Canals. Cheese. Cafés. Concerts. Coffee house cafés. The collective sum describes Amsterdam. Both quirky and quaint, we found the city attractive and adorable on our first visit.
Ningning’s parents traveled over (Shanghai) and watched Vivian allowing us to take this trip by ourselves. It kicked off a summer of European holiday with just Ningning and myself!
Amsterdam is fully walkable. Skip the trams and buses and walk. (The train from Airport to Central station is about 15 min and 5€ and is the fastest way into town.) Do hire a self-pedal canal boat and float through several of the canals. We hired one for an hour and it was enough. Watch out for the bicycles. They are en mass and have the right-of-way. As you walk, bike or float around you’ll notice a plethora of cafés. There are two types – the “coffee houses” (eg. Cannabis on offer) and the coffee houses (eg. Latte and cake). It felt to us that people ate smaller meals/snacks and oft visited several cafés through the day. (Cafe Luxembourg is highly regarded in travel guides but we looked and it didn’t feel extra ordinary) Speaking of quirky – we walked through a single street of the infamous red light district and sure enough, it was an eye opener. My wife hadn’t been prepared for what was on offer and was a bit taken aback.
We stayed at the five star Hotel Pulitzer inside the ‘9 streets’. The hotel is unique as they converted c.25 canal houses into a hotel. They put us in an Executive room (505) overlooking the canal. Our bed was upstairs in a loft area and the living room / toilet on the main level. Great hotel and we enjoyed their hospitality. Breakfast is normal and a big spread. Don’t forget to ask for coffee in the room – they will bring a Nespresso machine for your use! Our room was meaningful especially to Ningning – the house we were in (Prinsengracht 329) was home to a yarn twister. Built in 1647, t Garenhuis, owes it’s name to a previous owner who was the yarn twister. The Museum van loon was on our list to see – a restored canal house viewable with period furniture – but we skipped because we stayed in a canal house.
While in Amsterdam you need to visit the Rijksmuseum just to view Night Watch and the Milkmaid. Otherwise, sorry if you are an art lover, it’s just another art collection. Photos are allowed throughout and almost everyone was taking pictures instead of taking in the art. We spent just a little time in the museum and then moved on. Out back is a small collection of iron works and a fountain you can jump in and out of. Makes for great pictures especially when you get some bloak who ill times the fountain and gets soaked. Out back is where you will find the I Am sterdam sign. Good luck trying to get a picture with just you or your partner in frame. All the guide books recommend seeing the Anne Frank house. It was just a block from our hotel but always had a huge entrance queue. I tried early one morning to enter but even early it was too long for our patience. Book your ticket online *months in advance*. A stroll through the Bigenhoff is also recommended.
My wife is into knitting. There are several wool shops darted around town which I’m sure you can read all about on her blog. As she shopped I snacked at the myriad of cheese shops. Most all allow some small tastings. We liked the pesto and hard cheeses. Of course, the older and more mature the better. We also purchased some tulip bulbs to plant back home. Be sure to visit the flower market and take in all that is in bloom.
We ate well in Amsterdam. Our best and most traditional meal was eaten at Moeders (Mother’s). We also had Indonesian just around Dam square and portuguise food. While walking, we came across this great little butcher shop. They had home cooked meatloaf. It was fantastic!
Finally, Amsterdam is a photographers paradise. There are unique shapes and angles and light all over. You can’t walk 10m without finding a new great shot. Watch out for the canal houses that tilt every which way. Walk around, browse the shops, snack at the cafés, experience the canals and the quirky – have a look at the photos we captured over our 3 days.