Ideas for a weekend or layover in Amsterdam

KL1780 from HAM to AMS & KL3091 from AMS to RIX

Now vacation travel is definitely over for me, I needed to see a dear friend of mine in Amsterdam. Although we happened to be in the exact same city just a weekend before, I went there again yesterday and it got me thinking. What to recommend on s layover in Amsterdam?

When you have limited time, you’re usually thankful for some tips. So here’s my top x, a collection of activities suitable for whichever daytime you can spare.

  • Time for breakfast: “Hagelslag”! Try this local specialty – Dutch food can be as simple and surprisingly good sometimes. Hagelslag are chocolate sprinkles, and on a buttered bread for breakfast it is definitely one invention I used to cherish in my childhood already, although I’m not Dutch (but used to live close to the border). Try one, most hotels have hagelslag at their breakfast buffet as a standard.
  • Visit a local market and – food again – have a fresh “Stroopwaffel”. This super thin waffle with caramel in it makes the perfect accompaniment for your morning coffee, for example at Albert Cuyp Market. Check out its opening times beforehand!
  • Participate in a free, guided walking tour. Thanks to my friends whom I was visiting, I now know all about free walking tours and I’m sad I missed them. Payment is voluntary (tipping) but from what I heard, mostly arts and history students, who are well informed, guide these tours and make it worthwile.

In case you don’t want to walk through Amsterdam, these are your alternatives.

  • Cocktail tour – no need to pay or reserve in advance, just pay the ride (15 Euros for an hour) with your drinks afterwards. Most companies have students work in part-time jobs to serve you drinks and guide you through the canals, so you shouldn’t expect a lot of in-depth, historically accurate insights into the city’s history. What you can expect, on the contrary, is a lot of fun and good drinks while taking a break from walking around.
  • Regular sightseeing tour – with a 24h ticket for one of the hop-on, hop-off companies, you can even combine bus and boat and get the best of both views on the Dutch capital.
  • See Amsterdam from above – Adam lookout. If you dare, go swing on The Edge (make sure you book your spot previously, though). You can have drinks up there at the lookout, too.

If you prefer a more historic and original location and feel like a real local, go to Café Hoppe to have a glass of the famous Dutch beer like Amstel or Heineken. To indulge in that even more, you’ll always have the chance to tour the Heineken brewery.

A cool thing to do and experience how many Amsterdam inhabitants live is to visit a houseboat. There should be a couple of options which you can choose from.

Should you feel hungry again, have some “borrelhappjes” (snacks) with your drinks. I recommend “Bitterballen”. Watch out, these deep fried meat and cheese balls are hot inside, so break them in two halfs, dip it in the mustard that comes with it and enjoy!

For proper dinner in a stylish and extravagant location, I can recommend REM Eiland, a former dockside crane. We had a delicious three course menu there.

Don’t miss the Red Light District! It’s weird when you’re window shopping and suddenly you realize that, instead of looking at either fashion, cheese or sweets, there are actually women in the windows, displaying themselves in their underwear… The freelance workers they are, they rent this window for eight hours for 150 EUR and offer a shot for 50 EUR. The average time they spend on a job is shockingly low – total visiting duration is around six minutes. To get to know more about the whole topic, visit the Museum of Prostitution.

// shop for memorabilia on one of Amsterdam’s markets, e.g. Albert Cuyp Market

// in Amsterdam since 1670: Café Hoppe 

// see Amsterdam from above and dare to ride Europe’s highest swing: A’DAM Lookout

// get to know the Red Light District of Amsterdam: Museum of Prostitution

// dinner in the harbor: REM Eiland

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