A First Timer’s Guide to Exploring Amsterdam

I set out for Amsterdam from my study abroad location in Prague on an overnight train.  As the train pulled into the station early in the morning, I had a feeling of excitement, one because I was spending the first night of this city by myself and was free to explore whatever I wanted.  I had a list of things to do in Amsterdam ready to be checked off. I also was a bit nervous because I knew marijuana and prostitution is legal here, and I did not know how those would affect my experience with my surroundings or the people in this city.  Although this city is very comfortable with sex (it has plenty of museums about sex for you to check out), it only added to the quirkiness of this crazy city.  Overall, this city exceeded every one of my expectations with its delicious food, people, and its natural beauty of canals and parks. 

(pssst…scroll to the bottom for some savings!)



Before You Go:

  • When to Go: April-May (Tulips are blooming & great weather)
  • Language: Dutch
  • Currency: Euro

Things To Do in Amsterdam:

The Red Light District

As we were trying to find this place at night, we stopped and asked someone for directions.  They politely pointed us towards the right direction and said, “you will definitely know when you get there”.  She was right.  This place is one thing in the day time but at night it was a whole different story.  The “window girls” try to lure you in as you walk past the many full-length windows and it is interesting to see how this works as a form of prostitution in Amsterdam.  However, this district is actually one the safest in the city! 

Tip: DO NOT take pictures of the “window girls” unless you want them mad at you and your camera broken (they are people too you know)

Anne Frank House

My roommates and I got up early to see the house (which normally has a 2-3 hour wait) and only had to wait about an hour to get in.  Waiting in line was definitely worth it, we walked through the history and learned about the legacy of the house and of the people who took shelter in it.  The house even had the actual bookcase that they hid behind and a guestbook where my roommates and I left a note in remembrance.  It is so crazy how luck played such a prominent role in the Holocaust.  Anne Frank died about 3 weeks before her camp was liberated.  The only person in the annex who survived was Anne’s father Otto Frank, who later published Anne’s diary.  

Read more: Visiting the Auschwitz Concentration Camp

blogger-image-490908301Amsterdam Sign & The Museums

Located in Museum Square, this museum holds a wide collection of art and history.  It is also the country’s national museum and contains many ancient pieces that took hundreds of years to accumulate.  My favorite part is the giant library that is said to hold over 35,000 books!

Van Gogh Museum

This museum contains the world’s largest collection of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh…and what an incredible collection it is. 

  • Amsterdam Museum is a collection of the history of the city Amsterdam (website)
  • Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: collections of modern and contemporary art and design (website)

Tip: If you plan on spending time in a lot of museums, there are discount cards that could benefit you. The Museumkaart is €59.90 for adults/€32.45 for children.  Pros: valid for a whole year and covers 400 museums all across the Netherlands. The I Amsterdam card (24 hours (€49), 48 hours (€59) and 72 hours (€69) Pros: Entry to the museums, discounts on other attractions, a free canal cruise and unlimited use of public transport (trams, buses and metro).

The Royal Palace

One of my favorite things about Europe is the amount of palaces that you can visit across the countries. This palace is the official residence of the King of Holland.  Fun fact: the Royal Palace was built to mirror the architecture style of the Romans. So make sure to go inside and visit the stunning state rooms.

Shop my Amsterdam style favorites:


Come here for a picnic and people watching, as this large park fills up with people on bikes and those enjoying the Amsterdam weather.  We came here a little before sunset and loved taking a break from sightseeing in this gem.  There are different sections of ponds and statues and some parts even have cafes and restaurants if you are looking for lunch with a view.  

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Paris, France

Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market)

The only floating flower market in the world and it is truly an amazing sight to watch as the flower stalls stand on the houseboats.  There are varieties of colorful flowers to choose from, including of course tulips (the Netherlands is the world’s main producer of the plant.)  The tulip bulbs for planting in a garden make beautiful authentic souvenirs for your family and friends.  However, if you are planning to fly with the bulbs as a souvenir, make sure that it has a customs cleared stamp on the packaging. 

Canal Ride and/or Bike Tour

My roommates and I chose the canal tour over a bike tour because we realized that biking is pretty scary in Amsterdam as many bikers are in a hurry and that there are a lot of bikers in the city.  We set out on the water for an hour as we paddled and steered past people sitting on benches eating their lunches and talking, just enjoying the beauty of the water.

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Went on a canal ride today

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We stopped to see the famous bench from the film Fault in Our Stars, which was covered in notes from fans.

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Just enjoying Amsterdam from the fault in our stars bench 💁

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Walk Around!

Amsterdam is such an amazing city to just walk around and enjoy.  The canals, houses, and little cafe’s make the city seem so welcoming and it’s hard to have a bad time.  I loved walking along the canals and people-watching the other citygoers.

Helpful Dutch Phrases:

  • Hi/Bye: Hoi / Hallo / Daag / Doei
  • Please: Alstublieft / Alsjeblieft (Ahlst-ew-bleeft / ahl-shuh-bleeft)
  • Thank you: Dank u wel / Dank je wel (dahnk-ew-vehl / dahnk-yuh-vehl)
  • I don’t understand: Ik begrijp het [niet.] (ik buh-khraip ut neet)


Whether you are looking for some serious savings or something new to see, check out these amazing deals!

During my Amsterdam travels, I found this website to be particularly helpful with helping me plan out things to do in Amsterdam.  I hope you can get some inspiration from it as well.

Have you been to any of these places in Amsterdam or did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Safe travels,

L x

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