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With storybook buildings that lean out over winding canals, bicycles and Vespas flying around every corner, and great boutiques for browsing and cafes for lounging, Amsterdam is a wonderful European destination. It’s easily navigable on foot or by the extensive public transportation system, there’s lots to do and see, and most people speak English as well as Americans do. But planning a trip to Amsterdam begs the question: Where to start? With so much to do and see in a city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are eight ways to get the most out of a trip to Amsterdam.

Walk or cycle the Seven Bridges area: More than half the fun of Amsterdam, for me at least, is wandering around the cobbled streets and ogling the distinct buildings. The Seven Bridges area is a great place to start your architectural wanderings.

Order the Old Cheese: Many restaurant menus in Amsterdam are translated into English and Dutch, and sometimes the translations aren’t entirely appetizing. Old cheese? More like aged cheese, and always delicious.

Cruise the Canals: You can gain a whole new perspective on the city by dipping just below street level for a canal cruise. Instead of a walking tour, book an hour-long canal boat ride to see the sights and attractions of the city.

Noordmarkt and Dutch Apple Pie: Noordmarkt is a farmer’s and flea market in the Jordaan district that’s a treasure trove of vintage finds. It takes place on Mondays and Saturdays in a square lined with restaurants and cafes. For a break from shopping, stop into Winkel 43 for deep dish Dutch apple pie with cream. You won’t regret it.

Coffee in de Pijp: Amsterdam is rife with coffee shops (that serve real coffee, in addition to those that cater to other vices), but Coffee and Coconuts in the de Pijp neighborhood is worth a visit. Fully caffeinated, walk the hip neighborhood streets and enjoy the local street markets.

Rejksmuseum and the IAmsterdam sign: Amsterdam’s most famous museum is also home to the city’s most photographed sign – the iAmsterdam sign. Both will likely be crowded, so go early and book tickets to the museum online if you can.

The Anne Frank House and the Tower of Westerkerk: If you happen to visit the Anne Frank House during a busy time, when the line can wrap around the corner, you can wait for the crowds to dissipate while you climb the Tower of Weterkerk just next door. Built in 1620 as a Dutch Protestant church, you can now climb the tower (the last wooden ladder to the top isn’t for the faint of heart!) and look out over the city.

King’s Day Celebrations: Now that Holland’s queen has been succeeded by her son, the nation celebrates King’s Day on the king’s birthday, April 27th. The city shuts down public transportation and fills the streets with concerts, entertainment, food stalls and general merriment. Look for the parades of canal boats cruising around decked in orange. The crowds aren’t for visitors with a hint of claustrophobia, but if you’re up for a giant city-wide festival, King’s Day is your jam. Just don’t forget to pack all your orange clothing!

Emily Westbrooks

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