Back in May my family and I traveled by train to Amsterdam from London for a long weekend trip, we quickly discovered that this picturesque city (albeit with a rougher underbelly) has so much to offer. Click through to see how you should spend a day out in Amsterdam!
9 AM: Start Your Day with a Pannenkoeken
The Dutch love their pannenkoeken (pancakes), and Amsterdam is no exception. These pizza-sized, spongy pancakes are available all day long, and in both savory and sweet forms. Kick start your day in Amsterdam by stopping by a pannenkoekenhuis (pancake house) and filling your tummy with tons of refined sugar, like a Christmas elf about to set off on a busy day making Etch-a-Sketches. You can get yours “plain,” which typically still means dusted with a generous showering of powdered sugar, or dotted with ice cream and pears poached in red wine (yes, for breakfast, really).
11 AM: See Amsterdam By Boat
Like all major cities with a healthy tourist industry, Amsterdam has no shortage of public transportation options. Opt to do things differently by booking a “hop-on, hop-off” boat, which uses Amsterdam’s canal systems to take you between major points of interest, like the Anne Frank House, the (as of 2013) refurbished Rijksmuseum, an art and history museum, and the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. The hop-on, hop-off boat takes longer than a city bus or tram, but the benefit is that you get to see Amsterdam literally float by right in front of you.
Amsterdam has more than one hop-off, hop-on boat company, so do your research ahead of time with regards to routes and stops that you’d prefer. Alternatively, you can get discounts on a hop-on, hop-off boat by buying an Amsterdam City Pass, Holland Pass or I Amsterdam City Card. All three are different types of discount cards for admission to various Amsterdam attractions. The packages and prices can be a little confusing, so check here to see a good comparison on these passes.
1:30pm Eat All the Things at Foodhallen
Opened in 2014 in an old tram depot, Foodhallen is Amsterdam’s answer to the modern, sleek food halls popping up in cities everywhere. There’s something for everyone here, from tender pulled pork barbecue to tiny Spanish tapas to fresh Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. Depending on the day, live bands and DJs also perform while you’re sipping cocktails, quaffing cold Dutch beer or just nibbling on the international offerings.
For a truly Dutch experience, don’t miss De Ballenbar, purveyor of the only Dutch fare in the entire foodhall. De Ballenbar subscribes to the theory that if you can only do one thing, do a lot of them, serving up bitterballen, the Dutch version of a deep-fried croquette. Fillings can vary day to day, but make sure your ballen selection includes the truffle bitterballen. Earthy, crunchy, and oozing with a melted, cheesy bechamel sauce, it’s the perfect bite of food. Just make sure you’re careful to wait until the bitterballen are actually cool enough to eat, or you’ll find yourself with a scorched tongue and no creamy fried goodness to show for it.
3pm: Explore your Inner Child at NEMO Science Museum
Walk off your bitterballen hangover by heading over to the Nemo Science Museum, a massive museum dedicated solely to the exploration of science, hands-on. From intricate, over the top Rube Goldberg contraptions to exhibits showing kids how the distribution and marketing of Dutch products works, the museum doesn’t have a single surface that can’t be touched, poked, prodded or explored.
For kids, you may want to budget more than two hours for exploring the museum, which closes at 5:30pm. Our kids loved the museum so much that they would’ve slept there if the museum (and we) had let them.
6:30pm: Gobble Some Indonesian Food!
Indonesian food is much-loved in The Netherlands. Just like the British took a note in adopting chicken tikka masala during their colonization of India, the Dutch fell in love with satay, rendangs and all things in between. Be sure to order a Dutch rijsttaffel, a spread of Indonesian curries and garnishes that is only served this way in the Netherlands. The small but homey Cafe Kadijk is an excellent local Indonesian joint with a rijsttaffel (pictured above) that includes beef rendang, chicken curry, nasi lemak (a traditional Indonesian coconut) rice dish garnished with fried shallots, peanuts, and cucumbers) and gado gado (a peanut sauce-based salad with green beans and boiled eggs).
Convinced You Need a Day Out in Amsterdam?
If flying internationally, Schipol Airport in Amsterdam serves most major carriers. Alternatively, you can take a train from Paris, Brussels or London via the Eurostar train. Fares can start as low as €29 one way. Check out more about how to travel by train through Europe here.
Thanks to Eurail for sponsoring our travel through The Netherlands!
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