If you’ve read some of my other posts, you may have seen me mention that I don’t typically love big cities quite as much as their counterpart smaller towns. For some reason I have always wanted to see Amsterdam though, and over a period of four days, Amsterdam served as our home base in The Netherlands. In that short time, the Dutch capital worked her charms on me easily claiming a spot on my favorite cities list. Amsterdam fascinated me with its complex onion-like layers. The network of neighborhoods offer something for everyone: rich diversity, history, beautiful architecture, a cultural food scene, and of course there’s entertainment of literally all sorts. I found myself mesmerized by the motion of people, bicycles, trams, boats, buses, and cars, constantly weaving their way around the city’s canal structure.
Chris and I hustled to see as much of Amsterdam as possible while also including day trips to the tulip fields and to a quaint countryside neighborhood (posts to follow) in our four-day visit. I feel like we were able to get a good sense of the city, but I’d love to go back because I know we only scratched the surface. We stayed in a centrally located Airbnb apartment in the Oud-West neighborhood, and we ended up walking 5-10 miles every single day simply because we covered so much ground.
Our short stay started by spending the day with King’s Day revelers (post coming up!) and doing some photography around the city.
The transportation situation in Amsterdam captivated me. In such a walkable city, they also have the option of the tram system and of course bicycles. We used the tram a few times (really efficient and easy once you figure it out), but unfortunately the chilly weather dissuaded me from hoping onto a bike this visit. Not to mention, cycling in Amsterdam looked like an experts-only mode of transport! We saw plenty of near-misses for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Tip for anyone visiting Amsterdam: look both ways multiple times when you cross the street! You’ll feel like you’re starring in a game of Frogger while making your way across the bike lanes, the tram tracks, and the road.
We lucked out by scoring advance purchase tickets for the Anne Frank House on King’s Day evening, so we wrapped up our festivities with a moving experience at the museum. No photography is allowed, but I truly enjoyed soaking up the tour sans camera in hand. When we were planning our trip I almost gave the Anne Frank House a miss (I’ve read her diary and thought the museum might be too upsetting), but as one of the top must-see attractions in Amsterdam I’m glad we made time for it. I did do parts of the tour through teary eyes.
Speaking of must-see items, I also went to Amsterdam with a must-eat list, and I managed to check off four out of five local treats: bitterballen, Gouda cheese, stroopwafels, and poffertjes. I missed out on trying pickled herring because we just didn’t come across it (although we didn’t look that hard). Something tells me it’s okay that I missed out on it. Everything else was quite good!
Considering my bucket list goal of photographing the tulips in Holland during tulip season, I loved poking around in the floating flower market. It was a good preview of what I’d see later in the week!
And of course, we had to pop by the Red Light District to see what the fuss is about. We meandered up and down the main canal and some of the side alleyways, perusing sights and transactions that are fairly foreign to us back home. The RLD made for some good people-watching and photos, and we also ate one of the most amazing pizzas I’ve ever had at nearby La Zoccola del Pacioccone. Their homemade limoncello shots were fun, too.
We checked off almost all of our must-see-and-do list for Amsterdam, with the exception of the Van Gogh Museum. Ugh, I’m kind of gutted about it, but I totally goofed – I thought I bought advance tickets online for Friday night, our last night of the trip, but when we got there I couldn’t find the tickets on my phone. It turns out I actually didn’t buy tickets (oops!), and the ticket line was crazy long. We were nearing complete exhaustion at this point, however, so it was probably fine that we skipped the museum. It’ll be on our list for next time!
And I’m certainly hoping for a next time. I really did enjoy our time in this city, and I’d love to dig deeper someday.
Up next: King’s Day fun and festivities!