16 March 2016
eight great things to do amsterdam
last weekend i met my dear friend melinda in amsterdam for a long weekend girls’ trip! it was so good for my soul – to be with a kindred friend exploring a new, charming, fascinating place without any rush. we lucked out and got glorious sunny weather, thoroughly enjoyed some amazing food & treats, had excellent discussions and totally fell in love with amsterdam!
i really enjoy and appreciate talking with people who have just returned from a travel destination and learning about how they spent their time and what they would suggest with the experience fresh in their mind. so, even though i’m definitely no expert on amsterdam after having spent just three days there, i thought i’d share eight things melinda & i did that i would absolutely recommend to any future visitor, along with some notes on my experience exploring this lovely, lovely city. if you’re headed to amsterdam, i hope this little recap of my weekend is helpful in your planning!
1. stroll (or better yet, bike!) the canals
as far as i’m concerned, this is absolutely the number one thing to do in amsterdam – just wander around the central canal district! there’s a pretty picture around every corner (i couldn’t stop snapping with my camera, that’s for sure!). pop into shops and cafes, notice all the different, quirky building facades, and watch out for bikers which are everywhere and can come out of nowhere! :)
i love so much that amsterdam is such a biking city. the sheer number of bicycles is mind-blowing! since i know i’ll come back to amsterdam with the boy in warmer weather someday soon-ish (already planning a late-april trip next year so we can see holland’s famous tulip fields!), i decided to save bike-riding for next time. but renting a bike and cruising around the canals sounds even a little bit more fun and lovely than strolling by foot around the canals – i’m excited!
^^ we heard you could go to the top of this church tower, but then found out the stairs are only open for climbing from april-september. that’s definitely on my list along with bike-riding for next time!! ^^
^^ look at these tulip vases!! so so darling. melinda and i loved popping into the cutest shops along the canals! ^^
2. visit the van gogh museum
van gogh is my favourite artist of all time, so i was pretty pumped to check out amsterdam’s van gogh museum. but it was even better than i expected! – so, so well curated, stocked with fascinating information about vincent’s life, and fuuuuulll of incredible treasures of paint on canvas. i loved it and insist it is a complete must when visiting amsterdam, even if you’re no art buff.
we didn’t make it to the rijksmuseum, but i am looking forward to checking out the masterpieces there next time i’m in amsterdam. we did walk across the park from the van gogh museum to check out the beautiful building that houses the rijksmuseum collection and the iconic “i amsterdam” sign in front. fun.
3. try dutch foods
melinda and i made sure to try pretty much every dutch traditional food/treat we could get our hands on! (except for the pickled herring…maybe next time…) after church on sunday we went to the foodhallen, a really awesome culinary marketplace in an old train station, and ate some bitterballen (^^) of different varieties – super yummy! we had lots of other food adventures throughout the weekend…
^^ cheese seems to be everywhere in amsterdam! i love, love, loved happening upon cheese shops – with samples! so many delicious varieties. ^^
^^ behold! the most wonderful slice of dutch apple pie i could ever imagine in my wildest dreams! we each enjoyed a slice from winkel at a sidewalk table overlooking a canal. it was seriously sublime!! ^^
^^ stroopwafles and fries! ^^
^^ we learned that indonesian food is really popular and delicious in amsterdam, so we indulged in an amazing meal at sampurna. we heart blauw is the best in amsterdam, but it was fully booked when we arrived – so if you want to try it, make sure you make reservations! our rijsttafel (a series of small dishes making up an incredible feast!) at was suuuuuper tasty! ^^
^^ fresh mint tea is everywhere in amsterdam and don’t you just love it?! mint leaves straight in your mug! and this apple and bacon dutch pancake was super yummy. ^^
4. explore the markets
i was super excited to experience the bloemenmarkt – amsterdam’s premier flower market – and it lived up to expectations - it's a lively, colourful sensation! melinda and i also happened upon a farmer’s market along a canal, which was also a delightful wonderland! so, as you’re wandering the canals, keep your eyes peeled for markets!
^^ had to snap this photo for the boy, who is obsessed with collecting magnets in our travels. i needed to show him there are lots of good options for picking out our signature souvenir when we go to amsterdam together! ^^
^^ can we talk about the fantasticness of this flower-covered ceiling in a corner stall at the bloemenmarkt?! divine! ^^
5. visit the anne frank house
i have always wanted to read anne frank’s diary and somehow it has been continually put off (even when i was given a copy for christmas last year!). now that i’ve been to the house in amsterdam where anne and her family were in hiding for two years during the second world war, i’m so excited to finally delve into that so renowned book!!
the anne frank house is among the most popular attractions in amsterdam, and the line to get in is consistently craaaaazy long! i stood in the freeeeeezing cold for over an hour and a half (after melinda had left for the work meetings that brought her to amsterdam) before i could buy my ticket and tour the house. i was kind of miserable, to be honest. but! seeing the setting of anne’s hiding and writing was pretty incredible and quite moving (and certainly altered my perspective on waiting outside in the cold!).
i absolutely recommend visiting the anne frank house - be prepared for a long long line but also a super neat experience.
6. take a canal cruise
after a lot of walking during our first day in amsterdam, we decided to hop on a boat to see the city from the canals. there are a lot of different options for canal cruises in amsterdam. we chose to go on a smaller, open-air boat, which i think was a really good choice. it was so fun to see the canal houses and bridges and bikes and steeples of amsterdam from a different perspective, down in the boat, and we enjoyed learning more about the city and its history from our tour guide.
7. get a taste of holland countryside
after church and lunch on sunday, we took a taxi out of the city to zaanse schans to see some windwills and catch a glimpse of holland countryside. this was a lovely little excursion, but the taxi ride (which was recommended since public transport takes ages to get out to this place) was super expensive. if i were doing it again, i would pick a “windmills and countryside tour” from one of the plethora of tour operators advertising all over the city. and if i had more time (and warmer weather), i’d take a day out of amsterdam to explore more rural holland. but this little peek was perfect for our sunday afternoon, and golden hour among the windmills was delightful! aren’t these scenes just so darling?!
8. soak up the charm
my last suggestion for visiting amsterdam, having just returned, is just to take time to notice all the charming details that abound in the city by the canals. keep your eyes peeled for little surprises and delights all along your way – i so loved discovering these!
^^ tulips in a gorgeous gold vase at a sidewalk cafe // an accordionist making the atmosphere along the canals just perfect! ^^
^^ fun pops of colour and pattern among the facades. ^^
^^ twilight scenes stuffed with charm and a bit of magic! ^^
amsterdam is really, really lovely! so glad i could experience it with melinda last weekend, and (have i said this enough?!) i can’t wait to return!