Visiting Amsterdam has made me certain of one thing: the laid back city in The Netherlands might just be my favourite city in the entire world. Or, at least one of my favourite places. It’s relaxing, serene and from the first time I visited last Spring I felt welcomed in a way that I hadn’t actually properly felt in any of the cities I had gone before.
Conveniently close to England, Amsterdam is only an hour and a half’s flight from Manchester, so it’s the ideal place for a super quick break from reality if you’re looking for a weekend away from it all. And with flights as low as £30 return (though I haven’t personally been able to snag a deal as good as this, I know of their existence I swear!) there probably has never been a better time to explore one of the most famous places that Dutch culture has to offer.
Last week I was introduced to a word: one that doubles for an entire sentiment or way of life. That word is Hygge. It’s a Danish word that summarises the mood, or feeling, of taking ordinary moments – and making them more meaningful.
Like, for example, taking a weekend of hanging out with your favourite people, and booking super cheap flights to one of your favourite places because it just makes what would be an ordinary weekend into something you’ll remember for the rest of your life: cue “hey, do you remember that time we flew into Amsterdam and… “. Exactly.
When flying into Amsterdam, especially for time as little as 24 hours, it can be pretty daunting to fit an entire city/country/culture into your trip. Your head will swim with the museum trips, the coffee house visits, the antique stores and stroopwafel’s you’ll want to eat. Where to buy the perfect gifts, where to take the perfect selfies, how to best summarise a fleeting trip into visiting the perfect spots at the perfect time and getting the perfect holiday.
Well, unfortunately, life doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes you just need to take what you can get. Sometimes, you’ll get to the tram or the train station and find out that there’s maintenance on the tracks or that brilliant exhibit you wanted to tell all your friends about back home was closed for the day. But the best thing about trips like these, those that arise in a moment of booking madness and are over after a weekend of exhilaration, is that they don’t need to be spent sight seeing or museum-visiting to be perfect. Just being surrounded in the atmosphere: walking the streets of the city or drinking coffee in that new little bar down the street, it’s all part and parcel of the culture that you’re immersed in and every bit of it is just as important as making those ‘picture perfect’ visits to those Amsterdam brochure-worthy places that made you want to book a flight there in the first place.
Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that don’t let your planning get the better of you. I’ve been there, trying to cram everything I could into visits that would be over within a rotation of the watch, and I can say that nothing – no museum exhibit, no antique store purchase, no coffee shop visit, is more important than ignoring the stress of figuring out the hows, directions and travel tips, and just enjoying the limited time you have with your favourite people in a brand new city.
And with that in mind: here’s some of my absolute favourite places to spend 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Stepping away from the obvious choices (the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank Museum, the Red Lights District) here’s a few suggestions of great places you could visit in Amsterdam to really soak up the culture!
Many a day has been spent in the gorgeous surroundings of Vondelpark. The first time I visited the park it was by bike: flitting across the gravel paths with the idyllic Amsterdam lifestyle being played out all around me. It honestly was beautiful and I could’ve spent all day there if I didn’t have a plane to catch that evening.
During certain seasons, the park hosts events and bands and shows as well, so definitely check out what might be on before you come over – because it might have you rearranging your schedule to catch a glimpse of some Dutch magic!
#2 The Christmas Markets
I actually did a whole post about the Christmas Markets and how fantastic they are (see here!) but I’ll extend this sentiment to all festive holidays in general. Check the web and see what type of festivities Amsterdam might be hosting for the time of year you’re visiting! Whether it’s the tulips blooming, the summer bands at Vondelpark or the Christmas markets through December – chances are, you’ll find a great festivity to get involved in that’ll spike up your visit!
#3 Van Stapele Bakery
Ooey and gooey in all the right ways, I introduced my friend Kim to them when we returned and they were so good that she insisted we went back three times in the same day! Totally worth it though.
#4 The English Bookshop
Bookworms and bargain lovers, unite! The English Bookshop honestly sells gorgeous books at prices like no other. Unassuming on the outside, when you step inside and start raiding the racks you’ll find amazing editions of famous books retailing around €5 each! I managed to get a gorgeous Penguin Nabokov Edition of his collected works, in pristine condition, for €5! It’s safe to say I spent the rest of that trip guarding the book with my life. Hahaha. I’m a loser.
#5 Antiekcentrum Antiques Market
There’s something about Amsterdam’s aura that makes me want to exchange everything I own for antiques. I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing, but there’s just something about it that feels like it’s the perfect place to find something old and unloved, repurpose it and make it old and loved instead.
Because of this strange feeling of mine, I accidentally ended up stumbling across possibly one of the most gorgeous antique markets I’ve ever seen! Named the Antiekcentrum, this market is hosted every day (except Tuesdays) and has open-air stalls featuring collections that you’ll definitely be sure to find brilliant and beautiful souvenirs to take home with you!
#5 The City by Bike or Boat
Amsterdam is pretty large. Because of this fact, there’s a great tram service you can use – or an underground metro you can make great use of, too. Except, let’s say you don’t. The culture of Amsterdam suggests that instead you rent a bike and take to the streets by wheel. And you know what? I say you do, too! Riding around Amsterdam is both exhilarating and terrifying: sometimes more terrifying because bike-on-bike collisions happen in scenes that genuinely look horrific – but once you get over that, it’s so fun and exciting that you forget you were ever scared in the first place. Almost.
Another great way to get around Amsterdam is by boat. Obviously this is considerably slower, but the whole of Amsterdam is centred around multiple canals so what’s a better way to take in the sights at a more leisurely pace than to boat around like you’re one of those high society folks who boats everywhere all the time anyway. Very luxe.
#6 The Nine Streets
A collection of streets in Amsterdam filled to the brim with boutique shopping alone. You won’t see any international chains here – it’s all little boutiques and independent goldmines. On the same wavelength as the Antiekcentrum, we didn’t come to Amsterdam to pick up a cute top from Primark (not to say that’s discouraged, we can all do with some Primark therapy tbh) so why not buy genuine pieces from Amsterdam’s own instead? That way when someone compliments your finds you can say “oh, thanks, I picked this up in Amsterdam!” and everyone will ooh and ahh and the world will be put to rights because of it. I’m not being sarcastic.
Ah, Amsterdam. You’ll forever have my heart. Have you ever visited Amsterdam? I’d love to chat about the beautiful city and the beautiful country that is The Netherlands, too! Drop me a comment either below, or by Instagram or Twitter (links in the side bar)!
I hope you’ve had a great day,