My favourite Amsterdam attractions include both the well-known and the offbeat. Since I was there with my kids, we spent some time on the beach and at a fantastic family-friendly science museum. To take a breather from the constant childish prattle, I went to Moco Museum and city walks alone. I also visited the Botanical Garden and spent a pleasant, quiet afternoon there. So if you are like me and plan to visit the Dutch capital city with your family, here are some of my favourite Amsterdam attractions both for you and the entire brood.
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Canal Boat Tour
This is undoubtedly one of the must-do things in Amsterdam. This gorgeous city was built somewhere at the beginning of the 17th century and has magnificent old traditional mansions lining its waterways. There is a wide variety of canal boat tours to choose from and don’t forget to explore Amsterdam in the evening on a boat. The city is lit up and looks extremely pretty. Research beforehand in order not to get disappointed and during the peak season, make sure to pre-book your tour in advance. If you have the time and money, opt for two luxury canal boat cruises – one to see Amsterdam during the day and once at night.
Flower Market, one of the most famous Amsterdam attractions
Located on the Singel Canal, the Bloemenmarkt is perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of Amsterdam. Don’t get me wrong; it is a highly photogenic place with lots of Intsa photo opportunities, however, I found it to be over-commercialized and crowded. I still include it in this list, because I think of the floating flower market from a historical point of view rather than the fantastic images the name conjures. Established in 1862, this floating market was once a ‘one of its kind’ place. Nowadays, the barges are fixed and it actually feels like just any other market. However, it is free, fragrant, and very photogenic, especially if you come in the morning before the crowds set in. Make sure to respect the shop rules since many of them forbid photography. If you happen to buy a bulb from here, check to see that it is firm, free of mold, or any kind of damage. The bulbs sold here are of export variety and are permitted to be flown back home as souvenirs.
NEMO, Science Museum
This is one of the best Amsterdam attractions especially if traveling with kids. Children of all ages love this extraordinary multi-floor interactive haven where learning is a lot of fun. The building is super cool too and the amazing terrace offers fantastic views of the city. From the live demonstration of a ‘chain reaction’ to interactive displays of every kind of scientific experiment, it is an engaging place for both children and adults.
Explore the local markets
Amsterdam has fantastic neighbourhood open-air markets where you can shop for everything – from vintage clothes and artifacts to local delicacies. The most popular market to visit is the Albert Cuypmarkt in the neighborhood of De Pijp. It is also the largest with almost 260 stands and is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am till 5 pm. The other markets are as follows:
- Lindenmarkt – food market in Jordaan (open from 9 am to 4 pm, Saturdays)
- Ten Kate – open daily near De Hallen, or Westerstraat market near Lindengracht market.
- Waterlooplein – flea market in (open from 9 am to 6 pm, Mondays to Saturdays)
Spend time at the Hortus Botanicus
Established in 1638, Amsterdam’s botanical garden called Hortus Botanicus is perhaps one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It was originally established as a herb garden with medical plants for Amsterdam doctors and pharmacists because at that time the cities of Leiden and Utrecht were experiencing the plague epidemic (1634-1637). In the second half of the 17th century, the present location already housed Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus and it boasted a rich collection of plants completely unknown in Europe. These were brought by the traders of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) from all over the world. Today, it remains an oasis of peace and greenery in the middle of a bustling pretty city and has more than 6 000 different plants. Some of the plants are very special. Some examples include the 2000 years old agave cactus and a 300-year-old Eastern Kape giant cycad. The Hortus is open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Enjoy some local Dutch delicacies
If you are a foodie like me, then trying the local dishes of a place is a must-do thing for you. Here, I must admit that the Dutch cuisine was a bit of a damper except for a few special dishes. One of them was the Haring ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’. It is a boneless raw herring fish served together with chopped raw onions and pickles. It is an acquired taste, especially for most Indian travellers. However, there are safer and equally delicious other options and these are as follows:
- Stroopwafel – two layers of waffle with a sticky syrup filling in the middle
- Kroket – a typical croquette with minced meat filling
- Poffertjes – small fluffy pancakes served with butter or powdered sugar
- Bitterballen– deep-fried savoury meatballs that are the best accompaniments for beer
- Cheese – opt for the Gouda or Edam
Moco Art Museum
If you love modern art then Moco Museum is for you. An independent museum, Moco Museum (Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam) offers a wide variety of inspiring modern and contemporary art to the public. Apart from its enthralling temporary exhibits, Moco has some of the most famous works of Banksy to brand new immersive art installations as parts of its permanent collections.
Van Gogh Museum
Let’s admit it; with his tragic life story, ear-cutting, and posthumous fame, Vincent Van Gogh is the original rockstar of art. Moreover, his art was for real and there’s no better place to showcase this extraordinary man’s stupendous talent than at the Van Gogh Museum in the Dutch capital city. Van Gogh Museum is one of my favourite Amsterdam attractions, more than the Rijksmuseum even though the Dutch grandmasters are some of my favourite painters. I spent more than half a day there looking at the famous ‘Sunflowers’, ‘Potato Eaters’ and the ‘Olive Grove’ series by Van Gogh. Thanks to the treasure hunt maps and charts, the kids were busy and I had enough time on my hands to enjoy the genius’s works in peace.
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