My husband and I recently spent an amazing weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I had been there once before in high school but really did not spend too much time there on that trip, so today I thought I summarize my experience on my return visit. If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, I have some tips to share. We stopped here on our way back from spending nearly a week in Vienna, Austria.
Arriving in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a fun and invigorating city with many bridges and canals. The distinctive row houses that line the canals are tall, narrow and charming, like toy soldiers lined up for inspection. There is a resonant display of unity as you see just how many people converge in the streets and canals.
We felt a warm welcome in the city's atmosphere right away. Everyone we met in the Netherlands was very friendly, from the taxi driver that picked us up from the airport, to the restaurant and shop employees, and the people on the street that helped us with directions and suggestions. English is widely spoken which made it really easy to navigate the city.
Getting Around Amsterdam
One of the other characteristics we noticed about Amsterdam was the effective transportation system. The metro system was extensive and easy to navigate and it allows you to easily travel from one part of the city to another in good time. The city is also a haven for bicycle riders as there are thousands that roam the streets. We used the metro every day and thanks to the iamsterdam City Card , it was a very simple and fun way to explore the city. This single card really streamlines travel as it gives you free entrance to many museums and attractions and unlimited public transportation.
Visiting the Sites
Anne Frank House
We got up early on our first full day and headed to a museum I highly recommend, the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank's Diary is one of the most popular books in history. The house Anne lived in when her family was in hiding from German occupation in World War II, still exists today. You can tour the home, see Anne's original diary entries and view the single window that allowed Anne to peek at the outdoors. Seeing the context and conditions that her family lived in was a blend of chilling and heartrending emotions. If you visit, it will be a moving experience that will stay with you forever.
Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh is my mother's favorite artist and I grew up with a copy of The Sunflowers in our living room, so it was exciting to visit the Van Gogh Museum while in Amsterdam. The extensive museum holds the worlds largest collection of his works. The paintings, drawings, and personal letters on display give deep insight to his upbringing, his family, his love life and his struggles. The museum had several unique displays and analyses of his work. A microscope showed how Van Gogh used multiple colors on a single brush stroke to paint his widely recognizable style. It just so happens that this year marks 125 years since he died.
If you plan to visit, the Van Gogh Museum, I highly recommend that you order tickets online before you travel.
The photo above is the Rijksmuseum which houses a huge display of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day.
These museums are both located in the museum district, which was always bustling with people. There were some wonderful museum shops in the area and I sincerely wish we had more time to see more of this area.
The Heineken Experience
For a little history of a different style, we visited The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. The informative and fun interactive tour was really enjoyable and a must for all Heineken fans. There are hands on exhibits and displays, and even a ride where the visitors are taken through the experience from the perspective of a hop.
The tour is available for all ages, but the beers are only included in the tours for those of legal drinking age. You can find more information on the Heineken Experience at the Heineken website.
Things to Do in Amsterdam
We wanted to really immerse ourselves in the unique and lively town, so we walked all over the cities cobblestone streets. There are so many unique shops and lovely cafes and restaurants which were so much fun to explore.
We picked up some helpful tourist information in the iamsterdam Visitors Center which helped plan our itinerary and route. We also picked up tickets to visit Keukenhof there, which was so incredibly beautiful!
Many of the cheese shops in Amsterdam offer complimentary cheese tasting and their cheese is absolutely delicious!
There are also some wonderfully cute home and garden shops among the cities streets and canals.
We took two buses to visit Keukenhof Gardens. Open only two months out of the year, the garden contains more than 800 varieties of tulips! What a spectacular place this was! They have artwork, entertainment, exhibits and even a treasure hunt and petting zoo for the kids.
There were so many beautiful flowers! These photos were taken from an iphone and have not been retouched.
I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in my life! It is seriously worth a visit if you go to Holland between mid-March and mid-May.
Eating in Amsterdam
During our weekend in Amsterdam, we ate some wonderful meals. We enjoyed all of them, but two places really stood out to us as places we would recommend to our friends and that we would want to visit again, so I am sharing them with you.
Located in the 9 streets area, Nooch has a wide variety of asian dishes on their menu.The cafe has a nice cozy and sleek vibe and we were lucky to get in for an early dinner, without a reservation. My husband and I ordered several dishes (pad thai, sushi, and chow mein) and shared them so we could sample their menu. All the food was fantastic. The service was good and the restaurant was completely full when we left.
Reestraat 11Centrum, Negen Straatjes
+31 20 6222105
I was a little hesitant to go here because this restaurant is known for their popular and trendy club scene on the weekend. But I was really glad we toke the chance and stopped in for lunch. This stylish cocktail bar & restaurant serves really great food. Our food was fresh and wonderfully prepared at a reasonable price. We sat on the terrace which has a great view for people watching in Leidseplein. The photo below is of my smoked chicken with avocado sandwich which was as tasty as it was beautiful. Our server was attentive and friendly. We will be back!
Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 25, 1017 RP Amsterdam, Netherlands
Before you know it, our weekend was over and honestly, I was not ready to leave Amsterdam, as there were so many other museums, restaurants and tours I wanted to take, but they will have to wait until next time. Special thanks go out to the Amsterdam Tourism board who facilitated transportation within Amsterdam. Check out the Amsterdam Tourism Board on Twitter to hear all about the attractions and happenings the city has planned.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam?