I absolutely loved Amsterdam. It’s such an infamous place that before I arrived I had heard all sorts of different things about it – both good and bad. But for me, apart from a very cold, wet first night and a mediocre hostel, it was all good.
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. It’s so wonderful – just all green and lush, canals everywhere, old buildings, adorable little cafés (the regular kind and the smoking kind) and restaurants and boutiques everywhere. I got the feeling that I could have stayed for months (or years!) and still not have explored all of the lovely spots the city had to offer. I could have spent days wandering around the Vondepark and many nights exploring the Red Light District. Amsterdam is a city with a lot of history and politics and I found it all incredibly fascinating. Plus, it’s beautiful: it was amazing to just sit on a bench under some trees and watch the world go by.
I was only there for a few days before heading off to London to finish up my adventure, but I loved the time I had. I was staying right near the Museumplein (where the I Amsterdam sign lives!) which was perfect to access the tram transportation to downtown and right next to the Vondepark (a big beautiful park in the middle of Amsterdam). Like I said, my first night was cold and rainy, but I still ventured out to near the Flower Market (bought some beautiful tulip bulbs for the gardening ladies in my family) and ate a huge falafel from Maoz (a chain I discovered I loved in Barcelona) before coming back to my hostel for a cherry beer (sounds disgusting, ISN’T.) and heading to bed to dry out my wet clothes and shoes – yuck. The next day I did a walking tour (awesome, as always) and learned more about the city. I spent the day with two girls I met on the tour, eating french fries (Amsterdam has some of the best fries I’ve ever had!), walking around, and visiting the Anne Frank House. It’s quite an incredible experience, seeing the rooms Anne Frank and her family lived in, and imagining their situation. I found it very powerful.
That evening, we took a guided tour of the Red Light District. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgable: his first job in Amsterdam was as an errand boy for the sex workers and has since befriended and interviewed many of them – his name is Mark and he’s amazing. He took us through the area (surprisingly family-friendly, not seedy or dirty in the slightest) and explained the laws, the policies, the breakdown of how the industry works, and told personal stories as well. I couldn’t recommend the tour more highly. Additionally, Mark is a great resource for all things Amsterdam and recommended an outdoor street market the next day where I spent a few hours wandering around and had the most delicious apple cake I’ve ever had. That evening, I met up with a lovely couple I’d met on the night train from San Sebastian to Lisbon (crazy!! but amazing) and it was like meeting up with old friends. We wandered the Vondepark, had drinks, had dinner, strolled along the canals and had a wonderful time. It was the perfect way to end my time in Amsterdam. The next morning I was off to meet family in London!
- Winkel 43: the best apple cake, possibly in the world. It’s right next to the big Saturday market so it’s the perfect place to start or end your market day. It’s packed full of families and couples and friends, and it has a wonderful atmosphere.
- Sandemann’s Red Light District Tour: totally respectful, informative and interesting. Ask for Mark! (His website also has a ton of great suggestions for things to do in Amsterdam).
- Vleminckx: delicious fries with about a hundred options for sauce/toppings. Amazing.
- Noordemarkt: the wonderful Saturday market!