It’s crazy to think that we were able to see so much of Amsterdam in a four days. I think it’s the fact that the city was easy to navigate and everything was relatively close that we were able to see all the places we wanted to check out. Plus, the Dutch are also very helpful and friendly and pretty fluent in English that everything just came easy.
I want to share some of highlights of our trip — what we did, where we ate, what to eat, and how we got around. I’m sorry that this post is a bit long but I hope it helps some of you who are thinking of going to Amsterdam in the near future.
Things to Do:
Amsterdam is teeming with museums and historical sights. Here are some of our faves:
* Koninklijk Palace – Built in 1648, this old town hall is still sometimes used by the Dutch royal family. The grandeur of this place is symbolic of the civic pride the Dutch felt after winning the 80 Years War against Spain.
* The Dam – Right by the Palace, the Dam is the town’s main square that’s bustling with tourists and street entertainers, much like Times Square in NYC.
* Van Gogh Museum – A must-see especially since Van Gogh is one of Amsterdam’s most well-known artists. There are lots of facts on Van Gogh here — his life, his passions, obsessions, illness and family. My fave was reading his correspondence with his brother, Theo.
* Rijksmuseum – A majestic museum with its impressive architecture. It has a wonderful collection of Dutch art. The only down side for me personally was not seeing my favorite Vermeer works here though there were lots of Rembrandts to offset Vermeer’s absence. A museum guard told me that some of Vermeer’s popular works are at The Hague. Oh well…
* Museum Van Loon – It’s a great museum to visit if you want to see how the rich families in Amsterdam lived in the 17th century. More on this on a future post.
* Westerkerk – It is Amsterdam’s most impressive and largest church. It’s also where Rembrandt is buried.
* Anne Frank’s House – A very sad part of Amsterdam’s history but I consider it a must-see. Chiara is supposed to read the Diary of Anne Frank next year for school so I thought it would be interesting for her to see where Anne wrote her journal.
* Canal Cruise – The best way to see Amsterdam.
Where to Eat
A sampling of restaurants we tried, mostly in the Western Canal Ring…
* De Vergulde Gaper – Good pub-type food with some Indonesian influence from the Netherlands colonial days.
* Lieve – Our favorite! This Belgian restaurant has three tasting menus with wine pairings for adults. We chose the slightly indulgent and delicious Mrs. Bubbles menu that the girls loved. The table setting was decorated with pearls as napkins holders and candles in martini glasses — just the kind of girly decor my Ines loves.
* Seasons – A trendy but unpretentious restaurant that specializes in the freshest ingredients of the seasons. We also got to hang out with the owner’s dog during dinner — a great antidote to missing Brady.
* Pancake Bakery – For indulgent savory and sweet pancakes. The portions are enormous so I highly recommend sharing.
What to Eat:
We pretty much had great food the whole time we were in Amsterdam. The restaurant options were so diverse ranging from South American to Thai. I do recommend indulging in two of my favorite Dutch treats: poffertjes (Dutch mini-pancakes) and stroopwafel (Dutch waffles).
I think the best way to get around is by walking around and discovering the different neighborhoods. You do have to be very vigilant while walking as there are bikes everywhere and most bikers do not follow street rules. We were there the last week of the Dutch school year and it was amazing to see parents take their kids to school on their bikes with no helmets or other protective gear we’re used to in the US. Taking the tram and taxis are also other options if you feel like you can’t walk anymore.
Hope this post is helpful. Amsterdam, even for just four days, was so much fun that I would definitely go back in a heartbeat!
Buildings are called “Swaying or Drunk Sisters” because of the way the different houses tilt in their own merry directions