Last week I joined Michael on a business trip to Amsterdam. The city was never high on my list of travel destinations, but I am so thankful for this trip, because after just a few days, I found Amsterdam to be one of the most charming cities I have ever visited. I will admit that I think the weather, sunshine and use of English had us under a spell, but it felt good to be so pleased by a new city.
We packed a lot into our visit, and while bicycles are the preferred method of transportation for most locals, we opted to walk—because we wanted the freedom to stroll through the streets, looking up and pausing as we were inclined. We stayed at the most perfect Airbnb in the Noord-Holland neighborhood, which was in the heart of the city and just a short walk from the Rijksmuseum.
I flew overnight and arrived early in the morning on the first day. Michael was still working, so this was my chance to adjust to the timezone, and get to know the city a little bit by myself. I spent a lot of time walking alongside the UNESCO World Heritage canals and admiring the architecture. I made my way to Magere Brug, which is also known as the Skinny bridge—and interestingly enough, the current bridge is a much newer and not so skinny bridge than the one it is named for. I also visited Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, which is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world. The gardens feature a unique collection of indoor and outdoor plants, and there was something really powerful about knowing that people have been studying plants in this space for nearly four hundred years. It started to rain while I was there, so I took a break to have breakfast in the cafe. Throughout my time in the city, I found that one of my favorite things about Amsterdam was the abundance of gardens and parks, and after my visit as Hortus Botanicus I walked though Oosterpark in the nearby Amsterdam-Oost neighborhood. Later in the day, when Michael had some free time, we walked together to Frankendael Park, which is also home to the incredible De Kas restaurant. The restaurant is located in a set of greenhouses that date back to 1926 and it also has a lovely garden.
We started day two with a walk to the center of town to take a canal cruise. There are a lot of boat companies to chose from, and we decided to keep it simple and go with one that doesn't take stops or serve food. This was one of my favorite things that we did the entire trip—it was so relaxing and it was also a really unique way to see the canals and the city. After the canal cruise we walked through the Singel flower market. Also known as Bloemenmarkt, this touristy stop is made of a several stalls that sit on floating barges in the canal. Then we made our way to Vondelpark and then had a quick coffee and snack at Coffee concepts. After coffee we went to the Anne Frank house, and our tour through the hiding place was both powerful and overwhelming (tip: buy tickets online to avoid lines). We ended the day with dinner outside and people watching at Winkel 43, and we finished the meal with their famous apple pie.
We started day three with breakfast at Pancakes Amsterdam for their famed Dutch pancakes, which we found to be very similar to crepes. It's a small and busy restaurant, so we had a short wait outside for our table, but luckily the weather was perfect so we didn't mind. The restaurant is located in the 9 streets neighborhood, which has a reputation for having the best shopping in the city. After we had our fill of pancakes we wandered the streets and did some window shopping before heading to the museum district, which is also called Museumplein, and is located in the neighborhood of Amsterdam-Zuid. While there we explored Stedelijk Museum, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, and the Van Gogh museum (tip: buy tickets online to avoid lines). The Van Gogh museum was such an interesting experience; there was a really strong emphasis on timeline and the floors are organized by year, which provided a lot of insight about Van Gogh's journey as an artist. After the museums we walked to the incredible Westerpark. This was one of my favorite areas of the entire city, and specifically the Westergasfabriek, which is a section of the park that features buildings from an historic gas factory. I really appreciated this example of overcoming negative history (and pollution), by developing it into something good and even beautiful. The brick buildings are now home to restaurants and bars, shops and businesses, and they are surrounded by expansive green spaces and water features. (If you're interested, I found this article about the space to be so informative and inspiring.) We enjoyed dinner in Westerpark at Mossel and Gin, which served delicious mussels and an assortment of gin cocktails.
On our last day we planned to head to the airport by mid-morning, but wanted to go for a walk and get breakfast before heading out. During our stay we discovered that locals like to sleep in, so many restaurants and cafes open for breakfast at 8:30 am or even later. We were pleased when we found De Wasttersette in De Pijp neighborhood; the restaurant was located on a charming neighborhood circle and we enjoyed simple but delicious food at a cafe table outside.
Thanks for a lovely visit Amsterdam—I'm definitely looking forward to visiting again one day, and especially when the tulips are in bloom.