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How to Spend a Day in Amsterdam (On a Budget)

Amsterdam on a Budget

Amsterdam - is it Canals and Tulips or Weed and Hookers? 

Our plan was to travel straight from England to Germany, but as we'd always wanted to go to the Netherlands and as it is kind of on the way we decided to go via Amsterdam. We got a coach from England to Amsterdam, spent nine fantastic hours there and then caught the train to Germany. Should you make that journey? That's a whole other story, find out about it here

This post is all about what you can do in Amsterdam and how much of it you can fit it into a day, because despite the fact that we will definitely be going back, I'm here to tell you:

Amsterdam can be done in one day (or night) 

Don't get me wrong, we absolutely loved it and didn't do everything, but in one day you can get a really good taste of Amsterdam, and we did everything that we really wanted to do (or almost).

So what did we see/do?

The Bicycles

Everyone rides a bike. It was so great to see people out on their bikes, the carbon emission must be quite low here. We'd heard before that Amsterdam was bike crazy, but we didn't know that the bikes were all so old fashioned and cute. We also didn't know that every type of person rides a bike - guys in suits, ladies in skirts, ladies in heels, parents with one or two kids on the front/back. Every new person looked less prepared for cycling, and the dutch must be really good at balancing too - there were bags and kids everywhere:

Amsterdam Bicycles

Below is a photo of a tourist group doing a bike tour. We considered doing this, but a friend who lives in Amsterdam warned me against it as the dutch are very aggressive riders. I'm glad we took her advice, I'm not a great rider at the best of times (I always get distracted looking at things and fall off). 

Amsterdam Red Bicycles

Walking along the Amstel 

In the morning we were dropped off at Amstel station, and after getting lost for a bit we found the Amstel and walked along it into the centre. It was our first impression of the Netherlands and we loved it! We saw more bikes, beautiful buildings and cute house boats:

Amsterdam Amstel

There were also pretty, wild flowers everywhere. The streets seemed really clean (especially for a capital city). There weren't many people, but the ones we saw all seemed nice. I could finally understand what loads of travellers and Dutch people mean by 'the real Netherlands' and I really loved it. It was worlds apart from the touristy/red light district/ marijuana part of the centre.

Albert CUYP Markt

We walked along this market just as it was opening, it had a really weird mix of tacky and untacky stuff, or maybe that's just my opinion.. Anyway, here are the things that we liked:

Amsterdam Albert CUYP Markt

they also had clog slippers!:

Amsterdam Clog Slippers


Before we went to Amsterdam the only sight we could think of (other than the canals) was the infamous 'I amsterdam' sign. So I googled where it was and found that it was in the Museumplein. We got completely lost trying to find the Museumplein, but luckily a helpful dutchman showed us the way. We were impressed by the sign, but even more so by the Rijksmuseum which lives behind it:

Iamsterdam Sign

When I say impressed, I mean that we were impressed by the outside of the building. We didn't go in because we were already pretty tired from the journey, and museums always send us to sleep.

I'm sure it's great though, so if you have a spare 15 Euro why not go in??

We just contented ourselves with taking touristy photos of the I amsterdam sign:

I Amsterdam Sign

I even went as far as hugging the T, because I have a lot of love for Tanbay and TravellingWeasels (both of which begin with t..) 

I Amsterdam

Right next to the Rijksmuseum on the way to the Van Gogh Museum are a few pretty (if not touristy and probably overpriced) shops: 

Rijksmuseum Van Gogh Museum

There was also a souvenir shop, which I can never resist. We had a look at key rings and I said 'I like this one' and the souvenir shop guy said 'ah you like me wow that's great' which was awkward. I really liked these fake Van Goghs and would definitely have bought one if I had a home to hang it in:

Fake Van Goghs
I love a bit of Van Gogh. 

We also didn't go in the Van Gogh museum, because again we were still tired, and again it cost 15 Euro. We would have rather gone there than the Rijks, and intend to go there once we return. 

Vondel Park

The Vondel park is named after a Dutch author and is a big park very near the Museumplein. We sat and watched the many many cyclists go by:

Vondel Park
It was cute!

The Food

Dutch Food

The food we had in Amsterdam was epic. So epic in fact that it deserves it's own post

Canal Tour

Walking around we loved looking at all the little canals and feeling like we were in 'the Venice of the north'.

Amsterdam Canal Tour

We hadn't planned on doing a Canal tour (we're too snobby for touristy tours), but in the end we were so eager to sit down we decided to suck it up and just do it:

Amsterdam Canal Tour

It was definitely worth it to see Amsterdam from another angle. The tour was in Dutch, English, German and French and it was fun to see how much of each bit I understood (a little bit, all, most, basically nothing - respectively).

My favourite bit was seeing Anne Frank's House. We'd planned on walking there and viewing it from the outside (apparently if you go in it's boring and you're shepherded around like a sheep) but when it came to it we were too tired to do that, so it was great to see it in the same way, but from the boat:

Amsterdam Anne Frank House

Church of Saint Nicholas and Amsterdam Centraal

Our journey finished at the pretty (but only from the outside) Amsterdam Centraal station. Inside was a bit minging as the cleaners were on strike so the bins were overflowing. One of the train ladies was very helpful though, if a little racist against the Germans ('you can use this ticket whenever you like in Holland we don't mind, but the Germans only allow you to use the stated times, they are very strict'  and then she pulled a strict angry face).

Just outside the station (bottom photo) is the gorgeous Church of Saint Nicholas (top photos):

Church of Saint Nicholas

What have I missed out?? Oh yea the two infamous pieces of Amsterdam:
weed and hookers. Did we go to the red light district? Yes. It was a bit weird. There were loads of explicit sex shops and every now and again (especially in the smaller alleys) there were windows with women dressed scantily and looking bored. It was kind of embarrassing. One of the weirdest things was the families walking their kids around the red light district! (What?) We walked past a peep show shop thing, and I looked (peeped) in the entrance. There were 5 boys waiting to go in, looking really excited and sheepish.. I didn't take any photos because I've heard if you do that you get your camera thrown into the canal/smashed up or something. I wasn't going to take that risk.

As for the weed? Again I felt like it was a really lame touristy thing to do... The only people that seemed to be doing it were again sheepy tourists who were so excited to be doing it in public.. I heard somewhere that Amsterdam had made weed boring (probably from Family Guy - that's where I get most of my wise thoughts from) and it's so true!

Anyway here are a couple of photos of coffee shops (easily distinct from the classic coffee shop by the smell) and a few weed like souvenirs:

Amsterdam Coffee Shops

And if you want an actual guide by a real Dutchman check this out: Amsterdam Guide To Drugs - factual, informative - all the good stuff 

All in all we absolutely loved Amsterdam, especially me - I think I'd go as far as saying that I could actually live there. Tanbay found it a bit similar to Germany but for me that was part of the appeal.

You may have noticed that the theme of the day seemed to be 'tired' and that's definitely true. We do intend to go back to The Netherlands, and I think that time we will give ourselves a bit more time and sleep! It just worked out well for us this time to do this crazy sleep on the bus - day out in Amsterdam - train it to Germany type thingy.

The other theme of the day seemed to be a 'snobbish I'm not a tourist I'm a traveller' type thing. I'm sorry but it's true. Before we went to Amsterdam I read a lot of travel blogs for tips on what to do, and I read a lot of 'Amsterdam is more than weed and hookers, don't go there just for that see the real Holland' and I thought 'okay calm down, we get it you're not a tourist, you're a proper traveller. Well done'. But now I've been there I AGREE WITH THEM SO MUCH!! The Netherlands is excellent and so much more than weed and hookers. I mean where else can you sit in a gigantic clog?

Amsterdam gigantic Clog

The Netherlands is fantastic and we really love it loads! We can't wait to go back, but we are glad to be in Germany now :)

For more information on Amsterdam written by a local resident, check out Karen's post

And of course you can always consult Lonely Planet ! 

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We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same!


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