How to Spend Perfect 4 Days in Amsterdam for First Timers
Spending only a few days in any city won’t be enough time to appreciate everything the city has to offer. There is no way four days will be enough to explore charming cities like Amsterdam. At the same time, it is a reasonable amount of time to check off your Amsterdam bucket list and get a feel for the city during your first visit.
My Amsterdam itinerary for 4 days for first-time visitors is designed to help you see the best of Amsterdam with the limited vacation time. With this itinerary, I hope you can make the best four days in Amsterdam and lots of beautiful memories – as I did!
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Amsterdam Bucket List
My Amsterdam 4-day itinerary covers the following Amsterdam highlights.
4 Days in Amsterdam: Day 1
Bloemenmarkt (Amsterdam Flower Market)
Start your first day in Amsterdam with some tulips! I would’ve gone to tulip fields if I was in the Netherlands during the flower season. Since I wasn’t, the next best thing was Bloemenmarkt.
This flower market catches eyes as a row of flower shops are “floating” along the canal. The shops here sell more than just tulips; you can find all kinds of flowers and Holland souvenirs like painted clogs. In case you are interested, you can also buy tulip bulbs to bring home! But you must purchase the ones with the certificates to be able to pass customs in the U.S. or Canada. So be sure to ask the seller if they have not already marked as such. Spend about an hour max here.
Bloemenmarkt Hours: 9 am – 5:30 pm (Open at 11 am on Sundays.) | Open Google Map for Bloemenmarkt Location.
Blue Amsterdam: Lunch with a View
How about lunch with a view of Amsterdam? Right across from Bloemenmarkt, Blue Amsterdam is hidden inside a shopping center. You wouldn’t imagine having such a place inside this building. But this cafe offers a gorgeous view of the city center!
This cafe is a cozy place surrounded by full-length windows. With nothing blocking the view, each side of the window explains what you’re looking at, which is helpful for the first time visitors to get their bearings from above.
My research suggested Blue Amsterdam is best known for its view, not for the food. But I liked my meal here. It could’ve been the atmosphere or the right choice of menu. Out of curiosity, I ate a mackerel sandwich (for the first time), which surprisingly didn’t taste fishy at all.
Blue Amsterdam Hours: 10 am – 6:30 pm (Closed at 9 pm on Thursdays.) | Open Google Map for Blue Amsterdam Location.
Munttroren – Pathé Tuschinski – Rembrandt Square
After lunch, enjoy the stroll around the neighborhood. Munttoren is a bell tower built in 1620, which was part of the city wall. Known as the Mint Tower, it’s a historical landmark with a small gift shop. It takes about five minutes to look around and take photos.
Walk towards Pathé Tuschinski Theater. It’s a historic cinema elaborately decorated in the art deco style. It’s something nice to look at from the outside to appreciate the architecture.
Continue walking along and you will arrive at the Rembrandt Square. The Rembrandtplein is an excellent place to people watch or take a photo with the Night Watch statues, which is an art installation inspired by Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch.
Free Walking Tour
Spend your afternoon learning about the city. I highly recommend joining a walking tour, especially if you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time. Usually, a walking tour covers major attractions in a couple of hours. If anything particular interests you, you can always come back later to explore more on your own pace.
Whenever I visit a new city, I love taking a walking tour on my first day. I love hearing the town’s history, folklore, fairy tales, or urban legends from local experts. Plus, it helps to get my bearing in the city. At the end of the tour, I also get to ask for recommendations, which are invaluable information directly from a local!
I recommend Sandeman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour. Depending on the guide and other considerations, each tour could take a slightly different route. My tour group met at Dam Square, walked by Spinoza Monument, the smallest house in Amsterdam, canals, etc. The tour ended near the Anne Frank House. This tour doesn’t go into any of the museums, but I learned a lot from my guide, a German lady who has studied and lived in Amsterdam for years. She was a great storyteller sharing her knowledge about the Amsterdam history, Dutch culture, the city’s architecture and much more.
Sandemans Free Walking Tour is “free” with no obligation on your part to pay anything upfront. At the end of the tour, you decide how much it was worth and offer tips to the tour guide. To sign up for this tour, click here.
If you want to have a tour at your pace with a small group (no more than four), you can consider booking this walking tour.
↡↡ Not a fan of Walking Tours? Take a Bike Tour! ↡↡
The Sandeman’s Walking Tour ends near the Anne Frank House. Grab an early dinner near in the area:
Pluk: Cute cafe great for light meal and beverage. Closed at 6 pm. (Open Google Map)
Ree 7: Cute cafe with light food and desserts. Closed at 5:30 pm. (Open Google Map)
Winkel 43: Famous for its apple pie and late-night food. (Open Google Map)
Anne Frank House
Your visit to Amsterdam can’t be complete without visiting Anne Frank House. Anne Frank House is where the little girl and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret annex behind her father’s company building during World War II. The actual building now has turned into a house museum. If you ever read the book, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, this museum is a must. If you haven’t, read it and go to this one of the best museums in Amsterdam.
As popular as the museum is, it’s almost impossible to get Anne Frank House tickets. If possible at all, you might want to schedule it in the evening because this is the only museum open until 10 pm daily. I managed to get the ticket on the day of my visit. It was closer to a miracle, but with a bit of luck and patience, you can, too. I wrote a separate post to share everything you need to know about your visit and how to get Anne Frank House tickets.
Book Anne Frank House Tickets here. | Admission: €10.50 (Children: €5.50) Online Only. (Included in Museumkaart.) | Anne Frank House Hours: 9 am – 10 pm (Closed 7 pm on Saturdays.) | Open Google Map for Anne Frank House Location.
Grey Area Coffeeshop (Optional)
Need a little picker upper after the emotional visit to Anne Frank House? Or, would be interested in a unique Amsterdam experience?
Grey Area Coffeeshop is near Anne Frank House. This coffee shop was a recommendation from the guide of the walking tour mentioned above. According to her, the cannabis shop has some reputation for selling quality cannabis. Yes, someone in the group asked her at the end of the tour. (I guess it is another benefit of a walking tour. Who else would you have asked this question?)
Grey Area Coffeeshop Hours: 12 pm – 8 pm | Open Google Map for Grey Area Coffeeshop Location.
Interesting Facts about Amsterdam Coffeeshops
Coffeeshop means something utterly different in Amsterdam. It’s slang for the cannabis store. I didn’t realize it until I googled coffee shops in Amsterdam looking for coffee. I thought it was pretty funny!
Unlike what people believe, using and selling drugs are NOT entirely legal in Amsterdam; however, it’s not illegal, either. (What?!!) It’s just “tolerated.” This is one thing unique about the Dutch culture; the authority turns a blind eye to “something in the grey area” as long as that doesn’t create inconvenience or harm to others.
What’s legal, then? Using soft drugs like marijuana for personal use is allowed. It’s ILLEGAL to cross the border with cannabis, so don’t forget to throw away any leftovers before you leave the Netherlands.
Not every Amsterdamer smokes pots. It might be an obvious statement, but I wanted to share in case you are curious about the local culture. It’s treated like a cigarette. The authority regulates it as a personal choice. People have a choice and access to it, and many choose not to smoke.
4 Days in Amsterdam: Day 2
Van Gogh Museum
Vincent van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is dedicated to the beloved Dutch painter and maintains the most extensive collection of his artworks, including Sunflowers, The bedroom, Almond Blossom, Irises, The Potato Eaters, etc. The collection is curated in the chronological order from the early days to his last. The museum also has a vast collection of his letters exchanged with his brother Theo and fellow artists. In a way, the whole experience resembles reading a Van Gogh’s biography with visual aids. The exhibit makes it educational and easy to digest even for someone who only knows about a few famous paintings.
Without a doubt, it’s a super crowded museum. But don’t let that discourage you. The museum is definitely worth your time. Knowing a few tricks can help make your experience much more pleasant!
Book Van Gogh Museum Fast-Lane Tickets here. | Admission: €19 (Included in I Amsterdam Card, Holland Pass (Gold), Museumkaart.) | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Close at 9 pm on Fri.) | Open Google Map for Van Gogh Museum Location.
Alternative: MOCO Museum
Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. And there is no way I would miss this place in Amsterdam! I slotted 3 hours to spend in the Van Gogh Museum. However, I understand that not everyone shares my enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, my hubby “the Big O” is one of them. If you are like him and enjoy contemporary arts better, MOCO (Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam) is another excellent choice. The Big O and I decided to split. He ended up spending 1.5 hours at Van Gogh Museum and 1.5 hours at MOCO. At MOCO, he got a copy of Banksy artwork – Girl with Balloon, which later had made a headline worldwide when the original piece was auctioned for $1.4 million to get shredded instantly.
Lunch: Dutch Herring at Frens Haringhandel
Grab Dutch Harings (Herrings) at Frens Haringhandel. I tried herrings at many places in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. I can confidently say, this little spot was the best I had. I didn’t expect myself to like a whole raw herring. Although I prefer to eat it in a hot dog bun to a fish by itself, I did like it.
Hours: 11 am – 5 pm (Open at noon on Sun. & Mon.) | Open Google Map for Frens Haringhhandel Location.
If herrings don’t feel you up, you can head to Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx and enjoy Belgian fries with your choice of specialty sauce. There was a long line of people in front of the shop, indicating it was a popular one. Truth to be told, it didn’t impress me much probably because I just came from Brussels where I had the pretty damn good fries every day.
Hours: 11 am – 7 pm (Open at noon on Mondays.) | Open Google Map for Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx Location.
Begijnhof is a women’s religious community dating back to the 14th century. The women of the Catholic sisterhood (Beguine) had lived in this secluded and quiet community that consists of housing, church and courtyard. When the Catholicism was banned from 1578 to 1795, the begijnhof was protected for these women to practice their religion because it was a private property.
Now no more Beguine is living in this community. But the houses here are private residences. It is open to the public during the day, and you may participate in a Mass. But please be respectful to the residents who live there.
This private community is tucked away from the busy streets of Amsterdam city center. You will never know where it is unless you know what to look for. You can see the door from Coffee Company nearby, but it’s easy to miss. After 5 pm, the door will be closed.
As it is one of the oldest residences in Amsterdam, it’s worthwhile to visit. However, I wouldn’t say this is a must-visit place. Instead, I consider as one of the unique things to do in Amsterdam. If you can spare 30 minutes, make a pit stop here.
Begijnhof Hours: 9 am – 5 pm | Open Google Map for Begijnhof location.
Bonus: Cookie at Van Staple Koekmakerij
On my way from Begijnhof to the 9 Streets, I followed an aroma of fresh baked goods. On my way from Begijnhof to the 9 Streets, I followed an aroma of fresh baked goods. (How can I resist?!!) I saw the crowd inside a tiny bakery and a bunch of others eating cookies in front of the store. The bakery only sells chocolate cookies. I grabbed one with cream filling and ate it while it’s still warm. It was pretty good. I don’t think you need to go out of your way to get this cookie, but if you happen to see the shop on your way and have the stomach for it, you can grab one to go.
Hours: 10 am – 6:30 pm | Open Google Map for Van Staple Koekmakerij location.
Jordaan Canal District & the 9 Streets
Jordaan Canal District is a trendy, upscale neighborhood on the west side of Amsterdam Central. Best known for its beautiful houses, hip cafes and chic shops, this area is perfect for an afternoon walk or shopping. Some of the popular streets here include the Prinsengracht, the Westerstraat, Haarlemmerstraat and De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets).
While strolling down this area, you will also get to cross many prettiest canals in Amsterdam, decorated with flowers and parked bicycles. It’s a great area to snap perfect Instagram photos. I also enjoyed shopping at the boutique shops along The 9 Streets.
Open Google Map for the 9 Streets location.
Dinner: Dutch Classic Dishes at Moeders
For a traditional Dutch dish, go to Moeders, which is located right off the edge of the Jordaan district. It’s a hop, skip and a jump away from the tourist-crowded area, this local restaurant serves Dutch classics such as stamppot (vegetable mash pot), hachee (beef & onion stew), etc.
This endearing restaurant is dedicated to all mothers and decorated with thousands of photos of someone’s moms. (Moeders means mothers. Get it?) And their dishes are made as to how your Dutch mothers have cooked for you. The atmosphere is upbeat and cheering, and the staff here are all friendly, making you feel at home. I recommend making a reservation as it can get busy real fast.
Hours: 5 pm – 10:30 pm (Open at noon on Sat. & Sun.) | Open Google Map for Moeders Location.
Amsterdam Boat Tour
When in Amsterdam, taking a canal boat tour is a must. Do you think it’s too touristy? Nah. The Dutch know how to enjoy their canals. Amsterdamers pull out a table and chair to their doorstep to wine and dine with the canal view. When there is a national celebration such as King’s Day or Gay Pride, they parade on the water. All over the Netherlands, I saw the Dutch cruising the canal on their boats enjoying the weekends with a beer in their hands. I’m telling you, it’s not tourist stuff. Unless you have a Dutch friend who can take you on his/her boat party, a canal cruise is as local as it gets.
In summer, I recommend taking a boat tour in the early evening before the sunset. The streets along the canal get much quieter. The summer breeze on the ride gives a nice break from the heat during the day. But once the sun goes down, it can get chilly even in summer. So bring your jacket. (Some boat tours, like Those Dam Boat Guys, provide a blanket.)
The Big O and I took a tour with Those Dam Boat Guys (book here), which was another recommendation from the Free Walking Tour guide. You can also take a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus & Boat Tour included in I Amsterdam Card or Holland Pass (Gold); however, I would recommend Those Dam Boat Guys tour over those big group tours. It takes you on a much more intimate journey. Instead of the recorded or repeated announcement, you can have a meaningful conversation with your captain.
We had about seven people on our boat. During our two-hour ride, we shared a bottle of wine and snacks and took each other’s photos. One of the guys had an opportunity to drive the boat. We also got into an interesting conversation with Russian girls who claimed how Amsterdam is like a miniature St. Petersburg. We all got a good kick out of teasing those Russian girls on their national pride. (It was a light-hearted conversation, and no one’s feeling got hurt.) The ride was a fun and relaxing way to wrap up our day.
↡↡ Book Amsterdam Canal Cruise here ↡↡
4 Days in Amsterdam: Day 3
I Amsterdam Sign
I Amsterdam Sign no longer stands in front of Rijksmuseum! The iconic “I Amsterdam” Sign has been removed from the Museumplein as of December 2018. Some critics have accused of the sign to promote mass tourism. Instead, a smaller version of the letters stands at Schiphol Airport while another set tours the city to highlight lesser-known Amsterdam neighborhoods.
Rijksmuseum is one of the must-visit museums in Amsterdam. Located at the Museum Square (Museumplein), it is dedicated to the Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day. This national museum features masterpieces by Dutch Golden Age artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and many others.
This museum is massive. As I grew weary of the crowds in other museums in Europe, I was pleasantly surprised that this famous museum was not cramped. While I could’ve spent all day here, I decided to take the highlight course and focus on the Dutch artists’ collections. I spent about 2 hours here, which was just the right amount for me. I will write a separate post about my experiences and tips on visiting museums in Amsterdam with more details.
Book Rijksmuseum Skip-the-Line Tickets here. | Admission: €20 at the door, €19 online (Included in Holland Pass (Gold), Museumkaart, I Amsterdam Card.) | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm | Open Google Map for Rijksmuseum Location.
After a pleasant stroll along the canal about 10 minutes from Rijksmuseum, you will arrive in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighborhood. De Pijp used to be a working-class area. But now many Amsterdamers claim it as their favorite neighborhood in the city. This neighborhood attracts young professionals, artists, students and families. Like Jordaan, De Pijp is abundant in hip cafes, breakfast & brunch hot spots and stylish shops.
Albert Cuyp Market
This cute street market in De Pijp hosts lots of stands selling local foods, clothing & shoes, souvenirs, flowers, etc. I wasn’t too impressed with the shopping options. But the highlights here are local snack foods:
Vishandel Molenaar: Get Dutch haring (herring) and fried fish platter. You can never have enough of Dutch haring in Amsterdam. But if you have to choose between this and Frens Haringhandel due to time constraints, I’d go with the latter.
Rudy’s Original Stroopwafels: This is the best stroopwafels we ever had in the Netherlands! The freshly baked stroopwafels ooze out sweet caramel syrup from the crispy wafers. I couldn’t resist mini stroopwafels in a Delftware-print tin box. The Stroopwafels guy shared the Dutch tradition of how to eat stroopwafels at home. Put a stroopwafel on top of a hot coffee or tea for a minute, and the caramel inside melts. Yum!
By the way, if you are ever going to buy stroopwafels for a souvenir, make sure to get them in a tin box. Unfortunately, my tin box got dinged inside the luggage but protected the stroopwafels from turning into crumbs.
Poffertjes (Mini pancakes): I don’t know if this stand had a name. I got poffertjes with Nutella. Great snack food.
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (Closed on Sunday) | Open Google Map for Albert Cuyp Market Location.
Take a tram from De Pijp to Vondelpark. Vondelpark is a sizeable public park near the Museumplein in Amsterdam. The urban park was designed and built in the 19th century. It’s a beautiful park to stroll, bike or chill on the lawn on a sunny day. It takes about one hour to walk the full loop. In the middle of the park, there is a teahouse if you prefer to enjoy nature from indoor, too.
In summer, the open-air theater takes place to host a free concert, theater and dance performances. Vondelpark is also family-friendly with multiple playgrounds for children.
Open Google Map for Vondelpark Location.
Dinner at Foodhallen
Head over to Amsterdam Oud-West for a relaxed meal at Foodhallen. Foodhallen is an indoor street food market and bars with music, where locals unwind after work and enjoy a happy hour. The food and beverage vendors here feature a variety of international flavors.
Foodhallen used to be a tram depot before it was renovated into a refined food court. The original red brick walls and a trace of railway reminisce the original architecture. The open space with high ceiling invites plenty of natural lighting. With a hint of nostalgia, its contemporary design creates the relaxed luxury vibes that are as inviting and chill as the city of Amsterdam.
The Big O and I gobbled our way through the food hall, sampling Chicken Masala, Fritto Misto, Fish & Chips, etc. But the highlight of the evening was the Gin & Tonic Bar. We drank a serious amount of beers traveling through Europe over a month. Although European beers – especially Belgian Trappist beers – are all tasty, it was nice to switch to something else. For that night, Gin & Tonic was our choice of drink. I think we sat there for a couple of hours, sipping a few specialty gin & tonics.
Hours: 11 am – 11:30 pm | Open Google Map for Foodhallen location.
4 Days in Amsterdam: Day 4
Breakfast: Dutch Pancakes
If you have a chance to eat breakfast outside of your hotel, try Dutch pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam Centraal. It’s a busy restaurant, so it might be hard to get a seat without a reservation. We had a Dutch pancake elsewhere in another city and liked it a lot. I can’t compare it to this restaurant’s; however, the restaurant is conveniently located in the area to start our Day 4 itinerary and has excellent reviews.
Hours: 8 am – 8 pm | Open Google Map for Pancakes Amsterdam Centraal Location.
Red Light District (De Wallen)
The red light district (a.k.a. De Wallen) is uniquely Amsterdam. As many of you may already know, prostitution is legal in this neighborhood of Amsterdam. But if you go to the area before the lights are turned on in the evening, it’s nothing like how you imagine it to be. You will see some sex toy shops and coffee shops in business; however, that’s as R-rated as it goes.
UPDATE: Starting 2020, Amsterdam will ban organized tours of the red-light district as a measure to prevent mass tourism and sex workers as a tourist attraction. If you are intimidated to visit this alley in the evening but curious, join a walking tour while you still can.
↡↡ Book Red Light District Walking Tours here ↡↡
Pro Tip: Do not take photos in the Red Light District. Sex workers here do not appreciate being photographed, and their privacy is protected. Don’t risk your phone or camera to be thrown into the canal.
What’s more interesting to me, though, is that this red light district is also home to two religious places: The Old Church (De Oude Kerk) and Our Lord in the Attic Church (Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder).
Our Lord in the Attic Church (Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder)
Our Lord in the Attic Church is a 17th-century canal house and a house church, which became a religious museum. It’s one of the hidden churches in Amsterdam where Catholics secretly attended services during the Dutch religion reform. The house church was built in the attic of a private home, hence the intriguing name of Our Lord in the Attic church.
I highly recommend visiting this church museum. Not only can you peek at the historic bourgeois house from the 17th century, but also explore an excellent example of a secret house church. The museum displays Dutch house furniture, kitchens, servants’ quarters, as well as the gorgeous pipe organ, collection of church silver, paintings and religious artifacts.
Book Our Lord in the Attic Ticket with Audio Guide here. | Admission: €12.50 (Children €6) or (Included in Holland Pass (Silver), Museumkaart, I Amsterdam Card.) | Hours: Mon. – Sat.10 am – 6 pm, Sun. & holidays 1 pm – 6 pm (Closed on April 27) | Open Google Map for Our Lord in the Attic Church Location.
Amsterdam Ginger Bread Houses
You don’t have to go to a specific spot to appreciate Amsterdam’s quintessential architecture. But since a row of “Ginger Bread Houses” is on our way to the next stop, let’s stop by to take a few postcard-like photos at Amsterdam’s iconic spot. They are located right across from the Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Fun Facts about Amsterdam Architecture
Why are Amsterdam houses crooked?
Amsterdam houses are built on unstable land on the water. The foundation gets moved over time, and the houses end up looking crooked. It gives Amsterdam some endearing characteristics. But if you have an OCD, it might drive you crazy.
Why are houses so narrow in Amsterdam?
The typical Amsterdam homes have a narrow, tall facade but go deep on the side. That’s because a long time ago taxes were levied based on the width of the facade as opposed to square footage.
Why do all Amsterdam houses have hooks?
Besides the narrow living space, a narrow facade makes it inconvenient to move furniture in and out through the doorway and up and down through spiral staircases. The Dutch engineers have figured out that a metal hook holstered on the top of the building could help lift heavy, bulky furniture up to move through the windows.
On the last day in Amsterdam, let’s explore beyond the Amsterdam Centrum. Noord is a family-friendly residential and industrial neighborhood preferred by locals who want to live away from the expensive, crowded area. Behind the Amsterdam Central Station, it’s only a five-minute ferry ride away across the river (known as “the IJ”). And the city wants to encourage people to sprawl out, so the ferry is free for everyone and runs quite often.
Pro Tips: Make sure you are lining up at the right terminal. Ferries run back and forth between Central Station and the designated terminal in the Noord. If you want to visit A’DAM Lookout, for example, take Ferry 901 or 907, whereas Ferry 903, 905 or 906 takes you to NDSM.
What to Do in Amsterdam NDSM
We decided to go directly to NDSM. If Amsterdam is like San Francisco, going to Amsterdam-Noord is like visiting Oakland. The NDSM wharf looked a bit rougher and edgy with the industrial vibes. NDSM features colorful art displays outside and often hosts live music performances and outdoor cultural events.
Anne Frank Portrait
Titled “Let me be myself,” this gigantic wall art by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra catches eyes as soon as you get off of the ferry.
It’s a quite quirky restaurant with outdoor seating by the river. The food, beer and smoothies here were all excellent. The view also was amazing. This would be a perfect place to chill in the afternoon.
IJ-Hallen hosts a monthly flea market in an industrial space. The second-hand market sells clothing, decorations, furniture, and home goods. Note the event is not free (admission: €5 for adult, €2 for children). Check the event date here.
Crane Hotel Faralda Amsterdam
This is a unique and quirky hotel. The giant crane was converted into an industrial-chic hotel. The rooms in the 4-star hotel boast an unobstructed view of the city of Amsterdam over the IJ. Spending a night at this crane hotel would be an exciting experience for travelers who seek out-of-ordinary accommodation. Check the availability and rates here.
↡↡ Looking for Amsterdam Hotels? Book Your Stay here. ↡↡
Brouwerij ’t IJ
Up for sipping some Dutch craft beer to celebrate the last evening in Amsterdam?
Brouwerij ’t IJ is a windmill brewery with a relaxing yet upbeat beer bar. This brewery has both a lovely terrace and indoor space. Their craft beer tastes fresh on the tap although some of their beer selections can be found outside of Amsterdam. Brouwerij ‘t IJ is an excellent alternative to the Heineken Experience.
Be warned that this brewery is a busy place. You have to be lucky to get a terrace seat. We somehow managed to get an indoor table. But at first, we couldn’t even order their beer flights (€10) because they ran out of the cups. We also got to try ox sausage with the cheese plate over a variety of beer. We weren’t a big fan of ox sausage, but if you try, eat with mustard.
- Zatte is a triple beer, and possibly the best beer in Amsterdam according to my husband.
- Columbus is an amber beer and has a heavy flavor.
- Ijwit is a white beer and light.
- Summer Ale is refreshing with the fruity note. This summer beer was my favorite.
- Natte is Duvel and has a creamy flavor.
- Flink is a pale ale. It’s refreshing but slightly bitter than Summer Ale.
Pro Tips: Brouwerij ’t IJ offers group tours at 3:30 pm Friday through Sunday.
Hours: 2 pm – 8 pm | Open Google Map for Brouwerij ’t IJ location.
Dinner at Instock
Instock is an entrancing concept restaurant near Brouwerij ’t IJ. With its mission to reduce food wastes, the restaurant creates a daily menu from food surplus, in partnership with Albert Heijn supermarket and other local producers. The chefs create a course meal out of unsold or returned produce received from the partners. For example, they make kimchi out of cauliflower leaves, which are thrown away otherwise. Isn’t it brilliant?
Growing up in the Asian culture where no parts go wasted when it comes to cooking, I think I can appreciate the concept. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to eat here simply because we had to rush back to the hotel to catch 4 am train the next day. But I’m intrigued by its social initiative and how they are tackling the challenges. I heard good things about their creative menu and would love to check out next time. Let me know how it is if you get to go before I do!
Hours: 8:30 am – 11 pm (Open at 10 am on Sat. & Sun.) | Open Google Map for Instock location.
I Amsterdam City Card
Free admission to 44 museums & attractions (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Canal Cruise, etc.)
Plus, unlimited use of GVB public transport!
Get GVB Daily Pass & Save $$$
Unlimited access to Amsterdam’s buses, trams, ferries and metro.
1-7 Day Pass Available.
Tips for Amsterdam First-Time Visitors
1. Bring enough Euro.
I was surprised to learn Amsterdam is still a cash society. Many restaurants and hotels do accept Visa and Master cards. However, if you go to a local market, small shops or less touristy restaurants, they don’t take credit cards. The major supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, also is cash only.
2. Tap water is safe to drink.
Save your money and environment. You can carry a reusable bottle to refill water wherever you can. Refrigerated water bottles at a supermarket are expensive, and will quickly eat up your budget.
3. Riding a bicycle is not as easy as you think.
The Dutch are one of the most chill and laid-back folks I’ve ever met…until they get on a bicycle. If you don’t follow the rule – because you the tourists are not familiar with it – they will flip off and curse at you. And they go really fast on a bicycle. Whether you are riding on a bike or walking, your best bet is staying out of that bicycle lanes.
4. Take Advantage of GVB Pass.
Amsterdam is small enough to explore on foot but not that small. I still preferred to take the tram if the distance is more than two tram stops. It saved me so much energy and time. But transportation in Amsterdam is expensive. It might make sense to buy the GVB day pass (click to buy), or consider I Amsterdam City Pass (click to buy), which comes with the GVB pass for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
As of 2019, one-hour GVB ticket costs €3.20. A GVB day pass (€8) is valid for 24 hours on trams, buses and metros. The Day Pass costs less per day as you buy the pass for a more extended period at 2 days/48 hours (€13.50), 3 days/72 hours (€19), 4 days/96 hours (€24.50), etc. If you are staying in Amsterdam for four days and expecting to use public transportation daily, your transportation expense is only €6.13/day with the GVB 4-day pass, which is less than two separate GVB tickets.
5. Bring a light jacket or raincoat even in summer.
Amsterdam weather is unpredictable. I was lucky to enjoy all the sunny days during my visit. But I was ready for rain on any day because rain is pretty common throughout the year. Even for hot sunny days in summer, it could get chilly at night. Think of the weather in San Francisco/Bay Area. If you are not used to such climates, like me, prepare a light cardigan/jacket or scarf to keep yourself warm.