Fun Experiment: throw a mediocre, grainy, poorly composed photograph of the Amsterdam Canals up on Instagram. Then post a gorgeous, perfectly composed photo of the coolest landmark in any other city.
I’d bet you $20 the Amsterdam photo will do better. Maybe even twice as good.
You know why?
People freaking love Amsterdam. It’s Disney World for adults plus canals plus flowers plus waffles.
I’ve been to Amsterdam twice, once in September 2012 and my last visit was to Amsterdam in winter. I could easily go back once a year or more for the rest of my life.
The first time, I really got into Amsterdam. I ate so much cheese. I took a canal tour and drank Heineken until I nearly vomited and walked around the Red Light District (in the daytime cause I’m a lady).
I was such a good tourist.
When I went back this year did I pick up where I left off? Finally, see the Rijksmuseum or check out the Defense Line?
I slept off my jet lag, caught up on work, and ate waffles. SO MANY WAFFLES. And then on the third morning, I moved to Sofia.
Like Budapest, the area under the auspices of UNESCO covers a huge part of the city. Luckily for me though, it’s really on the houses and canal system, whereas Budapest includes every building on a freaking riverbank.
From UNESCO’s description:
The Amsterdam Canal District illustrates exemplary hydraulic and urban planning on a large scale through the entirely artificial creation of a large-scale port city. The gabled facades are characteristic of this middle-class environment, and the dwellings bear witness both to the city’s enrichment through maritime trade and the development of a humanist and tolerant culture linked to the Calvinist Reformation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Amsterdam was seen as the realization of the ideal city that was used as a reference urban model for numerous projects for new cities around the world.
Amsterdam is well-connected to the rest of Europe by rail, and the Schipol International Airport has flights all over Europe and direct flights from the US. Simply walking around the canal area will give you a good understanding of how marvelously crazy a city dug out of the sea is, but I would recommend a canal tour to get a better understanding.
Things to Do While You’re There
It’s Amsterdam. You’ll have a good time. Just stay balanced, and stay safe.
You can get out of the city and explore a bit further afield if you have the time. There are great day trips you can take to tulip fields, windmills, and even a Fortress Island Pampus Island, part of another UNESCO World Heritage Site!
- Amsterdam feels expensive. It’s worth looking into budget options beforehand to keep things under control. For example, a taxi to the center can be 50-60 euros.
- Please don’t be one of “those” tourists who can’t handle themselves and embarrass their countrymen.
- A city of canals means you’re on the water all the time. Remember when you’re on the water you need to prepare for temperatures a little colder than you’d expect.
- Don’t skip the Ann Frank House. It’s life-changing.
- Spend some time in the cool neighborhoods, not just the center. Here’s a quick-start guide of things to do in Amsterdam-Noord.
- Go. The world would be more peaceful if everyone spent a week in Amsterdam at some point in their lives.