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An Insider's Guide on What to Do When Studying in Amsterdam

An Insider's Guide on What to Do When Studying in Amsterdam main image

Amsterdam: the city made popular for its liberal drug regulations, cheese, bikes and plethora of sightseeing spots. Whether you’re here for one day, week or year, Amsterdam seems to have a way of getting under people’s skin. With its crooked brick buildings along the canals, great parties, open-minded people and amazing parks, this city has a lot to offer for every taste.

Sights you need to see in Amsterdam

Admittedly, no one appreciates paying to wait in long queues or standing in crowded areas. However, there are a few occasions in Amsterdam when it’s arguably worth the effort. The first of these exceptions is a boat tour around the city’s canals. This is a great way to introduce yourself to Amsterdam and the quirky buildings hugging the surrounding water. Booking a boat ride in one of the many locations around the city means you’ll have an easy chance to meet new people, have a few drinks and avoid the crazy biking scene in Amsterdam for a few hours. An alternative for those seeking more adventurous activities is to rent a kayak or a pedal boat and be your own captain.

Other exceptions to the tourist rule are Anne Frank’s house, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Whether you are a self-proclaimed history enthusiast, have read the book, or have no knowledge on the topic at all, the Anne Frank house is a must-see for all. Situated in the center of Amsterdam, the transformed museum is understandably fully booked months in advance. So, to avoid the queues, it’s recommended to plan your trip wisely and with plenty of time to spare. For most museums you can book your tickets online which will save you a lot of energy.  

Authentic places for foodies

When in a new country, the stress of finding a place to eat can be pretty overwhelming, often landing you in an average or unauthentic bar that was picked in a panic. Amsterdam has plenty of must-visit restaurants though. The first must-see destination for food/drinks is De Pijp (pronounced as “the pipe”). It truly is one of the most vibrant and popular areas in Amsterdam, with a range of cuisines from across the globe. A visit to the popular Albert Cuypmarket is highly recommendable too, as here you will find a broad selection of international food stalls. You have probably heard or even tasted one of the popular stroop waffles (caramel syrup cookies) and at this market you can get them freshly made and warm, which makes a huge difference. De Pijp is home to many students and artists and is also referred to as the Quartier Latin, due to its multicultural environment.  

You should look out for Surinamese restaurants or bistros, such as Kam Yin – an Asian fusion restaurant – or taste the popular Surinamese sandwiches. Also, you should try some Dutch snacks, for example bitterballen (crunchy meatballs) or kibbeling (battered codfish), which you can purchase at every corner. Café Reuring is highly recommendable as it has really good reviews and a weekly change of menu. Perhaps you feel like startling your taste buds with the surprise menu? You won’t be disappointed here, promise. And if you’re having a hard time making up your mind on what to eat, check out Foodhallen, where you can choose from any kind of cuisine and hang out in an empty swimming pool with a cocktail.

Next thing to mention is The Avocado Show. Avocados, belonging to the trending group of super foods, are literally celebrated here: Whether it be a burger that comes with “buns” made with avocados, or a massive meal of nachos with guacamole, the meals in this restaurant are a work of art. The only downside is that, especially at the weekends, you can expect to wait quite some time to get a table as they don’t take reservations. Maybe try to plan that meal during the week instead or practice your patience.          

Now, if you wish to enjoy a few Heineken or Amstel beers with your friends, Hanneke’s Boom near central station is the place to be. If you’re blessed with some sunshine - even better. It’s located next to a canal and they have a big area outside with a view of the NEMO science museum. Another option that is not too far away is Café Hill Street Blues, which you’ll find near the red-light district. The décor is really cool, as the walls are covered with graffiti and stickers, giving it a unique look and vibe. Another really trendy place in Amsterdam North is Pllek, a beach bar with live music and a view of Amsterdam’s skyline. You can get here with a ferry from Central station and the ride is free of charge.

Fun activities to do in Amsterdam

Given you’re on a typical student budget, you’ll probably want some recommendations that don’t hurt your wallet. If you’re into cheese, go for a “cheese-shop-crawl”, where you can try different kinds of cheeses without paying for it. Most cheese shops in Amsterdam offer a lot of free samples. These shops are also great to buy presents and souvenirs for your friends.

Although it isn’t allowed to spray on most of the historic buildings in Amsterdam, there are still some areas with interesting street art, for example Spuistraat and in Jordaan. You can see these on one of the city’s free walking tours, which are tip-based and very interesting. Simply walking around with your eyes wide open can be very exciting in this creatively blooming city.  

Especially in summer, there are numerous free events in parks, such as the Vondelpark. Whether it be workshops, cabarets or music events - you don’t just go to a park for a picnic and drinks in Amsterdam. And, if you are willing to pay a little more, there are plenty of festivals for any type of music, for example Mysteryland or Appelsap Festival.

Although Amsterdam is a very touristic city and you might get run over by a biker one day, there are loads of things to do in a relaxed environment and you will soon feel like a local. The center is not very big, so you will quickly know your way around. Once you’re settled, you can begin to explore the rest of the Netherlands too. It’s easy to access the rest of the country by train and discover another part of this beautiful country.

Laura Kabelka works in Communication and Marketing at StudentJob AT.

Image credits: Lead image (Jorge Royan; Wikimedia Commons), Canals (Peter K Burian; Wikimedia Commons), Picnic benches (Jvhertum; Wikimedia Commons), Graffiti (Dominique Darcy; Flickr)

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