A little bit about my week in Amsterdam!
Oh, Amsterdam, I miss you.
Six whole months have now passed from our trip and I’ve been writing this post for what seems like forever. I apologize for that, but I took so many photos while there that making a selection has been really hard. When you love everything, how do you choose which thing you love more? Amsterdam is just amazing and a whole week in Amsterdam hardly seems like enough.
I even thought for a second that sharing these photos and my experience so late in the year, so long after the actual trip, would be silly. But you know what, travel photos to me are never silly. And maybe some of you want to go to Amsterdam one day, or even next year, and you can never start prepping too early for a trip like this. From my experience plane tickets are cheaper months in advance and the hotel room or AirBnB of your choice is easier to get.
So, Rok and I went to Amsterdam in late May. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. It didn’t rain until we were on our plane going back home. The only thing we had to get used to was the wind, as the city is pretty windy. (My packing tip: pack layers, a light scarf and a rain coat or parka.)
Getting to and from Schiphol
We followed the recommendations of our Airbnb host and we had booked a Tinker ride prior to leaving for Amsterdam, so we were all set. A Tinker Belle waited for us at the airport, in her signature purple coat, she escorted us to the car which then took us to the center where our Airbnb was. And on the day of our departure, another driver came to pick us up. There are taxis at the airport or you can take the train, but having a ride already arranged beforehand is way easier in my opinion.
Where we stayed at
We rented a place via Airbnb, that was as much a flat as a hotel room. The host rents out other flats in the same building and so the places are private, you get a kitchen, but you’re not really moving into anyone’s home, which is usually the case with Airbnb.
Our AirBnb was right on Kerkstraat between all the canals, so we never took a ride anywhere. We walked everywhere because everything was just minutes away. I prefer walking anyway, because it gives me the option to see the city better, stop anytime, take photos whenever I want to or just jump into a random shop or café I see on the way.
However, if walking is not your thing, you can catch a tram pretty much anywhere. They stop all over the city and you even have to be careful when walking around, because even the busiest shopping street has a tram line.
And then there are the numerous bike rentals, because riding a bike is like breathing in Amsterdam. The bike rentals are literally everywhere, they’re clearly marked and usually have a whole line of bikes in the same color (I saw blue and orange ones) parked in front of the rental place.
If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can also rent a boat. We didn’t think of this until the last day of our stay, a Sunday, when we were sitting on a bench, near a canal, just enjoying the warm sun and we noticed a lot of locals driving around in their boats. And then every now and then a few tourists would drive by too. I then realized that instead of just taking a canal ride, you can rent a whole boat and that’s the one thing on my bucket list now for the next time we visit the city.
THINGS TO SEE
There is so much to see in Amsterdam, we clearly didn’t have enough time to go to all the places we wanted to go to or that people recommend. Here’s a short list of what we’ve enjoyed:
All these museums have so much to offer and the area itself is also nice to just chill at. We were lucky enough to visit Amsterdam just when Stedeljik was hosting a Matisse exhibition, so we took advantage of that. The museum also has a great attached to it, with a nice selection of books and home products (like Marimekko mugs, Ferm Living table cloths, etc.).
If you plan on visiting the museums or any specific exhibits, take my advice and buy the tickets beforehand. Every museum offers this online and while you have to pick a specific time slot as you purchase the tickets, they won’t get upset if you come a bit early or late, as long as the date is right. But you’ll be happy because you’ll avoid all the lines. And there were lines, long ones, that Rok and I simply skipped because we had our tickets with us.
And here’s a funny story: While we were in the Van Gogh museum, someone somehow set off the alarm and the whole museum had to be evacuated. Knowing you have to leave the building as fast as possible isn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but it wasn’t too bad either. The guards didn’t really seem too panicked, more tired as if this thing had happened before. We were allowed to go back in after 10 minutes or so.
This place is amazing! It’s not really in the center, but it’s not hard to get to. You have to go up north and catch a ferry, but the experience is worth it. Walking there gave us a chance to see more of Amsterdam, we took a walk through Jordaan and unintentionally also through a red light district.
If you’re curious about that, I have to say we didn’t even realize we were there right away. But then after a while we began noticing a bunch of windows had red curtains, some were opened, exposing the stools girls sit on, there was a working girl standing in one of the windows getting ready for her job I assume (as this was around 8 in the evening, when it was still light out so there were no people there) and most windows had “no photos” signs displayed on them. Apart from that the street looked like any other regular street.
Back to the EYE. The ferry that takes you there is free and the slow ride is short, it only takes a few minutes to get to the other side. The Institute is right there, as you step off the ferry. The whole building is very majestic and beautiful. You can walk around freely and only need a ticket for special exhibits. There’s a restaurant there and you get a nice view from the terrace.
Inside, there is a store worth visiting. They have the best things! A lot of cinematic memorabilia: things like Audrey Hepburn’s calendar, David Lynch’s signature coffee blend, Krtek plush toys or Hitchcock birds, photographs of old Hollywood classics, and so on.
There’s also a pretty park behind the institute. The area is very open and windy, but quiet compared to the center of Amsterdam and you can pretty much sit right next to the water.
We spent the whole afternoon there, just relaxing.
Didn’t see many tourists here, but did see a lot of locals. It’s a great area with many good places to eat at and with too many pretty houses. If you’re like me you’ll stop at every corner and spend the whole day right there, admiring the simplest things like doors! True story.
This is a huge park with a million places you can sit down at and relax. I know those living in Amsterdam love to visit the park, you’ll see people with their dogs, kids, joggers; so it’s an interesting yet serene spot to visit.
While the service at restaurants may sometimes be a little slow, at least everyone always gives you enough time to sit down, look at the menu, think about what you want. No one will rush you on this. Most people, or at least those we’ve spoken to, speak perfect English so you can count on them giving you what you want.
Certain places do offer tap water, but from my experience most only have bottled water and it’ll cost you about 2 euros/ small bottle and more.
Pretty much all places have outdoor sitting, which is what I look for wherever I go, so that’s a win!
My favorite places:
Gartine – authentic, brunch
This place was amazing! We went there for high tea and were served a selection of everything, from amazing potato soup to puff pastry with egg salad to lemon meringue pie and homemade lavender soda. That pie was literally a fluffy cloud served on a plate. The owners were incredibly nice and friendly. The place itself is small and gets filled quickly. They do take reservations, but we were lucky enough to get an empty table without one. You can also buy their cookbook right at the counter and of course I brought one home!
La Perla – Italian, best pizzas
We were so lucky to get a table here. There was one empty table outside right at the entrance when we got there. After seating down and ordering, at least 10 more people tried to get a table too with no luck. You know a place is good when the locals are desperate to get in.
La Perla has two locations, each takes the corner of the building and they’re right across from each other. One is the restaurant, the other is the bakery with a few extra seats. You can see the pizza oven from the street which makes everything very charming.
We each ordered a pizza and a beer, a mixed salad with fresh baked bread and tiramisu. We also got a small serving of olives, which were amazing! It’s actually because of La Perla that I now eat olives. Weird, I know.
When you’re tired from all the shopping, stop here for the creamiest, most delicious ice cream.
While food shopping at home is a task, it’s a whole adventure in a different country. I find it exciting, to walk around in a foreign grocery store, looking at different packaging, the way things are labeled, to see silly things like what kind of ice cream they sell, see how big their selection of beer is or what kind of cereal they offer.
We mostly ate breakfast at (our temporary) home, so food shopping was essential. We went two two places, one is Albert Heijn, the other Marqt.
Albert Heijn, or AH, is a chain and there are small shops every where. We had two within walking distance which made things very easy. The prices are average, and things sold under their own AH brand are quite cheap. We stocked up on staples there: coffee, bread, hummus, yogurt, blueberries and a few other things.
Marqt is a bit pricier. To me it looked like a Dutch version of Whole Foods. They had a lot of organic food and more selected brands. Buy a bar, or two, of Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate if you get a chance, because it’s really good.
Other memorable bits
Hema is a classic store with everything from plates to chocolate to underwear. (Reminds me of Target.)
For books, book related things or stationery go to Waterstones. It’s a huge bookstore, it’s pretty and they have a nice selection of cookbooks.
If you expect Amsterdam to be stoner galore, it’s not. If I compare it to San Francisco, I walked through more marijuana clouds there than I ever did in Amsterdam, in fact I don’t remember smelling it at all in Amsterdam. I never went into any of the special coffee shops, but if you are interested they’re not hard to spot. In fact some are quite obvious with the names. The one in our street was called Happy Feelings Coffee shop, there was another one close by called Easy Times, … you can see a name theme there, haha.
Whatever you do, do not eat at Everything On a Stick. It’s at a good location and has an interesting concept, but that’s about it. You literally get everything served on a stick or food with a skewer stuck in (like a ball of rice), but I can’t recommend this place at all. The beer was fine, the food however was terrible. Honestly, when you pay 60 euros for a light lunch, I really don’t think three grilled slices of zucchini + 3 carrots slices can be called a main vegetarian dish. (I wish I was making this up, but I am clearly not.)
For a chocolate craving fix, stop at Nutella Ice Bakery. If you like Nutella, you’ll love the eclairs and donuts there.