How to Amsterdam: Minimalist and on a Budget

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

The dark and dreary days of winter have been getting to me and I had been craving a bit of an escape. It was to no surprise that when one of my friends in my teaching program asked if I wanted to go to Amsterdam in 2 weeks I jumped at the possibility to escape from the march madness that is the weather here. Some days its cold, some days it seems like nearly spring, sometimes there is ridiculous precipitation (both snow and rain). I was ready. At least in Amsterdam, the weather should be consistent? Everyone told me it’s cold and rainy! Or so I thought. We got completely lucky going in March from the 9th until the 12th. The weather during the day wasn’t too cold and it did not rain as much as we expected.

I always try to pack as minimalist as possible. This means to pack only the essentials and travel light. I always preach that this is the right way to travel but I honestly struggle when I want to look cute as well! I managed to pack for 4 days and 3 nights in a small backpack (one of those scansmart ones from SwissGear). Here’s how I do it:

  • Ok, usually I would wear jeans since this is the heaviest and bulkiest material but on this day I chose a pair of cute detailed black leggings.

  • My heaviest sweater I plan to bring

  • Coat, scarf, and hat with gloves in my pockets

  • Adidas + ankle socks

  • Accessories: watch, bracelet, earrings, necklack, ring, etc.

  • bra, underwear, tanktop/cami                                                                                               

  • Jeans

  • sweaters (thin but warm)

  • Culottes (I chose a pair of flowy yet elegant pair of pants to bring because they’re light and easy to pack and can instantly make my outfit more interesting and fashionable)

  • Fleece Leggings or Thermal Tights/Collant

  • 4 pairs of underwear & 4 pairs of socks

I packed this way because of the space that I had, but in reality, I could have packed one less sweater and even fewer socks or underwear if I was going on a longer trip. I usually pack a detergent bar to wash my clothes when I travel! I also packed my usual toiletries, makeup, and my camera (which was where all of my weight came from).

I had lessons this day, hence why I chose the nicer pair of leggings rather than the jeans for school (not that wearing jeans has ever stopped me from teaching English, I just felt like looking nice that day). We flew out of Milano Malpensa with EasyJet and checked in to our hostel at the Meininger Hotel. We had a VERY difficult time choosing the right hostel, not to mention we booked our hostel about a week before we were leaving. Many people had assured us that Amsterdam was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe but with some of the worst hostels. They were right, but the Meininger was a perfect choice. For about the same price as being in the center hostels that were rated more poorly we had a clean and comfortable hostel just outside of the city center. We were near the Sloterdijk station and purchased a 3-day transportation pass that included the trains. For me, this was a MUST. We used it to go everywhere and it was helpful to just take a tram or a bus for when we were running a little bit behind. Traveler Tip: I recommend to the new traveler to download City Mapper to help navigate you throughout the cities however Google Maps also works well.

I am the type of person who needs coffee every morning, and being in Italy for so long has made me quite picky about the coffee I drink. (Oh yes, Starbucks…I saw you just outside of the train station, but I wasn’t going to give in to your overpriced coffee). As we walked along the main street from the station we were amazed at all of the tiny houses along the canals. And in an attempt to find coffee we had to be careful not to confuse the “Coffeeshops” with a place to get a decent brew. (Amsterdam Tip: Coffeeshops sell Marijuana, Caffe’s sell Coffee!) We found a place called Croissanterie de oude Brug. This was along one of the side streets and in fact was across from a coffeeshop, how confusing! The people who worked there were very sweet and my cappuccino came with a tiny stroopwafel (I’ll discuss more about these below). Here is where we learned a little bit of Dutch. Thank you in Dutch is “dank u wel” (dank-yoo-velt).

After our quick breakfast, we made our way to the Rijksmuseum (ricks). This was expensive, as many of the museums here are but if you like art, it is worth it. If you want to skip the Rijksmuseum you can enjoy your time in the nearby park and take pictures in front of the Iamsterdam sign. For lunch, we went to a place my host sister recommended called Jacketz. This is a place where you select a baked potato and all of the stuff that goes in it, it was amazing. (They have veg options here too!) I paired my potato with one of their local beers on tap which was the Texels Skummkoppe and it was really good.

The A’Dam Tower was next which is located across the canal so you have to take a ferry to get you there, but it’s free! The tower is expensive but again it was worth it. We did the premium ticket with a discounted canal cruise because we knew we wanted to do that. We also paid an extra 5 euro to go on the tallest swing in Europe at the top of the tower. (In total for these 3 attractions we paid 27euro). If you go up the tower around 5pm you’ll notice it turns into a hot spot for happy hour, however you can only buy snacks and drinks with tokens. It was 14euros for 4 tokens, each Heineken was 1 token and the food was 2. This was definitely a cool experience and I’m glad we did it.

Being Americans living in Italy, we were craving some burgers for dinner and we found a place called Charlie’s Kitchen. It was not so expensive and it certainly hit the spot for our cravings!

At night we walked around The Red Light District and got some drinks somewhere nearby.

We had early tickets to the Van Gogh Museum, and I recommend you buy these tickets in advance! We spent the morning trying to find a place for pancakes and had no luck so we stopped for a croissant and cappuccino at Le Pain Quotidian. The Van Gogh Museum was truly a moving experience and I found myself in tears toward the end. Take your time here, there’s a lot to learn and see.

Then we had lunch at Luciën’s Pancakes!!! They were just what we needed and were so good. Not only do they have your classic sweet pancakes but also savory, and something I haven’t seen in months – MILKSHAKES. We didn’t get them but ok I was happily surprised to see that on the menu.

After our pancake lunch, we made our way to the Eye Film Museum which was near the A’Dam Tower. For 10euro we got entrance to the museum and a special exhibition by Jesper Just. Honestly, this was one of the best museums I have ever been to. (I am also completely fascinated by the art of film – in a way that might be different than your typical film aficionado).

For dinner, we ate at Restaurant Grand Café De Kroonprins. This was not quite what we were looking for and may have been a bit touristy but we were able to get some Dutch Specials and Dutch beer for a cheap price. The food was good and I can’t complain about it.

We checked out of our hostel and went back to the Iamsterdam sign to take our tourist pictures which is near the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums. Near here is a small vendor that sells Stroop Waffles, this is an amazing little dessert of two really flight waffles stuck together with a caramel sauce, definitely worth the try but I would recommend The Orginal Stroopwafle that we found later that day at the Albert Cuyp Market. We made our way to the Amsterdam Centraal station by tram and headed home.

Amsterdam was always a place on my list (and not for the reason most people go there for). We had such a comfortable and beautiful time and really got lucky with the weather. If I were to do this trip again I would make space for a day trip to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills and the tulips. Recommended time is April! If you have any questions about Amsterdam feel free to leave a comment or contact me here

In summary here are my recommendations:

  • Rijksmuseum

  • A’Dam Tower + Swing

  • 1 Hour Canal Cruise

  • Anne Frank House (We did not go, buy tickets in advance)

  • Van Gogh Museum (Buy tickets in advance)

  • Eye Film Museum

  • Albert Cuyp Market

I hope you enjoy your time in Amsterdam!

The Localist Abroad
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© Ashley Nicole Weimar.