Amsterdam stole my heart. I have traveled to many places around the world, but Amsterdam is one of the best places to walk, dine, and relax. There is so much more to Amsterdam than red lights and “coffee shops” that contribute to the relaxing feel throughout the city. You can aimlessly wander throughout Amsterdam without any specific plans. Put on your best walking shoes, build up an appetite, and toss out the map so you can get lost in one of the best cities in the world. My stay in Amsterdam wasn’t nearly long enough. I could have spent days there. And I definitely plan to return one day.
I started my trip with a quick hour flight from London. The train ride into Amsterdam Central was swift and easy, I couldn’t wait for this visit to begin. The main train station was just a few minutes walk to the Max Brown hotel located right in the heart of the Canal District. The Max Brown is a boutique hotel on a quaint, quiet street, central to everything you can walk to in Amsterdam. Because it was on a quiet street, I was able to keep my windows open at night and enjoy a cool breeze off the canal waters. Immediately, I felt welcomed and found my perfect home for my quick stay.
Step out and hit the streets by foot if you want to run into a cafe or pub. The streets of Amsterdam are your own treasure map. Plan to get lost and walk in any direction. Eat at any place that is calling you, and drink at one of the many pubs along the way. Eventually, you’ll find your way back. Never once did I worry that I wouldn’t find my way, Amsterdam is full of warm and friendly people.
With only a few days in Amsterdam, the only places I wanted to make sure to visit were the Anne Frank Museum and the Van Gough Museum. And I wanted to find the best traditional pancake around. Other than that, I didn’t plan anything. I simply wanted to walk as many of Amsterdam’s unique streets as possible.
On my first day in Amsterdam, I walked by the Anne Frank House, and noted the standby line to get in spanned several blocks. I didn’t have a reservation to visit the Anne Frank House. Apparently, the house allows reserving time slots up to three months in advance. But I hadn’t planned that far ahead. I got lucky my second afternoon by refreshing their reservation page while sitting in a cafe, and scored a reserved entry time. This museum is fantastic considering the sobering history of the house, and that it represents just one family out of millions. Because of its significance, I would put the Anne Frank House at the top of anyone’s list when visiting Amsterdam.
On my second afternoon, I spent my time looking for the perfect pancake. And I found it at The Pancake Bakery. It didn’t take me long to realize how much I prefer the traditional Amsterdam pancakes to those here at home. A light crepe style pancake with ham and cheese was perfect, and I couldn’t believe the serving size. It was as large as my table and was easily a pancake for two people.
The next day, I wanted to hit the museum scene. The walk to the Rijksmuseum was incredible. The journey of getting anywhere in Amsterdam is just as enjoyable as the destination. I followed the canals, weaving in and out, and finally walked along the Musemburg bridge that led me to the now famous I AMSTERDAM sign. The crowds are vast here, but I spent hours walking the grounds, eating from carts, and learning art history from Van Gough, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. I found this excellent little cafe named PIQNIQ, where you can get your food to go, picnic style, naturally. The portions are small by American standards, but they were so tasty, and perfect for a lazy day out and about.
I have never been a huge beer gal, but Amsterdam was the first city I’ve been to where I really enjoyed cold beer everywhere I went. Maybe it was the tradition of Heineken or just the prevalence of canal-front pubs and cafes. A beer and charcuterie plate had me at every one of those stops along the way. I loved sitting along the canal edge listening to the people around me.
Of course, is a visit to the Dutch Netherlands complete without a piece of the best apple pie… in the world? I don’t think so. My stomach decided to seek out some crumbly goodness. I stumbled upon Winkel, which is, apparently, Dutch apple pie heaven. I’ve never had a piece of apple pie like this. And needless to say, there was nothing left to show for it.
If I had more time in Amsterdam, I would have taken one of the many canal boats I saw floating by. The canals seem to have the best viewpoint, and you might be able to take in a local’s perspective. This city truly needs no itinerary. Plan to spend more than a few days to appreciate it, and take the time to see the sights and soak in the history. I loved the tiny shops hidden along the side streets and was amazed by how easy it was to get around on foot. Wander aimlessly, keep your eyes open, and explore every nook. You never know what hidden treasure you might find next in Amsterdam.