To the uninitiated, the official name of the country is The Netherlands and not Holland as Holland actually refers to the two provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland and The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces in total. Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world where bicycles far outnumbered the number of cars on the road and each person is estimated to own at least 2 bikes.
Getting around Amsterdam can be expensive and it makes absolute sense to buy the Amsterdam Travel Ticket (1-day, 2-day or 3-day) which covers traveling between Schiphol Airport and any station in Amsterdam, as well as buses, trams, metro and ferries operated by GVB. On the other hand, the I Amsterdam City Card costs more but covers free entry to Amsterdam best museums and attractions on top of the free canal cruise and unlimited use of the GVB public transport within the validity of the pass.
I bought the 3-day Amsterdam Travel Ticket for €26 instead of the 3-day I Amsterdam City Card which costs €93. However, if you are able to visit 2-3 museums/attractions during your visit, it would have more or less cover the cost of the ticket.
Where To Stay | Hotel2Stay Amsterdam
We stayed in Hotel2Stay Amsterdam conveniently located just next to the Amsterdam Sloterdijk station for 4 days and was satisfied with the cleanliness of the room, amenities and friendly staff. Amsterdam Central station and Schiphol Airport are only 5 and 10 mins away by train. We approached the reception for an extra pillow and they were very willing to help us get it from their store.
The room is also equipped with a small kitchenette should you want to do your own light cooking as eating out can be expensive in Amsterdam. We visited Krakow, Brussels and Amsterdam for this trip and Amsterdam is undoubtedly the most expensive city to live in. We were shocked when we were charged €3 for a cup of hot water as in my country, refilling a cup of tea with hot water is free. In Amsterdam, beers and cannabis pops cost less than mineral water itself!
Things to do in Amsterdam
The best things to do in Amsterdam are free. The Jordaan is within a short walk just west of the Amsterdam Central Station and it’s a popular neighborhood to walk around to experience the typical Dutch houses, many canals, quaint cafes, restaurants and shops. Alternatively, you can rent a bike in Jordaan to explore this picturesque district.
Where to Eat
We ate at Foodhallen foodcourt located at Bellamyplein 51 (Oud-West). Yes, there is a foodcourt in Amsterdam. This place is great for tourists as there is a wide variety of cuisines ranging from Asian, Mexican, Spanish, American, Dutch, Mediterranean, European and even Turkish. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options are also available.
Rijksmusuem is Amsterdam’s most important museum the way The Louvre is to Paris and showcases revered treasures like The Night Watch (Rembrandt), The Milkmaid (Johannes Vermeer), some artworks from Van Gogh and other Dutch masters. Other than paintings, it also showcases sculptures, dioramas and doll houses, etc, and houses the largest public art history research library in the Netherlands which is quite an Instagram-worthy place. The Van Gogh museum is also located near to the Rijksmusuem.
- From Central station: Trams 2 and 12 (Rijksmuseum tram stop)
- From Sloterdijk station: Tram 19 (Spiegelgracht tram stop)
Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam, located near Rijksmusuem and Van Gogh Museum and it’s a nice place to watch people lazing around on the grass, jogging, roller skating and walking their dogs. It feel so relaxing and tranquil, something that I don’t see often in my own country.
Where to Eat
We ate at The Seafood Bar Van Baerlestraat located near the entrance of Vondelpark which has a modern European setting. We ordered a seafood platter for two for around €70. While we enjoyed the fresh seafood, the long wait of 50 mins at 5 pm for a table was quite a downer for us.
Haarlem is a quiet Dutch town located outside Amsterdam with a beautiful cathedral and a great outdoor market, which makes for an excellent day trip from Amsterdam. Note that the Amsterdam Travel Ticket does not cover the train ticket to Haarlem station (15 mins train ride away from Amsterdam Central station) and we need to buy a train ticket at the machine just for this ride.
Where to Eat
We visited by Lima, a cozy café that offers vegan and gluten free options and had one of the best Dutch apple pie and matcha pancakes here.
5. Zaanse Schans-Marken-Volendam-Keukenhof Tour
We booked a 1-day Zaanse Schans-Marken-Volendam-Keukenhof Tour from Tours & Tickets office located at Amsterdam Central Station since we visited Amsterdam during the tulips season in April. Do take note that this Keukenhof tour does not include walking through the flower fields. For that, you need to book a separate tour for the flowerfields and bulb farm to visit a real bulb farm.
We went to Keukenhof in the morning and were given an ample 3-hr free time to admire the tulips garden at our own pace but the rest of the tour after that was super rushed and jam packed.
We were only given 45 mins to visit the scenic Dutch villages of Zaanse Schans and 30 mins of the time were already spent visiting a working windmill making wood products. There was no time even to visit the toilet or buy an ice cream.
After that we went to Volendam and Marken to visit a wooden clog factory, cheese factory and stroopwafle shop and were given only 30 mins or so to eat a rushed dinner of fish & chips.
The tour includes a ferry ride to Volendam and a free 1-hr canal cruise at Lovers Canal Cruise located opposite Amsterdam Central station which we can take anytime during our free day in Amsterdam. If this is your first trip to Amsterdam, this a good tour to join to experience the Dutch countryside and sample delicious Dutch cheese and stroopwafle. However, we find the wooden clog factory a little waste of time and wish we were given more time in Zaanse Schans and Volendam.
The next day, we took a morning train ride to Brussels located just 2.5 hours away, had the best Belgian waffles near the Grand Place of Brussels and also visited Bruges, one of Belgium’s most beautiful city. I will also be sharing more about Krakow, Poland more in my next post.