Travel Tuesday: Three Days in Amsterdam

Writing that title made me think of the song "One Night in Bangkok". This trip was not close to that song though.

Amsterdam was on my list of cities to visit for a long time. I'd originally tried to pair it with another city, but honestly couldn't find a good time to take a week off from work, given all the other travel I have planned this year. So I started to think a long weekend in Amsterdam would be a good idea. When the right airfare presented itself, I pounced!



Here's my Amsterdam itinerary and my recommendations/thoughts from the trip.

Arrived late morning on Friday, checked into my hotel, took a long shower (had been traveling for like 20 hours at that point). Then, I went out and began my time in Amsterdam. 

First, I should point out that I did my research and had a list of things I wanted to see in Amsterdam, which included Anne Frank's House, the Van Gogh Museum, a canal tour, and a walking tour. I'd bought Rick Steves' book on Amsterdam and gotten advice from friends, so I felt good about having enough to do in three days, but wouldn't feel overwhelmed, or like I was missing out on anything. 

Amsterdam has a great tram system that goes throughout the whole city, but is especially robust in the city center where most of the sights are. There happened to be two trams half a block from my hotel, so I tram-hopped to the Jordaan neighborhood where Anne Frank House was. 

Going to Anne Frank's House takes some planning and luck. Tickets are sold online starting three months in advance, and sell out within the day. Only online ticketholders are admitted from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. After that, anyone will be admitted. So, needless to say, people start lining up for the 3:30 admission time. And they start EARLY. Like noon. 

I got to the house and saw that the line was easily three hours long (I'd read about it online). So I got some fries from a street vendor (something everyone told me to do in Amsterdam and, honestly, they were only ok). 

I decided it would be a good time to take a canal tour, as the weather was nice at the moment (it was hit or miss almost the whole time I was there), and there was a tour starting right by Anne Frank in five minutes. The tour was your basic touristy spiel, but it was good to get the lay of the land and take it easy after a lot of travel. 

Another thing about Amsterdam: the city is quite small, everything is pretty close together. Neighborhoods bleed into each other quickly and if you like to walk (or bike) you'll be in heaven. So after the canal tour, it was 5:30 and my internal clock was really messed up. I walked closer to the main train station to grab dinner, with the plan of going back to my hotel and getting some sleep so I could hit the town with a vengeance on Saturday. 

After a delicious dinner of Dutch croquettes and some frites, it started POURING. I had my umbrella, and a strategic thought--all those people waiting in line at Anne Frank surely wouldn't wait in the rain! I was a ten minute walk from Anne Frank, so I hustled over. 

When I got there, it was about 7:10, and the line was much shorter than earlier. The museum stays open until 10 p.m., so I felt good about my chances. 

This is where I learned how great it is to embrace your surroundings on a trip. I ended up in a lovely conversation with a woman from Atlanta who was on a Viking River Cruise and a family from the Philippines. We talked about our travel plans, what we'd heard about Anne Frank House, other travel recommendations. All of them were delightful and we all shared umbrellas when it started raining again. 

After 50 minutes of waiting, we made it in to the museum. No photos are allowed in the house, and honestly, you don't learn a lot you don't already know. But there's something very powerful about being IN the house that you've heard so much about. It's really remarkable that the family was able to survive in hiding for so long--that no one got sick, that their friends were able to bring rations to them without getting caught (if you think about it, food and toiletries were carefully monitored, and there were 4-6 people having to essentially get double the amount of supplies without attracting attention), that they even tried to go into hiding in the first place. I fought back tears a lot of the time in the museum, and mourned the state that the world was in then. 




After this, I really was exhausted. I made it back to my hotel and basically fell face-first into bed. 

Saturday

After 9 hours of sleep, I was feeling much more human. A quick breakfast at my hotel, and then I was off to the Van Gogh Museum. This is where Rick Steves really came through. I bought my ticket online ahead of time for a 9-9:30 a.m. entry. I got to skip the ticket line, walk right in and rent an audio guide. Highly recommend this as you get to learn more about some things, but can skip things you don't care about (I rarely rent these guides, but my opinion is changing).

I wandered through some shopping areas and found myself at Amsterdam Cheese Shop. Yes, please. You can try EVERY cheese they sell. I definitely took advantage, and left with a truffle gouda, and two types of goat cheese. Bonus: the cheeses are all vacuum packed and don't need to be refrigerated until open, so very easy to travel with. I also bought basically my only souvenir, a tote bag about cheese.

I spent the afternoon on a free walking tour by Sandeman--a good way to see lots of top sights (including the Red Light District, which is really tame, haha) and also get info from about Real Amsterdam.



Indonesian cuisine is very prevalent in Amsterdam (mainly because of the Dutch East Indies Trading Company), so I stopped in at Indonesian Kitchen, recommended to me by a friend. It was heavy on rice and meat and perfect after a long day of touring.

That night, I went to Boom Chicago, a cousin of Second City, the improv troupe. Many comedians we know performed here, like Seth Meyers and Jordan Peele. It's basically a group of Americans making fun of tourists, the US and Dutch life. They also served rose wine, so I was happy as a clam. This ended around 10 and I again trammed back to my hotel and passed out.

Sunday

My last full-day in Amsterdam! I did some market-walking, including the floating flower market (which I thought was a let-down), and then made my way to the Heineken Brew House. Ok. So I've been to the Guinness Brewhouse in Dublin, and it's way more in-depth about brewing of Guinness. This was basically half an ad for Heineken (which I expect) and then half interactive displays about karaoke and sports teams Heineken sponsors. I wasn't really in the mood for this, so I scooted through pretty quickly, got my free gift at the end (a bottle opener!) and kept on moseying.

At some point today, I visited two grocery stores, a guilty pleasure when I'm traveling. Not only do I love to pick up bottled water and snacks, but it's a great place to get food souvenirs and also just see what other countries eat. I picked up some Stroopwaffel, mustards, and snacks for later.

I then visited the "brewery in a windmill", which was a lovely break from walking around and had good beer.



A bonus of traveling on your own? You can go to sleep when you want. I knew I needed to leave for the airport pretty early for my 10:45 a.m. flight back, so I went back to the hotel and fell asleep, while realizing I was coming down with a cold.

Monday

My airline advised getting to the airport 2-3 hours before your flight, and all I have to say is PREACH. I was at Schipol Airport at 7:50 a.m. and was literally in a line or rushing to a gate the entire time. I went through two general passport and security checks (my bag had to be searched because of the cheese, ha!) and then Delta had their own passport check, which was more than just a glance at the photo. I was asked what hotel I stayed at, to show confirmation of the hotel (which I couldn't because the airport wifi was terrible), what I'd visited, what tram stops various attractions were at, what tram NUMBER I took to various places. I realize I looked suspicious, a single lady doing a long weekend in Amsterdam, but still, I was unprepared for the level of scrutiny I went through.

So there you have it, um, two months after my trip! Anything you'd add? Questions I didn't address?


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