We’re extremely late planners, and rarely book anything more than a couple of weeks in advance – so our trip from Bangkok to Amsterdam a few weeks ago was very much our typical last minute travel style, but since we have been to Amsterdam twice before the trip didn’t need much planning - this time we simply wanted to expand on our last few trips.
First-timers to Amsterdam have a long list of things to do, but if you’re visiting Amsterdam for a second and maybe third time, chances are that you want to experience something new - something that you haven’t already done.
On their first visit to Amsterdam, people usually take boat tours along the canals, rent bikes, check out the red light district, coffee shops and visit museums – which are all some of the best ways to experience Amsterdam, and many which are free with the I Amsterdam City Card.
But if you’re looking for a couple of new things to add to your list – here are some suggestions…
Take A Walk Around Zaanse Schans
Just a short distance out of Amsterdam, you find Saanse Schanz, an open air museum that looks exactly the way you would picture Netherlands in your mind; quaint wooden houses, weeping willows dipping their branches in the canals, and lots and lots of (still working) windmills.
It’s all very real, the houses are authentic and the windmills have been collected from all over the country and moved here to be preserved.
You can go inside the windmills, and if you climb the ladder you get an amazing view from the top overlooking the area – it’s a really nice place to visit on a sunny summer day, with a clog shop, bakery, museums and cafes to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.
Useful info: Train tickets cost about €3 each way, and takes around 20 minutes – museums and windmills are free with the City Card.
Visit The Zoo
Founded in 1838, the Royal Artis Zoo is one of the oldest Zoo’s in the world, and is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours.
The park is very green and wonderfully laid out with small paths and walkways, lakes, and beautiful 19th century buildings.
With a planetarium, aquarium and butterfly pavillion it’s really more than a zoo, and there are animals everywhere; from orangutans, giraffs and lions, to small monkeys, beavers and wolves.
There is a huge variety, but our favorite parts of the zoo were those where the animals could roam freely among the visitors – there was a beautiful building where you were surrounded by animals everywhere, monkeys in the branches above, and birds on the floor in front of you.
Useful info: The zoo can be reached with tram 9 (from Central Station) and 14 (from Dam Square) – tickets cost €14, but are free with City Card.
Relax In The Busy Parks
The air is full of smoke everywhere you go, but it’s not all from what you get at the local coffee shops – in fact, most of it is from the BBQ’s which are everywhere around you – people sit on the sidewalks, by the river, and on the boats – but there is nothing like Amsterdam’s parks.
A heavy mist of BBQ smoke lingers over Vondelpark and Westerpark, the two favorite local hang-outs.
We’ve never seen a park so consistently full of people on blankets with food and drinks, enjoying the summer evenings until long into the wee hours of night, any day of the week.
If you want to go where the locals go, these two parks are the places to visit.
One of the coziest park cafes are in the over 300 year old Botanical Garden, a small, lush garden which is one of the very oldest in the world, and a perfect place to relax and have lunch.
Useful info: Vondelpark and Westerpark are free for the public, the Botanical Garden costs €7,50, but is free with the City Card.
As you can see, and probably noticed on your last visit to Amsterdam, a lot of the best attractions are not necessarily expensive, but you save a lot with the city card if you plan to do a lot of things – and the deal breaker for us was the free transport which we used all the time during our stay in the city.
Note: Our trip to Amsterdam was in part sponsored by the Amsterdam Tourism Board, but our opinions are, as always, our own.