The Netherlands and Amsterdam are just as you’ve imagined!
Lush, green fields. Bikes for days. Happy, at-peace vibes.
Things to do in the Netherlands/Holland near and in Amsterdam
I fell in love with the Netherlands, also known as Holland, where e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. rides bikes e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e! It’s a captivating atmosphere that gives the vibe of a content, friendly, welcoming society.
How to get to Amsterdam
Fly into Amsterdam (Schiphol Airport) or even Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is a 4+ hour drive (or train ride), but if you drive it’s on the Autoban! Beware: do not go as fast as you want after crossing the border into the Netherlands, because you run the chance of getting a huge expensive ticket from some kind of unseen radar detector. This ticket includes a fee that goes to the rental car company, and a bank wiring fee. Don’t ask me how I know. :(. I digress – Brussels is another airport to check out.
Renting a car is a good and economical way (for a group) to get around if you’d like to visit various cities outside Amsterdam. Try Sixt or EuropCar or any other agency with which you’re familiar. You must get the insurance, as most insurance carriers from other countries won’t cover you if there’s an issue. Other transportation options are trains and buses.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
How to use the trams in Amsterdam
To get around the city there are many trams in the central section. It just takes a credit card loaded to Apple Pay. Tap when you get on the tram and tap when you get off the tram. It’s possible to tap out a couple of minutes before the stop. Press the green button to open the doors. Note that the silver bars do not automatically open but are manual – you just push through them. (As I waited for them to automatically open – I missed getting off at my stop! So don’t be me! 😳) Google Maps, on your phone, will work to figure out which tram to get on and where to get off.
How to Park in Amsterdam
They say a parking spot in Amsterdam lasts 30 seconds, so it might not be worth your time dodging the massive amounts of bikers, pedestrians and trams while trying to find an elusive parking spot. Highly recommend: Parking Center Oosterdok as it is centrally located and you can walk to most of the city’s main sites. It’s easy, simple, cheap-for-any-city. Reserve ahead of time online (any browser except Safari). Otherwise there are 7 park and rides located outside the city with buses back in. Purchase P&R GVB card – can use on bus, train or metro.
|Rate per 12 minutes||€1.50|
|Maximum daily rate||€37.50|
|Daily rate when booking||€ 10 – € 25 per day|
Marijuana in Amsterdam
I’ve spoken with some people who have a misconception that Amsterdam is filled with marijuana smoke. Incorrect. Sure, if you’re looking for it then you can easily find a “coffeehouse” to buy marijuana legally in Amsterdam (as well as many other cities in the world). There will be a green and white sticker in the storefront windows. If that is not your thing then don’t go to a “coffeehouse.” But if you are looking for coffee and pastries then find a koffiehuis. Or go to a “cafe” which is a restaurant or bar.
Amsterdam Recommended Activities:
- Anne Frank Haus. Westermarkt 20, 1016 GV Amsterdam. This is a very popular destination, so purchase tickets well ahead of time, as in months ahead. I have always felt a strong kinship to Anne Frank, as I read her diary initially when I was young and could relate to some of the kid things that she was experiencing. The Anne Frank Haus is a painful but important reminder of a little girl’s and a world’s struggle with evil and how it decimated so many innocent lives. It is both a powerful remembrance and a shameful experience to share in this family’s life in the secret annex for just a moment.
- Van Gogh Museum. 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam. Purchase tickets ahead; you will get a time for entrance. Vincent was very busy in his mere 37 years, and you can see what he was up to right here. He also led quite a fascinating life and was extremely talented. The museum is spacious and well done and definitely worth the trip.
- Heineken Experience. This tour includes the interesting history of Heineken done in a fun way with lots of interactive activities and 2 beers at the end. It takes about 2.5 hours and is well done and recommended. Made reservations a few days ahead.
- Canal Cruise Tour. Recommend: Lovers Canal Cruises at Stationsplein 14, 1012 AB Amsterdam and other locations in central Amsterdam. The above location is only a 10 minute walk from Parking Center Oosterdok. 1 hour tour for a quick overview of the city with an interesting history. Buy tickets at location. Some cruises offer hop on/hop off.
- Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). Singel 630 to 600, 1017 AZ, Amsterdam. Hours: Monday – Saturday 09:00-17:30; Sunday 11:30-17:30. Flowers, plants, bulbs galore. Of course, tulips in every color. And it’s floating- a sight to see and experience!
- Vondelpark. Pretty green space in the middle of the city with trees, lakes, paths and restaurants. A nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Free.
- Brouwerij’t IJ Brewery. There are only 6 windmills in the city of Amsterdam. This one happens to be at a brewery, so you can get double the experience here. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Canal Cruise – DO IT YOURSELF with a pizza drive-thru (boat-thru)!
This is a super fun adventure if you’d like to see all parts of Amsterdam via boat through the maze of Amsterdam canals! It is roughly $100 USD to rent an electric motor boat for 3+ hours with maps of all the canals in central Amsterdam and the outskirts for a total of 6 people.
Electric boat rental – make reservations at Boaty. Boaty will give you a map with suggested routes and cool places of interest, and even bathroom stops, along the way.
I very highly recommend boating thru San Marco pizza! There is a hole in the side of this pizzeria on the canal side. Just hook up, pop out and order. (Bonus: there’s a public bathroom.) The pizza will be delivered to your hooked up boat!
Note that San Marco pizza is close to the dock where you will pick up and drop off the boat, so consider pizza at the beginning or end of your DIY boat tour.
Day Trips Outside Amsterdam:
Things to do in Kortenhoef:
Kortenhoef is a small, sweet town a 30 minute drive outside of Amsterdam. And is it ever the picture of Holland! Locals gracefully navigate the winding and quiet streets on their bicycles, painting a picture of a truly authentic experience. Kortenhoef is also charming storefronts, canals, and lush green fields abound. I stayed here at the most wonderful VRBO guesthouse with sheep in the backyard and canoes for my own use through the labyrinth of picturesque canals. Could not have been more lovely and picturesque.
Hiking in Kortenhoef
There is a lovely 2.5 mile stroll “oppad” through a nature reserve with lush, green pastures (may be slightly wet in summer) with canals and peacefulness. This is an out-and-back trail with a lunch option at the 1/2 way point at Bistro de Garde (address: Zuidereinde 208, 1243 KR ‘s-Graveland, Netherlands). Route is 2.5 miles round trip.
Boating in Kortenhoef
Rent canoes, sloops, motor boats or even electric bicycles to cruise through the maze of canals with Jachthaven Kortenhoef.
How to get from Amsterdam to Edam on bikes
Take a bike trip to Edam for an overnight adventure! Discover an enchanting journey from the vibrant heart of Amsterdam to the picturesque village that owes its fame to its delectable cheese, Edam. Embark on a captivating bike ride, immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscapes that unfold along the route. Note that Edam is pronounced “ee-dam” – I had a hard time with that, and I’m a speech pathologist. 🙂
Bikes are easy and cheap to rent from various locations throughout Amsterdam. I chose MacBike at Centraal Station (14,85 Euros per day, plus deposit). Be sure to get the lock offered as bikes are frequently stolen.
Ask for a map of the bike route to Edam. I also used Google Maps on the bike setting which is super easy to follow. (*Get your cell phone’s international coverage before leaving your home country then cancel it when you get home. Or utilize some carrier’s $10/day international fee.)
After renting a bike, go to the north side of the station and under the tracks following the signs to the free ferry boat “boot” to IJplein. It’s about a 10 minute ferry ride while standing next to your bike. Then begin your journey along bike paths up to the old world gem, Edam. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Recommended hotel is the Hotel de Fortuna which is welcoming with a Holland-esque charm about it – built in the 17th century. It is right off a curvy Dutch road with adorable cottages and canals all around. They didn’t have air conditioning in the 17th century, but there are fans now. Breakfast is good and free! Take time to wander the streets and parks and look for cheeeeese (hint: Henri Willig at Spui 71135 BA Edam).
Stay the night and bike back to Amsterdam taking time to check out the little towns on the way. Get back to MacBike before closing time.