Off we went to Amsterdam! City of canals, tulips, bicycles, narrow tall houses and of course home of the red light district. The language spoken here is Dutch and although I am nowhere near mastering even basic Dutch, it was a relief to find that most people spoke English.
The first place we visited upon arrival was the delicious Cafe Hans en Grietje to grab some breakfast. Amsterdam is known for its pancakes (which are more like what I know as crepes) so naturally I ordered the banana pancake and some hot fresh mint tea which I found later, is a very common drink among the locals.
We had pre-purchased the three day option of the I Amsterdam card which includes entry to Amsterdam’s top museums. There are over four hundred museums in Amsterdam so having recommendations definitely helped. I do recommend thoroughly planning your days based on what is included with your I Amsterdam car to really get your moneys worth out of it. My favorite activity included on the card was the Canal Boat cruise. It was the perfect activity after a long day of walking around the city. I loved that there was an audio guide throughout the tour that gave us info on Amsterdam’s history and the different landmarks we were passing by, entirely a relaxing and educational experience!
Following this we went in search of a cup of coffee and to our surprise ran into a bit of a hard time finding an actual coffee shop. In the Netherlands the term “coffee shop” is also used to identify an alcohol-free establishment, or in this case a place where marijuana is sold in small quantities to adults over 18. Coming from Texas, where marijuana is still illegal, it was a bit of a shock at first to see how normalized marijuana and its use is in this part of the world, however, it was also refreshing to see such a judge-free culture.
The next morning we made our way to the Van Gogh museum. Make sure you purchase tickets to this and the Anne Frank House in advance as they do sell out sometimes weeks in advance! If you are visiting during the winter season like we did, make sure to stop by their coat check-in so that you can have a more comfortable visit. I remember learning about Van Gogh in elementary art class, but I didn’t quite remember his story. It all began to come back as we walked up the floors of the museum, but by being able to see how he progressed in his career and his emotions, it was almost as if you could feel his pain as he neared the end of his life. Definitely a must if you’re in Amsterdam! Since we were in the museum district we decided to continue exploring and proceeded to explore the Rijksmuseum which is one of the most recommended being that it hosts Dutch art and history from its beginnings to present day. Now, the Dutch took the saying “go big or go home” pretty literal when they created this museum, so please, do bring comfortable shoes. The museum has four wide floors starting with floor zero and it can be quite confusing if you aren’t paying attention. By the second floor I gave up on following the numbers on the walls and just focused on enjoying the beautiful art and exhibitions. There is also a coffee shop within the museum if you need to take a break in between your visit.
We took a museum break to eat some lunch at the most authentic Dutch restaurant we could find, The Pantry. As soon as we walked in I felt like I was walking into a Dutch grandmother’s home, you know when it just feels cozy and you know its going to be delicious? To start we had their Bitterballen, delicious beef croquettes served with a mustard dip and for my entree I had their Oven Dish, a savory casserole of cauliflower, ground beef, Old Amsterdam cheese & mashed potatoes. Everything was absolutely delicious, definitely worth a visit!
Re-energized we made our way to the Moco Museum. This was the perfect way to end our museum day because it’s not your typical museum. It is a boutique museum with exhibitions from artists like Banksy and Andy Warhol, think modern contemporary. This one was not included in our I Amsterdam card, but it was definitely worth the extra euros.
To finish the night strong we unexpectedly joined the Leidseplein pub crawl. If you are looking to have a fun and safe time, tag along one of their organized pub crawls, I promise you will have a blast!
On our final day we visited more museums, souvenir shopped, went to a wonderful cheese tasting at the Reypenaer Cheese storefront, visited the Hortus Botanicus gardens, and explored more of Amsterdam’s local cuisine!
Amsterdam was such a delightful experience, so complete! I would definitely return for more adventures, but for now I hope that these tips are useful if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, and if you haven’t you should! This 2019 travel more, even if it isn’t long distances, just go and live new experiences!
View my recap video of this trip on my Youtube Channel