As you’re soon to discover, WeSwapper Jeremy doesn’t mess around when visiting a new city. He likes to see the bits everyone has seen, the bits not everyone has seen, and the bits nobody has even heard of! We reckon this might be the most comprehensive weekend guide to Amsterdam you’ll read in 2016.
Jeremy covered a lot in his four days in the ‘Dam.
To see a full price breakdown from the trip, scroll to the end!.
Where did you go? Amsterdam, Netherlands
Who with: Me (Jeremy) and my friend
When: 17th to 21st March 2016
Where did you stay? In an Airbnb rental next to Rembrandt Park, near the Mercatoplein tram station. It’s a residential area and definitely off the tourist track, but there’s plenty of transport and it was nice to feel like we were living as locals. Amsterdam central was less than 10 minutes by tram or about a 45-minute walk.
Weather: Not great! Drizzling and chilly. But it didn’t matter – you don’t go to Amsterdam for the weather anyway. Our tour guide also said that apparently it rains at least once 350 days out of the year, so you’d be lucky to miss a drizzle any time of year.
Getting there: We flew from Gatwick to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. To get to the centre we took the train to Amsterdam central. Really quick, cheap and easy. Only 15 minutes and €11 return.
At the airport, we also picked up a 48-hour iAmsterdam card for €66. Highly recommended – you’ll soon see why!
Take a deep breath, we covered a lot…
Walking tour: We started our trip with the free walking tour mentioned here. It’s 2.5 hours but completely worth it, and you only pay an optional tip at the end. We paid! Our guide was terrific and you get to see all the main areas of the city in one relaxed swoop, plus lots of non-touristy places too. The guide’s colourful anecdotes were the highlight. Free, but you’re encouraged to tip. We tipped €10.
Floating flower market: Then we popped by the flower market. A little disappointed by this – from the roadside the market looks like any other, as the boats are moored and the shops are out the front, a bit like a professional car boot but with boats. Plants also a little pricey. But maybe that was just my expectations getting the better of me, it might be nice if you’re more of a flower enthusiast. Free.
Had lunch at Singel 404. Terrific bespoke sandwiches of all types and sizes. Cosy, big portions and great value. €20 including a huge sandwich, drink and a cake.
Stedelijk modern art: I’m a fan of modern art and design but compared to all the other museums we visited, we found this the least interesting on our trip. Not bad, but not inspiring. €15 without the iAmsterdam card, free with it.
Canal cruise: Then we went on a great guided cruise around the main canals, it was one of the ones recommended with the iAmsterdam card. An hour round trip, you’re taken through all the main canals and a guide talks you through some of the history of the city. Great insight into the local architecture and a superb way to see the city. Around €16 without iAmsterdam card, free with it.
Van Gogh museum: In the evening we visited the Van Gogh museum, which stays open late every Friday evening with a DJ and a bar – our walking tour guide gave us this tip. As well as the chance to see the artist’s most famous works, we also learned about Van Gogh’s life, his travels, the politics of the day and his biggest influences. A fascinating museum with a great atmosphere, especially at night with the DJ playing. Also probably less crowded than during the day. €17 without iAmsterdam card, free with it.
Red-light district: We walked by the red-light district again on our way home. It’s one thing seeing the red-light district in the day with a guide, quite another seeing it in the evening – a must do if you want to see it in full colour, though. Free.
Breakfast at Koffiehuis De Hoek. Cheese croquette on toast. Tasty! If a little heavy for 9am. Liked this place as it felt like a genuine local breakfast joint, didn’t see any other tourists there. Felt a tiny bit pricey compared to other places in the city, though.
Zaanse Schans. For the rest of the morning, we went on a half-day trip to Zaanse Schans to see the famous windmills. It’s sort of a historical recreation of 17th century working Dutch country life when the windmills were more than just a tourist attraction. We also popped into the Zaans Museum there but to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have an interest in factory production or the “Verkade” brand, who are the museum’s sponsors. We didn’t, so only spent 30 minutes there and left. Otherwise, the trip was interesting, very pretty and worth doing.
You normally have to pay €2-€4 to get into each windmill but with the iAmsterdam card, it’s free.
Around €7 return on the train .
Science Center NEMO. This was great! I wasn’t expecting this to be such fun, we felt like kids again. Almost every part of the museum is interactive and the exhibits are great fun. There’s also a section about understanding sexuality, including a piece on the Kuma Sutra, which is a testament to the sexual tolerance in the Netherlands. It’s something I’d never seen so accessible and treated so candidly in any other museum. The top of the museum is also a great spot for a view over the city. €15 without iAmsterdam card, free with it.
The EYE Film Museum: This was the first time I’d been to a museum dedicated to film, and it was probably my favourite museum on the trip. Mostly because of the awesome temporary exhibit I can’t describe it Took the 5-10 minute boat ride from Amsterdam central across the river to the museum. Permanent – history of film. Temporary exhibit – look it up.
Great view from the museum again. Nice to look over the city at night time.
Left it open and went for brunch! Visited the Worst Wijncafé which was highly recommended to me by a local friend, and with good reason. Had a delicious brunch. It’s half bookings, half walk-ins but always very busy so book if you can. Beloved by locals
Westerpark: Worked off our brunch with a walk around Westerpark, where they had an arcade festival, where you could play games from old skool. Fun! Played games in the park.
De Pijp: Spent the afternoon walking around some more in the De Pijp area – very trendy, young, cosmopolitan, good shops. Not touristy and a nice place to spend an afternoon.
For our last few hours in the city, we visited the Rijksmuseum and learned more about the history of Amsterdam seeing the old masters, paintings that you can’t see anywhere else. Having been to 5 museums already we were feeling a bit museum-ed out by this point but would still recommend. €17, one of the few places not free with the iAmsterdam card.
And then we headed home, tired but feeling like we’d made the most of our time!
Phew! If you could share one tip for fellow travellers, what would it be?
Get the iAmsterdam card. We promise we aren’t sponsored by these guys! We saved a lot using it. It includes free travel in Amsterdam, free museum entries for all except the Rijksmuseum and discounts in shops. We also found that we did more because we had the card and wanted to get full value from it.
We bought a 48-hour version for €66. If you visit 3 museums and a canal cruise you’ve made up the cost already. We also saved €14 on tram travel saved too – two days full.
Not everywhere takes card payments, so make sure you take out a fair wodge of cash. About 50% of the time I needed to use cash.
What would you do differently if you went again?
I’d give the Stedelijk museum a miss. I would also force myself to get on a bike and cycle. I didn’t feel confident doing it at the time, but for a true Amsterdam experience, it’s got to be done. I’d also visit the Anne Frank house – it wasn’t covered by the card and the queues were absolutely huge, so we decided to give it a miss. Next time though I’d definitely make the time to go .
We love cycling but didn’t take a cycling tour. Cycling is king and is serious business. Personally, I didn’t feel comfortable riding amongst the serious cyclists. Fast, no helmets.
What was surprisingly expensive?
Coming from London, not much! That said, museum entry without the card can add up at €15-€20 per ticket, which might be a bit of a shock. The flower market was pricey.
What was surprisingly cheap?
Eating out in general. We had many excellent meals for €15-€25 for two courses and a drink each.
How much did you spend:
Flights – £70 return
Airbnb for a week – £350. This was shared between two so £175 each. This was one of the pricier ones, though, you can find cheaper.
Everything else – Around £200, including the cost of the iAmsterdam card.
Total cost of trip: £445
Yeah, careful of waffles! We found out the vendors distribute three types of waffle: The Amsterdam waffle, the Belgian waffle, and the “tourist” waffle… No prizes for guessing which is the worst.
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