The first time I went to Amsterdam I was 21. I had taken a class on the Reformation that spring semester and for the final our class was taking a two week trip around Europe.
Besides a week in the Bahamas, two years prior, I had never left the country. It never occurred to me, leading up to the trip to do any research about our destinations. As stupid as it sounds, it didn’t occur to me that I would get there and have no idea what to do. I guess I thought all of our time would be spent with tour guides or that they would tell me where to go with my free time.
We arrived, on the first day of the trip, in Amsterdam. We’d driven three hours to the airport and then flown through the night from Atlanta to London and then London to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
We had less than 36 hours in the city before we would head to Germany and I was completely overwhelmed. I now know those feelings were my jet lag mixed with intimidation from the professor’s stern warning not to mess with any of the legalized drugs (even though I wasn’t interested in that to begin with) combined with the intense culture shock brought on by a walking tour that centered around the Red Light District.
But at the time all I knew was that I knew nothing. I didn’t know what I was supposed to eat here. I didn’t know what I was supposed to see. I didn’t know why I should care about Amsterdam. (Anyone starting to wonder if that class was a joke? Yeah, me too!)
I walked around and looked at the canals. I bought a hot dog from a street vendor and sat on a bench watching people. I went to the Rijksmuseum with some classmates and afterwards, with about an hour before we were supposed to meet our bus, someone mentioned the Anne Frank house. I had absolutely zero idea that this is where the Anne Frank house was located. Finally here was something I would have liked to have seen and there was no time remaining.
Ten years later I returned to Amsterdam for a long weekend but this time I was prepared. I had done my research, read up on things to do, familiarized myself with the history, and asked other people for their suggestions.
This time I knew to book my tickets for the Anne Frank House in advance. This time I knew that Amsterdam is the tulip capital of the world and made plans to bike through the countryside to see the tulip fields. This time I knew that the Red Light District is the tourist heavy part of town and to steer clear. This time I had a plan.
Having a better understanding of the city and its history, along with a loose plan, allowed me to truly immerse myself in the city of Amsterdam and fall in love with it.
To help you in planning your future trips to Amsterdam, I have created this map with some of my favorite spots from the trip.