This weekend we are visiting Amsterdam – the biggest city in the Netherlands and of course also the capital. Amsterdam has a population of just over 800,000 people and attracts about 3.5 million visitors a year. From Schiphol airport, we took the train to Amsterdam Central station that is only a short walk from the iconic Dam Square. Dam Square was built about 750 years ago, and its purpose gave Amsterdam its name – a Dam, built around the River Amstel, to protect the city from the inland sea as the city is situated 2 metres below sea level.

Our morning was off to a slow start as we spent a few hours wandering through the streets of the city, looking for the perfect little Dutch café or restaurant. We ended up at “Hans en Grietjie”, a small corner cafe where Elaine found it fascinating to order breakfast in Afrikaans with a Dutch waiter who understands you perfectly. Yes, we know where Afrikaans comes from, but speaking Afrikaans in Europe just feels weird.

With 165 canals and around 1000 bridges, some Europeans often refers to Amsterdam as “the Venice of the north”, but we feel this description is not very accurate. The streets in Amsterdam are big enough to accommodate their traditional tram system, cars, vans and even small trucks, while Venice is much smaller, with a completely different setup.

After exploring the Royal Palace and Rijksmuseum, we did some people watching at their “I Amsterdam” sign before strolling through Vondelpark. Next up was the Anne Frank Museum, where we spent about 4-5 hours and this was the highlight of the day. Read more about our visit to Anne Frank.

When in Amsterdam, you also need to do a river boat cruise as this is the easiest way to see and explore the city. Most of their boats will include an audio guide to tell you about their history, architecture, landmarks and culture.

We ended our day with a visit to the Red Light District, an area that promotes the “Anything Goes” spirit. Read more about our visit to the Red Light District.

Amsterdam is a charming city with beautiful scenery and friendly people – we highly recommend it for anyone travelling through Europe.

Some photos of the day