Hailing as one of the safest places in the world, and one of the best cities for work-life balance and quality of life, Amsterdam is a great start for your European journey, should you find it a little bit apprehensive to step out of your comfort zone. The Dutch have a great command of English language where visitors will find it easy to communicate.
Without a doubt, Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities to visit in Europe: it is sunny and windy in summer, whereas it never gets too cold in winter; furthermore it is authentic, open and a great place to stay for sure.
Where to stay
Amsterdam may seem like a huge city, but in fact its main attractions and landmarks are located around the Amsterdam Centraal only. Accommodation prices are higher in Centraal than in the outskirt residential areas, but to be connected within the main city life makes it worth the value. For a change, I really enjoyed my stay at the Generator hostel Amsterdam, which sits inside quaint and hipster Oosterpark while remaining connected to several tram lines.
How to commute
From buses to metros, ferries to trams, trams are perhaps my favourite mode of transport in Amsterdam. It reminds you of Hong Kong’s ‘Ding-Ding’ tramways as it literally sounds off before departing each station. The trams meander through the city, passing pedestrian paths and canals, making it a great way to see the city while in the comfort of sitting down and enjoying the air-conditioning. 24-hour passes are available at only 8 euros and can be bought while you board the trams.
What to eat
Amsterdam is quite a metropolitan city, but traditional Dutch food is something which you might not want to miss. Stamppot is a mashed potato and vegetable dish served with gravy and some sausage or meat slice. It looks really ordinary but it is indeed pure, home-cooked comfort goodness.
Dutch apple pies are ubiquitous menu items that can be found at any cafes or bars in Amsterdam. It certainly tastes more like a cake rather than a pie pastry. It is usually served with some whipped cream on the side, complementing the moist, tard apples and fluffy pastry. It is a perfect afternoon tea item coupled with some fruit liquor, tea or coffee.
Lastly, one that you cannot miss, is Rene’s famous churros which make for a perfect supper snack. All churros are made-to-order, served piping hot with a generous splash of rich chocolate sauce on top. Affordable and definitely worth going for multiple servings!
What else to visit
We all know of Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, the gorgeous canals, the famous sex shops and the Red-light District in Amsterdam – which in 2020 will cease its guided walking tours to protect its workers from the excessive human obstruction. While that means that you may still walk along the streets as per normal, we should still be respectful to the sex workers by not taking photos and avoid being too rowdy.
For a different experience, hop on a free ferry service from Amsterdam Centraal to Amsterdam Noord. The Eye Film Museum and the newly minted Amsterdam swing (A’DAM lookout) sits on the opposite land separated by its waters.
Another ferry service brings you to NDSM Wharf, an industrial shipyard turned creative playground for new culture to brew and develop. Warehouses are turned into workshops, walls covered in graffiti, it really feels free and open as compared to Centraal. What’s the most interesting here, is Crane Hotel Faralda, a boutique exclusive hotel which occupied a huge crane – not even kidding – and overnight prices can reach up to 1300 euros. I guess people would pay to stay inside a crane machine.
More tips and tricks in the next post!