We packed in a lot during our weekend in Amsterdam! I’m not a travel expert, that’s for sure. But I enjoy reading other traveler’s chronicles to help me when I’m organizing a trip, so I wanted to share my discoveries here.
Amsterdam blew me away. I knew our weekend would be filled with iconic landmarks, historic canals, and vibrant nightlife. But I didn’t know how it would feel – and it was more colorful, energetic, and historically rich than anticipated.
We took the train from London and arrived via Amsterdam Central Station, which was ideal because we landed smack dab in the city center.
And, right away, we were off and about. Here were my favorite discoveries:
The canals are endless and more beautiful than anticipated.
A highlight was exploring the picturesque canal belt, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When looking at photos of Amsterdam, you undoubtedly see images of canals. But I didn’t appreciate the number of canals and the vastness of their network.
Also, the pathways alongside the canals are narrow and you can only navigate through them on bikes or on foot.
To me, the geography gives Amsterdam a uniquely intimate feel.
** You can see I appear to be freezing in this photo. Yes, I was! The temperature was significantly colder than London. If you go in January – dress warmly!
The cafes serve exceptionally tasty items.
Amsterdam’s city center is lined with endless cafes. There seem to be coffee shops at every turn. A concierge at our hotel suggested we try De Laatste Kruimel or The Last Crumb.
To say it was ‘over the top delicious’ is an understatement.
In fact, it was so good that we went twice in one day!
The quirky, lively atmosphere is as inviting as the variety of options on the menu.
And don’t get me started on the apple pie! Oh my… So good!
A weekend in Amsterdam must: Visit the Rijksmuseum.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the world’s most renowned art museums. Home to a vast collection of art and historical artifacts, it spans 800 years of Dutch history.
The museum is particularly famous for its extensive collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings, which includes masterpieces by artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” is the central piece, but my favorite painting was “The Milkmaid”, shown above. It’s hard to believe Vermeer painted this in 1657.
I was struck by the lighting and the quiet peacefulness of the painting.
*We paid for a private tour of the main pieces in the collection, and I highly recommend it. The museum is massive and I wouldn’t have known where to start…
The Van Gogh Museum is mind-blowing.
This globally recognized museum dedicated to the famed Dutch painter Van Gogh showcases over 200 paintings and 500 drawings, providing an intimate look at the artist’s life and progression.
It includes famous works such as “The Sunflowers,” “The Potato Eaters,” and “The Bedroom.”
We pre-booked our visit, and it included an audio tour that lasted 90 minutes.
I really enjoyed the pace and structure of the tour. It starts with a massive collection of self-portraits and the audio component includes quotes from Van Gogh throughout.
His quotes are also written on the walls to emphasize the importance of Van Gogh’s thoughts as he painted these masterpieces – sometimes painting more than one per day!
I enjoyed learning about his relationship with his brother and seeing his work alongside other contemporaries of the time. It was striking to witness firsthand how shockingly different and more vibrant his work is!
I have to say this excursion was the absolute highlight of our weekend in Amsterdam.
**Get your tickets ahead of time! We had early tickets at 10 a.m., and by the time we left, the line was so long that we could hardly see the end of it.
The Anne Frank walking tour was deeply educational.
We planned our trip to Amsterdam on the fly, and I was too late to book tickets for the Anne Frank House tour.
Instead, we were able to take a guided two-hour tour: Life of Anne Frank and World War II Walking Tour.
Our small group gathered outside the Jewish Museum, and our guide began by grounding us geographically. As we walked along, she explained the long history of Jewish life in Amsterdam. Throughout the entire tour, she shared many details of Anne Frank’s life in hiding.
We then approached the Dockwocker statue above, which is highly significant. Our guide explained that the Dutch are peace-loving and historically stay out of conflict. The statue reflects a time when the Dutch took a stand against the German occupation.
According to Lonely Planet, Mari Andriessen’s Dockworker statue (1952), a monumental, aghast-looking figure, was commissioned to commemorate the general strike among dockworkers that began on 25 February 1941 to protest the treatment of Jews.
Also, midway through the tour, we stopped to visit the National Holocaust Names Memorial and then the Auschwitz Monument in Wertheimpark.
D’vijff Vlieghen – One of the best restaurant experiences.
One of the highlights of our Amsterdam weekend trip was our dinner at D’Vijff Vlieghen.
According to the site, “The restaurant is often referred to as a culinary museum, where you can dine under old Dutch art. The walls are decorated with beautiful gold-plated leather from the 17th and 19th centuries.”
As you step inside, the ambiance transports you back in time with its antique furniture, Delft blue tiles, and a collection of art and antiques.
But what really blew us away was the food and wine pairing. I don’t often hear people discussing Dutch food, and I’ve been missing out! The food was delicious. As a vegetarian, I appreciate the flexibility of having meatless meal options on the menu.
The Dutch take care of vegetarians, and I’m a fan!
The Amsterdam Light Festival is thought-provoking.
We happened to get to Amsterdam just in time for the last weekend of its annual Light Festival.
The Amsterdam Light Festival is a highly-anticipated annual event that brings an extra dimension of magic to the city during the year’s darkest months. Artists from around the globe showcase their unique light artworks and installations, which are exhibited throughout the city’s canals and historical center.
We were lucky to experience the lights from a boat tour. It was amazing seeing the lights reflecting off the water at every turn.
Our guides said the theme changes each year and aims to offer spectators a new perspective.
This year’s theme was ‘technology’, and the installations showed how, in some ways, it’s bringing us closer together and, in many ways, we’re becoming more isolated. It was fascinating. My husband and I spent a lot of time thinking about it and discussing it afterward.
This radiant spectacle is a must-see when visiting Amsterdam in the winter.
National Tulip Day is so fun!
So, this was a surprise! Apparently, National Tulip Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in January every year, and we happened to be there!
According to the site, around 200,000 tulips fill Museum Square, and thousands of people stop by to collect free tulips.
The date marks the beginning of Tulip Season in Amsterdam.
So, while a weekend in Amsterdam may not be enough time to explore everything the city has to offer, we covered a lot of ground!
What did you think? Have you been to Amsterdam? Please share any thoughts in the comments below!