Our first trip of the spring and summer 2016 travel season brought us to The Netherlands’ canal-laced, ideologically-progressive capital city. Amsterdam is on many travelers’ Europe bucket lists and we’re no different! The flight from London is just over an hour, but on this occasion we thought it would be nice to travel via train by taking the Eurostar to Brussels and then a Thalys train to Amsterdam Centraal. Due to the tragic attacks on Brussels’ airport and metro system earlier in the week, this method of travel ended up being less than ideal. We ended up stuck at Brussels Midi for four hours when we were originally meant to spend less than an hour between trains. Worse still, Rico woke up at 3am that morning with crippling stomach pains but by the time we had to leave to get to St Pancras he was feeling good enough to go, but the uneasiness, lack of an appetite and dehydration lingered the whole day. As if the day wasn’t tough enough, we were forced to make an unexpected transfer at Rotterdam where we frantically ran from platform to platform trying to catch the train to Amsterdam before it was too late. After missing one of the trains, we quickly found another and were finally on the last leg of our long journey.
Suffice it to say, after arriving to Amsterdam around 5pm on our hectic first day we took it easy for the evening and didn’t get up to much. We woke up Saturday morning with rested bodies and a renewed sense of zeal and the weather gods cooperated by sending down sunny blue skies! For breakfast we wandered from our Airbnb in the heart of The Jordaan to Lindengracht Market before heading to De 9 Straatjes, a series of streets flanked by independent shops and restaurants. We wandered around quite a bit, eventually stumbling on artist Eddy Varekamp’s shop which drew us in with all of the funky Amsterdam-themed prints in the window. The shop is run by Eddy’s daughter and is chock full of all kinds of prints and other goodies, one of which we left with as our souvenir for the trip! Our next stop required using the city’s tram system, so we popped into a tourist shop to buy transit passes which are an incredible deal (17€ for a 72-hour unlimited pass on the metro, tram and busses). Once armed with passes we hopped on a tram to Wildernis, a shop Britt had discovered a while ago on Pinterest whose mission is to make Amsterdam greener by offering all kinds of potted plants. The shop itself is beautiful, with all kinds of colorful greenery hanging from the ceiling and sitting in every corner of the space—if we lived in the city we would no doubt have left with some things to bring back to our home!
By this time we had worked up quite an appetite so we made the short walk to Foodhallen where we split a goat cheese and veggie wrap and a freshly-squeezed orange juice. The food hall offers a wide array of cuisines and is a perfect stop for lunch out west of the city center! From there we hopped on another tram to Amsterdam’s Museumplein, home to the city’s major museums (and the iconic I amsterdam sign). We spent some time at the Stedelijk which showcases modern and contemporary art and design and houses pieces from van Gogh and Matisse to Pollock and Warhol. The museum was very well laid out and wasn’t overrun by visitors which made our time there very enjoyable (we booked ahead as well which made the visit even smoother). We knew we would be back for the van Gogh Museum another day, so we made our way back toward the city center to check out Begijnhof (a hidden but still well-known and highly-visited, picturesque courtyard) and Bloemenmarkt (billed as the world’s only floating flower market) and also to just stroll the canals some more. We closed the day with a margherita pizza from La Perla (absolutely delicious and highly recommended) and tarts from nearby Patisserie Anesta (also recommended) for dessert back at our apartment.
Our second full day started early with a homemade breakfast at our apartment and a short walk to the Anne Frank House. The museum was due to open at 9am so we figured we’d get there at 8:30am to avoid lines—we clearly were not the only people thinking this as by 8:30am there were already about 50 people in line. We highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time, which needs to be done weeks in advance (be safe and book as soon as tickets are available two months in advance). The museum was very well done, with an easy-to-follow layout and structure and a striking tone of storytelling that emotionally contextualizes the holocaust while also educating its visitors on the impact it had on everyday people like Anne and her family. A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without time spent here.
After taking the rest of the morning to relax and reflect, we made our way to CT Coffee & Coconuts for lunch, which had been heavily recommended to us by many people. The vibe inside is very cool and spacious—the eatery is based in a renovated 1920s movie theater. The food was delicious as well. Rico had the beef burger while Britt had the goat cheese and sweet potato sandwich, and of course we split dessert, a chocolate brownie. With full bellies we hopped on the train to Vondelpark, the city’s green space crown jewel. Our visit was not ideal as it was cloudy, rainy and windy and it wasn’t late enough in spring for the trees or plants to be in bloom, but we had a relaxing stroll regardless! Next up was another visit to Binnenstad, the old center of Amsterdam, for some canal strolling and architecture spotting. It was very busy and packed with people (and cyclists!) but it’s worth taking the time to look up and appreciate the beautiful craftsmanship and design of the buildings and their intricate gabled roofs. Back in The Jordaan, we split another pizza at La Perla for dinner (this time spicy salami) and couldn’t help but to grab more goodies from Patisserie Anesta for dessert (we were lucky enough to go right as they were closing, so we got a delicious chocolate cake at a discounted price!).
A fair warning to anyone looking to stay in The Jordaan, the nearby Westerkerk church is the only one in the city whose bells, by request of the residents, chime through all 24 hours of the day! Charming at first, we found ourselves on a few occasions waking up in the middle of the night to its pulsating songs. We suppose it’s all part of the adventure! Once awake for good on our last day, we grabbed a quick breakfast, packed up and ventured off. Our first stop was the van Gogh Museum, whose long lines we were able to skip by pre-booking our tickets. However, upon entry, Rico was told that my Osprey 46l bag was too large to store. With nowhere nearby to put it, we thought for a second and then remembered that the Stedelijk had self-service lockers, some of which were large enough to store the backpack. Take this as a tip—if you need to store bags in and around the Museumplein, head to the Stedelijk!
The van Gogh Museum was great despite the hordes of people. It was very easy to follow the history of his life and how his experiences were reflected in his work, and the museum also displays works of others who van Gogh either knew or drew inspiration from. From there we walked along the canal to a boat tour we booked earlier that morning. We were originally meant to go on a tour with KINboat which was highly-rated, but due to confusion around rescheduling, we had to settle for another tour company. That said, it was very enjoyable and the tour offered great views of the city and tidbits of trivia and history to go along with it. We tend to save tours like this for the end of our trips, but every time we do it we realize we’d be better served doing them at the beginning as they offer a great way to wrap your head around the area and its history.
By the end of the tour we were starving, so we made our way toward a café we had found online. On the walk there we noticed a small, cozy place called Corner Bakery. We checked the menu, looked through the window and decided to call an audible and eat there instead. We did not regret our decision! Rico had the burger while Britt had a BLT with avocado and a fried egg. Both sandwiches were delicious. To close the meal out we split carrot cake and lemon-coconut cake which we both agreed, with zero exaggeration, was the best cake we’d ever had! We enjoyed it so much that it inspired us to want to head back to Amsterdam for a day while we’re in Haarlem for our Netherlands countryside trip in May. We’ll do anything for another slice! By this time the sun had come out, though it brought with it amazing gusts of wind, so we went back to the Museumplein to walk around and enjoy our last bit of time in Amsterdam.
We grabbed the tram for the last time toward Amsterdam Centraal and started on our journey back to London—luckily this time with no delays! Though our trip did not start on the right foot and the weather was hit or miss, we had a great time and will miss the city dearly. That is, until we’re back for our day trip in May!