Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market is a unique, free treat. The smells are intoxicating and the overwhelming abundance of tulips makes it impossible to forget that you are in Holland. Sure, it is crowded, but you can easily take your time picking through bulbs and getting your hands dirty. Open daily 9-17:30, Sundays 11-17:30.
This one will come as no surprise, but it is a must in the ‘Venice of the North.’ Amsterdam’s expansive canal system (without the smell) is what make it a unique and glorious site. The traditional Dutch canal houses with their distinctive gables and ornate cornices are worth an hour (or two, or five) of gooing and gahing. The loop along Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Oudezijds Voorburgwal (both streets) should not be missed.
The pancakes here are so memorable that I remembered the exact dish I ate for lunch on my last trip to Amsterdam six years ago. Head to Pancakes Amsterdam for a savory pancake. They are wonderful, filling and will set you up for an afternoon of window-shopping and museum-going. Think goat cheese, spinach, pine nuts, and garlic oil or – my personal favorite – camembert, chicory, ham with a raspberry drizzle. These pancakes may even change your outlook on your next breakfast-for-dinner exploit. Open daily 9-18:00 (20:00 at other locations). Savory pancakes €11-14.50.
Stroll through the main shopping Kalvertstraat area. With your eyes wide, peruse for ink stamps at De Posthumus, baby gouda at Cheese & More by Henri Willig, stroopwafels (caramelized waffle cookies) at van Wonderen Stroopwafels, and pen-and-ink kicks at Dogo (sure, this one’s a chain, but it’s right at home here in Amsterdam).
A lazy afternoon in any city wouldn’t be complete without a cappuccino, a phone call with a close friend (or lover), and – in Amsterdam – a slice of apple cake. My glorious Sunday was no exception. I headed to the local chain, Coffee Company, which perfectly served my needs with fast Wifi, large mugs, and a big slice of apple goodness. Open daily 7:30-19:00, 9-19:00 on weekends.
Yes, this is how I travel. After an overnight ferry from Harwich, UK to Hoek Van Holland, Netherlands, I deserved a nap. Oh hell, I always deserve a nap. The hotel room was ready and so was I.
Amsterdam has, undoubtedly, some of the world’s best museums. It is no coincidence, as the city was home to the renowned Dutch Masters, including Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt. With a longer stay, I would head straight to the Rijksmuseum for the day (or week), but with a condensed schedule, I opted to see Rembrandt’s House instead. His home has been refurbished to include the items that debt collectors listed as his belongings when he went bankrupt later in life. Don’t expect to see a collection of his work. Instead, what you will find is a packaged glimpse into 17th-century privileged Dutch life, demonstrations on period etching and paint-mixing techniques, and works by his pupils (Bol and Flinck, among others). Open daily 10-18:00. Admission €13, €10 concessions.
In any trendy city (and it doesn’t get much trendier than Amsterdam), the scientist in me loves the treasures I find while excavating vintage shops. It’s a great way to get a feel for the local style. The Waterlooplein area (conveniently located next to Rembrandt’s house) has a block of eccentric vintage shops, including Episode, Candy Store, and the Kilo Shop. I found unbeatable collections of authentic German army jackets, chunky knit berets, Breton striped shirts, and (duh) fur coats.
It had been a whole five hours since I have eaten (ok, maybe four), so naturally it was time for more grub. Fusion tapas hit the spot at the nearby Olijfje (translation: Olive) Restaurant. Go for one of the tapas platters to try a spread of Spanish patatas bravas, Mediterranean hummus, and Turkish feta pastry rolls. Open 16-11:30 daily, except Mondays. Mixed tapas platters €20 for 6, €35 for 10.
A nightcap in Amsterdam is its own experience. Hop on over to Bluebird Coffeeshop for the full experience, complete with brilliantly horrific 80’s music and spotty teenagers. Even if you would rather not indulge in Amsterdam’s most famous way to unwind, order a big mug of chamomile tea and delight in the distinctly local atmosphere. Open daily 9:30-1 (late).