A breezy one hour flight and we were in Amsterdam, somewhere that had seemed to evade our travel radar so far. With such cheap and easy flights from the UK, it was the perfect destination for a short weekend break over the May bank holiday and I always welcome the chance for us to explore a new part of Europe.
There isn’t actually a huge amount of sightseeing to do in Amsterdam which made for a wonderfully chilled weekend break. We spent most of it simply wandering around, taking in the enchanting canals bursting with colourful flowers, and satisfying our bellies with as much food as possible. We decided to stay on our feet to explore rather than hop on a bike as the city is so full of cyclists – there are more bikes than there are people in Amsterdam (true story) – and the speed they flew past over the narrow cobblestone roads had me fearing for my life when I was on the pavement let alone actually being on one of the bikes myself! Instead, we picked up our I amsterdam card which includes tram, bus and metro rides, as well as a host of free and discounted sights and tours, and worked our way around the city with a combination of public transport and the simple wearing out of our feet.
If you’re planning a weekend in Amsterdam and want to know exactly what you should see and do then look no further as I’ve highlighted all the best bits here including the tastiest foods and the quirkiest activities!
♥ What to do in Amsterdam ♥
The thing I loved most about this city is that it’s the perfect place to simply wander around. We strolled hand in hand along the canals during the day; it’s one of those cities that just makes you smile with its dreamy canals, arched bridges dotted with flower pots, and bikes resting along every bridge like they were positioned there just for the perfect photo opportunity.
We also took a canal boat ride which is a lovely relaxing way to spend an hour seeing a different perspective to the city and ogling at just how much some of the adorable doll house buildings are leaning and tilting into each other.
In spring time especially, Amsterdam is full of colour, and we stumbled on buckets of bright blooming tulips at Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s floating canal market. We were slightly too late into the season to visit the tulip fields, but if we return to Amsterdam again (and we will!) I would make sure our trip coincided with it so we could get out of the city for a colourful day of flower spotting.
We’re not particularly big fans of museums or history so decided to skip the popular Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum although we still paid a visit to the insanely busy I amsterdam sign in the Museum quarter.
But a visit to the Anne Frank House is a must where we heard stories from Anne’s diary and climbed up the narrow staircase to the attic that she hid in with her family for two years during the war.
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that I’m not a football fan – at all – but I somehow managed to get dragged to a stadium tour of Amsterdam ArenA where the (apparently) popular AJAX team play. I suppose it was only fair seeing as I’d got Mr Ayla up nice and early for brunch and it was an interesting tour if you like your football. Well, Mr Ayla seemed happy anyway!
♥ The best restaurants in Amsterdam ♥
The main priority on our to-do list on our first morning in the city was, unsurprisingly, a visit to The Pancake Factory for a feast of their massively giant pancakes. Seriously huge. Seriously scrumptious. I can’t decide which I preferred most – Mr Ayla’s Canadian pancake stuffed full with bacon, ham, potatoes, cheese and onions, or my sweet pancake topped with cherries, peaches, sugar and cream. Both were insanely good and we would have happily gone back for lunch and dinner too if our explorations hadn’t taken us to other parts of the city.
Bakers & Roasters had a lot to live up to after our breakfast at The Pancake Factory, but their savoury egg brunches, spicy chai and chocolatey milkshakes did just that. When you can order a breakfast that serves up eggs, bacon and pancakes drizzled in maple syrup all on the same plate, you know you’re in for a treat.
Indonesian food seems to be almost as popular as Dutch food in Amsterdam and there are hundreds of restaurants around the city where you can have an Indish-Dutch experience by trying a traditional rijsttafel – a rice table made up of lots of small dishes, like an Indonesian tapas. We went for our Indonesian feast at Restaurant Jun, a cosy place near to our hotel, with the friendliest staff and the most delicious food. It’s safe to say we couldn’t finish it all!
For the best apple pie in town Winkle 43 is the place to go and everyone knows it. It is so notorious that the sweet fluffy pie isn’t even on the menu but we saw almost 20 portions ordered in the short time we were here. The slices are huge and the dollop of whipped cream even huger. Dig in and savour every single delicious mouthful.
♥ What to eat in Amsterdam ♥
Just in case your bellies haven’t already been satisfied enough by these amazing restaurants, Amsterdam has some other mouth-watering local delicacies that shouldn’t be missed. We tried some bitterballen – a savoury breadcrumbed hot snack – at a canal side table at Cafe de Prins but these popular Dutch snacks can be found in most places around the city. A soft baked stroopwafel filled with caramel is a great sweet snack you can find at most street vendors, but our favourites were poffertjes – mini Dutch pancakes drizzled with sugar, chocolate, fruit, or whatever takes your fancy. The perfect dish to snack on as we wandered around the canals.
♥ Quirky things to do in Amsterdam ♥
If you’re not keen on visiting Amsterdam’s “coffee” shops for a slice of space cake, a more natural but equally surreal high comes at GlowGolf Amsterdam. Equipped with golf clubs, neon golf balls and 3D glasses, this definitely comes close to being one of the weirdest things we’ve ever done.
Bright orange starfish bobbed past us in the air, giant dragons loomed over us and the patterns on the floor seemed to move of their own accord. I tripped over at least 8 times and had many failed attempts at actually hitting the golf ball because everything was so out of proportion thanks to the 3D glasses. This place is just so completely wacky and fun; there’s even a colourful disco wall which of course was the perfect opportunity for a mini photo shoot!
Take a stroll through the Red Light District at night. By day it all seems just a little bit seedy but at night, when the buildings and the canals glow red, the atmosphere is much more what you’d expect from a trip to Amsterdam. There are some fun bars and plenty of half naked women (although where are all the half naked men I wonder?!) but I was extremely pleased to see that Amsterdam has a whole lot more to it than the reputation it often gets from this small section of the city.
♥ Where to stay in Amsterdam ♥
The Jordaan is the prettiest, most romantic and most typically Dutch district in the city centre with row after row of peaceful canals and quaint narrow houses. Because of this, it’s also one of the most expensive areas for accommodation, but we found a charming little room for great value at Mr Jordaan, a cosy boutique hotel with wonderful canal views and a homely Dutch feel.
♥ The best cocktail bars in Amsterdam ♥
After our fun session at GlowGolf, walking back out into the daylight and realising that we were in fact completely sober, had us heading straight for the nearest cocktail bar, Hiding in Plain Sight. A snug little bar with a 20’s vibe, worn leather couches and antique curiosities, their cocktail concoctions are strange yet sophisticated and I could have worked my way through their leather-bound book of cocktails all night.
Before we caught the train back to the airport we stopped for one last drink at Skylounge, a gorgeous rooftop bar in the DoubleTree Hotel with views looking out over the city. I can imagine it would be a stunning location to watch the sun set but don’t miss out on popping in here for a drink at any time of day or night.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Amsterdam? What other recommendations would you add to my guide? Let me know in the comments below or at:
Thank you to I amsterdam who hosted our first visit to this charming part of the Netherlands.