One of the best things of international travel is the layovers. Yes, you heard that correctly. We look to find connecting fights through cities we want to explore and look for the longest layover possible. With our final destination of Israel, we stopped over in Amsterdam at 7:10 AM local time and did not depart again for Tele Viv until 7:00 PM local time. Therefore, we had a large amount of time to explore Amsterdam. The best part about a layover is that your bags stay on airport grounds, which eliminates the need to cart them all around a strange city or find storage.
By 8:00 AM local time we were on a train from the airport to the Amsterdam city center. We hit the ground running mainly because we were fighting jet lag, but secondly, we only had 8 remaining hours to explore. This post shares how we got the most out of eight hours in Amsterdam. The first thing to note is that the city really doesn’t come to life until 9:00 or 9:30 AM, coffee shops were even sparsely open.
Anne Frank Museum
The Anne Frank Museum and apartment were the highlight of the Amsterdam experience for me. The tour allows you to walk through the Frank apartment, read excerpts from Anne’s dairy and visualize what a day in the life was like living in the apartment. I had previously read “The Dairy of Anne Frank” but visiting the museum made all the emotion of the horrible Nazi regime feel so raw, recent and dismissed to easily by the world.
Planning your visit:
- Get your tickets in advance.
- Be prepared to wait outside about 30 minutes prior to your ticket time.
- You will experience crowds. Practice patience as you may be working through the exhibit in a single file line.
- You will need to climb narrow stairs to enter the apartment. It did not appear the apartment portion of the museum is ADA accessible.
- Plan 2-hours for the tour due to depth of the exhibit.
- Lastly, you will need to check your coat and any backpacks prior to the museum tour.
Heineken Experience in Amsterdam
Heineken does a phenomenal job with the “Heineken Experience” museum. Throughout the entire tour Heineken immerses you in the brewing process through smells, sounds, touch and then ending with taste. I have been to my fair share of brewery tours and this one is completely kid friendly. Highlighted throughout the experience are several of Heineken’s advertising partners. This includes a biking simulation, a futbol themed room with the ability to kick goals and sit on the team bench, and announcers. The tour concludes in the ideal fashion with the tasting room. Included in the admission are several sample tastes. I’ve concluded that Heineken fresh from the brewery is a much cleaner taste than what I’ve had here in the US. Plan to spend ~90 minutes to two hours at the Heineken Experience.
Red Light District in Amsterdam
My assumptions of the Red Light District were proven false with our self-guided walking tour. I expected the Red Light District to be debauchery, to various levels, 24-hours a day. That was definitely not the case. There was not much to see when we walked through, the window shows were closed, bar doors dark, clean up crews hard at work and only professionally dressed individuals walking the streets.
While I would not recommend spending the time to purposely walk through the Red Light District if you are only there during the day, I do recommend getting lost in the city. Amsterdam itself is beautiful, with the canals, architecture, small coffee shops, and lifestyle . The city is built for an active lifestyle with biking being one of the primary ways of transportation. Bikes are everywhere and unlike my experience with bicyclists in the US, the rules of the road are followed.
Amsterdam’s famous French Fries
How did I not know what french fries were a specialty in Amsterdam? The french fry is a completely different experience from the salty goodness of a thin McDonald’s fry. In Amsterdam, the fries come in a cone wrap and drenched with sauce on top. The sauce selections are endless, from basic mayonnaise to more elaborate tastes. I recommend getting a small fry, sharing with a travel partner and trying multiple sauces.
Iamsterdam.com has a great review page on the best fries in Amsterdam. We stopped at a place in the city center, which was great, but do your research to pick the perfect place along your journey.
Curate your own Amsterdam Experience
Traveling to explore cities across the ocean or even an hour from hour home is exciting. Each place as their own culture and travelers will visit for various reasons. With that in mind, curate your own experience. Before traveling, create an itinerary of must do items. For those most do items, secure tickets and any other logistics prior to your arrival. With any leftover time, get lost and explore. You will run across hidden gems when you allow time for exploration. I recommend planning only one-two must do’s in one day, depending on the time commitment and allow the rest of the day to explore. Talk to the locals, your cafe server, or your hotel clerk to find the places the locals love.
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