a {local's} guide to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Something about Amsterdam just makes it super unique! It could be the tall and narrow canal houses. Maybe it's the gorgeous tulip gardens or the many odd museums. Whatever it is, there isn't another city like Amsterdam. 

I was lucky enough to meet up with my friend, Kees, whom I had met when he volunteered in Laos. Kees {pronounced like 'keys'} teaches Chemistry and Physics to upper-level students. He's super smart, but what I love most about him is his fantastic sense of humour! We laughed the whole time we were hanging out. We met at Centraal Station and, from there, he took me on a tour of the city by foot!

Here's a {local's} guide to Amsterdam, Netherlands!

What's the language? 

Locals speak Dutch. Most also learn English, German, and sometimes Spanish in school. 

Where to stay?

I stayed at a beautiful AirBnB on Marnixstraat, very close to the Anne Frank House. It was the perfect area for me to walk everywhere I wanted to go inside the city. It's also very close to Centraal Station, where you can catch a straight to and from the Schiphol Airport. 

What and where to eat?

Pancakes are a must when in Amsterdam! Kees took me to Pancakes Amsterdam at their Central location. I tried a savory Dutch pancake {garlic oil, spinach, and pine nuts} and Kees had a sweet Dutch pancake {candied apples and cinnamon}. When I asked him why he didn't get the American-style pancakes his response was "I have to be a patriot some of the time!"

Stroopwafel is another Dutch favourite. It is incredibly sweet. Like...will put you in a diabetic coma sweet. So, if you're like me and your sweet tooth comes once in a rare while, you might not like the indulgence. Kees told me to try and eat a piece when I got tired. I can see how stroopwafel would kick even the slightest yawn! 

Mint tea! The first stop on my tour with Kees was a small cafe where he recommended the mint tea. It's brewed with real mint leaves steeped for 3 minutes in hot water and served with honey as a sweetener. Even on a scorcher of a day it was incredibly delicious and I highly suggest giving it a try! 

How to get around?

I used mixed methods while in Amsterdam: walking and biking. Renting a bike is an easy and exciting way to see the city. Bike rentals can be found all over the city and they're quite affordable. This city was made for bicycles and it's a flat city so even "non-bike people" like myself can find it enjoyable.

You can also use the tram system, which are another affordable option. There are trains from the airport into the city center to make things extra easy upon arrival. 

What to do?

There are so many things to do in this city. I'm not really sure where to start! If you aren't vegan, then Dutch cheese shops should definitely be on your radar-- these shops often have tasting rooms that will allow you to sample different kinds of cheese for free. 

This isn't a local recommendation, but the Sex Museum was...something else. It's much less busy than some of the other museums in the city and it's pretty wild! Could be a bit uncomfortable, yes but there is a minimum age allowed in and there's something about having a 'Sex Museum' that says a lot about a city. 

Our Lord in the Attic Museum is worth every single cent. I'm not one for hitting up museums if they aren't free or something I'm highly interested in. However, when Kees mentioned he had a special museum he wanted to take me to, how could I say no? He was right when he said it was special. At first glance from the street, it's nothing exciting. Once you walk inside and up the stairs, however, you realise the place is full of surprises! I was in awe the entire time! The floorboards date so far back that you have to wear shoe coverings. Seriously, go check it out. 

The Anne Frank House is also worth the wait. I tried getting tickets online in May before coming to Amsterdam with no luck {they get booked out way in advance}. I waited in line starting at 3:30 p.m. with the other losers who didn't get reserved tickets. The line was around the block when I left and I, myself, had waited 1.5 hours even after arriving ahead of the 3:30 p.m. queue up! Lesson learned: plan ahead...way ahead!

Canal boat rides!  For less than USD $10, you can take a boat tour of the canals of Amsterdam with Grayline {the company suggested to me by Kees}. The audio tour was optional and offered in English. It's definitely worth the money to see the city by water. 

Explore hidden alleyways! Kees took me down quiet hidden passages filled with old menn selling used books, leading to a small community where {back in the day} only single women were able to take up residency. It's still a residential area that is protected, so it's very quiet and there are hardly any tourists, which makes it great for snapping photos! 

And there you have a local's top tips for Amsterdam!

Special 'thank you' to Kees!