As a nation of seafarers and important colonial power, the Dutch were among the earliest European settlers in America. In 1625, they founded the colony of New Amsterdam, which was later handed over to the British and renamed New York. Today, there are about 4.5 million Americans (1.5 % of the total US population) who claim total or partial Dutch heritage (according to the 2013 American Community Survey).
If you’re one of them, you might want to start tracing your roots by revisiting the old, original Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is perfect for a short visit or stopover because you can easily walk everywhere (or even cycle as the locals do!)… So here are my tried-and-tested tips for what not to miss in Amsterdam – even if you’re only there for a little while…
1. Visit The Anne Frank House
Online-Ticket: 9.50 €
Undoubtfully Amsterdam’s biggest tourist attraction at the moment, but with a very sad background of course. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl originally from Germany who was hiding from the Nazis. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Anne and her family were hidden in the secret annexe of an Amsterdam warehouse and office building.
Today, the house is a very popular visitor attraction which always has long lines of people waiting to get in. This is because of the family’s tragic story but also because of Anne Frank’s well-known diary, which became an international bestseller, and several films that have been made about her life story (including the most recent German cinema adaptation Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, released in Germany in early 2016).
My tip: Book your ticket online. I was lucky when I looked quite spontaneously in the morning on the same day I was planning to go. If you know in advance that you would like to go, book as early as possible. The online tickets have a specific time slot, so you just turn up about 10 min. prior to that time slot and are let straight in without having to line up for hours.
2. Wander in the footsteps of Hazel and Gus
Relive that “so in love” feeling of the two protagonists in The Fault in Our Stars at Hotel De Filosoof (their hotel described in the book, Anna van den Vondelstraat 6) and The American Hotel (where the scenes for Hotel De Filosoof where actually shot, Leidsekade 97 ), on a canal boat tour or on THAT bench (Leidsegracht 4).
Fun Fact: The original bench (mysteriously) disappeared at some point, but has since been replaced.
Hazel and Gus can also be seen strolling along the Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1), where the inside is a must for any fan of world-class art. For a complete list of all movie locations of The Fault in Our Stars check out this blog post by Amsterdam Food Tours.
3. Check out the Rijksmuseum
Adult ticket: 17.50 €
Audio Guide: 5 €
The Rijksmuseum is the most famous museum of the Netherlands and one of the most popular ones in Europe as it houses the works of some of the world’s greatest artists. Prominent names include Johannes Vermeer, who worked and lived in Delft, the Netherlands around the same time as the first Dutch founded and settled in the New Amsterdam colony in America.
One thing you should keep in mind is the time of your visit. I visited on a Friday morning (entered the museum around 10 or 11 am). At that time, the queue was not too long and I got my ticket after a short wait. When I left (around 1 pm), there was a huge queue all the way to the outside… But it was also a very rainy day, so may have been busier than usual.
Be prepared in any case to have a bit of a time buffer and rather come in the morning than at midday or in the afternoon!
4. Try some real Dutch Cheese in lots of different flavours
Prinsengracht 112 (a few steps from the Anne Frank House)
If you happen to have some time to spare before your visit to the Anne Frank House, check out the Amsterdam Cheese Museum close by.
Upstairs in the little shop you can eat your way through samples of all kinds of cheese flavours – those typical Dutch ones that you may know, but mainly exotic combinations that you’ve probably never heard of ever in your life such as Pesto Cheese Tricolore!
Learn more about Dutch cheese and how it is produced downstairs. You can also get a souvenir shot with some typical Dutch accessories. You can post this on Facebook to promote the museum, but you don’t have to.
5. Get your ultimate Amsterdam photo
All around the main “pleins”
Another great souvenir photo for free awaits on literally every corner as all the main streets in the city centre, ending in “-plein”, are separated by a canal and bridge. On that bridge and alongside the canal, you’ll see dozens of bicycles. It can’t get any more Amsterdam than if you stand right here to have your photo taken!
Also a great spot is the huge “I am Amsterdam” sign in front of the Rijksmuseum. I had my photo taken there when it was pouring rain, but even then I think it still looks really cool and definitely unique for this city!
Three Things to note when visiting Amsterdam:
1. Watch out for those bicycles!
Dutch people (together with Belgium people) are the undoubted kings and queens of cycling, so naturally almost everyone will cycle everywhere, including to and back from work. Be careful to always look left and right before you cross a street or bridge. Especially in the morning and evening rush hours, the next bicycle might rush by in the blink of an eye!
2. Be aware of the food prices!
Amsterdam is an expensive city in general and eating and drinking out is pricey too. It was already like that 10 years ago when I was here the first time and I noticed it once again on this visit. If you would like to save a bit of money, book a hostel or AirBnB where you can cook your own food. Reasonably priced to me where the Mexican Burrito shop California Burrito (Oude Leliestraat 5) and the bakery Simon Miejssen (Albert Cuypstraat 78). The latter has great crunchy bred rolls with cheese and delicious sweet pastries – perfect for breakfast!
3. Don’t be alarmed if you smell weed, it’s legal!
Most people probably know this by now, but just in case you don’t: In the Netherlands, it is allowed to sell and consume small quantities of cannabis in the so-called “Coffeeshops”. The last thing you’ll get here is actual coffee, so just be prepared that even if you just walk along the streets, you will probably notice that very particular, sweet scent.
Over to you: What are your favorite places in Amsterdam or where would you like to go when you come and visit? Let me know in the comments below!
Read more and start planning your trip:
Unless otherwise stated, all photos in this post were taken by © Sonja Irani