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Amsterdam Trip Planning

I could use some help with planning my upcoming trip to Amsterdam. If you're interested, I'd love your help!

The specifics:
-This is my first completely solo trip.
-I'll arrive on Sunday, March 26th around 9:20 AM and leave on a flight home at 11 AM on Sunday, April 2nd.
-I'm staying the entire time at the Max Brown Canal District Hotel.
-This will be a slow-paced, stop-and-smell-the-roses trip. I'm an early up and early to bed gal. After dinner, I plan on maybe getting a drink in the hotel bar while I organize my plans for the following day, update photos, or just relax.

Amsterdam:
-Interested museums: Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, and Verzetsmuseum (I'm not a huge museum person, so that's it for me). I'll book these museums in advance.
-I'll book a small group walking tour for Monday morning. Any suggestions for tour companies?
-Walk around neighborhoods, pop into shops, eat at restaurants, canal cruise (do I need to book in advance?)
-I could use a few ideas for other things to do (not a museum).

3 Day Trips at some point:
-1 organized, small group tour to Zaanse Schans and either Giethoorn or the Volendam, Marken, Edam route. Any preferences? I've narrowed down a few tour companies for a small group tour (8 or so people).
-Haarlem on my own by train: should I plan an entire day there or partner it with another town?
-Where else should I go by train? Delft? Leiden? Utrecht? Somewhere else? Partner a few into one day? I need help here. It would be the first week of Keukenhof - I may skip it. I'm on the fence.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Kristen

Posted by
2286 posts

The DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station has a rooftop bar with the best views in Europe from what I've seen.

Posted by
787 posts

Sounds like a wonderful trip. I was there last October, and I will be there the week prior to your trip (arriving March 14, departing March 21). You say you are not a museum person, but the Rijksmuseum is a world treasure, and there is a huge exhibit specifically about Johannes Vermeer during your visit (think "Girl with a Pearl Earring"). That is the primary reason for my trip. I would get tickets for that ahead of time. And of course the Anne Frank house is a very sobering pilgrimage. Definitely do a canal cruise as well while in Amsterdam. Delft is a wonderful town for a day trip, and I actually plan to spend a night there at the end of my trip. The old church in the center makes a great visit, and there are many outdoor dining places on the square it overlooks.

Posted by
329 posts

When I travel solo, I like to book a food tour. This is a great way to have some company while eating and trying local delicacies. Just search online.

Posted by
1717 posts

I'd suggest booking the Anne Frank ticket that includes the introductory program. It's about a 30 minute intro before you go in to the museum - really helps set the context (and I'd been there before). You enter the museum through a different door than the main crowd (the security folks will help). Check other posts in this forum for how to book tickets ahead in the right time frame.

Haarlem is dead on Monday (the day I went) - so don't go on Monday! I combined my visit there with a side trip the beach at Zandvoort (needed some fresh air). Easy by train, definitely doable in a day.

You say you're not a museum person, but the Van Gogh museum would be my pick over the Rijksmuseum (I've been to both). You might check the iAmsterdam card to see if there are activities on it that interest you. Do the math to see if it pencils out (e.g. Van Gogh no longer on the pass and some canal cruises are covered (but not all). I surprisingly enjoyed the Artis Zoo.

I was told to get a cookie at Van Stapele. There was a long line, and it was indeed delicious and worth the wait. A friend also referred me to Wyand Fockink to taste liqueurs - super old store front, fun knowledgeable staff, interesting people in line. Tastes are free, full glasses are reasonably priced. Febo vending machine food is a once is probably enough experience, but unique (and fried!).

Posted by
3583 posts

Keukenhof is absolutely spectacular. The pure architecture and spectacular beauty of the flowers (mostly tulips) are a dream come true. I would not skip it and it works beautifully with your “smell the roses“ style of travel. You’ll just be smelling the tulips and hyacinths! I took a bus from Amsterdam to Keukenhof to arrive when the garden opened and the train back from Leiden so I could see fields and fields of tulips growing from both sides of the train.

Posted by
2029 posts

Please don’t skip the Keukenhof. It is absolutely spectacular. Just get there when it opens so you are not battling the crowds at the outset. The Keukenhof is what I imagine heaven looks like.

Posted by
3893 posts

For a walking tour, I highly recommend Amsterdam tours by experts. We did this walking tour with historian Naomi Koopmans. It was a wonderful introduction to Jewish history prior to going to the Anne Frank House the following day. We enjoyed a canal cruise on a beautiful day with www.Stromma.com. It was a hop on hop off cruise, but we stayed on the entire course. We walked everywhere in Amsterdam but really enjoyed seeing Amsterdam from the water. Also recommend the Albert Cuyp Market. Here is info. on the Vermeer Exhibit next year at the Rijksmuseum. See my info. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/netherlands/what-makes-vermeer-so-unique

Posted by
100 posts

All of this information is amazing - thank you! I'm adding all of these recommendations to my trip planning notes. Roubrat, thank you for the link to your trip report! It's extremely helpful! I also loved the tips for Van Stapele, Wyand Fockink, Albert Cuyp Market, etc. I really appreciate the Amsterdam Tours by Experts and canal cruise recommendation!

I'll follow the advice to see the Rijksmuseum with the Vermeer exhibit. Once I have my week more organized, I can get the tickets. I'm sure the Van Gogh museum is wonderful; I may go if there's a streak of rainy days.

I was looking for a food tour and have found one at the moment, Hungry Birds Street Food Tours. I'll have to see if I find others.

I will include Delft for sure for a day trip. I'm assuming I should keep Haarlem. Should I do the organized group tour to Zaanse Schans and other towns? Especially if I work in Keukenhof, I feel like I'm running out of days :)

Kristen

Posted by
2504 posts

Kristen, we were in Amsterdam in July and enjoyed doing all 3 of the Rick Steves audio guided walks. Just download the app and bring airpods.

Posted by
195 posts

We did the Hungry Birds food tour in June and it was a highlight of the trip for us. A really fun way to explore DePijp which was our favorite neighborhood in Amsterdam. I’d highly recommend it.

Posted by
539 posts

“ It would be the first week of Keukenhof - I may skip it. I'm on the fence.”
If I were you I would stay on the fence a little bit longer. A couple of years ago we had a relatively late spring due to a cold spell in late February/early March. When the Keukenhof opened for the season only the flowers in the green houses were in bloom, the rest of the park still looked green. There were a lot of complaints from visitors in the first week who wanted their money back. And as a contrast, this year we had a very early spring. Certain early blooming flowers were already bloomed out by the time the park opened for the season.
Bottomline; wait until you’re here before deciding whether or not to go to the Keukenhof.

Posted by
100 posts

Dana, thank you so much for the recommendation! I will definitely book it.

Dutch traveler, I really appreciate your advice. I was on the fence with Keukenhof because I'll be there for the 1st week, but I really hadn't thought about just deciding that when I'm there. I'll do just that.

Kristen

Posted by
140 posts

Don’t miss the apple pie at Winkel 43 https://winkel43.nl/en, I think it’s not far from your hotel. It’s not your grandma’s apple pie. The crust is some delicious place between cake and pie. Get it with the whipped cream and a glass of fresh mint tea. The Artis zoo is a lovely setting for a good wander. The North American raccoon exhibit always gives us a good chuckle.

Posted by
100 posts

Winkel 43 is definitely highlighted in my planning notes :)

Posted by
1465 posts

I tried to go to Winkel 43 twice but it was packed both times with people waiting around staring (glaring?) at the apple pie eaters.

Posted by
8926 posts

Your day trip to Zaanse Schans , a recreated village, and other places you list on that day tour was the only experience we did not like on a day trip from Amsterdam. Take the train to Rotterdam and then a river boat to Kinderdijk to see 19 windmills in their original locations. Wonderful! We also enjoyed staying in Leiden and visiting The Hague and Delft. Don’t miss Keukenhof.
You don’t need any tours. Take trains and a good guide book and explore these interesting areas.

Posted by
6180 posts

We did a week in Amsterdam and stayed in a small hotel about a block from the Anne Frank House.

We walked everywhere and did just fine.

You must book the Anne Frank House prior to arrival. Bookings open up, I believe the first Tuesday of the month before your visit.

Also, we booked the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in advance as well. We spent about three and a half hours in each museum, there is a lot to see. The two museums are close together on the south edge of the city. However, I suggest not trying to do both in the same day. Too much museum in one day.

We also did a canal boat ride, which we booked in advance.
Further, we took a day tour to the countryside to see Windmills that included a couple of quaint villages (Volendam and Marken). Highly recommend this tour.
The tour starts from the north end of the train station facing the water.

I recommend a great Greek Restaurant near the Anne Frank House. It is called Two Greeks. You must make a reservation.

We did this is August, so the floral stuff was not available.

Generally, you can do the city on your own with a guidebook.

Posted by
100 posts

Thanks for all of these replies; they are helpful for sure!

I booked my Rijksmuseum with the Vermeer exhibit ticket as some of the times were already filling up. It's too soon for the Anne Frank House, food tour, and day trip. I am looking forward to one organized small group tour to have one day where all of the logistics are taken care of. Plus, since this is my 1st solo trip, I might find some people to chat with that day.

Posted by
553 posts

If you have a week, Rotterdam is an interesting city for a short visit because it's so different than other Dutch cities. Better if you do some reading first. Kinderdijk is pretty neat, and the river ferry trip (down the river, not just across) is a fun ride.

Posted by
967 posts

Even if the Nine Little Streets is crowded, it's a fun funky little area with cafes and shops and a nice feeling.
I thought the Dam Boat Guys was the most fun on a canal trip. great podcasts from them online.
I have enjoyed the sunset/dusk time on canal cruises when the lights on the bridges come on- pretty. Don't know if you would enjoy the hop on- hop off canal cruise- The regular one offered much to see in a short time around the city. ( an hour as I recall).
The Waterloo flea market is around the corner from the Rembrandt house- both easy. interesting to see this world-acclaimed artist's home before tragedy and financial woes struck. It is a museum but it is a home of the era.
And yeah-- do go to the Van Gogh. It's crowded, but i think is a must-see- much to contemplate on the way home. Edam and Marken are good, maybe not necessary your first trip outside the city, easier on a small tour than walking everywhere from a train ride and for one person, imho, more work. Enjoy your trip- a good choice.