Is Amsterdam the Venice of the North or Venice the Amsterdam of the South? With more than 250 canals, more bikes than inhabitants, a museum for everything (among the most unusual: the Museum of Bags and Purses, the Cat Cabinet, and the Torture Museum) and a vibrant architectural heritage from the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance… Where to start the visit?
In order to appreciate the charm of Amsterdam, we highly recommend to do a walking tour. Plenty agencies offer free walking tours and tips are not mandatory but merely suggested.
We originally booked a tour with Sandmans New Europe and ended up doing it with 360 Amsterdam Tours because we showed up too early! We followed Michael, the guide, around Amsterdam where we saw many places such as the Royal Palace, the 800-years-old Oude Kerk (“old church”) and the Nieuwe Kerk (“new church”). The tour is approximately two hours long and presents an interesting overview of the city while having a good time with the group.
Walking around Amsterdam is a great start but jumping aboard a boat is even cooler! To do so, you can rent a pedal boat and explore the canals. There are also plenty of boat tour agencies to guide you around.
We tried Those Dam Boat Guys based on their great ratings and clients testimonies. Check their FAQ to have a glimpse of their sense of humor! On board, Jeff was our guide and he made sure everyone felt comfortable. Each person can bring whatever he/she wants on the boat (food, beverages, etc.) to enjoy the tour while discovering Amsterdam with its most unforgettable anecdotes. Isn’t it the best way to spend an afternoon?
After walking and boating around the city, it is time to discover the rest of the town like a local would do: on a bike! Amsterdam is known worldwide to be a bike friendly city. For less than 10 euros (15 $CAD) per day you can rent a bike!
Find a list of popular rental locations by visiting I Amsterdam website. Once you get the bike, you can easily bike through the famous Red Light District, then go to the southern and western canal belts and finish your ride in Jordaan District.
If you visit Amsterdam for a very short period of time, do not miss the Van Gogh Museum, the Vondelpark, and the Rijksmuseum. Please note that if you want to visit those museums, we strongly suggest to book your ticket in advance to avoid the 1 hour (sometimes more) queue.
Looking for a place to eat? Amsterdam has a very diverse food scene. It is always preferable to reserve in advance when possible by calling the restaurant or by visiting their website especially for hot spots.
One of our favorite restaurant was the Vegan Junk Food Bar where you can taste a double cheeseburgers to fuel your battery. For dinner, we went to another vegan restaurant named Meatless District. This place is perfect for friends gathering because portions are generous and you can share. After an excellent meal, you can sit at the lounge bar and try their great signature cocktails.
Wondering where to stay? During summer season, the golden rule is to book as early as possible. We booked at Hotel Casa Amsterdam which is located close to the Amstel river. This place is perfect for a morning walk or run.
Moreover, the hotel has a very cool rooftop called the Nest, where you can do a morning yoga session and then have a well-balanced breakfast. Above all, we loved the minimalist decor, the comfort and the large bathroom.
From Montreal, there are direct flights with KLM but to save money you can take Wow Air. From Paris, you can either go by plane or by train. The train station is close from where we live so we chose to go by train with Thalys.
For the train, make sure to check prices in advance. Sometimes, the first class is less expensive than the economic class. First class rides are very comfortable, offer more space for the legs and include a complimentary meal. Are you ready for the departure?