Amsterdam is one of the places that has always haunted me from the top of my travel to-do list. I’m a sucker for cities on the water, so it can’t get much better than Amsterdam’s 165 canals winding their way though some of Europe’s most charming architecture. But, being about a five hour drive from my family in Trier means a trip to the Netherlands can be a bit of a jaunt on most European trips. Luckily, we were able to work in almost a full week in Holland and Belgium, which made Amsterdam the crowning jewel of our trip abroad.
*Full Disclosure* My exploration of The Red Light District consisted of about three blocks of strolling from the center of the city, and I didn’t try herring once. I didn’t even go to the Anne Frank House, which fills my historical-nerd heart with more than a little guilt. Those things aside, our three days was enough time to get a perfect overview of the city and immerse ourselves in delicious food, iconic art, and local street style that rivals Paris.
Other than the insane tourist crowds, July was the perfect time to visit the Netherlands. With highs really only reaching the 70s, the weather was warm but not suffocating. We were lucky enough to catch a rainstorm on our first day, which made the city absolutely sparkle as afternoon sunlight bounced off the canals. We spent the day getting acquainted with the area and getting most of the huge tourist stops out of the way.
Amsterdam Day 1
Speaking of getting things out of the way, Bloemenmarkt—the world’s largest, floating flower market—has turned more into a floating gift shop than a delightful Dutch market. Much of Amsterdam is full of low-quality cheese shops and tulip bulbs, so don’t expect too much authenticity in the city center. That being said, it does make for some charming snaps! While getting a feel for the city, we did wander into sights like Begijnhof, with its quaint homes and rich history.
The only museum we hit on Day One was the Rijksmuseam, which houses famous works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. While I highly recommend a visit, Day Two’s stop is definitely where you should focus your time. Because we got caught in quite the summer downpour, we ended the day with an iconic Dutch french fry cone and a speedy walk to catch our train home.
Amsterdam Day 2
On our first day, we reserved tickets to the Van Gogh Museum, which easily tops the list as my all-time favorite art museum. Maybe it’s just that I have a soft spot for impressionism and the art that followed, but each exhibit took my breath away. The building was expertly laid-out to lead viewers through a history of Van Gogh’s life through his art. Truthfully, this stop is worth the trip to Amsterdam!
Desperately craving a stroopwafel, we headed to Albert Cuyp Market. This bustling, six-day-a-week street market is full of all kinds of crazy vendors, and is the best place we found to get a warm, gooey, freshly prepared stroopwafel. Several vendors sell fresh-pressed juice for only a dollar, so you can have the most delicious, well-balanced lunch you’ll find in the city.
We headed over to the Jordaan district to see if we wanted to brave the massive line to the Anne Frank House. When we discovered that not buying tickets the necessary two months in advance meant four (!!!) hours in line, we decided that we’d rather wander the area due to our limited time in the city. I’m so glad we did because Jordaan is an absolute can’t-miss stop. The crowds are much lighter than in other areas, so Jordaan still has traces of some of the Amsterdam charm. We stopped for dinner at La Perla for the best brick-oven pizza outside of Italy, and a truly memorable dinner before leaving for Brussels!
Is Amsterdam on your travel bucket list? I’m already planning another visit on my next trip to Europe, so if you’ve been before I’d love to hear where you think I should go next time!