Amsterdam was one of the coolest cities that I have been to abroad. This trip was different from a lot of my recent trips because we stayed in Amsterdam the entire time rather than going to multiple cities. It was nice to really see one city and feel like I did everything that I wanted to do in Amsterdam.
We checked into our really fun hostel called Flying Pig Uptown Youth Hostel and it was buzzing with young people and the hostel had its own bar, too. The hostel had a lot of stairs and seemed to be built more vertically than horizontally, so it was easy to forget which floor you were on (thankfully we were only on the first floor). We dropped our stuff and headed out into the city, where we walked around until late at night. The streets were so lively even at 1am, so it was easy to forget what time it was because of all of the commotion. We grabbed some food and went to bed.
The next morning, we woke up early and got a really good bagel breakfast (which I haven’t had since being in Santa Barbara!) before going to the famous Van Gogh Museum. All I knew about Van Gogh was his few famous paintings that we learned about in elementary school and his lack of one ear. After the museum, I saw so much more of his art and recognized a lot of other pieces that I didn’t know I had seen before. I got to see the “Sunflowers,” the “Bedroom” and the “Irises.” It was a smaller art museum compared to one’s that I have seen before, but I think it was perfect and you could really see everything in about 1 1/2 hours. After spending some time at Van Gogh, we decided to walk around the famous Vondelpark of Amsterdam. The park is so big that we got to explore for hours on end. Amsterdam was fully in fall season, so we saw all of the trees changing colors and everything had this intense red-orange-yellow, autumn glow. There were bikes zooming around the park, small lakes, ponds, playgrounds and small Dutch houses in the park. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon until it got really cold as the sun went down. We decided to leave the park and walk into town to take refuge in a small café for an hour or so until we warmed up.
For dinner that night, we made reservations at this recommended restaurant called Restaurant Möeders. Möeders in Dutch means “mothers,” so this restaurant was all about celebrating moms! The walls were all lined with framed pictures of mothers and it had this very cozy, homey vibe. Even the waitresses had an obvious maternal instinct, especially toward us seven girls sitting down for dinner. We all had a traditional Dutch meal, which was perfect to warm us up after being out in the cold. That night we decided to go out to some bars and even trekked into the infamous Red Light District of Amsterdam. I don’t need to say much about it, but it was one of the strangest places that I have ever been, haha. There could never exist a place in the US like that. We ended up going to this bar at St. Christopher Hostel right off of the Red Light and it was so much fun. We had a big group, drinking and dancing to some classic American rock songs. After wandering for a little bit, we made our way back to the hostel.
The next morning, we wanted to see more of the city during the day time, so we decided to walk without a plan. We first got breakfast at a traditional Dutch pancake place called De Vier Pilaren; the Dutch pancakes are so big and a lot thinner and equally as delicious as normal pancakes. After breakfast, we stumbled upon a place that sold traditional stroopwaffles and it was imperative that we bought one in that moment. It’s just two waffle-type circles pushed together with thick syrup in the middle and topped with more deliciousness. They are a traditional Dutch treat and they were amazing, especially when warm and fresh. We ended up walking through a Farmer’s Market too, which reminded me of my favorite Terra Linda Farmer’s Market back home that I miss so much :’) There were so many free samples and the Dutch just kept offering us treats to try, so we couldn’t say no and ate even more than I thought I was physically able to. We meandered back toward our hostel and stopped in a really cool thrift shop called Episode. I forgot how much that I love thrift shopping, while also being environmentally conscious (check out the Fuck Fast Fashion movement regarding thrift shopping if you’re interested in how it helps the planet!).
We took a break at the hostel before we headed out to do the Heineken Experience, one of the tourist attractions of Amsterdam. I thought it was going to be more like a museum, but it is definitely an experience. We walked through a history portion about how Heineken started, then to the big brewery room with these large brass mixers where the beer is brewed in gigantic quantities. You see horse stables inside when they talk about early advertising, then you move on to the first big interactive activity. You are put into a room lined with TVs and they take you through the process of brewing, packaging and shipping a Heineken, with you as the Heineken! It was a lot of fun to experience that and that activity ended with a quick Heineken tasting. They had a lot more interactive activities throughout the museum and it ended with us going down to a bar to drink our two “free” Heinekens. Although I don’t love Heineken, it was a lot of fun to see how the beer industry operates and how much of a worthwhile attraction the Heineken experience is.
From there, we went on a scheduled canal tour through Amsterdam. It was an hour long canal tour where we got unlimited (you guessed it!) Heineken and wine and got some historical context about the city. It was beautiful getting to go down the canals that you see on almost every street in the city center. It was incredibly cold, but we got blankets and bundled up when we sat outside. The only caveat was that the bathroom on board the canal tour boat was coincidentally broken that day, so by the end of the tour, people were getting antsy as one could imagine. After the canal tour, we decided to bar hop again as our final farewell to Amsterdam. We went to a lot of different bars and ~coffeeshops~ along the way. We ended our night getting fresh waffles at Mama Pancakes, thus completing the dessert trifecta (Dutch pancake, stroopwaffle and waffle) and in one day… My stomach wasn’t happy the next morning, but I’d say it was worth it. We finally made it back home around 2am and had to wake up at 5am the next morning for our 7:40am flight, and lemme tell you that we were not happy campers checking out of our hostel. People were still up and about in the hostel playing pool and drinking and smoking, which seemed so crazy to me! As we walked to the airport bus, we saw so many people ambling about the streets and it was hard to tell if the people on the streets were on their way home or if they had just woken up, haha.
Overall, Amsterdam was one of my new favorite places that I have traveled to in Europe. I keep saying this with each new trip, but they are all so good that it’s hard to pick just one! Each trip has had its shining moment or moments that I cannot qualify. Amsterdam was amazing because of the small town vibes and how kind all of the people were to us Americans, which is not always the welcome that we receive. It was a busy, busy weekend and I was dead tired on Sunday, but I am so happy that we made the trip there 🙂