stores, cozy cafés, and a small food market on the weekends. There is a cool, creative vibe here and some gorgeous and quaint cafés to stop off for a coffee break.
Cycle on to Anne Frank’s House for a history-filled morning. If you are patient enough to stand in the queues, or arrive early enough to avoid them, you can delve into the life of one of World War II’s most famous heroines. Afterward, make your way to the Singel Canal to take in the fragrant and pretty floating flower market. Flower stalls standing on the houseboats display arrays of tulips and narcissus and sell any other bulb you can imagine. For a Dutch lunch that includes famous bitterballen, seek out Cafe van Zuylen on the same canal.
After a day of bicycling, rest your legs and end your trip with a canal cruise. Choose a boat without a roof to see more of the beautiful city before you bid it goodbye.
- Portal to Amsterdam: www.iamsterdam.com
- Tourism in Holland: www.holland.com/us/tourism/cities/amsterdam.htm
- Bed & Breakfasts: www.amsterdam-bed-and-breakfasts.com
- Unusual Hotels: www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/experience/plan-your-trip/where-to-stay/unusual-hotels
- Guide to Jordaan district: www.jordaaninfo.nl
About the Author
After being born and bred in South Africa for 28 years, Penny Matthews finally made the move to London. With a six month trip through Central America behind her, she discovered a world of travel that invited her to discover new people, cultures, and culinary delicacies.
Have you ever visited Amsterdam? Tell us about your favorite experiences in the comment section below!