Amsterdam is one of the best cities to visit with a group of friends. Why? Because the city is as fun as it is weird and beside its quirks it’s also plain beautiful. No matter if you’re into partying or culture (or a mix of both), Amsterdam has something to offer for everyone.
I visited Amsterdam four times in total. Most of the trips were just short trips for work so I when I went there recently with a group of friends, I couldn’t wait to explore Amsterdam properly.
While a few of the places we went to were quite touristy, I still wholeheartedly recommend them. Just because you can learn so much about the city and its history by visiting certain museums or by having a walk through the town.
I also spoke to a few locals about their favorite secret spots in Amsterdam. Here is my little summary of the best things to in Amsterdam with a group of friends for a weekend.
Red light district
It goes without saying that the Red light district is one of the things that makes Amsterdam special. It’s only one of eight countries in Europe where Prostitution is legal. But it’s probably the only country where it’s so openly demonstrated- almost celebrated.
The Red light district wakes up as soon as the sun goes down and with it the shrill lights, nightclubs and sex theaters.
When walking through the district the glowing red window doors are hard to miss. It was a pretty odd experience seeing mostly naked ladies standing at the window doors, beaconing men (or women) to join them in their little rooms behind the curtains. Many of them seemed unfazed by the high number of tourists making their way through the narrow roads in between the red windows.
If you’re planning on taking pictures around the Red Light District make sure to never take photographs of the prostitutes in the windows. It’s not allowed and personally I also think it’s out of place.
Red light district museums
There are a few interesting museums located within the red light district. The Sex museum, Erotic museum and the Museum of prostitution or “Red Light Secrets”. I highly recommend the latter. The museum used to be a real brothel but was closed down due to the unsolved murder of one of its prostitutes, Annie Zentveld in 1956. Within the museum you’ll get to know more about how prostitutes live and work and the Red light district in general. All while listening to Inga and her secret story via recording.
There is a wall at the end of the museum, where people leave anonymous notes with their “dirtiest secrets”. This definitely makes for a fun read!
While, of course, the topic of prostitution is a serious one and everyone has to form their own opinion about the topic, the museum is informative and being the only museum in the world focused on prostitution it’s worth a visit.
Where? Red Light Secrets How much? 9£ entry price (can be cheaper if you buy it in a bundle with other museum or attraction tickets)
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60h, 1012 DP Amsterdam, Netherlands
Museums, Museum, Museums
Yes, more museum. I am not really a museum person although I think I am definitely drawn to more unconventional museums. And Amsterdam has tons of them! As already mentioned, the “Red Light Secrets” is worth a visit but what about the art lovers?
Obviously, the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam is home to some of the world’s most
famous Artists such Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Both have their own museums, located in Amsterdam which are worth a visit. There is also the most famous museum of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is dedicated to the history and arts of Amsterdam. No matter what Art museum you choose, make sure to buy tickets in advance. The queues, no matter the day or weather, can be really long. We went on a particular cold day in December and still queued for 40 minutes to get tickets for the Van Gogh museum as the online tickets for the day had sold out
Where? Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands How much? Around 20 Euro
Not into Art? No problem. As I mentioned before, unconventional museum are great and you can find them everywhere in Amsterdam.
Body Worlds for example. It is a traveling exposition of dissected human bodies. Body Worlds- The Happiness Project- can currently be found in Amsterdam. Seeing organs and bodies- stripped to their bare bones and flesh, while forever posed into lifelike positions, it’s something you don’t see every day.
I did find it a bit disturbing, it’s just very hard to imagine that the skinless body in front of you was once a living and breathing human, but nevertheless it is as fascinating as it is disturbing and definitely very educational.
Where? Body Worlds Amsterdam How much?
Damrak 66, 1012 LM Amsterdam, Netherlands
Then there is the hidden gem, Museum Vrolik.
Vrolik is located inside of of Amsterdams university hospital and has free entry. It’s basically just a room but has the largest collection of human deformations and anatomical abnormalities in the world.
You’ll see truly weird things there, not for the squeamish!
The museum is located a bit outside of town but can easily be reached by a short metro drive. The entry is also free! Worth it, in my opinion.
Where? Museum Vrolik How much? Free entry
Coffee Shops- Of course!
If you like smoking marijuana or enjoy space cakes or space cookies, a visit in a coffee shop is a must. Especially when visiting with friends it’s a fun thing to do. I rarely ever smoke so if you’re anything like me, you might want to try and wait with it until you have done everything you wanted to do for the day. Otherwise you might turn into a useless paranoid, giggling mess who really shouldn’t be around normal people. This might make you miss out on a whole day or evening of sightseeing…
Smoking Marijuana is obviously legal in Amsterdam. Like so many things there, it can be a weird experience. Walking through town while smoking a joint while the police just passes you by definitely feels a bit strange at first. Seeing people smoke it and catch that lingering scent of Marijuana in the air, more often than not, is just a common occurrence in Amsterdam.
If you don’t know anything about Coffee shops or the different kinds and strains of Marijuana it might be wise to properly educate yourself before buying the wrong weed at the wrong Coffee shop.
It’s not a bad idea to stick with the well-know brands such as Bulldog (which can be easily found in the Red Light District). Some other places that were recommended to me by locals were the GreenHouse and the Dolphins (with especially good cakes and muffins).
The coffee shops within the center of Amsterdam tend to be seriously busy, especially in later afternoons and evenings and more expensive than the ones outside the city.
In coffeeshops you can buy Marijuana as it is or already rolled in joints. It’s also sold in most souvenir shops and corner stores or markets around the city. What a great place!
Where? Bulldog How much? buy 4 rolled joints for 25 Euro
Pub Crawl through Amsterdam
Going out drinking might not be the cheapest thing to do in Amsterdam. But the city is full of weird, crazy, traditional and extravagant cafes/bars/ pubs that are worth exploring.
A good place to start the night is at a proeverijen which, roughly translated, stands for tasting houses. One of those is the well-known Wynand Fockink.
Apart from an interesting name, it also has great local Gins. The staff is super friendly and encourages you to try a little bit of whatever alcoholic beverage you want. They also have a few more unique drinks such as a Butterscotch chocolate drink.
If you’re a Gin lover or just fancy to try some new drinks Wynand Fockink is the place to go.
It’s not hard to find bars to continue your pub crawl.
Where? Wynand Fockink
Getto is a LGTB friendly (gay and lesbian) pub/bar, located right at the beginning of the Red Light District. Their burgers are really good and named after Drag Queens which sure is fun! The atmosphere is pretty relaxing and friendly. Definitely a good place for some good food while enjoying a bit of music and some delicious cocktails! Sometimes they even have life performances there.
Warmoesstraat 51, 1012 HW Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tripel is located a bit outside of Amsterdam’s center, but worth a short 10 minute walk. The pub reminds me of a mix between an old German bar and a Swiss apres ski hut. Tripel is also sisterbar to De Zotte, a well-known bar and tourist favorite and listed as one of the best bars in the world. It’s located in the Leidseplein district.
Compared to Da Zotte, Tripel seemed a bit more chill and relaxed. They also serve great pub food! We really enjoyed the Bitterballen there. Compared to a lot of other places we visited, the beer was slightly cheaper there and their beer selection was enormous.
Hit the sweet spot
Amsterdam is full of Bakeries, Sweets Shops and amazing cafes that sell gorgeous desserts. I just love to find cute, edgy cafes. It’s also always good to know where you can get the best coffee in town. During our three days trip we probably spend most of the time walking around and eating.
There are two Mook locations in Amsterdam. The one we went might have been the smaller one. Regardless the atmosphere was great and décor really clean and pretty.
Dubbed as one of the best pancake places in Amsterdam it is so worth checking out if you’re into sweet things. The do have a nice selection of different pancakes and actually it was there that I tried savory pancakes for the first time and boy were they good!
I actually preferred it over the sweet ones.
Also really cool: They do have fresh coconuts there. Fresh coconut water is definitely one of the things I miss the most after coming back from Brazil. It’s not often that you find them whole like that in Europe.
All in all a great place for a good breakfast.
The corner bakery seems to be a bit of an Instagram hit. I did find it through Instagram and all my friends where up to try the really- amazing looking freakshakes there!
The cafe is a bit outside of the center of Amsterdam but close to the Van Gogh museum area so if you’re in that area and in the mood for something sweet make sure to check it out!
I don’t think I have been to any other country where I had so much fun strolling through Souvenir Shops. Apart from lots and lots of Sex toys, Marijuana and smoking equipment, you can find a lot of really strange but fun things. One of the funny yet odd things were items that let you hide or stash your weed in, disguised as normal food containers or household equipment. The contraptions had clever little hiding spots build into them that weren’t visible or noticeable at all. One of the guys working in the store was more than happy to explain each clever hiding spot to us.
Just having a look around these shops makes for a good time. And hey, maybe you’ll even find a really cool souvenir to take home!