What to do in Amsterdam: the whys, the hows and the whatsLet me show you more than just your regular Amsterdam for cheap
After a long weekend in the wonderful capital of Netherlands, I realized two things: There’s no prettier and more adorable city than Amsterdam and that it isn’t an easy or cheap city to fully enjoy. There’s just too much to see, and everything will cost something, you know? This is a common problem when you travel to a very multicultural, full of life and profoundly beautiful city like Amsterdam. There’s so much beauty in Amsterdam, right?
The city has so much to offer and during the summer months, have so many tourists that you can feel a bit overwhelmed by the abundance of options when we talk about museums, attractions, tours and the queues they usually have. Fotostrasse’s mission has always been to present you the best alternative to enjoy things, here I will tell you how, why and what do to in Amsterdam in one day (or 2, 3, 5 or 7 days).
Amsterdam is not the cheapest capital in Europe, but it is far from being the most expensive. The thing that bothers the most is some people and the huge lines for the coolest museums like Van Gogh or Stedelijk. It does not matter if you’re going alone or with friends, for a weekend or more days or if you’re just in Amsterdam for 24hrs, our super tip here is: get the I Amsterdam City Card.
Besides the free entries in almost all the museums in the city, the card will give you discounts on bikes, free unlimited rides on public transit, major discounts on food and alcohol, freebies, free canal cruises, discount on a canal bike (!!!), free entrance to a range of attractions at the Zaanse Schans and Haarlem, free ferry trip from Volendam to Marken and much more.
We would not recommend it if it weren’t 100% approved. The more we travel, the more we’re sure about the advantages of those city cards, you may remember our post about the two different cards Turku offers, right? If not, read it here.
Let me explain step by step why you must get this card at least for some of the time you’re in the city.
What to do in Amsterdam: Museums
Amsterdam has a lot of museums – A LOT. It is nearly impossible to visit all the museums this city has. Believe me, I’ve tried. You can have something unique and weird as a museum dedicated only to pipes all the way to the intriguing and ironic exhibition called ZERO inside the wonderful Stedelijk stating in the most peculiar way the art movement and the very core of the question: What is art?
Zero has a pile of beer bottles as art, a bunch of plastic bags filled with water as art, car tires and so on. It makes you wonder how pissed the artists were with the trivialization of what is art. You can smell the sarcasm in the air. Unmissable.
Amsterdam also has the classic art with museums dedicated entirely to masters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. We can’t even begin to describe the feeling of seeing important live pieces like The Potato Eaters and The Yellow House.
If you’re into smaller collections and Huis Marseille and FOAM, if you’re into history you can go to Museum Van Loon and the Hermitage Amsterdam, if you’re into diamonds they have a museum only for that and if you’re crazy for science, do not miss the Nemo! And do not miss the cafe on top of Nemo, ok? Best view of the city! All that is for free with your I Amsterdam Card.
Canal cruises: The tourist attraction that is worth it
Each cardholder is entitled to 1 canal cruise per card. There are four companies and endless timetables and routes to choose from. And don’t worry, you can get off whenever you want, so if you’re like me – a bit afraid and in love with boats – you’re safe. Every tour has more than one stop, just ask before hand to see how long it takes until you can get off.
And believe us when we tell you: it is priceless the view and the photo opportunities you have when you’re experiencing the city from its canal. Angles that you can’t have if you’re on land, an entirely different approach since you’re in the middle of the canal and going under numerous bridges and much more. Highly recommended if you want to photograph more and at the same time, get a lot of information about history and architecture. Usually, those tours offer tons of useful and exciting information to the people on board.
So hop on on one of those boats full of tourists because the good you can take from it is 5x bigger than the bad side of a tourist attraction. The pro tip for this “What to do in Amsterdam” list here is to try to get the tour during the sunset. Look how wonderful Amsterdam is in the golden hour!
What to do in Amsterdam: Food and Alcohol
This is where the I Amsterdam Card divides man from rats. Being used to the incredible prices in Berlin, travel to other capitals and having to find good and cheap food can be a hassle. With that said, the 25% discount offered to the cardholders – and sometimes +1 friend – will transform your Amsterdam meal into a Berlin Meal!!!
The regular price for food+drinks in Berlin can go up to 15€, and in Amsterdam we noticed that this could be something from 15€ to 25€, having 1/4 of this amount off the table is fantastic!
You can choose from places with Dutch food, Asian food, cheese stores, pancakes houses, cafes, contemporary cuisine and more. Some of the options will exclude drinks and some will not, so please pay attention to that. We’ve tried the East 57, Wagamama and The Heffer, the first one serving fantastic burgers and stakes, the second being more focused in Noodles and Asian infusion and the last had Dutch food and some other options. All three were good; all 3 had great food, all three were approved by Fotostrasse.
Understand the Transport: bikes, metro, bus or tram?
Needless to say that the best way to explore the City of Bikes is by Bike, huh? But if you’re not able to go by bike, the card will give you free and unlimited rides on all the trams, metros and buses! A perfect slap in the face of society, imagine you tired of walking, desperate for a place to sit and boooooom: free ride to your hotel. Cool, right?
Amsterdam has an outstanding public transportation – from trams which criss-cross the city to the metro and buses which travel further out. But it is not cheap: 2.90€ for a subway ride is a bit too much if you’re doing a Eurotrip and every penny saved is a victory. And the system used by the city is not the easiest to explain here, but long story short: you pay a boarding fee, you pay what you ride and night buses can be more expensive than regular buses.
But if you’re like us and can ride a bike even during winter time, you’ll be happy too! With the 25% off on the final price of your bike, your list of “What to do in Amsterdam” will be way easier to finish. It is important to add here a few more things: this card will also give you the option of renting a scooter for one day under a special price, but we couldn’t do that since I left my drivers license back home.
So if you want to do that do not forget yours. And that it is also included a cool water bike rental with 25% discount. The water bike is nothing more than a paddle boat, and it is fun fun fun fun! It is on our list of things to do on the next trip!
Tired of Museums? Amsterdam has more
Amsterdam has many options that are not classified as museums per se, my favorite, without a single drop of doubt, was the Zaanse Schans.
Zaanse Schans is hardly 30 min from Amsterdam, and with the card, you can get a discount on the way there and free entrance once you reach the site. It is like going back in time. The place if full of windmills of every color and height, blue water and green grass, sheep and goats and delicious sweets! Do not miss the world famous stroopwafel from this place!
All the stroopwafel we had in Amsterdam were good, but this one was great. We became addicted to this immediately; it is worst than heroin! This sweet dutch pastry is sweet to the right point so you will not need to drink liters of water afterward, it is hard and soft at the same time, and the taste is something unique.
The Parks and Streets you need to visit in Amsterdam
Another fantastic thing to do in Amsterdam (and 100% free) is just to get lost inside this paradise called Amsterdam. We’ll confess only to you guys that this was our favorite part of the trip. Just walk around the city, take photos of everything and every little and unique detail, have a picnic inside a park, be amazed by an old building with new elements on every corner of this city. Give yourself some minutes to appreciate the design all over and lay down on the green grass of Vondelpark.
What to do in Amsterdam: Final considerations
The first time I went to Amsterdam, I must confess that this city didn’t grab me by the heart, but this 2nd visit six years later became quickly one of our best weekends abroad. If you have more time in the city, worry no more. You can also have a 48hrs card and follow this 3 days in Amsterdam itinerary and have all the fun you can. By the way, here’s a great list to inspire you to book the best hotels in the city.
The seven bridges – you can only see this from a boat and for 1 secondAmsterdam is small but big, the people smile and treat you nice, the language is hard to understand but everybody is happy to help you in English and sometimes even other languages – Dutch people are warm and adorable. Thank you for the mega fun, super weekend, Amsterdam! Fotostrasse loves you!
I would love to head what you think about Amsterdam, please come join us on our facebook group. I also would love to invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, maybe there are some free city cards for you there. Who knows?