18. april 2022.

Amsterdam is definitely the Mediterranean of Europe; a small town on the coast of the cold North Sea, which, however, radiates warmth thanks to its inhabitants – locals, expats and foreigners from all over the world. This makes Amsterdam today a big urban village: here you will hear all the world’s languages and see live what a mix of cultures and nations means. Newcomers from various parts of the planet have settled there, blended in and coexisted with the local population and today, they all live together – cheerful, smiling and welcoming.

This city is also the capital of art – and you meet art literally at every step – starting from the engraved and painted bottle in which you are served mineral water all the way to the museum square where there are works of the world’s most famous artists – both classical and modern art. The works of young artists who decorate parks, streets, restaurants, cafes and almost every corner of this city also contribute to the general artistic atmosphere.

Residential buildings (houses) are tucked away, made of wood, most often leaning forward or to the side (logical, because the whole city is built on sand), without elevators, with miniature rooms and often, one room takes up an entire floor. The citizens of Amsterdam are quite nonchalant about their privacy, so most of the houses do not have curtains, they are relatively low-rise and from the street you can peek into their privacy and see whole families doing their daily activities (cooking, cleaning, coffee with friends in living room, etc.). The houses do not have windows on the sides because they are ,,glued,, to each other (the windows are only in the front and on the back side facing the yard). So how can this city not radiate warmth when everything is so ,,tight,, and where the architecture itself brings people together? If, however, you decide on B&B accommodation or stay in a boarding house in a ‚‚home version‚‚, get ready for climbing stairs and daily ‚‚gymnastics‚‚. Larger hotels are usually outside the center and are built in a modern style, so the choice for tourists is reduced to ‚‚either – or‚‚: either stay in the center, feel the atmosphere of the city and the old buildings – while climbing the steep stairs, or rent a modern hotel room in a slightly ,,cooler,, and classic version.

Amsterdam and its classic architecture
This is what the daily ‚‚hiking‚‚ to our apartment looked like. We stayed in an old guesthouse precisely to feel the atmosphere of the city.

And then a few more steps to the entrance…

During the walk, pay attention to cyclists: there are more bicycles than cars and cyclists have their own specially marked paths, they drive relatively fast and we who are not used to the rules of ‚‚cycling‚‚ traffic have to be careful when moving! It happened to me more than once that I forgot myself and a bike suddenly jumped out from the side… Fortunately, every bike has a bell and the drivers are extremely friendly (already used to tourists who stare or stop to take pictures…).

And while you are looking around the city and the architecture and wondering where the starting point of the city tour boat is, don’t be surprised if people come up to you and offer help (simply because they heard you speak a foreign language and are looking for something). So a completely random passer-by directed us to the port… Another passer-by helped us find the tulip museum – something that you should definitely visit: in this museum you can find a large number of souvenirs (hand-painted purse mirrors, tulip-shaped jewelry, calendars, planers, pendants, etc.) but also seedlings, tulip seeds and seeds for various garden and indoor flowers. Prices for souvenirs range from € 2 to € 20-30, and seeds cost from € 2-3 per package to € 15-20 for rarer types of plants. The next destination was the cheese museum where you can try various types of cheese for free – the tasting is free. If you want to buy some of the domestic and traditionally prepared dairy products, get ready to shell out larger sums (prices range from 40-50 to around €100 per kilogram). Cheeses are a delicacy and come with various flavors and spices (with dried tomatoes, herbs, cumin, spicy cheeses, 10-year-old cheeses, etc.). They are made from cow’s milk because this country is known for its large number of cows and the Dutch do not shy away from working in the countryside. While we were leaving Amsterdam by train, I noticed that almost every house has a garden, a few cows, horses, chickens… No matter what kind of work they do and whether they work in the city in an office, when they come home from work they are happy to continue with agricultural activities in the nature …

An unusual type of tulip from the museum
Another beautiful type of Dutch tulips

To visit Anne Frank’s house, due to the great interest, it is necessary to make an appointment several months in advance.

For the Van Gogh Museum, the waiting lists are slightly shorter, but it is good to reserve tickets at least a few weeks in advance. Entrance costs € 15, the museum is huge, on 3 floors, inside there are elevators and a shop with souvenirs and copies of Van Gogh’s works. In the store you can find handbags, wallets, diaries, pens, t-shirts, etc. which have some of Van Gogh’s famous works on them. Prices range from € 4-5 to several hundred for larger copies of his works. It would be good to set aside at least one day to visit this museum.

Van Gogh – self-portrait
The famous sunflowers
Souvenir shop within the museum. Everything is about the famous sunflowers.

Boat ride: whether you decide on a 1-hour or a 2-hour ride, it is worth including this activity in the tour. Not only will you see the city from a different angle, but each of the tourist boats offers the opportunity to listen to a guide in your own language (or at least in English) who will tell you so much – starting with the history of Amsterdam and then how the houses were built – on the sand! The Dutch literally snatched that piece of land from the sea (that’s why they’re called Holland – because it’s below sea level). House foundations go up to 15m deep, however, because the soil is sandy, Amsterdam is slowly ‚‚curving‚‚ and sinking into the depth. During the boat tour, you will also see dancing houses. It is a complex of houses that were built next to each other and each one started to curve and sink to its side so that they really look like a dance group. In addition to the buildings, you will also visit the famous canals and bridges of Amsterdam by boat, and the captain will stop for you to take pictures of them. The tour also includes a visit to the luxurious quarter of Amsterdam, where the richest merchants of gold, diamonds and oriental spices once lived. The one-hour drive includes a tour of the city, and the 2-hour drive includes a tour of the Amsterdam port, where the boat leaves for the open sea. The price of the ride varies – depending on the size of the boat and the duration of the ride: from 15 to 50 €.

One of the typical boats for tourists
View of the city from the boat

The port of Amsterdam must be visited, and for moments of rest, the Dutch choose a corner that is specially designed to protect them from the wind and at the same time allows visitors to enjoy the sun and the view of the sea. There you will find a lot of locals who take a lunch break right at this spot. Above the ‚‚sunny corner‚‚ there is one of the tallest buildings in Amsterdam, from the top of which you can see the whole city. At the top of this building there are swings that are placed on the very edge so that when you swing you have the impression that you are flying over the sea. The entrance to this building and the view from above costs € 16.5 per person and the swings €6.50.

You will take the ferry to the port and back to the city, which departs every 3-4 minutes and is free.

A tram ticket costs €3.20, but you can also visit the center of Amsterdam on foot.

Port of amsterdam
A corner in the harbor bathed in sun, protected from the wind, a favorite place for a break, a walk, lunch, meeting friends
View of the Amsterdam harbor from the ship. There are swings on top of the building
Swings on the top of the building where you „jump out“ and have the impression that you are flying over the sea.

What to eat in Amsterdam? Apart from large fast food chains, Amsterdam also offers a large number of alternative restaurants for vegetarians, for lovers of snack food or Mediterranean specialties (Greek and Italian cuisine). On average, breakfast costs about € 10 per person, and lunch costs € 20-30 per person. The price of dinner in an average restaurant is around 20-30 Euro per person. Fast food (hamburgers, french fries, etc.) is offered on every corner, and there the prices start around € 10 for a sandwich, fries and some carbonated drink.

The prices of souvenirs (magnets, pendants, etc.) are from 1.5 to 10 €. Postcards cost from € 1 and up. For shopping at better prices (postcards, souvenirs, handbags, etc.), you will find a large number of shops in the neighborhood around the Primark department store. These shops are run mostly by foreigners and sell practically everything: handbags, wardrobe, fur coats, shoes, souvenirs, decorative items… Price e.g. one handbag with the symbols of Amsterdam costs 5 Euros. If you plan to buy a few gifts for family and friends without having to fork out a small fortune, then this district is the right thing.

For lovers of nightlife, this city offers everything: from cafes to clubs, specialized cafeterias where opiates are also allowed and of course, there are also the famous ladies of the night who sit in the windows; even tourists who have no intention of visiting them, out of pure curiosity – peek into the window.​

Amsterdam at night – view from one of the bridges.

What sets Amsterdam apart from other European capitals is that you can tour the wider center on foot or by bike, enjoy art and an eco-friendly atmosphere, bask in the sun by the sea, walk along the promenade, ride the ferry (the ride is free for everyone), enjoy beautiful tulips and delicate cheeses, admire traditional architecture and feel the combination of new and old, domestic and foreign, modern and classic. All in all, you should set aside at least a week to visit this city and enjoy it.

Amsterdam harbor bathed in sunshine
A beautiful message from the pen of Van Gogh.

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