The quiet, picturesque city of Amsterdam is made up of dreamy canals, cozy restaurants and the friendliest people, making it an easy place to explore—even if you don’t have much time.
11:45 a.m.—Acquaint your palette with Amsterdam through one of the city’s favorite foods—pancakes. Stop into local favorite Pancakes Amsterdam, at their location nearest Centraal train station, for a variety of modern twists on the traditional recipe. I couldn’t get enough of the bacon and apple pancake, or the apple crumble pancake—which is topped with real apple pie, ice cream and cinnamon. But I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong with any choice. Just be sure to wash it all down with freshly made raspberry and mint lemonade. The only thing that could top the food here is the atmosphere. The Dutch “gezelligheid” (or cozy, welcoming atmosphere) is particularly present here. Both inside and out, there are mostly long large tables, which encourage community, along with open bars and kitchens to promote togetherness.
1 p.m.—Hop onboard a small open air boat and explore the canals of Amsterdam like a local. Kinboat offers a Like a Local tour daily throughout the year, excluding winter months, with a guide who offers interesting, local insights to what you’ll see. Note: historical facts and figures are hardly mentioned so you should treat this tour more as a sightseeing tour than as a way to gain information. The 75-minute journey cruises in and out of canals and straits while you discover the beauty of the many Dutch gable facades lining the river. The tour also includes your choice of two drinks: beer, wine or nonalcoholic. Tickets are 24.50 euros for adults and 13 euros for children. You’ll be picked up and dropped off at Centraal station Oost.
1:45 p.m.—Indulge in Amsterdam’s favorite pastime at a local coffee shop. It should be noted that in The Netherlands a coffee shop isn’t a place you go to grab a cup of joe. Instead, it’s a local cannabis shop that legally sells a variety of strains and species of marijuana by the bud or pre-rolled. Costumers purchase supplies, and then either smoke in-house or take it back to their private residences. There is a Black-owned shop that has gained a lot of traction from locals and guests. The African Blackstar has a highly knowledgeable and welcoming staff and would be the perfect stop for a first-timer or a seasoned smoker.
3:15 p.m.—Swing by the only ice cream shop in the world (that I’m aware of) that can get away with only offering one flavor. At Banketbakkerij Van Der Linde, a generations-old family business, the only option customers have is cup or waffle cone. The shop only offers a whipped cream ice cream, which is literally just plain milk ice cream gently mixed with actual whipped cream. The flavor is unlike anything I had ever tasted before, and is a Dutch favorite. The long line outside of the door is indication enough that people can’t get enough of this treat. Luckily, the line moves pretty quickly— as long as people aren’t sticking around to watch them make a new batch. A size small starts at 0.95 euros.
7:30 p.m.—Dine at The Harbour Club-Amsterdam Oost, an old wine terminal that has been re-imagined into a trendy, playful fine dining establishment that is hip enough to be located in the Miami Bay. The massive building plays host to some of the city’s hottest parties throughout the year and the high-quality food makes it the perfect spot to grab an entertaining dinner. The menu has a variety of options, including a pretty extensive sushi roll list. Guests can arrive by either car or boat and have the opportunity to park.
9 p.m.—Explore the city’s most famous district, De Wallen, the Red Light District, just as it is waking up for the night. You can experience a different side to the women who sit behind the windows. You’ll see them as they’re preparing themselves and their rooms for a night of prostitution. This gives you a little insight into their activities as a business. Also, the people walking around with you at this time are people who are exploring just like you, and not actually wanting to solicit services. This fact voyeurism should make you a little more comfortable. If you’re brave, or willing to stand in a long line, experience a live adult show in one of the theaters. You pay for a package of approximately five shows and they each last approximately 15-20 minutes. Once you feel that you’ve had enough of the red light district, walk a couple of blocks in any direction and you’ll land at a bar worth spending the rest of your night.
10:30 a.m.—Spend your morning discovering Amsterdam by way of bicycle. The size and terrain of this city makes it the perfect place to rent a bike and just go. And with mostly small streets, locals choose bicycles as their preferred mode of transportation. Check with your hotel to see if they offer bike rentals. If not, visit the IAmsterdam link below to get a list of rental companies. Use this opportunity to ride your bicycle to breakfast. One of our favorite breakfast spots while we were in Amsterdam was Bakers and Roasters, a quaint café that offers more of an American-style breakfast than most Europeans restaurants.
Noon—Continue to discover the city by way of bike. Make a point to visit the iconic, massive “I am Amsterdam” sign for obligatory tourist photos and stop in Dam Square, the city’s geographical and cultural center.
2:30 p.m.—Discover what the Heineken experience is at the Heineken Beer Museum. You don’t have to be a beer aficionado, or even a fan of beer, to enjoy this place. Located in the company’s historic old brewery, the museum gives guests the opportunity to follow the process of beer production, play some of the newest games in tech, enjoy a glass of free beer in a chic horse stable and even enjoy a day party fully equipped with a DJ and club lights. Be sure to book online to ensure a ticket.
6:45 p.m.—Have dinner at Restaurant Gusto, a quaint family owned Italian restaurant that offers fresh pasta dishes made of generations-old recipes. The staff is warm and welcoming, and there’s enough activity on the street outside to keep you from feeling secluded. Be sure to make a reservation as there are only a handful of seats available.
Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.