Stop Number 2 on our European excursion was Amsterdam, Netherlands!
First thing we did when we landed was buy a SIM card from a kiosk in the airport. This was WAY easier than I thought it would be, I simply chose a plan based off how many gb of data I wanted and if it was just for the Netherlands or all of Europe. The employee installed the card for me, set up my phone and we were sent on our way. I got the highest plan of data because we were going to be using maps a lot for the rest of the trip and I paid about 50 Euro for a month-long plan. After we had that taken care of we bought two train tickets to the Airbnb. I asked our host for the easiest directions using public transit to the flat and the woman was so helpful and gave me a detailed plan of attack. Another reason why I love Airbnb, it’s like staying with a friend and I always utilize their knowledge of the city for advice and tips! We met our host at out flat and ended up chatting with her for some time about must do’s, must see’s and must eats in Amsterdam. She recommended we walk down to the Foodhallen and grab some food. I also posted to Facebook and asked my community of friends and family for advice and was so excited of the responses and tips we received!
After a nice meal and a drink, we scoped out the nearby market and grabbed some food to make for breakfast for the rest of our stay. This is a great way to save money while traveling and another perk of staying in an Airbnb with a full kitchen. We then hit the streets of Amsterdam to explore and eventually end up at dinner. This is a point where having the data on my phone was super helpful. All the canals and streets in Amsterdam look very similar and we easily would have been lost without maps! This city is so unique and let me tell you that the number of bikes is crazy. We later found out that the population of the city is less than the number of bikes in Amsterdam. We crossed the river using the quick ferry to get to the NDSM neighborhood per my cousin’s advice. The ferry was free and super easy to use and was located right being Amsterdam Centraal. We ate dinner at Cannibale Royale and really enjoyed our food here. We had bitterballen as our appetizer which is a Dutch snack and it’s a deep fried little meat and cheese ball to be dipped in mustard…holy delicious! We didn’t LOVE this neighborhood and don’t think it’s a must-see area in Amsterdam, but it was fun and unique. After dinner we grabbed the next ferry and made our way back to our flat, but first making our way through the iconic Red-Light District.
We personally had to experience the Red-Light District for ourselves because its something Amsterdam is known for. I was so surprised that it was actually women dancing in windows! James asked me, “Well what did you think you’d see?” I replied with, “I wasn’t sure but it wasn’t this!” I’m not one to judge and this neighborhood is a part of their culture and business. I was just excited to be in a new city and explore all different ways of life!
This day was a slow start and by this I mean we stayed in bed until 11am. Sometimes traveling is hard work and being so busy sight-seeing and exploring can really wear you out. I was wishing I was wearing my FitBit to see all the steps we were gaining this trip! We slowly got ourselves and started with a little photo session in our gorgeous windows of our Airbnb. These windows were so unique and inviting, they even opened right to a main street! The windows were one of the selling points for us to go with this Airbnb, we are suckers for unique and beautiful architecture and design.
Once we got ourselves out of the flat, we made our way to the Albert Cuyp Market to shop and eat stroopwafles. We waited in a bit of a line (totally worth it) and got the most amazing fresh classic stroopwafles. I don’t even know where to begin to explain how delicious these treats were. A stroopwafle is, it’s a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough and filled with a caramel sauce in the middle. These can be a packaged item but let me tell you that nothing beats a fresh order of these! There was the option to have the stroopwafle dipped in chocolate but the classic waffle was calling my name. I’m sad that we only indulged in these once as they are undeniably delicious.
James and I had booked a canal cruise at sunset through Airbnb and noticed that we were quickly approaching our time slot. We cleaned all the stroopwafle caramel sauce off our faces and headed to find dinner. We wanted to be closer to the meeting place for the canal cruise so we headed in that direction. In route, we saw a restaurant that caught our eye and headed in for a quick bite before we hit the water. Originally, we had chosen our meals based menu choices but then the server came up and told us that the special for the evening was fresh fish that was just caught that morning. The server raved about this chefs special and the more he explained the more we were interested! We opted for the server’s recommendation and agreed to the daily special! We always ask for daily specials and/or the servers recommendations, especially in foreign countries! They know the menu better than we do and can often provide us with delicious choices or specials we are unaware of. As we waited for dinner, we enjoyed some local Amsterdam beer and played around with photos of each other at the table. Once the fish came, our server filleted it at our tables and it was served with a burnt butter (insert mouthwatering). Yum YUM YUM. We were so full and still had plenty of food on the table, it’s so hard to let good food go uneaten!
After dinner, we headed towards our canal cruise. This was one thing we were looking forward too as it’s so unique to Amsterdam. My cousin had recently been to Amsterdam, so we picked her brain for ideas and suggestions. She had mentioned that her and her boyfriend did a sunset canal cruise and really enjoyed it, although they thought that a smaller more intimate setting for the canal sunset cruise would have been better. We use Airbnb so much that we decided to try our first Airbnb experience as they offered smaller tour groups (plus food and drink). We cannot recommend this enough as we enjoyed our tour so much and made some amazing friends! Our guide was knowledgeable about the city and the history of Amsterdam, we enjoyed cruising the canals and learning about the city.
The tour we did included drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) as well as some bitterballen and Dutch cheese. This was a nice touch to really experience Amsterdam in a unique and beautiful way! Near the end we were in a clear and calm area and the captain asked if anyone was interested in driving the boat. I jumped on my feet and ran to the steering wheel, volunteering to drive the boat seemed like the coolest way to experience Amsterdam.
This was so unique to Amsterdam and an experience we will never forget! We would recommend a sunset canal cruise to everyone planning to visit Amsterdam.
After the cruise had ended and the boat was docked, we chatted with our new friends for a while. We ended up going out to a couple bars with the two couples and chatted all night long. They were from Germany and Austria and had done a couple trips together. It was so fun to get to know other people from different parts of the world and learn from their experiences. The night came to an end and we headed back to our Airbnb to get some rest. We were enjoying the cool walk through the streets together and chatting about what an amazing evening we just had. We ended up lost and caught in the rain, but enjoyed every minute of it. We somehow stumbled upon a trampolines built into the ground and played like children, laughing until ached. We were falling in love with Amsterdam and we still had two more days to enjoy here!
One of my friends that I met when I was working in Denver has been traveling for a long time. She actually was one of my biggest supporters when I first started traveling. She recently got a contract in Germany and when I told her we were coming to Europe it was a no-brainer that we needed to see each other. Kalia mentioned that she had never been to Amsterdam and it was on her list of places to see, so we decided that she could drive up and come spend a day or two with us. She’s such a “go with the flow” kind of woman and so that morning we hit the streets of Amsterdam ready to explore together.
After wandering for some time, we ended up in the Bloemenmarkt. The Bloemenmarkt is a floating market that has a variety of shops and fresh flowers. This market was on our list of places in Amsterdam that we had interest in seeing, so it was quite neat that the streets just lead us there that morning!
I couldn’t even tell you everywhere we went this day because we really did just walk and let the wind blow us in whichever direction. We did a lot of sight-seeing, a bit of shopping and of course a lot picture taking.
We stopped for lunch at an outdoor café, enjoyed people watching and a cold drink!
After satisfying our hunger we set out to explore more of the grounds of Amsterdam. We stumbled upon a beautiful houseboat with tons of greenery and one of the infamous coffee shops. We were told by many people that one of the best and most unique ways to experience Amsterdam is to stay on a house boat. Unfortunately, our budget and last minute planning didn’t allow for us to stay on a house boat. We agreed that next time we come to Amsterdam its a must-do!
We headed back towards our Airbnb and explored the Foodhallen again. Kalia had yet to experience this awesome indoor food hall and there was still a couple food stands left on or list to try!
Our last full day in Amsterdam and first thing on our list was to see the Rijksmuseum with our friends from the canal tour. The Rijksmuseum is a large national Dutch art and history museum. We met our friends at the museum and spent a couple hours here just taking in all the art from the middle ages to present day. We also saw Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait! We could have easily spent more time here as the museum in large and expansive, but this was our last day in Amsterdam and we still had so much on our list. We downloaded the Rijksmuseum app beforehand and this was so useful! It not only was our digital ticket, but it also served as a tour guide with audio and plenty of information. This was a great way to see the museum without paying extra money for a tour guide. Be mindful that this museum is very busy and there are a large amount of people seeing and learning just like we were.
After a morning of walking in the museum, we headed to lunch. The two couples we met from Germany and Austria had not been to the Foodhallen yet and suggested we go there for lunch. Apparently, we were going to eat all our meals at this food hall! We opted to spend time with new friends and tag along.
After lunch, we knew we wanted to see the windmill brewery called Brouwerij ‘t IJ, this is the biggest and best known brewery in Amsterdam. Our trip wasn’t very long and the weather wasn’t permitting for us to take a bike ride out to see a real windmill so this was the next best thing. This place was neat, and we met some fun Canadians that we shared our time with.
Afterwards we all agreed that it was time for dinner. We were all pretty hunger and tired and just stumbled into a burger joint for dinner. Sometimes it’s hard to travel with others as we all have different opinions on meals and ideas for food choices. I think at this point we were all pretty much checking out and after a quick walk through the Red-Light District we made our way back to our flat.
Amsterdam has been amazing to us and we can’t wait to come back and experience more of this fun and chill culture.