Rainy Amsterdam played home to my very first solo trip abroad. I specifically chose this city due to it’s reputation for being safe and welcoming and it did not disappoint! Every person I met was unerringly friendly and helpfully fluent in English- which was a relief for my monolingual self. I had unwittingly scheduled my trip for Sinterklaas and made out like a bandit with enormous chocolate letters and, weirdly, a thermal shirt. Needless to say, the city endeared itself to me very quickly.
While trams and bikes make it easy to get around the city, I spent much of my time wandering around on foot, checking out all of the different sites. Walking tours are one of the first things I seek out when I’m in a new city to help me get a lay of the land.
It’s Amsterdam, so make sure to check out the coffee shops, the canals, and the Red Light District- you know the drill.
It was raining during much of my visit and I took advantage of the wealth of museums in the city to keep me dry during the day. The Rijksmuseum, while now lacking it’s iconic “iAmsterdam” sign, was sheltering a quartet of talented street musicians that made me smile every time I walked past the area, and the museum itself was a treasure trove of beautiful artwork from a huge variety of artists.
The Van Gogh Museum was my absolute favorite- they have such a wonderful collection of paintings! It’s a good idea to pre-purchase tickets for this museum as it does have timed entries. You can spend as long as you like in the museum, but you have to select a time for your visit in advance.
While I didn’t visit the Anne Frank House, its an incredibly popular and culturally significant landmark, so it’s important to purchase tickets some time in advance to guarantee a visit. It’s a small space so there are only so many people allowed in the building at one time.
I didn’t spend all of my time inside, though! Foodhallen is a huge street food market that’s fun to hang out in and occasionally hosts live music. The Albery Cyup Market is the best place to get souvenirs- and trust me, I checked. I regularly detoured here to pick up enormous freshly made stoopwafels for only a Euro.
While the Heineken Experience brewery tour is a staple of Amsterdam, I have to admit that I hate the beer and instead found myself at Brouwerij ’t IJ, which is a brewery situated next to a windmill with relatively inexpensive beers. I sampled a flight of their brews and relaxed for a while.
Speaking of food and drinks- if you’re drunk in Amsterdam and not eating fried food out of a wall, were you ever really there? Open until 3am, Febo serves tasty fried treats held in plastic cabinets built into the wall- you simple pay to unlock your food of choice and you’re ready to enjoy a quick snack. I realize that I sound insane trying to describe this- I promise that automatic dining makes much more sense once you see it!
Pancakes Amsterdam is another classic of the area- they serve both Dutch and American pancakes, and yes those are different! Dutch pancakes are usually bigger and less fluffy. Savory versions of this meal are common- I chose the classic apple and bacon pancake. I also enjoyed a lovely and filling brunch at Omlegg which was more off the beaten path- I think I was the only American in the shop.
While there are many things to keep in mind while visiting Amsterdam, important thing to remember by far is to stay out of the bike lane. Bikers have the right of way in almost any scenario and I saw more than one tourist nearly get flattened by an irritated cyclist.
I’m grateful that I chose this lovely and welcoming city as my first solo trip. I felt very taken care of and safe for the whole of my trip and there was tons to do to keep me entertained- although I did make sure to check out nearby sites as well.