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Lifestyle

8 Must-Do Things in Amsterdam That Aren’t the Red Light District

Here’s what I knew about Amsterdam before going there: Lots of canals, legalized marijuana, and the famed Red Light District. So when my husband suggested we go there last fall, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found, was a tremendous amount of history, natural beauty, incredible food, and a city that has so much more to offer than its reputation as a country that has legalized prostitution.

We did, of course, check out the Red Light District but there were many other absolutely incredible things to eat, see, and do in Amsterdam. To get you started, here is a list to get you started on the 8 things that you absolutely MUST do if you are traveling to this city. From beautiful art museums to delicious Indonesian food spots — you can spend a week here and never get bored. Trust me, I did!

1. Get an I amsterdam city card to take advantage of great deals. 

My husband and I both got I amsterdam city cards, which allowed us to take serious advantage of everything that the city has to offer. As a tourist, it’s one of the best ways to get your bang for your buck, since the card includes everything from free entrance to over 50 museums, free unlimited public transportation, a free canal cruise, and discounts to restaurants and other sights in the Amsterdam region. We got the 72 hour cards and, honestly, probably should have splurged for more time since there is SO. MUCH. TO. SEE.

2. Learn about WWII history with the Anne Frank House and Dutch Resistance Museum. 

I know it’s a bit depressing, but going to the Anne Frank House is a must if you’re visiting Amsterdam. There is a lot to learn here, so make sure that you are emotionally prepared for it. My best tip, though, is to get tickets WELL ahead of time since they sell out quickly. If you don’t manage to get them beforehand, you’ll need to stand in the hours-long line to get in. The other WWII history you’ll want to put on your To See List is the Dutch Resistance Museum. It’s small but mighty!

3. Eat lots and lots of pancakes… of all kinds.

Do you know about poffertjes, the tiny Dutch pancakes? I certainly didn’t until I made it to Amsterdam, and now I love them so much that I’ve actually bought a special pan and mix to re-create them at home. Of course, if you’re not me, you might be satisfied just getting these every day during your trip. You’ll also want to try Dutch pancakes, which are quite large but thin like crepes, often topped with all kinds of goodies, and can come in either savory or sweet variations, like apples and cheese or strawberries and chocolate.

4. Spend a day at Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

You will need to make an entire day out of visiting these three museums that sit around Museumplein (a gorgeous little park which is perfect for picnics during the warmer months). Start at the beautiful and huge Rijksmuseum, then continue on to the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Make sure you go with someone who loves art, because you’ll be soaking in a ton of great artists all day. It’s well worth it. 

5. Check out the cute stands at the Albert Cuyp Markt.

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Saturdays on the market are so cosy! ✨

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This outdoor market, which isn’t too far from the museums I mentioned (in case you’re not too worn out), is an absolute must. There are dozens and dozens of shops and food carts at Albert Cuyp Markt, so you surely won’t be disappointed. I would highly recommend that you come here on a sunny day when you just want to spend time walking around and browsing… and snacking. If you’ve got souvenirs to buy for yourself or others, this is also the place to get them. And did I mention the glorious snacking yet?

6. Ride a bike and go on a canal tour (yes, really!). 

If you get the I amsterdam city card, then you’re already basically set up for a free canal cruise. It’s a bit cheesy, I admit, but it was definitely one of the most magical experiences we had since we opted to do a dusk tour and it was beautiful watching the city fade into darkness and light up for the night. You can do this any time of year, too, since they are covered. And did I mention the biking? Amsterdam is definitely a city that loves its public transportation and, although it is totally walkable, there are plenty of places where you can rent a bike and go for a joyride.

7. Take the ultimate selfie at the I amsterdam letters. 

The famed I amsterdam letters are an art installation in back of the Rijksmuseum, and definitely an Instagram-worthy moment. But you know what else? There’s also the traveling I amsterdam letters, which are placed in various places around the city and give visitors and locals alike a chance to see a different side of their favorite city. When I saw the I amsterdam letters, it was sadly a rainy day and I didn’t get to enjoy them much because it was chilly. However, I highly encourage anyone going to the city that they make sure to stop by for an iconic photo.

8. Try something new by going to one of the various Indonesian restaurants. 

You might be surprised to learn that there are tons of fantastic Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, but it all comes down to the history of the Dutch East Indies being a colony back in the 1800s. Because of this tricky relationship, we now get to enjoy AH-mazing Indonesian cuisine in the Netherlands. I highly recommend going to Tempo Doeloe, a Michelin-rated restaurant that you will likely need a reservation for. But there’s many others around and, let me tell you, I tried half a dozen of them during my stay there. The food was just THAT good. Trust me on this one.