Amsterdam has never been on the top of my must-visit list. Why not? I’m not much of a partier, I don’t really smoke weed, and I have no interest in seeing prostitutes. I felt like I was too mature and, well, for lack of a better term, a “prude” to be a real “Amsterdam tourist.”
My first visit to Amsterdam was pure coincidence. A stolen passport in Barcelona forced me to book a new flight home on short notice. At the time, the cheapest nonstop flight back to the states was from Amsterdam, so I flew from Barcelona to Amsterdam, and two days later I caught a flight home. So, with no time to plan, I found myself wandering through a foreign city that is famous for its wild and wicked reputation.
I quickly learned that there is a lot more to Amsterdam than I ever thought! It turns out you don’t have to visit coffeeshops (written as one word to identify pot shops) or the Red Light District to appreciate this beautiful city. In this article, I’ll list some of Amsterdam’s tamer attractions in case you are interested in visiting the city, but you don’t want to go clubbing, smoke marijuana, or see naked ladies.
5 Things to Do in Amsterdam While Sober
1). Take a Canal Cruise
Did you know the city of Amsterdam is built on stilts and piles? In fact, the majority of the city is actually below sea level and might disappear soon if sea levels rise! I learned this, and more, on an impromptu canal cruise. You’ll find dozens of places to jump on a boat along the canal’s outside of Anne Frank’s house. Prices vary, but you don’t necessarily need to book ahead unless you’re picky about your boat.
2). Take a Tour of Anne Frank’s House
Amsterdam is home to many museums, but Anne Frank’s House is the most popular. If you’re going to visit one museum on your short trip, this is probably the one you want to see. For this attraction, I suggest booking ahead and going early in the morning. Crowds start to form right when the doors open.
3). Ride a Bike
Travel by water is not the only thing Amsterdam has mastered, the city has also embraced cycling and taken it to a new level. Bikers have separate lanes, street lights, and crosswalks. As a pedestrian, you can even feel a little overwhelmed by all the cyclists. So, if you can’t beat them… why not join them? Rent a bike and ride around like a local! Make sure to snap a photo of the hundreds (thousands?) of bikes locked up at Grand Central Station. It’s a hoot!
4). Eat at FoodHallen
Are you short on time, but you’d like to try a variety of Dutch (and other) foods? FoodHallen is a bustling food court that serves delicious small plates from a variety of vendors from around the world. Make sure to try Bitterballen at BallenBar! Not to be missed! They also serve beer, wine, and cocktails if you do want a drink (I won’t judge, even though you asked for sober vacation tips).
5). Wander Through the Jordaan District
The Jordaan is a popular district where hip locals have flocked to in recent years. Stroll through the streets, shop at boutique stores, small eateries, as well as Brown Cafes – small Dutch pubs with wood paneled interiors. I also suggest booking your accommodations in this area too, as it’s close to all of the above on this list, and it’s quiet and beautiful.