Travel Diary: Must See and Do In Amsterdam!


Amsterdam is such a beautiful city in Europe and definitely worth a visit. Amsterdam is lovely with it's charming streets, beautiful canals, and rich history. There is so much character here, so much to see and it's so easy to get lost in its beauty. Whether you're planning a week in the city of Amsterdam or you're just stopping by on a long layover I wanted to share what I think you must do while here, along with some of my tips for making the most of your visit. 

So if you follow me on Instagram you saw I posted a photo of myself in Amsterdam a week or so ago. We decided to go to Amsterdam somewhat last minute so we were only there for the weekend. I wanted to share my top things to do if you're only there for a short amount of time as we were. 

Amsterdam has quickly jumped to the top of my list of favorite European cities. It's just so charming and full of character. I plan to return soon and cannot wait!

Where we stayed
Because of the time frame in which we booked and how close it was to the trip we ended up staying outside of the city centre. Usually when we travel I like to stay inside the city so we can walk everywhere or step outside of the hotel to restaurants etc. However, I couldn't find anything with a good price so we stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Sloterdijk Station. I was happy with where we stayed. The hotel is directly across from the Sloterdijk train station which is one stop away from Central Station. The train ride is 5 minutes and the train ran every 5-6 minutes. Super easy! There's a cute little cafe across the street as well as a few other restaurants in the vicinity. This is considered the business district though so there aren't as many as if you stayed in the city. The hotel had a bar and a restaurant upstairs which was nice.  

So I would say don't rule out other areas that aren't directly in the city - I would definitely look at areas that have a train station not far from the hotel and a short ride into the city. I've heard people say they love the Haarlem area as well as Utrecht. For me, those were too far out but it all depends on preference. 

Note: European hotels are smaller than those in the US on average. There are 5 of us traveling so often we have to book 2 rooms (a triple and a double). Family rooms are available in some hotels but often those are booked way in advance or set up dorm style with bunk beds which I don't personally care for etc. If you are traveling with a larger family I would recommend you look into apartment style hotels or Air BnBs if two hotel rooms doesn't work for your family dynamic. 

What we did
The first night we just mainly walked around to get a feel for the city. It's so beautiful! So many little shops to stop into, cheese shops to sample cheese, shopping district, and food! The city was bustling with people but it wasn't overwhelming which was nice. I'm sure in the warmer months it's super crowded. 

The second day we went to the Van Gogh Museum. We chose to go to the Van Gogh Museum since my daughter really wanted to go to this one. It was great. Even my husband and 2 boys who aren't really into art enjoyed this museum and reading about Van Gogh. I'd suggest hitting up this one or the other super popular Rjiksmuseum. We went right before lunch time and it wasn't terribly crowded until towards the end. We spent about 2 hours here. We purchased tickets beforehand and skipped the line which was nice!

We also popped into the Cheese museum. Heaven! If you're a cheese lover like me you'll love this place. We were here while waiting on our Canal Cruise - it was such a neat little place.

Next we did a Canal Cruise. We booked with Flagship Amsterdam through Trip Advisor and did the Evening Canal Cruise and it was so good (only an hour, so not too long, perfect amount of time!). I know many of the tours are done with headphones (in various languages) but we wanted something a bit more personal. It was cozy, enclosed and warm. I'm glad we decided this as our tour guides were not only knowledgeable but were super funny. Ours was a sunset tour so it was even more beautiful as we were able to see the beautiful homes and canal bridges lit up! Here are a few of what you'll see on the tour:

-The famous Skinny Bridge
-The Anne Frank house

I loved learning about the history of the various canals! I'd definitely recommend this! 

Red Light District (without the kids). We went in the evening because I mean we're in Amsterdam why not check it out! Don't be scared to visit the Red Light District. This is where Amsterdam's legal prostitution takes place. There is a strong police presence here to help keep it safe (it can get a bit rowdy as the evening progresses due to drinking, but it wasn't anything crazy to me). They also offer walking tours of this area as well. Just remember no photos allowed.

Where we ate
Unfortunately, I don't remember everywhere we ate. But here are some foods you definitely need to try while you're in Amsterdam.
Cheese! I love cheese so much and there are so many cute cheese shops all over the city. Gouda  aged for a long time is my favorite!
Stroopwaffles! These are such a delicious sweet treat!
Pancakes - We went to Moak Pancakes and let me tell you they were so good! We ordered a mix of savory and sweet and they were delicious. Plus this place is super aesthetic!
Indonesian - another must try while you're there!

Things I want to do next time
We didn't do this because of the weather and I wasn't sure my kids would make it (it's 3 hours) but I've heard and read to book a walking tour - specifically Sandeman's as it's tip based but great. I hope to do this next time, I heard they are great and you can really get a feel for the city this way. 

Rent a bike and tour the city. There are more bikes in Amsterdam than cars - this is a great way to see the city. You can also book a bike tour as well if you'd prefer structure. 

SHOP! I didn't do much of this while here this time - more just walking and looking due to time but the shopping in Amsterdam is top notch! You'll find everything you want here. 

My tips 
I would say the transportation in Amsterdam is a bit expensive compared to other European cities I've visited, so I'd recommend using a day pass or multi-day pass if possible. Or you can just walk!

Make sure you're always aware of the bike lane in Amsterdam! The city is ruled by bicyclists - seriously they are everywhere. Always make sure to watch for them because they travel pretty fast. I witnessed quite a few people almost get knocked over.

Bring walking shoes! Amsterdam is a very walkable city and it's beautiful to walk and just look at the shops and the beautiful scenery - don't ruin your good time with shoes that hurt your feet.

Be prepared for the elements. While we were there it downpoured, was extremely windy and super sunny all in a few hours. Be prepared.

If you want to experience the Ann Frank Museum book your tickets early! They go on sale two months in advance and sell out quickly. I believe they may sell a small amount the day of but expect to wait in line very early - even then you may not get a ticket. We didn't see the inside of the Museum because we decided somewhat last minute to visit Amsterdam, but I will make sure to buy tickets before I go next time. 

If you're wanting to buy an actual coffee make sure to visit a cafe not a "coffeeshop". Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are where to buy and smoke weed/hash lol. 

I really do suggest just walking around and getting lost in this beautiful city. Structured time is great but be sure to leave a morning or afternoon for just walking and exploring with no set agenda!

Have you been to Amsterdam? I'd love to hear you experience in the comments!!

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  1. awesome photos! and thanks for artical. very informing. want to visit there myself now. :)

  2. Love the write up and beautiful pics! Keep it coming..