There are tonnes of things to do in Amsterdam and hundreds of guides on the topic floating around the internet.
But although I found them helpful when planning my first trip to Amsterdam, now that I’ve been to all the “obvious” touristy places they left me feeling pretty uninspired.
So when I recently spent a weekend in Amsterdam with my two fabulous friends, we decided to explore without a guidebook. Spoiler alert? It was my best trip to the city yet.
Should you visit the Van Gogh museum, Heineken Experience and Anne Frank house? By all means. But for those of you that have visited before I’ve put together a more unique, girly list of things to do in Amsterdam.
How to get around Amsterdam
When in Amsterdam, do as the locals do and rent a bike! It’s such an easy and convenient way of getting around the city, and it’s a very fun way to stay fit.
Many hotel and hostels (like Clink Noord) have their own bike rentals but there are tonnes of them around the city. For more info click here.
If it’s a bit dreary outside – sadly not an exception in Amsterdam – make use of the city’s extensive bus, tram and metro network. You will have to buy a disposable chip card (OV-chipkaart) valid for either one hour or 1-7 days.
One-hour tickets are available from bus and tram drivers and day tickets can be bought on the tram (not the bus) or online in advance. They’re valid on all modes of transport aside from trains so you can make as many journeys as necessary within your time allowance.
Things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is home to Bloemenmarkt – the only floating flower market in the world. The shops are inside a row of floating barges and are the perfect place to buy a bag of bulbs to take back home.
Even if you don’t intend to purchase anything, it’s a great place to walk around and admire those world-famous Dutch tulips. Oh, and it’s absolute picture heaven for all you Instabunnies (don’t worry I’m one of you)!
Speaking of great photo-ops, if you get a chance pose in the giant yellow shoe next to Dam square. Cheesy? Yes, but so fun.
Another great place to explore is Albert Cyup Market. This street market began trading in 1904 and more than 300 stalls line the street now, selling anything from wooden clogs to flowers and cheese.
It’s right in the heart of the trendy De Pijp neighbourhood which is also my favourite place for foodie delights. I won’t get into it now, but three of the restaurants I’ll recommend later on in this guide (Coffee & Coconuts, YAY Cafe and Bazar) are located nearby.
If you’d prefer to get lost in the city and explore it sort of by accident, the best thing to do is just aimlessly wander around the canals. Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and a staggering 1,500 bridges, so that should keep you occupied for… forever?
The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) is a network of nine particularly gorgeous streets running across the city’s canals. It’s filled with quirky shops, boutiques and cafes but my favourite are the antique book stores.
If you only visit one, let it be Evenaar. The shelves of this vintage travel book store bend underneath the weight of countless travelogues, guides and history tomes that will make for the best armchair travel of your life.
If you’d just like to get away from it all though Begijnhof is the best choice. It was once a medieval inner court and home to a religious sisterhood. They came there in 1150 and lived together, looking after the sick.
Nowadays Begijnhof is the most peaceful place you can imagine right in the city centre of a busy capital. Take a book (preferably one you just bought in Evenaar) and just sit there, relax and ponder the meaning of your existence.
Where to eat in Amsterdam
If you’ve been to Amsterdam before, odds are you’ve tried their waffles and fries slathered with mayonnaise already. But both are as unhealthy as they are delicious, so why not try something that’s just as good but better for you?
Nothing could have prepared me for how much I would fall in love with Coffee & Coconuts after one quick visit. The multi-storey restaurant housed in a roaring 20s cinema is like an inner city jungle of good vibes, positivity and light.
They also serve the most delicious healthy breakfast ever. And lunch. Seriously – I was in Amsterdam for three days and during that time I visited twice because I couldn’t bear the idea of not trying their ramen bowl. Best decision ever!
But if there’s one item off their menu I’d suggest you try, it’s the Full CT breakfast. It consists of scrambled egg avo, beans & bacon, yoghurt with granola and their famous coconut pancakes with a fruit compote.
Wash it down with a glass of gorilla juice – made with jungle chocolate, coconut water, oatmilk, berries, banana and almonds – for the perfect start to any day. It’s delicious and for every glass you drink, the restaurant donates €1 to Virunga gorilla protection.
If you’d like a similarly raw, delicious and healthy menu but prefer a more intimate setting, YAY Café is where it’s at. Healing music plays in the background as you sink down onto a bed of colourful cushions and decide which smoothie bowl you should order… It’s heavenly.
From pumpkin juice latte and chaga tea to raw sushi and rainbow wraps, this place is a total foodie heaven. It gave me so much inspiration for healthy food prep at home and the atmosphere is just so soothing!
If you’re only going to order one thing I’d recommend the purple smoothie bowl with wild berries, chaga tea, cacao, vanilla and sukkary dates. It seems miraculous that something can be so delicious while being incredibly good for you.
Right next door you will find Pho 91. This humble Vietnamese eatery specialises in – you’ve guessed it – pho and their menu is simple but tasty.
I’d highly recommend you try their special pho of course, but if you feel like something else go for the goi con (summer rolls). They’re filled with prawns, pork, vermicelli and fresh herbs, deliciously crunchy and very healthy.
If you just need a quick pick me up, you could also grab a fresh coconut from Dr. Blend. Their detox juices and vegetable-filled wraps look fantastic as well, although sadly I was too full to try one.
For dinner you must check out Bazar. Located in a renovated church, this quirky Arabian heaven serves the best of Moroccan, Turkish, Lebanese and Iranian cuisine.
My favourite was the lamb shank, braised in a spicy sauce with beans and prunes, rice and couscous, served with a good portion of tabouleh. But all of the food looked mouth-wateringly good and the portions are hu-mon-gous.
Even if you only have time for a cup of fresh mint tea, go in. The decor (even in the toilets!) is so completely and fabulously over the top that it has to be witnessed with your own eyes.
But hands down the coolest dining experience you can have in Amsterdam is CTaste and their dining in the dark!
I’ll admit I was a little scared before going in, but the waiter quickly put my friend and I at ease and we spent most of our time in there giggling and generally having an amazing time. All the waiters are blind or visually impaired and really know their way around, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
The surprise set menu costs €39.50 and comprises of a starter, main course and dessert. Don’t worry, you’ll be asked about any food intolerances and allergies before going in. For €12.75 you can also get wine pairings with each course which seems very fair.
And if you’d like a little drinky wink at the end of the day, Ginger is a great place to be. You can grab one of their cocktails or enjoy some Asian tapas in front of the fireplace… What a perfect way to end the day!
Where to stay in Amsterdam
The streets of Amsterdam are lined by gorgeous places to lay your head, so the issue isn’t finding a hotel – it’s picking the right one. To make this maze easier to navigate, here are my two top picks…
If you’re on a budget, I’d highly recommend the recently opened Clink Noord hostel. You might remember my review of Clink78 in London where I stayed in a prison cell – this is their first property abroad and it’s definitely worth checking out.
It’s just across the river from Amsterdam Central station and a free ferry will take you almost to the doorstep! The hostel is full of quirky decor, common areas including a library, a spacious atrium and ZincBAR which offers affordable food and drink, and even a laundrette.
As you can tell from that list this is not a small hostel, but it’s still very sociable and a great place to meet other travellers – especially at their fun weekly karaoke nights.
The private rooms with an ensuite bathroom start at €70 per night which is really affordable for Amsterdam standards. If you’d like to save even more, you can get a bed in a dorm for €17.
Clink Noord also offers bike rentals and buffet breakfast for €6.90. They even serve hagelslag – aka chocolate sprinkles on toast, a popular Dutch snack. I repeat: chocolate sprinkles on toast!
But the best part? I have a Clink Noord discount code for you! If you use “BLOGSAB1” all in caps, you’ll get 10% off weekday stays!
If you’re looking for a more luxury option my top pick would be the Albus Hotel, located right in the centre of Amsterdam amidst all the action.
This gorgeous boutique hotel has the friendliest staff, a delicious room service menu and free late checkout which is perfect if you either decide to go out or just love to sleep as much as I do!
Prices start at €139 per night, but can double during high season. Is it worth it? Absolutely if you’re a fan of luxury boutiques! Even the most basic rooms have a Nespresso machine, rain shower, a 32-inch TV and Egyptian cotton linen.
I stayed in the 24m² Splendid City Room and its desk – complete with international plugs which is genius – made for a very cute office.
Purple is pretty much my favourite colour and paired with beige upholstered chairs and cow-print footstools it was like my perfect quirky dollhouse.
What do you think of this girly weekend guide? What are your favourite things to do in Amsterdam?