Amsterdam has a ring-like set up rather than a grid structure. As a tried and true NYC grid gal, trying to navigate was a major challenge for me upon arrival.
Luckily, we managed to find ourselves a guided boat tour which not only allowed us to experience Amsterdam by it’s famed canals, but also gave us some history, background, and a better understanding of the cities’ layout.
The boat tour was lovely. For 18 euros each we had a semi private, two hour, guided, and narrated city tour by water.
Four couples and one guide in a small boat that fit through the all the canals (as opposed to the larger tour boats that are limited to the wider waterways), was the perfect introduction to the city.
We learned everything from the location of the top sites like Anne Frank’s home, to the cost of a house boat, to why so many of the homes along the canals are crooked and leaning forward.
In addition to our waterway adventure, we looked into the Amsterdam coffee shops, which were everywhere.
They were definitely more active than the ones we had seen in Groningen, but not the total tourist traps I feared (though I’m sure some are better than others).
Oh, but don’t order a coffee at the coffee shop. I did and it cost something like 6 bucks US. Big mistake.
I went out for a run along the canal near our hotel and found myself twenty minutes later in the heart of city center.
I decided to run towards the locations we had spotted the day earlier from the boat and found myself in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park. Think a mini Central Park with loads of glorious tulips.
Oh the tulips. They’re everywhere in Amsterdam and they are absolutely breathtaking. We were there at the perfect time to enjoy them at their peak.
After a run around the park I decided to take the opportunity to walk around a bit more of downtown Amsterdam.
I found a juice bar and got myself a delicious veggie juice to sip on while I wove my way through the streets, stumbling upon shop after shop of tasty treats (lots of cheese samples) and designer clothing (which I managed to avoid).
Thankfully I brought some ‘just in case’ cash on my run because after getting lost exploring the city streets I couldn’t find my way back, but I did get myself to a metro station which was just as good.
I couldn’t spend a full week in The Netherlands without a day on a bike. So I rented a bike from the hotel (not the cheapest option, but certainly the most convenient) and rode back into town, this time equipped with my camera.
I decided to pick out one museum. There are many to chose from, all of them renowned and all of them expensive, but the real reason I stuck to one is that I’ve found I’m much more of an ‘explore the street life’ kind of a person than a museum kind of a person.
Plus, we have so many world class exhibits coming through NYC all the time, all for just a suggested donation.
I chose the Rijkmuseum which showcases the work of many notable Dutch artists including works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.
While I enjoyed the obligatory dose of art and culture, I was happy to get back outside and soak in the sun flooding the massive park outside the museum and all those beautiful tulips!
I hopped back on my bike and rode into Dam Square, the location of the city hall and, that weekend, a massive carnival.
I parked my bike nearby and went for a little exploratory stroll, like I love to do. And guess where I found myself? The Red Light District.
The Red Light District in Amsterdam is so much of a tourist attraction that I wasn’t at all uncomfortable being on my own. The streets are crowded with people of every age and gender, it’s like being in an outdoor novelty shop.
The ladies in the windows were the same as everywhere else – some engrossed in their phones, some primping, some looking for their next customer, others just bored.
On the other side of a Red Light District side street I came upon Nieuwmarket that had a full on farmers market with my favorite – pancakes. They were delicious! I plopped down in a sunny spot along the canal and enjoyed every bite.
After a few failed attempts, I managed to find my bike again and spent the rest of the day biking the side streets, noting the different kinds of homes, shops, people, foods, markets, culture, etc.
On our last day, the boyfriend had the evening free, so we planned for dinner at a local Indonesian restaurant. There is a heavy Indonesian influence in Amsterdam and we got a delicious taste of it at Kantjil and de Tiger.
Ps. Be sure to make a reservation, this place is super popular (and it’s yummy).
After dinner we made our way to some bars downtown, walking along the canals, which, by that point in the evening were reflecting the lights from the buildings and bridges above.
The bars were fantastic, live music, relaxed atmosphere – I danced my way into morning to celebrate the end of a fabulous trip.
Thanks for reliving the adventure with me. Back to reality in NYC (there are worse places 😉 ).
Have you been to Amsterdam? What was the highlight of your trip?