Amsterdam is a very sentimental city for me. I have lived in the Netherlands for five years of my life and I stayed in Amsterdam for two months out of that. It is a beautiful and multicultural city with unique scenery filled with bikes and history. I have never been to another city like Amsterdam. But it is also fairly expensive. Other blogs say that you should expect to spend 50, 100 or 150 euros a day. That’s a bit more than I want to spend every day. But like every city in the world, there are plenty of cheap ways to experience the city at full capacity.
If you enter Amsterdam by coming out of Centraal Station you’ll likely walk on the sidewalk of Damrak street which is barely wide enough for the large amount of locals and tourists walking into the city or back towards the train station. This street will guide you past the typical city shops and eateries like Starbucks, McDonalds and Primark. There is even a sex museum. Then the street will open up to a large square called Dam Square. It is a highly touristy area with a high end shopping mall called De Bijenkorf and a Madame Tussauds Museum. When you’re there take a quick look around and enjoy the street performers but I’d suggest that you leave within a quarter of an hour to enjoy the even better parts of Amsterdam. Make your way south west to the Oud-Zuid area. When you see the two brick towers of the Rijksmuseum you’ll know you are in the right spot.
1. Visit Museumplein
Museumplein translates to Museum Square. It is a large square surrounded by famous museums like the Rijksmuseum. If you are 18 and under you can visit the Rijksmuseum which is known for its historic art, The Van Gogh Museum which showcases Van Gogh’s masterpieces, and the Stedelijk Museum for modern art all for free. But if you are older than 18 the ticket prices are around 19 euros each, which is a decent deal especially if you are saving money throughout the day. Beyond the museums, the square is a popular hangout area with cafes, benches and a wide green field. If you want more active fun, there is a skatepark and a basketball court which is often used in the summertime. With the large open space and many people, there are often public events held that you might just find yourself running into. I remember last summer in Amsterdam I ended up becoming a spectator in a political rally at the old Iamsterdam sign, which was taken down in mid 2019. I recommend visiting museumplein to at least walk from end to end.
2. Stroll Through Vondelpark
Right next to Museumplein you’ll find the open gate to Vondelpark. Soon after entering you will find that you’ve escaped the city. Bikers will be riding on the wide trail and people will be relaxing by the water. Nature will be hovering over you and the sounds of the city will be lost. You will be overwhelmed with peacefulness. When you get to the more crowded areas of the park you’ll see groups of dutchies smoking joints. When I was younger I remember seeing big plumes of smoke rising in the air. I thought it was a barbeque. If you decide to keep on walking, more of the parks beauty will be revealed to you.
3. Have A Picnic
If you want to join the locals and take a seat by the water in Vondelpark or in the middle of Museumplein you should grab some dutch cheese and have a picnic. Just go to your closest Albert Heijn or Jumbo supermarkets and buy some cheese, meats, pastries and a heineken. All you have to do after that is find your perfect spot and let loose. Enjoy the scenery of the historic museums or the families playing together. It’s a great way to forget about everything except the present moment.
4. Try Typical Dutch Street Food
If you’re not in the mood to eat supermarket food by the water i’d definitely suggest trying some of the dutch street food for some good eats. Probably the most typical dutch street food is Herring. They serve it raw, either by itself with pickles and onions or with a bun, called a Broodje Haring. I personally despise this. I tried it for the first time in the northern city of Alkmaar during the popular cheese market. I was disgusted and I stealthily threw it in the bin after eating half a bite so I wouldn’t infringe on the culture. Another option that you can get off the street is the Vietnamese Loempia which is essentially a spring roll filled with cabbage, carrots and more. It is served with a chili sauce dip which pairs nicely with the Loempia. Now unlike the Herring, I quite like this. There is also Vlaamse Frites, which are thick Belgian fries (or chips) that are mainly served with a fry sauce which is similar to mayonnaise but has a difference that I can’t quite explain and honestly it is the best sauce that I have ever had with fries. So Vlaamse Frites are a must try, although I have always found the potatoes to be a little dry. Another must try is FEBO. FEBO is a vending machine for fried food. It has croquettes, cheese souffles, frikandel and a few more classic dutch snacks. I’d recommend the Croquettes from personal experience. But be careful, because wherever you get them they’ll likely be blistering hot. The prices for each item is around 2 euros. If you’re feeling a little more sweet, you can find a street vendor selling the famous little pancakes called poffertjes. They come out hot and fluffy with a hard dousing of powdered sugar. Stroopwafels are also a good choice. They are made with two thin waffle shaped cookies containing a sweet and rich caramel syrup filling inside. I prefer the warm made to order waffles rather than the packaged ones. Those are some of the main street food items found in Amsterdam and throughout the rest of the Netherlands.
5. Go Thrift Shopping
My friend actually recommended this to me when I asked her about her favorite things to do in Amsterdam. She loves to go thrift shopping when she arrives in the city. Specifically she likes the store Episode. “It just has really really groovy stuff” is what she says about the shop. It is filled to the brim with clothes and for some reason has a bunch of Converse sneakers. Episode has multiple locations in Amsterdam so it won’t be too hard to find. Here is their website: https://www.episode.eu/ .
6. Just Walk Around
As long as you watch out for bikes, Amsterdam is a great city for walking. Tour along and across the canals and you’ll enjoy every bit of it. The people are almost always pleasant and funny. They might even greet you from their windows while they’re watching the change of the city from day to night. When I was bringing a pizza home from a nearby restaurant to my apartment in Jordaan, my walk back was filled with locals giving funny and positive comments towards me and my pizza as they walked by or watched from above. Besides the locals, you’ll pass tall thin buildings that are Unique to the Netherlands and floating along the canals you’ll see groups of people drinking together in little canal boats. You might find little gems like a cool record shop or a neat bar. Don’t be afraid to put google maps away and just get lost.
There is no doubt that Amsterdam is a beautiful city with plenty of culture and history. Just writing this post I really want to go back and try the things I haven’t done yet. I still have so much that I left untouched in Amsterdam and so many memories I can recall from this city. Luckily, I plan to travel to the Netherlands this November to see some good friends and have new experiences. After that trip I will have much more content to write about Amsterdam and the rest of North Holland.
Do you have any tips to travel cheap? Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Tell us in the comments. I’ll see you in the next post.
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Learn more about the city with this book: Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City