Oh, Amsterdam. The city of endless canals, beautiful (almost Seuss-like) architecture, delicious food, and more bicycles than I’ve ever seen in my whole life. We LOVED Amsterdam.
We arrived by way of Toronto around 10 am local time after a red-eye flight. My legs were in pain (see here), Alex got sick on the descent, and we were hot, sweaty, and tired. It took some time to get through the long line at customs but we were not asked a single question. I guess we both seemed pretty tame.
We were appalled at the price of taxis so we took a hotel shuttle and we were the first people to be dropped off. It cost about 30 euros for both of us. Our driver was extremely nice and gave us some great recommendations. We made our way to our hotel, Motel One. Unlike the name it suggests, it was in fact a hotel and not a motel and it was a bit outside the city centre, which probably explains the great price. We arrived around 12:30 but could not get the early check-in we’d requested. The hotel itself was very cool—really funky décor with a great patio set up. We were both tired and jet-lagged and we opted to wait around until we could check in. We relaxed (and admittedly fell asleep for a short while) on the nice patio while we waited to get our room.
Our room was small and not equipped with many luxuries, but it was very clean and modern. We both cleaned up a bit, unpacked, and yes, napped a little bit more :/ Before our trip, I resolved NOT to sleep upon arrival in an effort to limit jet lag and maximize our (too short) two days in Amsterdam, but it was almost impossible to sleep on our flight and it was necessary. Next time I will plan for more time in Amsterdam (there will be a next time).
We finally headed out late in the afternoon and took the tram into the city centre. Thankfully, there was a tram stop just down the street from the hotel. It’s incredibly convenient that almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks perfect English. If not, we wouldn’t have figured out that we almost took the tram in the total opposite direction of where we wanted to go, so thanks to that kind stranger.
We started at Amsterdam Centraal and wandered around from there. We didn’t have a plan. It was nice to just mosey along, take pictures of everything we saw, and to stop when we wanted. The best. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Café Luxembourg. Not so Dutch, but it had an enticing patio with live music playing across the square (more like a circle, actually). I got fish and Alex got steak. We both enjoyed some delicious Dutch fries with mayo. It was delicious. I wasn’t prepared for bones in my fish, but whatever, I was in Europe again and things are a bit different.
We spent the rest of the evening less than sober and had a grand ol’ time.
We started our next day off with a quick breakfast that we grabbed from The Cold Pressed Juicery. I was happy to stumble into this gorgeous shop as I’d followed them on Instagram before our trip, but I wasn’t even looking for it that morning. I enjoyed a green juice and Alex had a raw/vegan banoffee pudding. Alex didn’t like it very much, but I thought it was delicious!
From there, we headed to the Anne Frank House. We bought our tickets online months in advance and I highly suggest that you do the same. I was told that I should do this, and when I did there was only one other time slot other than ours available. Buying a timeslot online allows you to enter the museum at that time with a very minimal line. Otherwise, you won’t be able to line up until after 3pm and the line can be absolutely massive.
Visiting the Anne Frank House was a bucket list item for me. I read Anne’s diary at 9 years old and I have been fascinated and moved by her story ever since. Alex had visited ten years prior, but he was a good sport and went with me again. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting the museum to be so comprehensive. I think I thought I was just going to see the Frank (and van Pels’) family’s living quarters and that would be about it. In reality, the museum takes about an hour to pass through. There is no furniture in the rooms, but there is a lot of history to read and artefacts to be seen. I highly recommend that you visit even if you haven’t read Anne’s diary (though I think you’ll be inspired to after visiting). Bring tissues if you’re prone to tears like me.
We worked up an appetite on the very narrow and steep stairs in the museum, so we made our way down the street to the highly recommended Pancake Bakery. The restaurant is located in an old canal house and has a very traditional feel. It can get very busy and took about 10-15 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it. As we often do, Alex and I picked two items to split. We tried the bacon and cheese pancake and the Nutella banana pancake. Both were decadent and delicious, not to mention GIGANTIC. Yum. I wish I could have one right now. I highly recommend that you check this place out, especially after the Anne Frank house because it’s so close.
After that, we found a canal cruise not far from the Pancake Bakery (everything so far this morning had been near the Prince’s Canal/Prinsengracht). We took one of the ‘Lover’s Cruises’ through many of the canals in Amsterdam and saw many landmarks from the water.
One of the things I enjoy most about Europe is the very casual drinking culture. I loved that we were able to bring our own booze on boats on this trip and could drink in the parks. I don’t know what that says about me, but we loved relaxing on the boat with our wine and beer and seeing all of the beautiful sights that Amsterdam had to offer. It was a very nice way to spend 2.5 relaxing hours while still feeling like we were getting a lot of sightseeing done. We took the whole route around and then circled back to the stop near the Rijksmuseum. Sadly, we didn’t feel like we had enough time to spend in the museum, as it was truly our only full day and we wanted to just wander around. I do feel as though we will make our way back to Amsterdam for a longer visit, so I wasn’t too broken up about it. I also wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum, but decided against it for the same reasons (and I knew we were going to the Musee D’Orsay in Paris where I’d see a lot of Van Gogh).
We enjoyed wandering around more before we stopped for dinner near the Rembrandtsplein at an Italian restaurant called Isola Bella. I know it’s a bit odd to eat Italian food in the Netherlands, but one of the things that I love about Europe is that for the most part, restaurants serving cuisine from different countries will often be owned and operated by people from that country. This happens in Canada too, but not nearly as often for European food. This was the case for this restaurant (or so it seemed) as everyone was speaking Italian; waiters and customers alike. We ordered the bruschetta to start and it was made with the freshest and most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Alex doesn’t even like tomatoes very much (weirdo) and he was raving about how tasty it was. We both LOVE Carbonara, and we both decided to order it. I thought it was absolutely fantastic, Alex said he liked my version more 😉 We spent another evening letting loose before we headed back to our hotel to have some cocktails from the hotel bar.
The next morning, we spent some time going for a walk near our hotel. The hotel was in a slightly more industrial area being outside the city centre, but we found a beautiful park and walking trails just a stone’s throw from us. Admittedly, we lost track of time and had to rush back to our room because we had to catch our train to Paris late that morning. This was the beginning of our now hilarious (but at the time infuriating) streak of making a mad dash to try to make our train for the rest of the trip. We were still up in our room trying to get our sh*t together 35 minutes before our train was supposed to depart. Our hotel was a 22 minute drive from the train station… Not our finest moment. We booked an Uber immediately, and it was looking like it would be there relatively quickly. Alex checked us out of the hotel while I watched for our Uber on the app like a hawk. Right when it was supposed to pull up to our hotel, it turned around and drove away in the opposite direction and cancelled our ride. I thought I was going to barf! I immediately booked a new Uber, and thankfully it was there very shortly. The whole car ride was spent gritting our teeth. We didn’t tell the driver how rushed we were (we were embarrassed) but I’m certain that he could tell. He got us there swiftly and quickly. We entered Amsterdam Centraal with nooooo idea where to find our platform. Somehow, I was able to hone in on the screens in rapid time and quickly figured out where we needed to go. We had our big suitcases (well mine was big, and I overpacked to the extreme, big mistake) and had to go upstairs. We got an elevator and darted down the train platform as the doors were closing. Somehow, we made it on the train, but not to our car. We had to wait in between the car doors until it was safe to walk to our car. And we thought our train rides would be relaxing… I was under the impression that our tickets included wifi, but nothing would connect, ugh. It was okay though. We enjoyed the countryside of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and before we knew it, we were in Paris! My favourite city in the world.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!