By the time I arrived in Amsterdam Central Station last November, it was already dark outside. Bulky luggage in tow, I crossed the station and easily found the free water taxi (yes, FREE!) to cross the channel to my modern hostel in Noord. I felt pretty lame without carting a bicycle though, TBH.
When I arrived at the hostel, I mentioned my limited amount of time, lack of knowledge of the city, and goal of experiencing as much as possible within a short period as a solo traveler. With some guidance from the friendly receptionist and, later, off-the-cuff plans, I flew away from the city feeling bittersweet. One day wasn’t enough, but I did exponentially increase my Dutch knowledge base.
If you’re heading there soon as a first timer, here are 5 suggestions for your trip…based on my trip!
(1) Tour the Red Light District with a reputed guide
You might have heard of Sandeman’s tour company. Their tours are outstanding and available in many cities. In Amsterdam, Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Tour offers free tip-based walking tours commencing multiple times daily in several languages from the main square. You can also opt to pay for some more in-depth or focused tours.
As I sat at a nearby bar contemplating my night’s plans, I happened to notice the Red Light District tour was set to leave half an hour later. For a small fee, I easily hopped on last minute and received a tour I still have trouble describing to friends and family. It was an eye-opening lesson in tolerance.
I’d highly recommend taking it and making your own opinions. This is an excellent option for solo travelers and an ideal way to meet new people.
(2) Brunch on a budget
If you have limited time but want to experience local Dutch grub, check out Toos & Roos. It’s centrally located and offers quick sit-down meals. Friendly service is coupled with great prices for the budget conscious.
I ordered the Dutch lunch here and received fresh brown bread with cheese, a nice salad, pumpkin soup (soup of your choice), and a delightful dessert. My lunch was satiating and it was easy to pay and move along to other sights.
(3) Warm up in a coffee shop that serves coffee
Not all of us are marijuana smokers (although you’re in serious luck in Amsterdam if you are, of course). As a non-smoker and regular coffee drinker, Il Momento served as a top-notch choice for caffeine and relaxation.
It’s cozy, warm, and offers a variety of seating. Since I was on my own, I sat at the wall counter and enjoyed my coffee and muffin. Prices are also very cheap here, which is a nice bonus.
(4) Imbibe at the brewery size of your choice
You have plenty of options to get your drink on in Amsterdam. If you’re in the museum area and want to tour a huge international brewery, don’t miss the Heineken Experience.
I chose, for a few extra bucks, to add the canal tour that ends at A’DAM Lookout in Noord. This was perfect for me as it gave me the option to see Amsterdam from the canals without booking another tour (no time for that!) and it conveniently dropped me right near my hostel.
You also may be anti-commercialism. If so (and if you don’t have time to check out the neat brewery with a windmill out front, as I did not), go to the more centrally located Winkel en Brouwerij de Prael for a flight of local suds. With so many flavor profiles to choose from, you’re sure to find the right full pint for you.
(5) Spend hours captured by the arts
Beyond the sex, drugs, tolerance, bikes, and canal tours, Amsterdam is home to museums of all kinds. If you have limited time in the city, I’d recommend the Van Gogh Museum. It’s small enough to enjoy comfortably in a couple (or few) hours without feeling like you’re getting ripped off. You’ll get the FULL Van Gogh experience here.
I wish I could add more to this list, but I suppose I’ll just have to return one day to browse more! If you’ve been to Amsterdam, which businesses, tours or museums would you add to this list?