Amsterdam was built around a dam in the river Amstel as a small fishing village and derives it name from Amstelredamme. It became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century and even today is one of the most important financial centers in Europe.
I was finally able to visit Amsterdam early this year and had a fabulous trip exploring the city with its many canals, historical sites as well as shopping streets and restaurants. Here are some of the the things I did in Amsterdam.
1. Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand
During my visit to Amsterdam, I stayed at the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand, a luxury five-star hotel which is also a historical site, located in the center of the city. Splendidly decorated in French elegance and grandeur, the hotel takes you back to 15th century when it used to be a convent. The hotel building has since served as royal lodgings, Dutch Admiralty headquarters and the city hall of Amsterdam. The Council Chamber and the First Class Marriage Chamber of the former City Hall have been preserved as a heritage site at the hotel.
Read my post on the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand.
2. A Grand Boat Tour of the Canals
A boat tour of the canals can be the perfect introduction for anyone traveling to Amsterdam for the first time. Since I was staying at the Sofitel Grand, I took their Grand Boat Tour which is a private cruise on a classic saloon boat in or around Amsterdam. We sailed over the narrowest canals of the old Amsterdam area 'de Jordaan' and through the heart of the red-light district with its canal-side houses.
Read my post on A Grand Boat Tour of the Canals.
3. A Bike Tour
One of the nicest and typical Dutch ways to discover Amsterdam is by bike. A friend had told me in advance that Amsterdam is a jungle of bikes but I had to see it to believe it! Even as I was driving from the airport to the city, I couldn't help but notice the numerous bike-paths, bike-racks and several guarded bicycle parking stations. I saw that bicyclists were everywhere and parked bicycles were overcrowding train stations, streets and other areas!
Read my post on A Bike Tour of Amsterdam.
4. Tram ride
Another way to explore Amsterdam is to go around the city in a tram or a bus. Besides the bike, I also got into a tram and it was fun to see the crowded streets of Amsterdam from the tramcar. A single-use ticket costs €2.90 and is valid for up to one hour, during which time you may transfer to other bus or tram lines. Tickets can be bought on the tram or the bus.
From Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand to other historic buildings on Dam Square, historic canals, museums like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, flower market, red-light district, cannabis coffee shops, Vondelpark, theater and concert halls, zoo, lake and botanical gardens, there is a lot to see and experience in Amsterdam.
Read my post on Dam Square.
6. Luxury Shopping
P.C. Hooftstraat is one of the world's best luxury shopping streets in Amsterdam. Over 40 luxury brands have their retail stores here which include Hugo Boss, Chanel, Prada, D&G, MaxMara, Ralph Lauren, Hermes, Gucci and Burberry.
Read my post on The Luxury Shopping Street at P.C. Hooftstraat.
7. Red Light District
The Oudezijds Voorburgwal is one of the most central canals in Amsterdam’s Grachtengordel. It is part of the De Wallen old town quarter and hence also of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the Rosse Buurt. It is full of coffeeshops, restaurant and bars and attracts a large number of tourists. There has been prostitution in the area since the late medieval times. A stroll through the streets in the late evening hours when the red lights come aglow, is an experience to make.
8. I Amsterdam
When you visit Amsterdam, for the sake of posterity, you must get a picture in front of the famous I Amsterdam sign, which is a city icon and a great place to get your photos clicked!
9. Red Velvet Cake at the De Drie Graefjes restaurant
De Drie Graefjes is a cozy restaurant in Amsterdam that serves soups, salads and sandwiches as well as high-tea and baked goodies such as cakes, cupcakes and muffins. They have a small lunchroom and an American Bakery where they bake their own cakes and pastries. Their carrot cake and red velvet cake are amongst the most popular items on their menu and something to try when you are visiting Amsterdam.
Read my post on Cupcakes & Chai Latte at the De Drie Graefjes Restaurant.
10. Wine & Seafood at Bridges
Bridges, famous for seafood and wine, is the Michelin Star restaurant at Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand and is also known to be one of the best restaurants in Netherlands. The restaurant which used to be the canteen of the former Town Hall, is located on the oldest canal of Amsterdam. The water of the canal was also the inspiration for French interior designer Christophe Daudré for redesigning the interiors of the restaurant.
I personally really enjoyed my time in Amsterdam even though it is a bit too liberal for me! The thing to do is not to judge and take the best of people everywhere you travel.