From smoky coffee shops to beer-fuelled stag weekends and a generally hedonistic lifestyle, media coverage of Amsterdam makes it fairly easy to harbor pre-conceived ideas about this European city. While it’s true to say you’ll find these things in the so-called Venice of the North, there’s plenty more to discover if you know where to look. Check out these five experiences that may just change your mind about Amsterdam.
1. Walk Among the Tulips
You’ll find wooden tulips for sale in most Amsterdam gift shops, but there’s nothing like the sight and smell of the real thing. Although you can head to Keukenhof Gardens to see Holland’s national flower in its natural habitat, a trip to the Bloemenmarkt — the world’s only floating flower market — is a must. Find the market along the southern side of the Singel canal.
2. Travel as the Locals Do
Bicycles and Amsterdam go hand in hand and woe betide you if you get in the way of a local as they blaze a trail through the city’s narrow alleyways. That said if you can’t beat them you really should join them. You might not ride as fast as the locals, but a cycling tour is a great way to experience authentic Amsterdam. Try the daily Highlights Amsterdam Bike Tour if you’d feel more confident cycling in a group.
3. Eat Amsterdam Street Food
Perhaps it’s something to do with the amount of hunger-inducing coffee shops dotted around the city, but you’ll find street food joints seemingly on every corner in the Netherlands capital. Herring is probably the most authentic of Amsterdam street foods, but if raw fish is not really your thing, play it safe and choose a sweet stroopwafel instead. Fromage fans will enjoy a day trip to the traditional Alkmaar cheese market.
4. Discover the City’s Markets
Bustling flea markets are part and parcel of life in Amsterdam. You’ll need grim determination to make your way through the crowds at some of them, but this shouldn’t present too much of a problem if you’re a serious shopper. Try the Albert Cuypmarkt in the center of Pijp, the Noordermarkt just west of Westermarkt, and the bustling bazaar-like surroundings of the Waterlooplein.
5. Escape to the Begijnhof
Amsterdam is understandably noisy and while most tourists will expect endless noise, it can sometimes become a little overbearing. Escape for a while to the Begijnhof. This former convent — site of the “Miracle of Amsterdam” —offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. See the Engelse Kerk, the hidden church, and the serene gardens. Many hotels in Amsterdam offer tour and ticket help, so don’t forget to ask for advice on the best time to visit.
These are just a handful of the experiences that are offered in Amsterdam. Whether you take your pick or do them all, you’ll come away with an entirely different perspective on the city. If you have your own favorite things to do in Amsterdam, we’d love for you to share your tips in the comments section below.