What to do in Amsterdam next week?
January 7, 2010 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm heading to Amsterdam next week - suggestions on places/things not to miss? FWIW I'm a mid-30s woman, traveling alone, interested in high brow stuff (I have a PhD) and low brow stuff (me loves beer). Also I live in NYC, not sure if that matters.
posted by anondonna to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, The Netherlands (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Nightwatch,as well as the Vermeers. In general, don't miss the Rijksmuseum. I also think it's worthwhile to go to the Mauritshuis Museum @ The Hague if you're at all interested in Dutch painting. In some ways I liked it better than the Rijkmuseum. You can do it in a day trip.
posted by OmieWise at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2010

If the weather behaves, just walk around the Jordaan some afternoon. It's like if instead of an ugly tree, there was an adorable tree, and Greenwich Village fell down it and hit every branch. That's what it's like.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2010

I was there last week over New Years. Wherever you go - make sure you go early or prebook tickets! Most attractions have long queues.

- Rijksmuseum. Currently undergoing massive refurbishment, but one wing is open with their major works. inc, Rembrandt's Night Watch.
- Van Gogh Museum: in my opinion better than the Rijksmuseum
- Anne Frank House. I didn't go, because the lines are incredibly long unless you are a bit better organised then I was.
- Hermitage Museum (in the Jewish Quarter): contains artefacts and art from the Russian palace at St Petersburg. Newest museum in Amsterdam

Naar Normaal is a contemporary art exhibition that is currently happening in the middle of town. We went there on a whim, but we loved it!

For dinner and nightlife we hung around the Leidseplein, in the SW part of the old city centre.

So yeah - high-brow is sorted.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:28 AM on January 7, 2010

I really enjoyed the Heineken museum. It's super touristy but very entertaining. If you get overstimulated by great art and history, it's good break.

Also, Heineken is better in Amsterdam than it is in the states. I swear.

Have an awesome trip!
posted by mmmbacon at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2010

An old fashioned Dutch pub (bruin café) that's centrally located and has a good selection of beers is In de Wildeman.

Depending on how long you stay you might want to visit other old cities like Delft (close to The Hague that was already mentioned) or Utrecht. It's all relatively close by and public transport is good. (when it's not snowing like last week that is)
posted by joost de vries at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2010

You should pick up a copy of time out. Lots of good suggestions here but I'll add another suggestion that might not come up: you might want to check out the Muziekgebouw -the new new-music venue on the IJ. It's very easy to get to from Centraal Station, just go out the back and turn right, and you'll see a huge white floating block in the water. It has a nice cafe and great views.

You could also look into side trips out of the city. You can to get to all the major cities in the west of the country by train in less than an hour. So there's Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague not to mention Haarlem, Leiden, Delft and others. If you end up going to any of those places and want a great beer suggestion send me a MeFi-Mail.
posted by ob at 8:50 AM on January 7, 2010

Some of the food in the Netherlands is pretty awesome. Find a street-level stroopwafel vendor or try some war fries (patatje oorlog). Also, see if you can find a cheese vendor and marvel at the fact that you can get a kilo of aged gouda for 7 or 8 Euro.

Man, you're making miss the food in Europe.
posted by talkingmuffin at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2010

Albert Cuyp Market
posted by Morrigan at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2010

I went to Delft alone on an incredibly rainy day and still had a marvellous time just wandering around by myself in the rain. It's one of the loveliest towns I've ever visited.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:23 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

For beer, you'd be remiss if you didn't visit Cafe Gollem.

You might see who's playing at the Paradiso while you are there. It is a concert venue in a beautiful old church.

You might catch a movie at the recently renovated Tuschinski Theatre.

It's been a bit cold there, it's just possible some of the canals might be ripe for skating, which is a fairly rare occurence. If you have a Dutch host, I would ask about that.

Also for eating, Cafe de koe (The Cow Cafe), is somewhat unexpectedly known for its Ostrich steak. And finally, you can get a good Belgian steak (and beer) at De Zotte which is very near De Melkweg (Milkyway), another famous Amsterdam concert venue.

And Patatje oorlog? Seconded.
posted by rocketpup at 9:30 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing that sticks with me from my visit to Amsterdam was hanging out in Cafe 't Smalle. I sat outside, and it will probably be too cold to do that when you're there, but it had a really nice, warm vibe inside. It looked like a neighborhood place that had been there a while. My cousin who lives there recommended it to me, and she also recommended trying jenever, which she said was the national liquor.

I second hanging out around the Leidseplein. You can find some good restaurants around there, and for nightlife there is the Milkweg, a club with several different rooms with different music (house, hip-hop, etc.) in each.

I also highly recommend renting a bike and using it as your primary means of transportation while you're there, if only for the fun of navigating around thousands of other bikers and pedestrians. And if it's not too cold, you should go on a night ride through Voldelpark, or a day ride, or just walk through it.
posted by ekroh at 9:42 AM on January 7, 2010

a kilo of aged gouda for 7 or 8 Euro

I'm dying inside. I pay $18 a pound. It's my birthday present to myself.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2010

Absolutely do not miss the Van Gogh museum. It is amazing.

Also, eat Indonesian food.

If you have some extra time to take a day trip, Rotterdam is full of amazing modern architecture.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:09 AM on January 7, 2010

Be sure to enjoy some Amstel while you're there. They don't distribute the non-light version in the states and it's quite tasty and enjoyable, if not life changing.

Walk. Lots. I could not get enough of the architecture or the canals.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:30 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just got back Sunday night. Agreeing with others above, and adding:

Do not miss the rijsttafel (Indonesian) at Kantjjl and de Tijger on Spuistraat. It completely blew our minds with deliciousness.

Across the street is the Cafe Spuis - a small bar with delicious beers, gluhwein, and two kittens curled up in a kitty bed very amenable to petting. The owner is very friendly and loves Sinatra and...The Muppet Show.

We took the advice of a guidebook and took a night canal cruise and it rocked. You must see the houseboats people live in on the canals! No one believes in curtains so you can see right in.

Eat some bitterballen! They are like tater tots but the inside is smooth potato.

(Sorry, I'm a Ph.D., too, but a 100% lowbrow one).
posted by Punctual at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2010

Get the chips from the place with the queue on Voetboogstraat, which is at the bottom end of the long commercial street from Dam Square. Vondelpark is a nice walk, as are walks along the Herengracht and Prinsengracht canals.
If you do decide you want a comfortable, brown cafe and very adult way of smoking some weed, go to 420cafe which is off a sidestreet from Damrak, right by the train station. It is warm, wooden, with soft lighting and tobacco stained walls, with Planet Earth on a discrete TV and the feel of a welcoming but private place, it doesn't even need to be a coffeeshop. Not many get-shitfaced tourists in there.
posted by tumples at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2010

A note of caution on the bitterballen and all the other Dutch fried pocket foods (and there are many).

Bite with care. The outside may feel to be at a safe temperature but the inside may well consist of a molten hell that will flay the roof of your mouth.
posted by rocketpup at 10:51 AM on January 7, 2010

One of my personal favourites (I'm Dutch and have lived near Amsterdam for over 20 years) is the Palace on Dam square. You might want to buy a guide book (or go on a guided tour if there are any while you're there) because there's a (symbolic) story behind pretty much every little detail of the interior.

If you're at all interested in the history of Amsterdam, the place to go to is the museum for the history of Amsterdam off Kalverstraat and another personal favourite of mine is the Jewish historical museum.

A couple of nice streets to do some shopping: Haarlemmerweg / Haarlemmerstraat (near the Central Station), Berenstraat / Huidenstraat and the area around them (Jordaan area). And don't forget just to walk around in the city centre.
posted by rjs at 10:57 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't skip the Anne Frank Huis/Museum, it was worth it. We went around dinner time in June (tourist time), and there was no line at all. It was about an hour and half before their closing time, with very few people around at all.

I loved the canal tours to see the city and buildings. Some boats are enclosed so maybe it won't be too cold.

Rent a bike for at least one day to ride around the cities and the awesome parks (Vondelpark, Amsterdamse Bos).

The Rijksmuseum was also under renovations while I was there, but it actually made it more manageable in terms of seeing things if you are pressed for time. I also enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum.

Do a touristy bus trip to Zaanse Schans (windmills, wooden houses, shops, small museums).
posted by maxg94 at 11:08 AM on January 7, 2010

By the way (and I hope I'm not going to sound like your mother): bring a warm coat and boots or shoes that you can walk in in snowy / icy conditions. We're having some unusually cold weather, and in all probability next week won't be much different from this week.
posted by rjs at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2010

Definitely take a walk thru the Jordaan. Tons of cool restaurants/cafes and nice little boutiques. Also there are a bunch of really cool record shops throughout Amsterdam where you can find some great music you have never heard of here. Most of the owners and employees I met at these shops were a great help in finding something new and interesting to take back home. The Thai food we had there was exceptional also. We really liked Kinnaree Thai Cuisine in the Jordaan. Have a great time! Can't wait to go back.
posted by white_devil at 11:56 AM on January 7, 2010

The little bakeries you find are worth visiting. I haven't been in a bad one yet so I can't recommend a specific one. I do recommend you get some pancakes if you get a chance. Dutch pancakes are something special and include savory varieties.
posted by chairface at 12:46 PM on January 7, 2010

- Farmers market at the Noordermarkt if you're going to be there on Saturday morning.
- The main public library by Centraal Station is an amazing space that shouldn't be missed, and it's got some good cheap food and great views of the city on the top floor.
- the Brewery t'IJ has excellent beer made in the windmill/brewery, and you can enjoy it out on the patio or by the river (although as noted above, it will be cold!)
- I love the Pancake Bakery, although I guess it's a bit touristy, but still so good!
posted by KatlaDragon at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2010

I went close to Christmas one year and was advised to get to the Anne Frank house as close to opening as possible, or face long lines (and an inside so crowded it would be difficult to appreciate). If going right before closing time doesn't work, try the next morning. It's worth it.
posted by K.P. at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2010

I really enjoyed the de Hortus, the botanical garden.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:30 PM on January 7, 2010

(but, uh, I was there in July, not the middle of winter. oops. please forgive this stupid Californian who forgets that some places have snow)
posted by slow graffiti at 1:33 PM on January 7, 2010

The Negen Straatjes area is fun to wander through little shops and restaurants, as well as the Jordaan. The Museum of the City of Amsterdam is also great.

The Hetschip Museum publishes an amazing bike tour book called On the Waves of the City, which covers the fantastic brick building of the Amsterdam School period of architecture. It's also just a great city guide & highly recommended. If you can't find it before you go, you should be able to find it at various museums & bookstores. There's a great architecture bookstore called Architectura & Natura on Leliegracht, near the Negen Straatjes.
posted by judith at 1:39 PM on January 7, 2010

Seconding the Wildeman, hiring a bike and the museums. Also, Cafe Alto (a little jazz bar) is quite enjoyable.

To help with the walking, here is a tip (it's a curve-y city, so easy to get lost)-
All the house numbers start at the end nearest the central train station on
the Ij. So if you want to head back to the centre of town, look at the
house numbers.
posted by spongeboy at 4:19 PM on January 7, 2010

just a note... it is very cold right now and snows on/off every second day. dress accordingly and you'll love it here.

have a walk around the vondelpark, get a beer (it's never one) in one of the three best bars of the city (lux, weber, kamer 401), walk around the jordaan, walk in the area _around_ the vondelpark and the museums
posted by madeinitaly at 9:49 PM on January 7, 2010

If there's time before you go, definately find a copy of Get Lost!, an Independent Underground-ish Way cool tourist guide to Amsterdam. I went there 2 years ago and the book had all sorts of out-of-the-way things to do and places to see.
posted by saxamo at 5:23 PM on January 9, 2010

I recommend a reijstafel (sic) at an Indonesian restaurant, i think they tend to be unique to holland. the markets are great, as are the botanical gardens. just hanging out in the parks can be cool, and checking out gigs at club Paradiso.
posted by spyke23 at 8:34 PM on January 9, 2010

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