When in Amsterdam: A Day in the Life of a 20-Year-Old


Maybe it’s the old age of 20 confronting us, or the second-year stress already getting to us just 7 weeks into the school year, but my friends and I found ourselves being bored with our chosen city of residence. Despite our love for Amsterdam (evident in all of our choices to uproot from our home countries to move here), we feel like we’re running out of places to go.

In our freshman year, being easily-impressed 18 and 19-year-olds, we were stunned by everything in Amsterdam. From the openness of marijuana at every corner to the ladies behind the red-hued windows luring our friends in on their birthdays, Amsterdam was filled with surprises. Not one day could be the same. However, when you walk on the same streets every day and can get from one end of the city to the other in just 30 minutes, you begin growing tired of the scenes around you.

Even though we spent our first year going through different TripAdvisor lists, bumping heads most of the time, we eventually found places we really loved and found endlessly exciting. 

In the end, we always found ourselves somehow hanging out at the same places. The places that fit our current pace of life more than the shells of our eager freshman selves. This is where we’ll spend our twenties.

 1. Bagels and Beans

Bagels and Beans is one of my most dooming guilty pleasures. I pass by it on my way to school every day, and it is so easy to give in to the temptation. More often than not, I find myself waltzing into my 11 am seminar class with a fresh sourdough bagel.

With multiple locations around the city, Bagels and Beans is a go-to choice when we cannot settle on a place to eat, with a wide selection of bagels and drinks to wash it down with, all at an affordable price point. My favorite Bagels and Beans location has to be its Waterlooplein location, where I can always find a seat there and be out in no time. While I always order a BLT bagel to really fill up, my friends like it to keep it simple with a cream cheese bagel.


2. Amsterdam University Library

    For most of us in our 20s, our biggest goal in life is to graduate on time to avoid staggering student loan debt. My bachelor’s degree is designed as a three-year program, rather than the traditional four-year structure, which means the workload on us is significantly larger. To avoid any distractions at home from our tempting free Disney+ subscriptions to God weet what is happening outside during football game season, I burrow into the Amsterdam University Library.

    If I ever go missing, you’ll probably find me cocooning in the library’s study carrels, perfectly sized for one (or two, if you won’t be distracted by your friends’ antics). It is a great space for pre-exam cramming when you don’t want to be disturbed by anything; due to its secluded nature, it’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re in the room.


    3. Waterlooplein Market

    My classes are located a convenient five-minute walk away from the everflowing shopping street, Kalverstraat. By choosing to shop there, you’ll most likely find yourself sporting the same Urban Outfitters top with vague Chinese translations across your chest as four of your classmates and most of their neighbors. If you are searching for unique and cheaper alternatives, why not opt for the Waterlooplein Market?

    Beware that you’re going to get your hands dirty with this. On Mondays to Saturdays, rain or shine, you can find my friends and me digging through piles of clothes, trying to find gems. There’s obviously a lot of misses (molding, missing zippers, stains) but you’re also able to find pieces that no one else has for just a Euro or two.

    P.S. There’s also a Bagels and Beans right in the middle of it.

    4. Coco’s Outback

    Contrary to popular belief, Amsterdam’s going-out scene kind of sucks if you’re in your early 20s. On most nights, you’re either stuck in a crowded bar filled to the brim with students, paying 2 euros just to use the bathroom, or you’re surrounded by people who are old enough to be your parents. Most of my peers opt to throw house parties instead, entertaining their friends in the comforts of their own home without paying for overpriced drinks at the bar.

    However, if you’re like me, and are not too fond of the idea of disturbing your neighbors and having to clean up after your friends come over, why not opt for an economical, chilled, and laid-back pub? 

    Coco’s Outback is exactly what it sounds like. An Australian pub that sometimes plays way too much Drake, it also hosts weekly karaoke and international student nights, making it an easy go-to spot for my friends and me. We do find ourselves going there less, though. I mean, we all love a place until your friend breaks up with the bartender.

    5. Walking Around Aimlessly in Amsterdam

      The biggest joy in life for me is the ability to walk around a city aimlessly. It is extremely easy to navigate directions in Amsterdam, making it convenient for my friends and me to walk around for hours on end. With the beautiful sceneries of Amsterdam as the backdrop to our conversations, it is hard to not lose our train of thought and just admire the beauty around us.

      If you want some alone time, just put in your earpods and find yourself a bunch, and catch a breath. In a city busy like Amsterdam, just stopping every once in a while can ease your mind a lot.

      When you’re 20 in Amsterdam, people expect you to have pockets filled with crazy stories about wild nights, but there’s so much more to Amsterdam than that. In a city so chaotic, it is hard to always find a sense of belonging. No one ever said stepping into adulthood was easy, but these places make taking on everything a little bit easier.