Although excited to start my Euro trip, the trek from Australia to Amsterdam was a hell of a way to start. I don’t know if you know this but Australia is like really far from the rest of the world. For some reason I thought it would take less time to get to Europe than it would to California, but I was wrong. It took a two hour drive from Clare to Adelaide, hour and a half flight from Adelaide to Melbourne, 14 hour flight from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi and a seven and a half hour flight from there to Amsterdam. Not to mention all the time in-between. Needless to say, I was exhausted.
Arriving in Amsterdam, it was all I could do to find the right train from the airport to the city, and then the ferry from the train station to ClinkNOORD. Luckily once I arrived they had my room ready and I was able to collapse for three hours before heading out to explore. My friend Roni was studying abroad in the city and I couldn’t wait to meet up with her! So with a quick power nap and rinse, I was ready to go.
And of course, my expectations were high with it being Amsterdam and all. But holy biking beautiful was it better than I thought. Roni and I met in front of the train station and from there went all over the city. We got falafels at Maoz, ate them along the canal and then went to this great bar right on the water called Hannekes Boom to split a pitcher and embrace the culture. It could not have been a better summer night if we tried.
The next morning I was woken up real early by an angsty, fresh of the plane Joey ready to nap and go do something. And since our buddy AJ had also arrived the day before, the three of us headed out to go see if we could wrangle up some bikes. Because as walking around with Roni the night before made it clear, to truly experience the city we needed bikes.
So if you ever find yourself short on time in Amsterdam, here’s what you should do.
1 Rent a bike.
I can’t stress this enough. Amsterdam is just not the same on foot or by train. They’re cheap (roughly $8/day) and come with a super sturdy lock so you know they’ll be safe.
2 Use said bike.
If you have a certain destination in mind, great! But if not, just go. The city is full of interesting buildings, shops, restaurants and landmarks so biking in any direction you’re sure to run into something.
3 Go to a park.
While we had the pleasure of visiting Vondelpark, from what Roni said they’re all amazing! And many just outside the city centre have festivals going on all summer long! They’re beautiful, well kept, and the perfect opportunity to relax in nature in between outings.
4 Go to a museum.
Again, we chose the Rijksmuseum, but there are tons to choose from! Maybe you’re more of an Anne Frank or Van Gogh person yourself? Either way definitely roll through the Rijksmuseum courtyard to see the I Amsterdam letters!
5 Do the giant swing.
On top of the tallest building in Amsterdam is the A’DAM Lookout, complete with classy restaurant, bar and (you guessed it) a giant swing that propels you right over the edge. With the whole city at your feet, the adrenaline rush is definitely worth the extra five euros.
6 Walk the red light district.
While I wouldn’t recommend lingering, the red light district is certainly a sight to be seen. Despite knowing what to expect I was still speechless every time I walked it at night. With women in every red window, decked out in provocative clothes Monday through Sunday, you just have to see it to believe it.
7 Take a boat tour.
As part of the A’DAM experience, our hostel had a deal where you could get the lookout, Heineken experience and a boat tour that took directly from one to the other for only 25 euro. So naturally, we did all three. Floating down the centuries-old canals though is a must!
8 Go to a coffee shop.
Fun fact: “Coffee shops” don’t actually sell coffee. They’re marijuana dispensaries and whether you care to indulge or not, again, they’re a sight to be seen.
9 Experience Heineken.
They don’t call it the Heineken Experience for nothing. Build into the former brewery, the tour not only takes you through the history and brewing process but also into what the brand looks like today. With interactive exhibits ranging from biking karaoke to playing Xbox and of course tasting, once you get past the crowds I guarantee it’s worth it.
10 Drink by the water.
Our last night we spent just hanging out on the water, cruising some drinks, listening to music and talking about anything and everything that crossed our minds, and it was perfect. When you’re surrounded by great people in a great place, make sure to just enjoy that moment because it’ll never be the same again.
And if you’ve been yourself and think I missed something, leave it in the comments!