Amsterdam. A city I’ve been dying to visit since I first watched their great tourism video back in 2012.
So when I flew with KLM to Iceland, I decided to make the most of the Schipol layover (and my Schengen visa) and stop over for the weekend. It was a real whirlwind tour and I wish I’d had more time!
I was in by Friday at 11am and out again by Sunday morning at 10am. I didn’t want to make this visit about trying to cram in as many museums as possible, but rather wanted to explore the streets and spend some time in the Spring sunshine. Next time I visit, I plan to spend a few more days in town, so I can see some art and experience some culture.
Here’s my guide to 36 hours in Amsterdam
Where to stay in Amsterdam
I based myself in De Pijp, Amsterdam’s “hipster” neighbourhood. I’ve heard Capetonians describe it as “the Bree Street of Amsterdam neighbourhoods”. I normally prefer staying in Airbnb apartments over hotels for city explorations, so I booked this sweet apartment for the weekend. De Pijp turned out to be the perfect location for me, as it’s packed with restaurants and bars and has great public transport options, but is close enough to the airport for you to take an Uber if you’re too lazy to drag your luggage around, like me.
Location: Near the canal on a great street in De Pijp
Price: About R1050,00 per night
More info: www.airbnb.com/rooms/2006763
More info on De Pijp: www.iamsterdam.com/en/visiting/areas/amsterdam-neighbourhoods/de-pijp
Where to eat in Amsterdam
For my first taste of Amsterdam, my friend Jenna and I made a bee-line for the city’s most famous chip shop, Vlaams Fritehuis Vleminckx. Turns out Indonesian peanut sauce is a big thing in Amsterdam, so I had mine with mayo, tomato and satay sauce, with fresh chopped onions. This is the bomb and you absolutely must have it when you’re in town. There’s a bar across from the store where you can sit down and use free wifi if you order a beer.
Location: Voetboogstraat 31-33, 1012 XK Amsterdam
Price: Around R75,00 for a large (which is huge but I finished it), with a couple of sauces
More info: www.vleminckxdesausmeester.nl
For dinner on the first night, we walked to Los Feliz, where we tucked into seriously delicious Mexican food and cocktails. Try the Flor De Calabasa; baked tortilla wit zucchini flowers, mushrooms, charred vegetables, salsa verde, cheese, sour cream, wholegrain green rice, refried beans and white cheese. Wash it down with a couple of cocktails, which you can sip at the bar. Highly recommend!
Location: Albert Cuypstraat 88, Amsterdam
Price: Around R380,00 per person for a main meal and a cocktail
More info: www.losfeliz.nl
Great coffee, good breakfast and a nice cosy spot can be found at Little Collins. It started to get busy just after we arrived, at about 9:30am, so make sure you book a table, or arrive early. They also have an extensive brunch cocktail menu, so make a note if you need a cure for Friday night.
Price: Around R350,00 for a latte, fresh pressed juice and breakfast
More info: www.littlecollins.nl
De Ysbreeker has a nice view of the canal, and great vibe and is a pretty hip spot for Saturday night dinner. We had some fantastic wines and I opted for their white wine risotto with truffle and parmesan and a side salad, with a cheese board to share for dessert. Lots of good looking people to keep the mood up. It was pretty packed, and we almost didn’t get a table, so I suggest you book.
Location: Weesperzijde 23, 1091 EC Amsterdam
Price: Expect to spend about R800,00 per person on a main, side dish, bottle of wine and a shared dessert
More info: www.deysbreeker.nl
What to do in with 36 hours in Amsterdam
Walk the streets
Walking the streets is always the best way to see the city, so we spent the whole of Friday afternoon doing just that. Jenna seemed to know where she was going, but I’d picked up a SIM card with 1GB of data for about R100,00 so we had Google Maps if we needed it.
I shopped for souvenirs like Dutch Gouda wrapped in limited edition Van Gogh paper and cheesy fridge magnets. And I took lots of pictures. It’s a good idea to buy a weekend pass for the trams so you can hop on if you get tired of walking. These cost around R100,00 and you can buy them on the tram.
Ride a bike
The Airbnb I was staying in came with two bicycles, so I decided to take my life into my own hands and spend Saturday morning cycling the busy city. It was the first day of spring and people couldn’t stop talking about how great the weather was, so the streets were packed. I plugged my headphones into my ears and let Google Maps guide me, but still got kind of lost. I have to say that I really enjoyed it, even if I found it kind of challenging.
Take a canal tour
Jenna recommended Those Dam Boat Guys for a laid-back canal tour and I was not disappointed. The booking process is easy, the tour is much cheaper than some of the others and you’re allowed to drink and smoke whatever you bring onto the boat. Our guide, Cam, had all kinds of quirky and hilarious facts about the city to share, sprinkled with some great historical insights. The meeting point of the tour is right outside a liquor store, so I bought a couple of cold beers for my backpack.
Price: R365,00 per person for a 90 minute tour
Booking details: www.thosedamboatguys.com/hop-on
Check out the Red Light District
We met up with my friend Charlotte, who was in town for the weekend from London, at a bar on the canal in the Red Light District. Although it was daytime, I still feel like I got a glimpse of the famous district and to be honest, since it was the weekend, it was so packed I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it at night.
I honestly just did not have time to visit a coffee shop for a smoke, but I would definitely do it next time! We would also quite like to visit an amsterdam mushroom dispensary if we are ever lucky enough to return. I have always been fascinated by psychedelics, and there is a lot of research to suggest that these types of natural products can have a mood-boosting impact on the mind and body and can contribute to a better sense of wellness. I just love trying new things!
This is just a really quick overview of a really short stay, but if you have any Amsterdam recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments below!