How I've missed you Amsterdam! It's been almost 10 years and I finally made it back! And it hasn't changed much since 2009- still beautiful, still easy to get lost, the scene is still amazing, and it's still filled with bikes, tourists, and flowers. The last time I went was the week between Christmas and New Years, and it's the coldest I've ever been in my life. This time was different- August was the perfect time to go. However a few things I didn't realize until this time around:
-the weather is unpredictable, and apparently according to the locals that's normal. Layers are key, as well as rainjackets and umbrellas. Storms come up and pass through quick, but downpours are common. Even in August we needed long sleeved shirts, jeans, light jackets, booties.
-the city is so walkable as well as bikeable! Though everything seems to be at least a 20-30 min walk from one another. The tram is also super convenient and pretty cheap, so are the ubers.
-the airport is really close to city center, only a 15 min train or uber ride will put you right in the middle of the action
-Airbnbs will only house a max of 4 people in the city limits of Amsterdam, I went with a group of 7, so we had to split up into 2 Airbnbs. Our Airbnb was adorable in the Oud-West neighborhood which I loved. Close to the Vondelpark and not too far from city center (45min-1hr walk)
-Stroopwafles are delicious cookies that are sold everywhere. Beware of the late night dessert shops though- I was underwhelmed with the waffles and stroopwafles I got from them. They look so good in the windows, they did not live up to the look.
So why did I go to Amsterdam? It was actually part of a bigger trip - a group of friends and I decided to spend a week in Croatia- and currently there are no direct flights from the US to Croatia. Bummer right? WRONG- the perfect excuse, it turns out, to make another European city a long layover stop on our way to and from Croatia- hence Amsterdam side trip was born! We were able to fly out of AMS to Dubrovnik, and then back to AMS from the Split airport. It worked out great, the travel was a little rough due to crazy nights in Amsterdam, followed by early morning flights both to Croatia and then home on the back half, but sometimes you need to sacrifice a good sleep for a good time. So what did we do with our almost 72 hours in Amsterdam?
- Arrived, checked into Airbnbs, power naps after overnight flight
- Anne Frank House: Buy tickets way in advance - at least a month or two out. We got a 4pm time slot our first Friday in. About an hour long audio-guided tour, very interesting and worth doing
- Van Gogh Museum: Another place where you need to buy tickets way in advance. We had a 6:30pm time slot right after Anne Frank, so we walked about a half hour. This is also where the IAMSTERDAM sign is (great photo opp) Spent another hour in this museum, if you were a Van Gogh fan back in the day like I was, it is cool to see so much of his work, and learn a little more about his personal battles with mental illness
- FoodHallen: From Van Gogh we walked another half hour to FoodHallen- which is a great dinner option for groups that can't decide what they want to eat. This place has a dozen plus vendors making all sorts of cuisine, lots of bars with beer/wine/cocktail options. Seating is tough- you will have to stalk seats for a minute to find a homebase, and then don't plan on moving for awhile.
From Foodhallen we walked just a few blocks to some bars.
Wanted to go for a run, but the weather was not cooperating (lots of random downpours, then sunny, then downpour, so we hit up a local gym. However the Vondelpark is suppose to be a good option for a run)
- Brunch at Dignita Vondelpark- absolutely delicious, highly recommend
- Walked up to and around city center, red light district (don't bother, if you want to see the real deal it needs to be after dark) and checked out all the architecture- which I could do for hours because it's all so beautiful
- Checked out the Pozenboot! This is a cat adoption boat, got to pet the kitties. Only a drive by, spent maybe 20mins hanging out on the kitty boat. Kitties!!!
- Dinner at Restaurant Bleu: Adorable restaurant in a beautiful, quiet, residential neighborhood- fantastic. Gives you the option to add lobster (Surf it!) or Foie Gras (Foie it!) to any dish. I surfed my french onion soup and I'm not even a bit sorry about it.
Sunday: Woke up super super early and headed to the airport for Dubrovnik! Check out my blog on my Croatia trip next!
The following Sunday: We flew from Split in the afternoon and arrived back into Amsterdam around 6pm. We checked into our hotel real quick (Hilton Amsterdam, pretty nice, about a 50 min walk from city center though). Through Tripadvisor we booked a Pizza canal cruise for the evening that started at 8:15. It was 90 minutes long and a great way to see the city. It was the perfect night weather wise, clear skies and not too cold at all, so we had the roof off on the boat. They stopped halfway at a New York Pizza , and everyone got their own personal pizza as well as Ben and Jerry's half pint of ice cream. I got Veggie pizza (delicious) and Caramel crunch ice cream (the diet I'm about to embark on after this trip will be serious). So 90 mins, tour of the city through the canals by boat, unlimited wine and beer, pizza and ice cream included- came to around $48 per person. I loved this tour- killed 2 birds- seeing the city by boat and getting dinner. The unlimited wine didn't hurt either. However if you are looking for a tour that is super educational this is not it, they only pointed out a few places. More of a fancy booze cruise feel.
Anyways, in conclusion I loved the chance to return to Amsterdam after all these years. Never change Amsterdam, you are like the beautiful, fancy Vegas of Europe.
Cost Breakdown per person:
Airbnb 2 nights: $145
Hotel room one night: $100
Pizza Cruise: $48
Total Cost: $633