So, if you guys follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed that I went across the pond for a quick-ish trip to the Netherlands early June. If you didn’t know I was away, well now you do.
R had to go on a work trip in Europe the last week of May (his company is based in Austria), and he surprised me with a trip to Amsterdam for my 30th birthday. It was AWESOME! I did not want to come back and before I left the city, I found myself looking at neighborhoods in Amsterdam to live in, and schools we could send Alden to, and not to mention, complete step-by-steps on how to move there as an expatriate. I know, I know.. I’m extra.
Before visiting Amsterdam, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into or what to expect really because even though it is a popular place, it wasn’t on my list of top places to visit. I have always seen pictures of Amsterdam but never really looked at them, but when I arrived there, I fell in love. I know I am using this “love” term very loosely when it comes to travel, but I am telling you that this time it is for real. My trip to Amsterdam was my first time ever in Europe. I’ve had a few layovers in Sweden, but I never got the chance to visit, so this trip was enlightening to me. So now, I can finally say that I’ve been to Europe and as always I am thankful to R who always helps me check things off my bucket-list. Right babe? 😉
My post today is going to be about the beautiful and historical Amsterdam. What to do, what to see, what to eat and some other travel trips from a girl less-traveled, and that is me!
Historic Buildings & Architecture
Amsterdam is a historic city, so just understand that being there already is an experience in itself. This is coming from a girl who has never really lived in a place that has a lot of architectural history, so when it comes to traveling to places with a lot of what I’d like to call, “old-time charm”, it always catches me in a daze.
I moved to the US in 2005 and I moved from the buzzing city life to a life on the beach in Florida. From there, I moved to Atlanta but I never lived downtown because I couldn’t justify paying high rent for an apartment and also because I have always worked outside the city center. With that said, I am now used to seeing the usual American suburban towns or neighborhoods that are typically newer built and most of the time, the buildings are all cookie-cutter and look exactly the same; You can be in any part of the country and still find yourself in a standard shopping plaza, which will house your typical grocery store, an urgent care, a nail salon, a couple fast casual restaurants, and a UPS store. Sometimes, you may get lucky with a Starbucks or a cool Mexican restaurant with an outdoor seating area, but most of the time, everything looks typically the same. So, as I was saying, being in Amsterdam itself was a cool experience to me because it was just charming and aesthetically pleasing.
When exploring the city, you’ll notice that the rowed buildings tilt forward, lean to the side or even have gaps in between. It is because these rows / buildings were built on wooden piles since Amsterdam is a city built on water, and naturally after hundreds of years, they deteriorate. When I think about this, it brings me back to the episode on How I Met Your Mother, when Lilly and Marshall bought their first condo and realized that their building was tilted. They found out by accident when they placed a ball on the floor and realized that the ball kept rolling to the other side of the room because the floors were not even, which drove Marshall crazy! Can you guys imagine living in a house like that?
Museums & Experiences
To get a glimpse into what these homes look and feel like on the inside, you can head on over to the Anne Frank House Museum. I am so glad that we took advantage of this and visited the museum – It was such a humbling experience. The tour itself did not take very long; I want to say it was about 30 – 45 minutes. We got a later reservation on a Friday night at 8 PM since R didn’t come in until late afternoon from Austria, while I arrived early that morning. It felt late when we left the hotel to go to the Anne Frank House but the long summer days definitely helped because day time was much longer. (Side note: It did get pretty cold at night, so make sure to wear / bring a jacket).
Just to give you a background on Anne Frank if you haven’t yet read her diary, she was one of the million Jews that were murdered during the Holocaust. Anne and her family lived behind a bookcase where her father used to work, in a place called the Secret Annex and during their hiding, Anne wrote in her diary almost daily for 2 years before they were found and brought to the concentration camps. I read her diary when I was younger and to be able to experience the crammed living quarters in which Anne lived in, was so humbling. I remember being there for only 30 – 45 minutes but I almost passed out due to claustrophobia; I cannot imagine what it would’ve been like to live there – My heart goes out to all the victims of the Holocaust.
TIP: Buy your tickets in advance and and go for an early morning or a late evening time slot. We went to a late night one and it was less crowded but still there were many people and we got stuck in human-traffic in the house due to the volume and I thought I was going to pass out because.. claustrophobia. Tickets
There are many other museums and experiences you can go to while in Amsterdam such as the Rijkmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum & the Heineken Experience, but we did not visit any of them because we’re not big fans of crowds. We actually tried to get tickets to visit the Van Gogh Museum but it was sold out for the weekend. See what happens when you fail to plan?
I AMSTERDAM sign
If you Google “Most photographed place in Amsterdam”, I am pretty sure you will come across the“I Amsterdam” sign, and visiting this is a no-brainer. It is free and it is located in front of the Rijksmuseum and near to the Heineken experience. It’s a pretty cool place just for a photo op but man, was it super packed! We got there sometime during noon and if I have to go back there again, I’ll probably opt to go in the morning or evening to stay away from the crowds. That way I can get more Insta-worthy shots.
Where to Stay?
I loved the Rembrandtplein area, which is also where we chose to stay while in Amsterdam. I didn’t think that we purposely planned to get a hotel outside of the Centraal area, but it was nice that we did because Amsterdam Centraal was a zoo (I told you we have an aversion to crowds). We stayed on Linnaeustraat, which was a streetcar away to the shopping and nightlife district in Rembrandt square and it could have not been more perfect place to stay in. From a location standpoint, I was able to travel from Schiphol airport by myself to our hotel, and by just one train. (Muiderpoort station). After I got off the train, I walked about 2 blocks down to Linnaeustraat street and the hotel was right there to my left. Our hotel also had easy access to the streetcars, which was definitely a plus as well.
Where to shop?
I didn’t go crazy with shopping in Amsterdam but I did buy a few things. I felt like the H&M there was much better than the ones here in the States. Even their Zara was better too – Well, duh.. Europe. Another store that I loved exploring was Primark. I get it guys. Things are very affordable there, and they had literally anything and everything for everyone there! And, should I mention once again that they are cheap? I bought a cute skirt from there, a crop top, a sweater for Alden, and R got himself a backpack that he now uses for work. Of course, Ryan and I hit-up H&M too. I loved that their H&M store has a HOME section!! Wish I lived there!
I forgot to mention that one of my best friends from high school met up with us while we were there in Amsterdam and we had such a BLAST. Feeya made the trip even more better because of her craziness and positive energy. It was natural that the three of us, hit up a club in Amsterdam. This was of course, my idea. I love dancing! Even if I am no good at it. I do admit that I only like to go for a short time because I go to bed so early these days. The club we went to was Club Escape, and it was AWESOME. Awesome because, there is a legit light show in the main room, and indoor smoking is not allowed (Thank god! – There are smoking rooms provided indoors though for you smokers) – and like any big clubs, there are several rooms you can go to that play different types of music. For some reason, we ended up in the hip hop room and we soon found out that they LOVE to play throwback music. We thought it was a throwback night or something until we went to another club the next night and the playlist there was almost identical to the one in Escape. Hysterical. They were bumping to Ignition by R. Kelly. I thought I was back in the early 2000s.
Another thing that we did while we were there, was that we went to the Icebar. It was a-ok. I thought it was going to be a bar made from ice that people go to for fun (which it was) but it was more of an attraction versus an actual hang-out spot. Oh, and one last mention, the red light district! It was very surprising to see how clean the district was. There were so many people (sorry I keep bringing up crowds.. I hate crowds) and I didn’t feel creeped out at all!
Floating Flower Market – Bloemenmarkt
Also near Rembrandt square, you will find the famous Bloemenmarkt, which is a floating flower market. I really wanted to go see their tulip gardens outside the city center but we were not in season for it, therefore did not get to experience it. However, if you love flowers, you should definitely check out the floating market. They had all types of beautiful blooms there in varying colors and they were just so pretty! Did you know that Netherlands is one of the biggest countries that export seeds and flowers to other countries? I didn’t buy any because I was traveling, but sigh.. I wish I did!
Find a Windmill – De Gooyer
Another thing that was on our list was to find a windmill. There are not many of them scattered through the city but R was able to find one! The one that we went to is the De Gooyer windmill which is one of the oldest windmills in the Netherlands.
Ride A Bike
I know that it is intimidating to ride a bike in Amsterdam but it is by far, the BEST way to get around over there. R and I made the mistake of not going on the bike the first couple of days we were there, but when we finally did, we got to see so much more! Even though the streetcar/ tram is convenient, there’s just more waiting on that versus just hopping on the bike and walking around to get to places. I felt like the bike there is way better than my bike here, and even though it isn’t a typical road bike, it felt effortless all around. Just beware of other bikers though; They’re pretty aggressive and they are not afraid to cuss you out! Also, don’t be afraid of getting hit by buses and trams or cars because technically, they have to stop for you. So, what are you waiting for? Get on that bike!
TIP: Rent your bikes from your hotel. It was so easy to drop it off right then and there and not having to worry about traveling to a rental place to drop it off at the end of your long exhausting day. The bikes we rented came with locks too, which was convenient. You will be a pro at finding places to park your bike and if you are cycling in a shopping district, you’d come across the famous “No bike zone” stickers that they place in alleyways, etc. So fun!
Go To Local Parks
Because of our choice in mode of transportation above, we got to see so much more and do more things without feeling super exhausted. We were very lucky also that the weather was cooperating with us as well. On one of our afternoons there, we went to a local park not too far away from our hotel and it was the cutest sight! Over there, we saw many locals with families bring their kids out to play, there was an ice-cream man selling ice cream from his bike and in the gazebo, there was a group of older men and women who were dancing and enjoying a salsa & cha-cha session with their peers. It was a picturesque day!
Of course I had to add this to the list. If you like to engage in recreational marijuana activities, there are obviously plenty of coffee shops to go to. I hated the smell but you kind of get used to the smell after a while. I walked in one coffee shop and I was very surprised to see that it is actually very clean and systematic. They also do not serve alcohol there; Just coffee and other beverages instead. It definitely was an interesting experience. Sorry, no pictures =) I’m disappointed I didn’t take photos of the coffee shops from the outside!
Rooftop Bars & Restaurants
As always, when visiting a new place, we always like to search for rooftop restaurants or bars because the view is always just so scenic from the top of a building. We went to a bar in Volkshotel, which I believe was a hotel R wanted to get us to stay in at first but had no availability, and it was so quirky and fun. This bar also had a spa in one of their top floor levels too; Super interesting! We were there in time to watch the sunset (9-ish PM), and it was all around just good feels. Loved it!
Eat, Eat, Eat
I could not explain how well fed I am while I was in the Netherlands. They have some really nice restaurants that are equally diverse. I remembered one of our best meals was actually had was on our last dinner there at an Indian restaurant. It was BEYOND amazing. Enjoy my food snaps as follows.
And, more food…
With all of that said…
There you have my full list of things that I recommend doing/seeing in Amsterdam; I am sure there are more than these things you can do over there, and perhaps we get to back to experience more things but for a short trip, we definitely had a pretty fulfilling vacation there. We enjoyed Amsterdam so much that we skipped our plan on the last day to visit Brussels, Belgium, and spent another day there instead. Even though it was an opportunity missed, I am sure there will be plenty of next times for us in the future.
This is the longest time I have spent writing and crafting a travel post so I hope you enjoyed it!!