Amsterdam: The Chilled & Modern Venice of Northern Europe
Why Visit Amsterdam?
When you imagine large world cities you have on your bucket list, does Amsterdam pop up? If not, add it immediately. From young to old, this city dating back to the 1500's captivates you with every turn. It's like you are transported into a foreign time with a modern touch. Yes, we all know Amsterdam is well-known for their liberalism with the red-light district and coffee shops just a walk away from your hotel room. There is so much more to this city besides the urban culture for you to explore. There is a historic beauty unlike any other and just walking the cobblestone streets and listening to the many church bells will transport you to another world.
Where to first?
If this is your first trip to Europe, prepared to be overwhelmed in the taxi ride to your hotel by the architecture passing by along with the bikes. Amsterdam is one of the the bike friendliest cities in the world and you have to pay attention when walking! I don't recall how many times my boyfriend had to grab my backpack because I forgot the additional bike lane of traffic that has it's separate turn from cars and walkers. This is very important to remember if you are frequenting coffee shops. You will get hit by a bike if you are not careful. I was dazed to see businessmen riding their bikes with their brief cases in their buckets and women riding in their dresses and heels. Coming from Little Rock, AR, this was a completely different method of getting to work and I found it quite impressive. The side streets are thin and to my recollection mostly all cobblestone. Just walking the streets and admiring the beauty of the city is my absolute first thing to do when you visit Amsterdam. You will quickly find that many of the inner city streets all somehow connect and you can wind through them with ease and find your way out easily once you figure out the maze. Maps are another option which my boyfriend always carries on our trips. Overall, I recommend getting lost in the maze of streets for a day and enjoying the food, architecture, and other indulgences.
Wonder the streets of Amsterdam
After You Have Wondered Around....Hit the Museums!
Now it is time to see the sites of the city! There are so many wonderful museums o choose from and unfortunately we were not able to visit all we had listed. While in Amsterdam, we visited the Van Gogh and Rjks Museum on our visit. We missed The Hermitage, but I would love to see their collection on my next visit. There are several other museums across the city for you to visit based on your preferences but my "I can't go to Amsterdam without seeing" spot was of course the Anne Frank Hous. As a young girl, every girl envisions going to Amsterdam and seeing where she hid for so long. Yes, I cried and yes, it is so moving and emotional. Seeing the cut outs of magazines still glued to her wall and her diary pages so carefully preserved really brings a flood of emotions rushing towards you in the midst of a tourist crowd. Feel comforted to know they all feel this way as well and are grieving themselves for her and her family. The Anne Frank Hous is a place that you will most likely stand in a line for in order to get in. We stood in line almost two hours in raining 30 something F degree temperature. It was worth every miserable second I stood outside though once I got in and started climbing those steps. Knowing she had climbed those same steps in fear so many years ago. A must see in Amsterdam for any age!
Museums We VisitedClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Canals of Amsterdam
A trip to Amsterdam cannot be completed without a canal ride. We did this on our last day to wrap up alot of attractions in one long day. Many large cities offer hop on, hop off systems and Amsterdam offers both the bus and canal options. We chose the canal because we aren't the romantic canal for two type and off we went. They provide you with an excellent map of the location stops and times a canal will stop at that location throughout the day. We were able to see several spots in one day thanks to the hop on, hop off canal. A must for a first timer to Amsterdam!
Canal Rides & ViewsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Excursions outside of Amsterdam
You will find tourist shops all around the center of the town. Here is where you can choose and excursion and buy tickets. We scheduled an excursion to Keukenhof. The last time my boyfriend had visisited he had experienced a cheese and goat farm tour, plus I wanted to see the tulips, of course. We went at the end of March so the tulips were not all in bloom but some large long purple rows were and the park made up for it in beauty and landscaping. They have designated sections, with one devoted to the art of Van Gohg, which was my favorite. There were also so many little gardens within the garden and beautiful areas to simply sit and reflect on the views and nature's beauty. Located at the entrance, there is a large music player that will impress anyone at any age and the classic large clogs for you to stand in and take your picture. Of course, what Holland garden wouldn't be complete without a windmill that you can go in and view the fields and gardens. If you go with an excursion group, be prepared to have a meeting time. We are fast with most of our trips to museums and other historic or geographical locations which provided plenty of time to enjoy their cafe at the entrance. We sat and enjoyed the music player as we snacked on sausage and cheese and drank Heineken. A day I will always remember. I encourage all to step outside of the city at some point and view the landscape of Holland and the beauty of their world renowned tulip fields.
KeukenhofClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cheese, Waffles, & Freitz: Welcome to eating in Amsterdam
I wish I had taken more pictures of the foods we ate but considering I was in Amsterdam I was too busy scarfing them down to stop and take a picture. I'm sure the first thing that comes to your mind is cheese and yes, it is everywhere. You will not come home without some cheese. You will also not turn a corner without most likely finding a cheese shop. You can watch them go through the process of making the cheese and try samples at several of these locations. Our other favorite indulgence that we still order from amazon are strupen waffles. These maple syrup delights are delectable. The waffle stands are also amazing and we indulged most nights. Frietz was our other big indulgence. We ate more fries there than I ever eat here in the US. And who would have thought they taste so good with Frietz sauce, or since I'm back home, "mayo." For the most part, we wondered around so much we snacked or just stopped in whatever cafe was close when we got the urge to eat. There are several around every corner with employers standing outside, menus in hand, trying to get tourists into their restaurant. We indulged on one meal and it was at the Sea Palace in the Amsterdam Harbor near Grand Central Station. The building will excite you by simply looking at it and the food and atmosphere are just as good! You will find that you won't have much time for set down meals if you travel like we do. We tend to grab food from vendors and walk around so we don't miss any of the beauty around us. Vondelpark was one of our favorite spots to sit and eat along with various benches and side streets. My advice is to indulge in the waffles and fries!! Forget about carbs! How many chances do some of us get to travel to Amsterdam?
Cheese, Sweets, & Chinese in AmsterdamClick thumbnail to view full-size
Time 2 Leave
This was the hardest part for me and I admit, I cried on the way home. I had just been introduced to this new world I was fascinated by and would have stayed forever, but we all know vacations must come to an end. My final words of wisdom regarding Amsterdam..... go to the red light district and see what it's all about! No, I'm not suggesting you partake. I'm just saying go wonder around. It is the safest area surprisingly in the city or at least it was when we went 2 years ago. Savor every taste and every smell. You will still be able to smell the spices in the Anne Frank Hous from pre WWII. Listen to every language you hear around you. Enjoy every second and relive those memories constantly so they will stay fresh in your mind. Amsterdam is one place I know I never want to forget!