Amsterdam had always been on my travel bucket list, so you can imagine my reaction when I found out the hubby was attending a work conference in Amsterdam – SUPER JEALOUS! But then he said “why don’t you join me”, and it happened to be my birthday week, so I gladly obliged to this awesome birthday gift.
Before I continue, I want to clarify we aren’t one of those nouveau rich who just hop on a plane on a wimp. It did take me a week to decide whether or not the cost justified the duration of my trip, which was only 3 days, as I had a pre-planned trip to New York. But when all we had to pay was my plane tickets, it sort of became a no brainer. So Amsterdam I went!
The city of Amsterdam itself is quite small, so 3 days is just enough for me to see the city, visit typical tourist spots, and wander the local streets (which is always my favorite part of any trips). We stayed at the Renaissance, which was a great location as it is close to the train station and tram stops, but at the same time walkable to different neighborhoods. It is centralized at the same time hidden and quiet.
We mostly walked, so bring comfortable shoes! There is also the tram system, which is very convenient and easy to understand. If you plan on taking it often, I recommend you to buy the passes for unlimited rides. Your can buy the passes at the machine at each stop, or from the little ticket booth inside the tram.
There are also plenty of cabs and Uber in the city, but take those only if you are traveling outside the city or somewhere far away, as it is probably faster to walk or take the tram within the city.
Of course, the main means of transportation for many locals are bicycles. I don’t know how to bike, but even if I do I wouldn’t attempt, as the bikers are quite aggressive! Make sure you look out for bikers, cars, AND trams when you are crossing the streets.
We landed on Saturday morning and decided to visit the Garden and get it out of the way. Tulip season goes from end of March to beginning of May, and I was looking forward to seeing the miles and miles of tulip fields. Well, it was quite a disappointment when we got there, as the tulips hadn’t really bloomed yet, and all we saw were fields of green… Word of advice – if you happen to be in Amsterdam during tulip season, make sure to check online to see if the tulips have bloomed yet before trekking all the way out to Lisse. The Garden itself wasn’t the most impressive, plus it was cold and rainy. The most fun I had was actually at the mini petting zoo 🙂 Looking back we wished we stayed in the city instead to explore.
RIJKSMUSEUM & I AMSTERDAM SIGN
If you are a museum rat, Amsterdam may be your heaven. There are so many museums in this tiny city it will take quite a few days to visit all of them, but your brain will probably turn to mush, at least mine did even after just one. The Rijksmuseum is the biggest one, there is so much to see we spent a whole afternoon there and we still missed some exhibitions. What it is most famous for is of course its Rembrandt collection. My favorite, however, was the library, and was breathtaking. I felt like I was in Harry Potter for a second. Outside the museum is the famous IAMSTERDAM sign. It is almost impossible to get a good shot as everyone was trying to climb all over the sign for pictures, but it was still fun nonetheless. There is also one at the airport outside the departure level, which is much less crowded.
SHOPPING ON LEIDSESTRAAT AND KALVERSTRAAT
After the museum and filling our tummies, we decided to walk back to the hotel. We found ourselves walking pass P.C. Hooftstraat, the street filled with premium designer shops. However all the stores were closed as it was a Sunday. We did some unexpected shopping as we walked along Leidsestraat and Kalverstraat, the two main shopping streets in Amsterdam. Along the way we passed by Dam Square, where the Royal Palace Amsterdam is, and there was a carnival going on. It was definitely interesting to see the different neighborhoods and the more commercial part of the city.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
There are actually three red light districts in Amsterdam, but the biggest and most famous one is located near the Oude Church. And according to a local, the further away you are from the church, the prettier the girls are. We were there on a Sunday night around 11pm, the area was hopping, but the busiest nights are apparently Fridays and Saturdays. It was definitely an experience, as you just kept walking by windows and windows of girls standing there. Some were on their phones looking bored out of their minds, some were working it to grab men’s attention. However there were definitely way more tourists than customers. Remember, taking pictures in the Red Light District is illegal! And apparently windows with blue lights stand for transexual prostitute.
TASSENMUSEUM HENDRIKJE (MUSEUM OF BAGS & PURSES)
I love bags, and when I found out there’s a bag museum in Amsterdam, I was definitely intrigued. Plus it’s a tiny museum so I wouldn’t have to spend a whole afternoon in. The museum is located in the Southeast part of the Grachtengordel district. It was a nice little visit to learn about the history and evolution of handbags. It was very quiet, I only saw two other visitors so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself. During my visit, there was a special exhibition on Street Couture, high end fashion meets the street. I would definitely recommend if you love bags, plus there is the cutest little café inside the building for a relaxing lunch or a nice afternoon break.
One word – avoid! Maybe I was in a wrong area? But it was definitely not what I expected. When I think of flower market I think of something like the one in DTLA, packed with flowers of different types and colors. The one in Amsterdam, or at least whatever I was at, was a complete disappointment. There were barely any flowers and it was just full of tourists. I decided to pay a visit as it was on the way from the Bags Museum to Begijnhof. I was there for probably a hot 5 seconds and kept walking.
BEGIJNHOF (MEDIEVAL COURTYARD)
This is my most peaceful and serene experience in Amsterdam. Begijnhof is located in the middle of the city, and it is a courtyard surrounded by medieval homes. The second you step in it was like a piece of heaven, with a little chapel in the courtyard. The courtyard is very small and it takes probably only a few minutes to walk through the place, as many areas were sectioned off for residents, but it was one of my most memorable moments nonetheless.
DE 9 STRAATJES (NINE STREETS)
Nine Streets is an area full of local boutiques and cafes, and you can spend hours wandering through it and visiting all the local shops. If you want to escape the commercialized areas of Amsterdam, and still want to do some shopping, Nine Streets is perfect for you. I had a great time just walking up and down the different streets, enjoying the views of the canals, and just observing the locals. You can easily find a cafe by the canal to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
Probably my favorite part of the trip, as this is where I just wandered and got lost in the neighborhood. Jordaan is a gentrified area located west of the city center. It is by far the most picturesque neighborhood, and every corner I turned was a picture-worthy moment. I just could not get enough of everything in Jordaan! It is mostly residential, but I just love walking down the inner streets that were lined with pots, plants, and bikes. I even found a little garden courtyard to sit down and take a break. I highly recommend anyone to take a stroll through this adorable neighborhood. On my way back to the hotel, I passed by the Noordermarkt, which is a square in the Jordaan neighborhood. Flea markets are held every Monday and I was lucky enough to be there. Didn’t end up buying anything but it was a nice little “stall” shopping.
In the Museumplein area are the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, which I skipped both. I wasn’t that interested in Van Gogh and would rather experience the city instead. My husband did visit after I left, and he said it was interesting although not amazing. The Stedelijk Museum is a museum for modern art, and the building itself is a piece of art. There is also the Amsterdam Museum, which is right next to Begijnhof, a museum about Amsterdam’s history. The hottest ticket in town is definitely the Anne Frank House. If you plan to visit, make sure to buy tickets online in advance, or else you will probably have to wait in line for at least an hour or two, if you are lucky.
ALBERT CUYP MARKET
My biggest regret was missing the Albert Cuyp Market, as we ended up going to Keukenhof instead. The market is closed on Sundays so plan your visit accordingly. It is a street market in De Pijp that sells clothes, local trinkets, and most importantly, local food! I was so looking forward to tasting all the snacks and yummy goodies. Well, next time if I happen to be in Amsterdam again, I will for sure pay a visit.
Our original plan was to spend a couple hours at Rijksmuseum, grab food, and picnic at Vondelpark. Clearly that did not happen as we spent way too much time at the museum. Many locals hang out at Vondelpark when the weather is nice, and a picnic there would be an amazing experience! It is only a 10-minute walk away from Museumplein, so if you have time definitely head over there for some greenery.
A LITTLE PUFF, PUFF, PASS
We didn’t partake in the action, as it’s legal in Seattle and whenever something isn’t forbidden, it isn’t as appealing 🙂 Amsterdam of course is known for its weed, lots of it. You can easily get some at any coffeeshops. Yes, they are called coffeeshops, so don’t get them mixed up with true cafes that actually serve coffee and food. And like I said, when something is legal, it loses its appeal, that’s why majority of the coffeeshops patrons are tourists instead of locals.
Amsterdam is known for their pancakes, and one of the most famous places is Pancake Bakery. It was our first meal in Amsterdam after we checked into our hotel in the morning. There was already a line out the door when we got there! But it did move quite fast, and we were seated after about 15 minutes. There are a lot of options to choose from, on top of making your own, both savory and sweet. The pancakes are HUGE, so sharing will be a good idea. We ordered the Pancake Indonesian (which was our favorite), another savory pancake, and Pofferkjes with suger and butter. Definitely stuffed up to our throats.
Savini is a cute little (literally, tiny!) Italian restaurant located right outside our hotel. We were starving but exhausted by the end of our first day after a visit to the Keukenhof, so we decided to grab something nearby and stumbled upon Savini. The owners are Italian, and it was one of the best pasta I’d had (or maybe we were just hungry?). Prosciutto, pasta, washed them down with Lambrusco – needless to say we slept like babies that night.
We were planning on eating at Bakers & Roasters in De Pijp after Rijksmuseum, which came highly recommended for “brunch”. We thought it should be pretty empty by 3:30pm, but no, it was PACKED with people and the hostess apologetically turned us away as they closed at 4pm and there were still a few people waiting ahead of us. Starving and desperate for food, we went to Caffe Torrefazione down the street, and it was a blessing in disguise. The café is super adorable, with many locals just hanging out, reading a book, or grabbing a quick bite there. The coffee is yum, the caprese salad I had was delicious, and we definitely refueled after a little break there. Plus they have a resident cat that just roams around!
Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian food, as Indonesia used to be a colony of the Netherlands. We stumbled across Aneka Rasa on Yelp and decided to eat there before our late night visit to the Red Light District. It is a nice concept as they have set menus of mini tapa style dishes so you get to try a little bit of everything. I’d never had Indonesian food before so I didn’t know what to expect, but the food was definitely tasty, although some were a bit too spicy for me.
De Kas is the highlight meal of our trip! This is the only place we reserved in advance before our trip, and it was so worth it. Located in Watergraafsmeer district, the restaurant is about a 30-minute tram ride from city center. The restaurant itself is in Park Frankendael, and it is a beautiful glass box of awesomeness! It is farm to table concept, with its own greenhouse and outdoor mini farm on-site. There is only one set menu option so you pretty much just show up and ready to be fed. Everything was delicious and fresh, from appetizer to dessert. The service is super friendly, and the atmosphere was relaxing and casual even though it’s a fine dining concept. Our server said many locals picnic at the park during Summer time, definitely looks like an amazing place to spend an afternoon at.
I didn’t get to go, but the hubby went, and the pictures of the food looked AH-MAZING I was so jealous! Foodhallen is basically a food hall full of vendors and stalls, so you get to try a little bit of everything, as much as your tummy can take. It is fun and hip and rustic, plus they have really good craft beers. If you have a large group it may be difficult to find seats, but it is worth the visit!
Visiting food stalls is always the best way to experience the local food culture in an authentic way. The Albert Cuyp Market is a great place to sample different local flavors. But you will also find them at flea markets. So grab a a few bites when you see them!
Great for breakfast and lunch, of course they are known for their omlettes. There are two locations in Amsterdam. The hubby managed to go on his last day and he definitely enjoyed his meal, thanks to my super Yelp skills.
I really wanted to try this place but it was fully booked all of the three days I visited, which tells you how popular it is. It is a seasonal menu highlighting one ingredient, and you get to pick how many dishes you want. Sounds like serious foodie-gasm to me!
Another brunch place I didn’t get a chance to go to. It closes later than most brunch places, at 6pm. Read the Yelp reviews and look at the pictures yourself and see why it looks like a great place to grab a bite!
As mentioned above, this breakfast/brunch place is BUSY. So make sure you head there either super early in the morning, or be ready for a wait. There is a newer location in Centrum, the wait apparently isn’t as long, but still long.
Recommended by a local co-worker of the hubby, Tales & Spirits is a modern cocktail bar, which also serves small bites. The drinks look super yum, but I was too exhausted every night to head over for a drink. Have one for me if you happen to be there!
Think of Febo like a 7 Eleven, except it’s packed with vending machines full of fast food, and that they don’t open 24/7. But you can find them anywhere around town, and it’s the perfect spot for late night snacks to soak up that alcohol, or for the munchies. Quite genius.
I still cannot get over how beautiful the city is. So charming and unpretentious! It was a bit of a whirlwind trip for me but definitely one that will not be forgotten!