Amsterdam is full of life both charming and gritty. There is so much to explore in progressive Amsterdam and history to learn going back to the days of trading along the Amstel River to hiding Anne Frank and her Jewish family during World War 2. Having a guidebook helps but the free walking tours are the best way to get a good introduction into Amsterdam’s alleyways and canals.
I met my college friend Lauren in Amsterdam and she was the one who knew about the free walking tours and signed us up. There are many companies offering them. Google the options and which starting point is closest to you.
Our meeting point in Dam Square at the National Memorial statue:
Actually we got a bit lost and ended up almost joining a different tour than the one we signed up for. You should sign up in advance (we only signed up an hour prior and that was enough time to secure a spot), those who just tried to add as a walk-up were sometimes denied because tours were full.
Oudekerksplein, or Old Church Square, is in the middle of the Red Light District. Since you would get beat up for taking photos in the Red Light District, no one brought out their cameras until it was allowed here. You can always try to sneak a few but nah.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and clearly just rolled out of bed for this 11am tour. We enjoyed him very much and Lauren and I were able to see so much more than we would have on our own. Free tours for the win!
But it really isn’t a free tour because you need to tip the guide at the end. But for 10 Euros each, it was well worth the 3 hour delve into Amsterdam’s history and sights.
The skinniest house in Amsterdam is skinny! You can’t lay down in the width of this house.
But Lauren and I were not done walking yet. We made our way to the outdoor Albert Cuyp Market about a mile away by crossing over canals and sightseeing on the way.
The most amazing thing at the market were Stroopwafels!
I was starving after all this walking and was starting to get hangry so while Lauren shopped I got in the short line for the best snack ever made.
Here, stroopwafels are made fresh and filled with caramel. You can get them dipped in chocolate but there is no need. They are amazing!
The caramel in the middle will drip out and make a mess so be careful. This was the best 1.50 Euro I have ever spent. Lauren heartily agreed with me.
After so much walking we needed a break and had a few beers in our double room. European hotels tend to have 2 single beds pushed up to each other in rooms for 2 people- a couple or not. Cheers!
Dinner was at an outdoor café we stumbled upon while Lauren was out mailing a package- she is living in Europe so she occasionally had some normal non-vacation errands to run. She had salmon and pasta and I had a tapas tasting plate with calamari, lamb meatball, patatas bravas, and Iberico ham.
Of course we had to walk around some more because it was so beautiful and we had to get back to our hotel.
Lauren at one point got a ride while I was the photographer. Hitchhiking here is totally normal.
And the amount of bikes here is crazy. You have to be so careful crossing the streets because there are hardly any cars but so many bikes!
And I’ll leave you with one last photo because Amsterdam isn’t really Amsterdam without the colorful Red Light District, smoke shops, and sex culture. Just a random window display along a busy road.
Reader Question: Have you ever had a stroopwafel? What is the best snack you have ever had?