We spent 7 fun filled days in Amsterdam, the city of canals and charm, despite the cold weather and rain. Each of our experiences offered a slightly different slice of what Amsterdam has to offer, from its quaint historical marvels to modern, offbeat attractions and culinary delights. There is enough to do in Amsterdam for a few full days, and if you add the side trips, it will make for a memorable vacation.

Amsterdam is very walkable, and most places you’ll want to visit are relatively close together. Of course, watch out for the bicycles. They are EVERYWHERE and have a right a way! We also widely used the tram system and there are daily transportation passes available from 1 to 7 days.

Day 1: Albert Cuyp market, Art and Jazz

We touched down in Amsterdam bright and early, and after a refreshing nap to shake off the travel vibes, we hit the streets hungry for lunch. By happenstance, we ended up at Albert Cuyp, an open-air market with an array of food, souvenirs, flowers, cheese, and basically everything in between. While Chris and I were all about diving into the street food scene, our kiddos insisted on a sit-down restaurant experience.

Veering off into a charming side street, we stumbled upon De Duvel, a cozy restaurant serving up lunch. It has a pleasing menu, offering everything from meat to veggie dishes. Satisfied and content, we meandered through the Oud Pijip neighborhood, soaking in the local vibes. As the clock ticked towards 4:30, the market began to wind-down, and walking back to the hotel, we found ourselves on Kalverstraat street – a shopping haven boasting global giants like Zara, H&M, Nike, and the like. Kids loaded up on candy, and with our first taste of freshly made stroopwafles (side note: no need to brave the epic line at the Insta-famous Van Wonderen; Van Holland next door is just as cute and tasty, minus the wait)

By the time we got back to our hotel, the evening had settled in. With pre-booked tickets to a sold-out Vermeer exhibit at 9:15 pm, we quickly recharged before hopping into an Uber for a cultural rendezvous at the Rijks Museum. The night didn’t wind down just yet. In Amsterdam, the drinking age is 18, so after soaking in Vermeer, we wandered over to Bourbon Street Jazz Cafe and Jazz cafe Alto for some live music. It turned out to be a wonderful night, wrapping up our first day in Amsterdam with a perfect harmony of culture and jazz-infused fun

Albert Cuyp Market

Day 2: Anne Frank’s Museum, Negen Straatjes,  and Beer Exploration

Our day in Amsterdam began with a visit to the Anne Frank House and Museum, an essential and deeply moving experience. The solemn history of the place and walking through the secret annex where Anne and her family hid during World War II, was a profound reminder of the past.
After our visit, and despite the cold drizzle that accompanied the morning, we meandered through the charming Negen Straatjes, or Nine Streets, nestled within the city’s iconic canal belt. The area’s intertwining streets is famous for an eclectic mix of boutique stores, cozy cafes, and artisanal shops, making it the perfect locale to while away the hours. We did some window shopping, occasionally ducking into quaint shops. 
The city is magical. Embracing the essence of being tourists, we savored the lack of a set schedule, allowing Amsterdam’s charm to guide our day.
As the afternoon unfolded, the gentlemen of our group sought refuge from shopping at the Brouwerij ‘Tij Brewery to enjoy the local brews unique to this Amsterdam staple, known for its craft beers and laid-back ambiance.
This was the day of leisurely exploration and appreciation of multifaceted allure of Amsterdam.

Day 3: Van Gogh, Boat Ride, and Foodie Havens

Van Gogh museum definitely stole the morning spotlight. It is a phenomenal place, dedicated to the artist’s world, housing the largest collection of his work, spanning 3 floors. Definitely plan on spending a few hours there. An optional self guided tour is recommended, and proved to be helpful and informative even if you are already well familiar with Van Gogh paintings.
After the museum, we took a short walk to Lavania cafe for lunch, a popular spot with the locals. With bellies full and feet rested, we made our way (by happenstance, passing through the Red Light District) to the meeting spot for the canal boat tour with Those Dam Guys. A guaranteed fun and one of the “must dos” in Amsterdam. The tour is on a cozy boat, and the guides are pretty laid back, fun and informative. You can bring your own nibbles and drinks, ask as many questions as you like, and enjoy the sailing. When we mentioned that we wanted to try a Dutch Apple pie, our boat captain recommended Cafe Papeneiland, which turned out to be a great historic bar-cafe, overlooking two canals, warm and cozy inside, and most importantly, with huge servings!
As the evening was approaching, and we didn’t have any advance dinner reservations, we went to a Foodhallen, a large indoor food market, located in the converted tram depot. With 21 food stalls serving a variety of international cuisine, we grabbed drinks, ordered a few plates, and after a bit of a wait, finally snagged a few seats at one of the communal tables.

Day 4: Zaans Schans and Chocolate Dreams

It was a day of Dutch delights and drizzles, of chocolate dreams and city schemes. But as they say in Amsterdam, a little rain never hurt anyone – especially when there’s chocolate involved! We started the morning with scrumptious breakfast at the Carrousel pancake house.  Fueled and ready to go! A quick 20 minutes train ride took us to Zaance Schance, an open-air museum and village.  Known for its well-preserved historic windmills and picturesque houses, Zaanse Schans offers a quintessential Dutch experience. Visitors to the area can explore a slice of the 18th and 19th centuries with authentic wooden houses and artisanal workshops.  It’s a living, working community where traditional Dutch crafts like cheese making and clog carving are still practiced.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we cut our visit short, and went to find a sit down lunch place. We grabbed a quick lunch, hopped into an Uber to Zaandam for a stroll down its main street, and we were soon on an Amsterdam-bound train.
Back in the heart of the city,  we walked to Tony’s Chocolonely store, one my kids’ favorite chocolate brands. You can make custom chocolate bars, and while our sweet creations took form, we strolled to Dam Square, the historical center of the city and a tourist hustle. A few notable buildings surround the square – the Royal Palace, the National Monument, Madame Tussauds Amsterdam, and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).  I got my shopping therapy at a gigantic two-level TJ Maxx, while Chris took the kids to get some ice cream. That night, we  had dinner reservations at Café-Restaurant. It had a good variety of dishes at reasonable prices and clean industrial design vibe inside.

Day 5: Tea house, De Poezenboot, Upside Down museum

Amsterdam, with its picturesque canals and rich history, offers a wide array of unique experiences, such as “The Smallest House in Amsterdam” located at Oude Hoogstraat 22. This tiny house, measuring only 2.02 meters wide and 5 meters deep, is a charming tea room and shop. The Salon de Thé inside offers 2 upstairs rooms where you can enjoy a selection of fine teas and pastries. The space is very limited, and advance reservations are necessary. 
After sampling some teas, we rushed to our next reservation at the Depoezenboot, or ‘Catboat’,  a feline shelter boat, where visitors get a chance to play with its residents.  I really liked the concept, and the admission price helps with the care for the animals. Reservations are required, though there were a few walk ins as well. 
In the afternoon, we took a bus to the Upside Down Museum. The museum offer a fun and interactive way to experience illusions, with rooms designed to challenge your perception and provide quirky photo opportunities.

After the museum, we came back to the center and decided to check out more trendy, indie boutiques around the De Pijp neighborhood.  

For dinner, we went to Sotto Pizza, an authentic Italian pizzeria serving wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, following the traditional methods of pizza making, using a wood-fired oven and high-quality ingredients imported from Italy.A great spot for casual dining, full of locals, and with a menu that’s sure to satisfy a pizza lover.

Upside down Museum
De Peozenboot residents

Day 6: Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, Haarlem

No Amsterdam adventure is fully complete without a trip to the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens! Since there is no direct train from Amsterdam, we opted for the 45-minute Uber ride. We were dropped off right at the entrance, ready to tiptoe through the tulips.

The tulips were still in their early blooming stage and it was a bit of a garden in the making. Yet, I can only imagine how beautiful the gardens would unfold in the weeks to come. It was like catching a sneak peek before tulips fully blossomed and the crowds stormed the park!

Afterwards, we headed for Haarlem, a town dripping in history with old cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, cafes, and art galleries. The town square, crowned by St. Bravo’s Church, played backdrop to our late lunch at a nearby restaurant. Many eateries weren’t open until dinner, so it took us a while to find a place to sit down. We took a quick train ride back to Amsterdam, and a leisurely walk to our hotel to relax before dinner.

Dinner was a return to the 9 straatjes, and we hit the fondue jackpot at Restaurant Smelt. Imagine the most delicious fondue in a warm and cozy setting! Another epic day – tulips, historic towns, and a fondue finale.

Day 7: Day trip to Antwerp

After an instagram worthy pancake breakfast at the Breakfast Club and a comical attempt at boarding the right tram (spoiler alert: we didn’t make it), we eventually triumphed and landed at the central train station. Fashionably late, of course.

With no set plans, we scanned the train tables for times and ticket prices, and decided on Antwerp, a mere 1.5-hour ride away from Amsterdam.

We strolled through the heart of the town, soaking in the sights and savoring the charm of Antwerp.

Belgium welcomed us with sunny weather, and more importantly, with Belgian chocolate. Girls indulged in Belgian waffles for lunch, while we went for seafood extravaganza at Fish a’Gogo featuring mussels and other aquatic wonders.