The day after Christmas we spend a little more time in Brussels before catching the train to Amsterdam, Netherlands. I’m not really sure exactly what I expected from Amsterdam but it was different on all fronts – some good and some not so great.
We checked into a very nice, albeit very tiny hostel. Our room was on the third floor and the staircase was the steepest I’ve ever seen in my life – not even our DC row house could come close.
As soon as we put our bags down we left in search of dinner. Unfortunately, the locally sourced place just across the street that we had picked out was permanently closed. That left us wandering around towards the Dam Square. By the time we got there we were starving and the square was quite crowded.
We found seats in what appeared to be a pub, but their menu only had about five options. We found out later why the menu did not include the prices. Most expensive so-so fish and chips I’ve ever had. The food did get better from there though!
The canals are significantly more extensive than I expected and all very pretty, definitely my favorite thing about the city. And I also absolutely loved how bike friendly the city is with bike lanes and bike racks everywhere. Every year they drag the canals and remove thousand of bikes that have somehow made their way into the water.
Here are a few of my Amsterdam favorites:
Van Gogh Museum
Learning about Van Gogh’s works, life, and influences were really interesting. For instance, did you know that age twenty something he decided he wanted to be an artist and did everything he possibly could to learn how to draw?? He was not a natural talent by any means. Many of the most famous pieces are in Paris and New York, but Van Gogh lived in The Netherlands so they do have a great collection. We were lucky enough to get there early enough to miss all of the lines, although we didn’t realize 9 AM was very early. By the time we left the lines were hours long.
The IAMSTERDAM sign is between the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, as is their Christmas Market. The Christmas Market was the smallest we saw but we did have a delicious lunch there one day.
We didn’t initially plan to visit this museum – it was a toss-up between a canal tour and here. It ended up being very foggy so we decided on the museum. We spent the most time here and could have spent hours more. We rushed through a few of the exhibits (you cannot keep me away from food for long) but I *think* we did see everything. The exhibits were all amazingly extensive and we really enjoyed them. So glad we didn’t skip it!
Body Worlds Museum
This one was a definite on our to do list. There are a couple of Body Worlds museums throughout the world. All of the bodies are actual cadavers, donated to science, so not for the faintest of heart. In addition to it just being an interesting museum, they spun everything to encourage humanity to be happy – like their own little happiness project! Life is short after all . . . .
We ended up walking quite a ways to a highly recommended brewery, called Brouwerij’tij that’s near a large windmill. In hindsight we should have rented some bikes, despite the cold. The brewery was great though – it was very crowded so we had to stand and didn’t stay too long since we had a long walk back but we did enjoy going there.
Kyle found a really cool old distillery called Wynand Fockink. It’s right in the middle of the city down a back alley. The server (owner?) could not have been nicer. Each customer had his full attention and he made no attempts to rush anyone with their choice, despite the growing line. You could try sips of as many as you’d like before you purchase your choice. The spirits were quite tasty and easy to drink.
Ann Frank House
While we did not go inside the Ann Frank House, we did walk by and stop for a picture. We went by on our way to the Rijksmuseum and on the way back, we walked around almost the entire block and still couldn’t see the end of the line.
The Red Light District
We didn’t go into the red light district; however, they are all over the city and can be seen literally anywhere. I think they would be impossible to miss unless you go through the city with your eyes closed!
We were most disappointed with Amsterdam because we really couldn’t find any place where you could just sit and relax with a beer. That said, we did stay right in the middle of the heavy tourist district. We’ve been told since that there are plenty of great pubs just outside of the tourist district.
Amsterdam is a must-visit city, for sure! If we ever make it back we’ll have to go on a canal tour, although I feel like we walked along every single canal in the entire city.
After our Amsterdam exploration we flew to Prague for our 4th and final winter trip destination to celebrate New Year’s.
What are you Amsterdam favorites?