Budget Travel: 4 Days in Amsterdam


Day 1:  By Boat.

Amsterdam has a ring-like set up rather than a grid structure; as a tried and true NYC grid gal, trying to navigate was a major challenge for me upon arrival.  Luckily, we managed to find ourselves a guided boat tour which not only allowed us to experience Amsterdam by it’s famed canals, but also gave us some history, background, and a better understanding  of the cities’ layout.

Amsterdam, Crooked Houses

The boat tour was lovely.  For 18 euros each we had a semi private, two hour, guided, and narrated city tour by water.  Four couples and one guide in a small boat that fit through the all the canals (as opposed to the larger tour boats that are limited to the wider waterways), was the perfect introduction to the city.  We learned everything from the location of the top sites like Anne Frank’s home, to the cost of a house boat, to why so many of the homes along the canals are crooked and leaning forward.

In addition to our waterway adventure, we looked into the Amsterdam coffee shops, which were everywhere.  They were definitely more active than the ones we had seen in Groningen, but not the total tourist traps I feared (though I’m sure some are better than others).  Oh, but don’t order a coffee at the coffee shop.  I did and it cost something like 6 bucks US.  Big mistake.

Coffee Shop, Amsterdam


Day 2: By Foot.

I went out for a run along the canal near our hotel and found myself twenty minutes later in the heart of city center.  I decided to run towards the locations we had spotted the day earlier from the boat and found myself in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park.  Think a mini Central Park with loads of glorious tulips.

Oh the tulips.  They’re everywhere in Amsterdam and they are absolutely breathtaking.  We were there at the perfect time to enjoy them at their peak.  After a run around the park I decided to take the opportunity to walk around a bit more of downtown Amsterdam.  I found a juice bar and got myself a delicious veggie juice to sip on while I wove my way through the streets, stumbling upon shop after shop of tasty treats (lots of cheese samples) and designer clothing (which I managed to avoid).

Tulips, Amsterdam

Thankfully I brought some “just in case” cash on my run because after getting lost exploring the city streets I couldn’t find my way back, but I did get myself to a metro station which was just as good. 

Day 3: By Bike.

I couldn’t spend a full week in The Netherlands without a day on a bike.  I rented a bike from the hotel (not the cheapest option, but certainly the most convenient) and rode back into town, this time equipped with my camera.

Budget Travel: AmsterdamI decided to pick out one museum.  There are many to chose from, all of them reknowned and all of them expensive, but the real reason I stuck to one is that I’ve found I’m much more of an “explore the street life” kind of a person than a museum kind of a person.  Plus, we have so many world class exhibits coming through NYC all the time, all for just a suggested donation.

I chose the Rijkmuseum which showcases the work of many notable Dutch artists including works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.  While I enjoyed the obligatory dose of art and culture, I was happy to get back outside and soak in the sun flooding the massive park outside the museum and all those beautiful tulips!

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

I hopped back on my bike and rode into Dam Square, the location of the city hall and, that weekend, a massive carnival.  I parked my bike nearby and went for a little exploratory stroll, like I love to do.  And guess where I found myself?  The Red Light District.  I seem to have a knack for that.  Though the Red Light District in Amsterdam is so much of a tourist attraction that I wasn’t at all uncomfortable being on my own.  The streets are crowded with people of every age and gender, it’s like being in an outdoor novelty shop.    The ladies in the windows were the same as everywhere else- some engrossed in their phones, some primping, some looking for their next customer, others just bored.

Amsterdam, Food

On the other side of a Red Light District side street I came upon Nieuwmarket that had a full on farmers market with my favorite- pancakes!  They were delicious!  I plopped down in a sunny spot along the canal and enjoyed every bite.

After a few failed attempts, I managed to find my bike again and spent the rest of the day biking the side streets, noting the different kinds of homes, shops, people, foods, markets, culture, etc.

Day 4:  By Night.

On our last day, the boyfriend had the evening free, so we planned for dinner at a local Indonesian restaurant.  There is a heavy Indonesian influence in Amsterdam and we got a delicious taste of it at Kantjil and de Tiger.  Ps.  Be sure to make a reservation, this place is super popular (and it’s yummy).

After dinner we made our way to some bars downtown, walking along the canals, which, by that point in the evening were reflecting the lights from the buildings and bridges above.  The bars were fantastic, live music, relaxed atmosphere- I danced my way into morning to celebrate the end of a fabulous trip.

Budget Travel: Amsterdam

For previous “Eurotrip” entries be sure to check out…

Groningen, The Netherlands

Hamburg, Germany

How I Paid For My Last Vacation

How I Flew To Europe for $25

Thanks for reliving the adventure with me.  Back to reality in NYC (there are worse places 😉 ).


Have you been to Amsterdam?  What was the highlight of your trip?




34 responses to “Budget Travel: 4 Days in Amsterdam

  1. I’ve never been but really want to go. The canals are so pretty! I also love the bike culture there. Everyone rides from what I understand…even if bad weather. I think about how we (as Americans)…OK mine how lazy I can be when it comes to riding my bike.

    1. I kept thinking about what they do in winter. Amsterdam is definitely a four seasons city. I wonder if biking is as popular in the dead of winter as it is the rest of the year.

  2. I LOVE that you got to see the city by boat. I have never been to Amsterdam, but it was my favorite thing about Venice. It gives you such a different perspective. I have loved getting to travel to these places with you! Thank you for sharing your adventures!

  3. Where you in the Netherlands for Queen’s Day? It’s sometimes right around now and they go absolutely nuts that day. I remember I totally forgot about it when I was there 3 years ago got on the train to head into the city and it was a madhouse – Times Square during one of their ridiculous events level. And everyone was in orange. I felt like an idiot for forgetting since I’d been working for a Dutch cruise line for years, but we just decided to roll with it and enjoy the experience.

    I’m glad your trip turned out so awesome!

  4. Sounds like a great end to a fabulous trip, Stefanie. Such beautiful pictures and the tulips look amazing. I had to laugh because I do think you ended up in the red light district of every place you traveled. 🙂 And no, New York is not a bad place to return home to at all. 🙂

  5. I love the pictures of the tulips, so pretty! That is really funny you ended up in the red light district again. I’m more of a street person than a museum person as well, though I have to admit I would have been afraid of getting lost. I don’t do well with that! The canal tour sounds really nice, too. I’m glad you had such a great trip!

    1. I’ve spent so much time traveling on my own that I think I’ve gotten comfortable with getting lost. It’s only when I have to be back by a certain time and have no idea where I am that I get stressed. But everyone spoke English, so that was helpful.

  6. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. Whenever I go on a city break to Europe (I live in the UK so fortunately travel costs are much cheaper for me) the first thing I do is a boat trip along the river, I really think it is the best way to see the City andto get your bearings. In all the places I have visited the prices have been very reasonable. However, I have never been to the Dam, i really want to go 🙁

    1. I saw some guys from the UK while I was in Amsterdam, having a bachelor party. They said the flight was less than an hour. I’m so jealous that you’re so close to all those wonderful places!

  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Amsterdam. I’ve never been. If you want to see tulips again, come to Ottawa’s Canadian tulip festival. The tulip bulbs planted originate from a gift from Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. During WWII, Queen Juliana took refuge here with her two girls. (Actually Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa). To thank Canada for their hospitality and for their role in liberating Holland, she gave the City a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs. I can appreciate what you saw in Amsterdam by what we have here!

  8. I’d love to go there! I love tulips so I can imagine that they’re everywhere in Amsterdam… Awesome that the weather was nice when you’re there so you enjoyed the city to the fullest!

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