So Amsterdam, a European capital which welcomes around 7 million visitors a year, and which has so much to see and do … yet I turn up in the Dutch capital having planned almost zilch.  Well done me!  This is Amsterdam without a plan!

It’s very unlike me not to have a plan when travelling.  I realise that most other travel blogs you might read will implore you to take you time and travel slow, allow some time for unplanned activities n’all that jazz, but I’m just not cut from that cloth.  Knowing that I have only a certain amount of time to travel per year owing to my work commitments, I like to know I’m making as much as possible out of my annual leave.

Anyway, back to Amsterdam (without a plan), and a look at just how much you can get out of a weekend there, having made pretty much zero plans and simply setting out on foot each morning to explore.

Canals and Bicycles

Canals and Bicycles are Amsterdam’s bread and butter so to speak.  A day or more can easily be lost (not in a negative sense) spent simply cycling/wandering the canals of the city and taking in the oh so Instagram worthy architecture which lines the canal waters.

A trip on one of the cities many tourist boats is also worth the small fee of €10-15.  In return for your hard earned cash you can simply cruise the waters for over a hour and probably get some interesting and useful information from your guide along the way. This is a great way to get your bearings around which are the best parts of Amsterdam without a plan.

Should you be lucky enough to have blue skys and sunshine, just watch the colours of canal boats and buildings pop!

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Bicycle Goals!

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Food and Drink

You’re in Amsterdam without a plan, you’re Tired and have sore feet.  That calls for many many hot chocolate and pale ale breaks in my book.  Throw in a trip to one or two of the amazing little bakeries in and around the Jordaan district, and your taste buds along with your feet will thank you.

Such rest breaks were also good fun in terms of people watching, seeing how the locals on bikes dodge and/or berate tourists who are too busy taking photos to notice that they’ve wandered into one of the many many cycle lanes.

I was particularly taken with how cafe owners use the space outside of their establishments, to create cool and relaxing areas to enjoy your tipple of choice. This raised lounge type area in the photo below was definitely my favourite.

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Of the below, the banana and chocolate flavour was easily the best.

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… it’s midday somewhere right? Time for some IPA.

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History and Architeture

I’m not much of a history buff, but I do love watching grand designs and so have picked up the odd bit of info and knowledge around architecture … sort of.

The little I do know of construction and architecture is that you can do some incredible thing with very small spaces, and I am sure that the thinnest house in Amsterdam is just as stunning and beautify on the inside as it is on the outside.

Don’t know where the house is?  … Of course you don’t, you’re in Amsterdam without a plan.  Well, I would suggest joining a walking tour to combat your lack of plan.  Most tours will take you past this itsy-bitsy house.

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Now by not having a plan the weekend I visited Amsterdam, I totally ruled myself out of visiting the Anne Franke museum, the queues were HUGE!

Instead I settled for a walking tour run by our hostel, and took in Dam Square, Town Hall (1st photo), Westerkerk (2nd photo), the Royal Palace, Nieuwmarkt and The Oude Church in the red light district.

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Amsterdam Westerkerk

The place I found the most interesting though was the Bejinhofa beautiful courtyard and former convent that is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Tranquil and immaculately kept, this hidden gem which once housed Catholic sisters is still a residential area for single women today, and has a rather long (years rather than months) waiting list if you want to move in. 

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Sport

Forever a suffering football fan, while in Amsterdam and having found a flyer advertising a stadium tour, I thought I’d hop on the train and take said tour of a stadium which houses a slightly more decorated and successful team than my own – Ajax Amsterdam.

A fun and interesting tour, and probably the closest I’ll ever get to living out a childhood dream.

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Street Art

So all of the pieces of artwork I have photographed below are in addition to the amazing street art than can be found at the the NDSM in Noord.  The below can all be found in central Amsterdam, mostly in and around Spuistraat, an area of the city which housed a number of famous squats over the years.

Now Amsterdam and squatting have quite the history.  In the interest of not sending you to sleep, rather than delving into the intricate details, I’ll just give you this quick summary instead …

  • 1960-1980 – A lack of housing for young people see’s squatting become increasing popular
  • The rise of squatting see’s regular clashes between squatters and riot police.  These clashes eventually force change.
  • Squatting legalised in 1994 by Dutch government.  They rule that people are entitled to live in buildings if they had been empty for at least one year. The owner of the building could evict the squatters only in court and by good reason.  Why would a house be left empty for over a year?  Because it becomes easier for the landlord to be granted permission for demolition if the building has fallen into disrepair.  Once the old buildings were demolished, the landlord would then look to sell that plot of land. The rightful owner can start a civil procedure to have the squatters removed, but in order to do so he/she would have to prove plans to make use of the building within a reasonable amount of time.
  • 2010 and squatting is made illegal again.  Cue the renewal of clashes between young squatters and police.

The Snakehouse (below),was for a time one of the biggest and most successful squats in Amsterdam.  Easily identifiable by the rather large snake adorning all 5 stories of the buildings front, the Snakehouse was a creative workhouse.  Inhabitants were usually always artists, and as such regular exhibitions were held inside, along with the odd film night.  However, even last a good 5 years after squatting was made illegal again in 2010, March 2015 saw the end of the squat as inhabitants were summoned to leave by order of a bailiff. De Key, the owners of the building since 2008, had finally won in their battle to turn the building into a block of luxury flats.

For now you can still see the snake , but for how long I do not know.  If you’re still interested in Street Art though, there’s still plenty in and around Spuistraat, and if you’re interested in the squatting culture maybe give Joe’s Garage a look.  I didn’t have time personally, but plan to check it out on my next visit to Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam without a plan

So there you go, even with no plan, exploring Amsterdam and having an incredible time is not a problem, even when on a budget.  Granted there was plenty more I would have liked to have done during my time in the city (ain’t hindsight wonderful), such as the Anne Frank Museum, visiting Joe’s Garage, climbing the Westerkerk Tower and spending an afternoon in Vondelpark, but there’s always next time for those.

As a first attempt at Amsterdam, I think I did OK.

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sightseeing in Amsterdam without a plan