8 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is mecca for fun-loving tourists (and hippies, though no-one knows why!). This Easter, The Antipodean checked it out to see what all the buzz was about.
In no particular order, these are The Antipodean’s Top 8 unmissable experiences for an unforgettable long weekend in Amsterdam.
1.  Explore the canals
Getting lost in a new city is one of my favourite things to do. And Amsterdam is a city of serendipity, with gorgeous tree-lined canals around every corner. It’s a pleasure to explore.

2.  FOAM

Foam stands for Photography Amsterdam (in Dutch). It’s a world renowned magazine with it’s headquarters in Amsterdam. And if you’re lucky enough to visit, you can pop into their wonderful museum to check out the latest exhibition, and grab a perfect macchiato and appeltaerte (Dutch apple pie) at the café downstairs. While I was there the light streaming in from outside gave it the perfect Saturday morning hipster coffee appeal.

3.  Anne Frank Museum

Like many, I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was young. I remember feeling shock and surprise to find out she didn’t survive the war. I was still at the age where the Disney Happy Ending was my dominant understanding of the way the world worked. Before his own death many years later, Anne’s father helped the city of Amsterdam to preserve Anne’s memory by converting the factory building where she hid for two years into a museum. This is absolutely unmissable. But reserve tickets online early – they’d sold out by the time I got to it, and I had to queue for nearly two hours.

A replica of the bookcase that sealed the secret annexe where Anne and her family hid, in the position of the original bookcase.

4.  An afternoon at The Hague
All I knew about The Hague before visiting was that it was home to the International Criminal Court. That was enough curiosity to convince me to visit, once I realised it was under an hour from Amsterdam by train. I spent most of my time in the dystopian beach area of Scheveningen. With an enormous, mostly deserted, shopping mall right on the beach, along with a large pier, this area has a bizarre but fascinating vibe. It was worth visiting, but I’d suggest steering clear of the gelato… it tasted stale and watery.

You can see why I called Scheveningen dystopian. This reminds me of the angels in suits on the beach in City of Angels.

5.  Van Gogh Museum
This hardly needs an explanation. My favourite Van Gogh (Starry Night) is on display at MoMA in New York, but this museum offers an insight into his earlier years, and includes his genius, well-known self-portrait. The queue is always long, but a stall across the road sells them for the same price – allowing you to join the pre-booked queue and save an hour or more!

6.  The Red Light District

Nothing can prepare you for a wander through the red light district of Amsterdam. I’m not sure what surprised me more, that the streets were beautiful, or that the girls in the windows were beautiful! Apparently being a lady of the night is the second most popular part-time occupation for female medical students in this city. They’re a far cry from the burly women walking the streets of K Rd in Auckland!

7.  The Rijksmuseum
The National Gallery of the Netherlands is well worth a visit. Currently they’re undergoing major renovations which have resulted in about 80% being closed. This turns each visit into an express tour of the best of the collection (for the time being). Dutch master Rembrandt’s The Night Watch alone is worth the ticket price.8.  A Grass House

Drugs, even when legal, are not my thing. But even I couldn’t resist a quick visit to one of Amsterdam’s many grass houses to find out what all the fuss was about. Out of curiosity, I asked the owner what flavour the muffins were. He shrugged and gave me a confused “why does it matter?” look….May I warn you that even second hand smoke can procure quite a memorable zing!

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