Notorious for the expansive freedoms permitted in the county, people flock from around the world to experience the Netherlands. But there is much more to this popular destination than just the beautiful canal streets in Amsterdam, the cute houses, and even the window lined red light district.
Walking Tours- free walking tours are offered around the city which provide an excellent chance to learn some of the history about the origins and development of Amsterdam, see some of the lesser known locations, and meet other travelers.
Brouwerij't IJ Windmill Brewery- located just a few minutes-walk from the central train station is a repurposed windmill that has been converted into a brewery. Serving local dark and blonde beers, this novelty brewery is just enough off the main strip that it is more filled with the locals enjoying an after work beer than crowds of tourists. The paddle taster of 5 beers for 10 euros paired with their cheese and meat platter is an excellent way to sample a variety of their best while enjoying the casual atmosphere on their outdoor patio.
Van Gogh Museum- As home to one of the most influential painters that ever existed, it is no surprise that Amsterdam pays homage to their famous Dutch post-impressionism Van Gogh and hold many of his best paintings. The Van Gogh museum is one of the most popular art museums in the world and offers a large collection of arguably his best works including over 200 paintings and 500 drawings. It is easy to get lost in this museum which houses works from each era of Van Gogh's painting career. Located on the southern edge of the city, the museum is easily accessible by public transit or bicycle from downtown Amsterdam.
House Boats- the fabled canals winding through the city are one of the unique characteristics that sets Amsterdam a part from many other European capitals. Experience the city and live like a local on one of the air bnb houseboats available for rent. If you plan your visit during off-season, even some of the more luxurious boat accommodations are offered at extremely reasonable prices.
King's Day- originating in 1885, this is one of Holland's largest holidays where everyone drinks to celebrate their King's birthday and the monarchy. The streets are painted orange through the endless decorations and are filled to the brim with revellers sporting blindingly bright orange attire. King's Day weekend is one of the Amsterdam's busiest with hundreds of thousands of guests pouring in to join the national celebration and the historical canals quickly fill with party boats cruising by and bumping tunes. Bands also play in open spaces around the city and empty streets are converted into large flea markets (with plenty of orange attire for sale). As the day wears on more and more people continue to join in the festivities, chaos ensues. Basically the two rules of King's Day are to wear as much orange as possible and don't stop drinking!
Explore the Keukenhof- a world famous display of flowers blooming occurs annually just outside of Amsterdam. Fields begin to bloom from April to June and brilliantly mesmerize well over a million tourists each year. One of the most popular destinations to see the blooming tulips is at the Kekukenhof Gardens which boasts over 7 million bulbs throughout its dozens of carefully designed and colored flower beds. Timing works out perfectly to visit both King's Day and see the gorgeous blooms.
Stroopwafels- my first introduction to these scrumptious biscuit style cookies was on a KLM flight heading into Amsterdam. Consisting of a gooey caramel syrup stuffed between two large freshly grilled rounds of crispy waffles, these tasty treats are one of the Netherlands most popular snacks. While the Dutch cheese and poffertjes are also delicious and necessary to sample, they simply do not compare to a fresh stroopwafel melting in your mouth.
Pub crawl- as the sun sets, the city comes to life. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to explore the nightlife and different districts is to participate in one of the pub crawls. Including multiple beers and welcome drinks at several bars, these organized tours are a fun way to meet people and find some bars off the main street.
Coffee Shops- it is common knowledge that the coffee shops are one of a kind in Amsterdam so I feel that I would be remiss not to add them on this list. They offer a variety of products (including but definitely not limited to coffee) in small typically bizarrely decorated cafes. Weed is sold openly in the front of the store thanks to the Netherlands policy of tolerating sales but taxing heavily and these coffee shops are sprinkled throughout the city. I only had a small cup of coffee which was quite frankly nothing to write home about, but it was interesting to see how accessible this part of the city was to tourists wandering through the neighborhoods.
What else should be added to this list of must try things in Amsterdam?