What do you first think of when you think of Amsterdam? For a lot of Americans at least, people associate the city with legalized marijuana (actually this isn’t even true) and the red-light district. In fact, according to Lonely Planet, recent polls have shown that only 7% of the Dutch people actually use pot and only 5% of customers frequenting the red-light district are Dutch. So, when I decided to take my first solo trip to this city, I wasn’t really sure what my experience as a female traveling alone would be. The short of it: 1. I was pleasantly surprised, and 2. I wanted more time.
So, when I decided to take my first solo trip to this city, I wasn’t really sure what my experience as a female traveling alone would be. The short of it: 1. I was pleasantly surprised, and 2. I wanted more time.
WHERE TO STAY
My first task as a solo female traveler was finding a safe, clean, well-located yet affordable place to stay. And let me tell you, that last part wasn’t easy. Hotels in Amsterdam are generally expensive and during this time of year even more so. Even so, I was able to book a room at Hotel Adolesce for 100 euros/night. I had a bit of a mishap with my dates and ended up booking the wrong night (LOL), but the owner was so kind in letting me switch and giving me an even larger room with a canal view. I liked how the hotel was a bit out of the crazy tourist zone so I could come back to a quiet and calm location after sightseeing, but yet was within a 20 minute walk to all the major sights. I would 100% stay here again and would recommend it as an affordable option in Amsterdam for solo, couple or friends traveling.
WHAT TO DO
When visiting a new city, I like to spend some time just walking around and getting a feel for the energy and culture. Actually, I walked an average of 10 miles per day on the two days I was there! Here are some of the highlights:
Van Gogh Museum
This was my #1 priority for my Amsterdam visit and it did not disappoint. Make sure to pre-book your tickets here as soon as you know you are going to Amsterdam because it will sell out. I booked my tickets about a month in advance. This is also true for the Anne Frank House (see below), which unfortunately I didn’t realize and the tickets for the dates for my visit were sold out. If you love Van Gogh’s art and are interested in his life, I would definitely recommend making this a priority. I also recommend getting the audio guide for 5 Euros more as it gives you so much more background into Van Gogh’s works and life.
Moco Museum – Banksy Exhibit
I hadn’t planned on visiting this museum, because I didn’t know about it before my trip, but I’m so glad I decided to stop by. You really only need an hour or less and if you’re interested in Banksy’s art and street art in general, it’s a nice way to spend a little time. Also it stays open late: 7pm during the week and 8pm on Friday and Saturday. The Banksy Exhibit runs through September 2019 and you can pre-order your tickets online for a discount here.
This is kind of a no-brainer. If you want to see a good portion of the city while learning about the history and architecture, a Canal Tour is really the best way to do it. There are several companies that offer them, and I chose to use Lovers Canal Cruise for no reason other than I found them first. Most tours originate near Centraal Station, and you can buy tickets there or at one of several tourist offices. Pre-booking didn’t seem to be necessary, I bought a ticket the day of for a boat leaving 1/2 hour from my time of purchase.
I loved this neighborhood! Beautiful Canals, cute shops and quaint streets – this area was my favorite part of Amsterdam. I’ve linked shop and food/bar info below.
Floating Flower Market
Touristy? Yes. But it’s fun to walk through and a nice spot to buy souvenirs, from tulip bulbs, to off brand Delftware and everything in between. Make it the last stop of your daily exploring and stock up on goodies for yourself and your people back home – just make sure you get there before it closes at 5:30pm. Find more info here.
Red Light District
Yes – I was curious. So I decided to walk around the RLD and check it out. I was a little worried to go at night, but honestly I had no need to be worried. I went around 9pm and it was super crowded – men, women, families, groups of tourists…I felt perfectly safe. And it was indeed something to see, but I only needed 15 minutes or so. If I were to go again I would have visited the Museum of Prostitution for background and context. As a solo female, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay too late because I imagine it only gets rowdier.
If I would have had more time I would have visited more museums, particularly the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House. I think in nice weather it would be nice to take a chill day and hang out in the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest green space. Next time!
EATING AND DRINKING
It’s funny, as a solo traveler I found that eating in a restaurant wasn’t a priority for me. My days consisted of walking around till I got hungry and then grabbing something on the go, because for some reason a high-end or atmospheric dining situation is much more enjoyable with another person. I joked that my “Amsterdam Diet” was walking 10 miles, stroopwafels for breakfast and vlaamse frites for dinner. That said, I did eat well, including a nice sit down lunch on a canal that I treated myself to (solo travel tip: when dining alone it’s fun to set yourself up at a place where you can people watch).
Broodje Bert | Singel 321HS, 1012 WK Amsterdam, Netherlands
Great place to grab a healthy lunch adjecent to the Jordaan. If you can and the weather permits, grab one of their canal side tables and enjoy the people watching. The burger is famous here but they also have other choices, including vegetarian options. Also very affordable!
Polaberry | Prinsengracht 232 H, 1016 HE Amsterdam, Netherlands
After following this place on Instagram, it was at the top of my lists of spots to see. Adorable little shop owned by blogger Polina Burashnikova with handmade chocolate covered berries as well as cake pops and other goodies. There are also an assortment of girly Amsterdam themed souvenirs and stationary at the store for unique gifts for yourself or others.
Bar Parry | Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat 15, 1107 SN Amsterdam, Netherlands
This cute little wine bar in Jordaan was recommended to me by a friend. When I got caught in a downpour, it was the perfect spot to hide out and enjoy a glass or 2 of wine. Very quaint and solo traveler friendly!
Van Wonderens Stroopwafels | Kalverstraat 190, 1012 XH Amsterdam, Netherlands
Another instagram find! If you’re going to try fresh stroopwafels, why not make sure it’s the prettiest stroopwafel in the city? And it was also tasty – the perfect way to start a day of sightseeing.
Vlaamse Fries | Literally Anywhere, Amsterdam
Hot Fries, served in a cone and slathered in sauce were my dinner of choice after walking 10 miles a day in Amsterdam. You can find these fry shops all over the city, but here’s a guide put out by iAmsterdam if you need some recommendations. It’s a must try food if you’re visiting the city.
Kunstboer | Prinsengracht 270, 1016 HH AMSTERDAM
Unique accessories for children and adults – glittery unicorns and cute animal theme is king here. You can also customize your own apparel and accessories with their unique patches. Such a cute shop!
Locals | Spuistraat 272, 1012 VW Amsterdam, Netherlands
Loved the selection of stationary, apparel & accessories by (you guessed it) local Dutch artists.
It’s a Present! | Gasthuismolensteeg 4, 1016 AN Amsterdam, Netherlands
Another fun assortment of gifts for all ages, many with a Dutch theme. I bought the cutest little notebook here by the company Orange Panda.
I absolutely loved it. I would come back as a solo traveler, with my husband, with friends or with kids (some day!), and I really hope to make another trip here soon.