TRAVEL GUIDE: AMSTERDAM
I finally had some time this weekend to catch up on my blog posts (after more than a month of getting back from my trip) But it is here, finally here. I am so excited to share my Amsterdam, Bruges and Haarlem trip guides. I hope you enjoy!
When I was searching for a destination to visit as a solo female traveler, several guides directed me to the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries (in addition to your usual suspects like Paris and London) The furthest north I had been was a quick trip to Dublin in college so I was excited to see more of the northern countries. I decided on Amsterdam because of its beautiful canals, historical significance and, ok, some of the beautiful Instagrams I had seen of it. It also turned out to be a good base for a day trip to Belgium as well as a few other train-accessible destinations (more on that later)
Overall, I will say that Amsterdam was slightly different than I had imagined it. I knew it was a hot destination for college students looking to hang out in the red light and maybe smoke a few blunts here and there (a sentence I never thought I would be typing on this blog) I will admit, even though I knew this coming in, it was a bit more touristy and busy than I was anticipating. I guess I thought it was going to be more quaint but it is quite a big city. I think the fact that we came from much-smaller Copenhagen to Amsterdam, emphasized this even more. We did find my idyllic Amsterdam though, in Haarlem which I am going to dedicate a separate post to.
WHERE WE STAYED: Hotel V. Fizeaustraat
In original trip plans I was intending on going solo on this trip. My friend Aimee joined me last minute (what a GREAT addition, she practically made my trip) but before then, I was looking at hotels I could afford on my own. I came across the Hotel V. when I was looking at trip advisor. I got a pretty amazing deal on it ($200 per night) and, since we were staying 6 nights, that was important. The hotel had all of the boutique decor and space I was looking for at a fraction of the touristy prices. The only catch was that it was on the outskirts of town, taking about a 20 mins Uber ride to get to the center of town. That was A-ok with us though because we really loved staying here.
One of the best things about the hotel was the incredible kitchen. Included with your room stay is an incredible almost-too-big breakfast. You get to choose one savory and one sweet item which could be eggs Benedict plus pancakes if you are hungry or yogurt and fruit if you are trying to be a little more healthy. This was a huge bonus and really added to the value.
Besides that, we ate dinner at the restaurant one night and it was one of the best meals of our trip. The three course menu had beautiful paired flavors. We also met the sommelier who was from, of all places, Napa and had curated a great wine list. We didn't really love the wine in Amsterdam so this was a welcome sight. The best part was, after we were all finished with our meal, we just could head upstairs and change into our cozy PJs.
The rooms were really comfortable with a modern/retro vibe. My favorite was the huge white bathroom with black and gold hardware. Something right up my alley. As you can see below, the decor was very thoughtfully selected and definately has that mid-century modern thing going on.
WHAT WE DID:
Free Walking Tour of Amsterdam - Similar to what we did in Copenhagen, this tour was a huge hit and a great way to get our bearings upon first arriving in Amsterdam. We learned about the New Dutch Trading Co. which if we valuate today would be 5x the size of Apple and Google combined (aka the biggest company to ever exist) All that trade meant the Amsterdam traders had lots of $$$ which means beautiful houses and a few ladies of the night (the start of the Red Light District). Our tour guide's name was Joy and she was a local college student. Her passion for the city as well as historical knowledge made for a great tour.
Van Gough Museum - We actually ended up skipping the Rijksmuseum in favor of the Van Gough Museum because I had heard that the other museum was Louve-esque and pretty exhausting. I mainly wanted to see some of Van Gough's most famous paintings in person. He was quite a complicated man who really only painted for a few years before going mad and killing himself. His story is tragic but hearing about how he rose up in the art world and how they continued his legacy after his suicide was really interesting. It was a very well laid-out museum with a focus on telling the story of his life.
Vondelpark - After visiting the Van Gough Museum we took a stroll through Vondelpark. The park reminded me of the big iconic parks of cities like Central Park (maybe a little less grand) or Golden Gate Park in SF. Everyone was out lounging by the ponds or on a quick run. It was a great place to take a little breather after a day in the city.
Boat Tour - Of course you have to do a boat tour! I had found Those Damn Boat Guys online and they seemed to get the best reviews plus, I liked their laid-back attitude. They also allowed you to bring wine (or whatever else wink, wink) on the boat. Aimee and I were the only ones drinking but sipping on a little rose was a nice addition to the tour. After we had been on our walking tour, I didn't find this boat tour particularly informative but it was fun to see the city from a different vantage point.
Red Light Walking Tour - More tours! This interesting Red Light Tour was something that I was a little apprehensive about but I'm glad that we did it. The group size was a little bit large for me but it worked. The founder, who only does Red Light Tours, took us into the neighborhood to explain the history plus answer all of the groups' questions. I was actually surprised at how large the area is--there are over 150 windows in Amsterdam. I learned a lot about the women who are involved in this business. I am glad that I went on a informative tour vs just avoiding the area all together.
A note on the Anne Frank House...we didn't buy tickets soon enough and they were all sold out by the time we looked into it. Unfortunately, we didn't get a change to visit the house. We tried twice to see what the line looked like at 3pm, when general admission starts, but it was wrapped four people deep around the block. If you are early enough, buy tickets!! I will be doing so next time I visit.
WHAT WE ATE:
Foodhallen - Ah the Dutch love their food halls. This on0e is a little bit of a walk on the outskirts of town but is definitely worth a visit. They have all types of different food--think food trucks in an organized hall. We had the Mediterranean one and it was really tasty. Keep in mind that they do not take credit cards. We found this a lot of places in Amsterdam, that they will only take cash or their Dutch debit cards. Make sure to carry at least 100 Euros on you in case you need to pay in cash for meals. After finishing lunch, make sure to stop by the shop across the way for cute local presents.
Moeders - Ok so I was going to take this out because I'm really only putting my favorite places in here and this one was a toss up. I read about it on countless Amsterdam guides, how if you wanted REAL Dutch food this was where to go. The feel is very homey with hundreds of photos of moms on the walls and mismatched dishes. The service was very abrupt, sort of like you-get-what-I-give-you attitude that is sometimes charming in a New York way. The truth is that I don't think real Dutch food is for me. It is very heavy, mostly meat and potatoes. After some of the more refined meals we had this one just didn't stand out. I would recommend venturing out for "real" Dutch food at lunch and saving dinner for some of the new Dutch cooking.
Cafe de Klos - So if you end up wanting some Dutch food for dinner I would recommend this restaurant. The steak (in the first pic) was from here and it was so good. We went here the first night of the trip and loved the surprisingly sophisticated food from this pub. I imagine this restaurant is a popular one in winter because the interior feels really cozy. We got to sit outside because it was hot and enjoyed seeing the people whiz past on their bikes with a cold beer in our hand.
Pluk - One of the most Instagramed places in Amsterdam has to be at Pluk. It was how I actually imagined more of their little cafes to be. This is the kind of place you would expect to find in SF, full of healthy, locally-sourced options. I really liked my goat cheese salad (why is goat cheese so much better in Europe?!) and the little decor items sold in the store. I think that we craved more of these healthier places after our decadent dinners this ended up being one of them, we also liked Coffee and Coconuts (below)
Coffee and Coconuts - Along the same lines as Pluk is Coffee and Coconuts. This cute tropical cafe spans three stories and is a great place to settle into one of their cozy couches and take a quick break from walking around. We shared a few appetizers which were all over the board (some good, some not so much) but it was a great place to sip on an iced tea and people-watch. It is located in the newly trendy area of the Pijp (pronounced, "pipe") with lots of cute shops. Most of them are located on Gerald Doustraat next to the Albert Cuyp Market (which should be avoided, touristy and painfully crowded, definitely skip that one)
Brouwerij 't IJ - Does it get more Amsterdam than drinking beer windmill-adjacent? We stopped to this very popular brewery for a cold beer on the hottest (and last) day of our trip. It was a fun place to meet people since there are only communal tables. The beer is affordable and very good. Much better than visiting the Heineken factory!
Hummus Bistro d&a - I will have dreams about this hummus spread (last few pics below) We found this on Yelp when we decided to have something lighter on our last night in Amsterdam. We loved the fresh flavors and the local, neighborhood feel. We sat outside and watched the sun go down on our last day of the trip.
Winkel 43 - On our last night I also begged Aimee to stop by Winkle 43 for a slice of their much-talked-about Dutch apple pie. This did NOT disappoint. It was as cinnamony, appley and delicious as all of the reviews I had read. It was such a good place to finish off the trip.
Stayed tuned for TWO more guides to Bruges and Haarlem coming very soon. Thanks for reading all the way through! Hopefully these tips help if you ever decide to go to Amsterdam.