I have always loved to travel. I think it started when I was really young and we would spend 6 weeks during the summer going on crazy cross country road trips. But I think the travel bug really hit me when I was a teenager (junior high and high school age). My father was in the Army and we were stationed in Germany and Belgium for 5 years. Each weekend we would pick a place to visit for the weekend and head out on Friday afternoon with plans to return Sunday night. I was spoiled by the “get up and go” attitude of my parents.
- Want to go to Paris for the weekend? Okay, get in the car.
- Tired of the cloudy weather in Germany? Okay pack a swimsuit we are going to Spain.
- Spring fever got you needing a 3 day weekend? Grab your passport, we are headed to London.
I have never tired of the “get up and go” and I find myself still doing it to this day.
- 5 hours to Vegas? Grab your wallet!
- Skiing in Colorado this weekend? I’ll bring the cocktails.
- Disneyland? Heck yes, I’ll be on the 5 o’clock flight!
I love a good trip out of town, so when some friends in my couple’s poker group said we were invited to go on a trip to Amsterdam for 5 days I said – why not!
Traveling to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been in my travels. When traveling to Amsterdam there is so much to see and do that you will need to schedule a few days. With all of the things to do it is difficult to paint a picture of this country in anything less than 10,000 words. Here are my top 6 must do’s when visiting Amsterdam.
Anne Frank House
I’ve been fascinated with Anne Frank ever since I read the book in 6th grade. Visiting the site where a piece of history was recorded in a way that is so personal and touching was an emotional experience.
You can almost feel the presence of Anne, and her family, in that way too small a space, so many years ago. The story is told so beautifully it guided my thoughts to my children when they were the age she was when hiding. I imagined what their reaction might be if thrust into a similar circumstance.
The Heineken Experience is a really fun way to spend a few hours when traveling to Amsterdam. Just know that this is not a brewery tour. It is more of a museum showing history of the company, an exhibit showing how beer is made, and a few interactive games and a photo opp. The ticket includes a couple of small beers at the end of the tour which you can enjoy in a fun lounge. Also, weather permitting, the ticket includes a boat ride through the adjacent canal (which was the best part).
The view of the city from the boat gives a unique and beautiful perspective of the sites.
Bloomen makt = flower market. This outdoor market is so much more than what the name suggests. This is THE best place for trinket & souvenir shopping in Amsterdam. I found the perfect Christmas ornament in one of the many shops that line the canal. If you are a bulb enthusiast you will enjoy several blocks of tulips, daffodils, and lily ecstasy. Of course, the tulips are the showstopper here.
*Buyers beware, if you’re bringing bulbs into the United States they must be marked on the package as being approved for export.
Find A Pub
If you are traveling to Amsterdam plan on wandering out from downtown to any of the surrounding towns. You’re sure to find a small corner pub, well, on every corner. My friend’s husband led us to one where a local artist club was meeting. They needed subjects to sketch so they offered to keep our glasses filled in exchange for us “allowing” them to sketch us while we hung out and visited. It was a totally unique and delightful perspective on the local culture. Here is a sketch of my friend’s husband. Probably the best and most unique souvenir that they have ever brought home from a trip. And yes, the sketch is perfect. It is the spitting image of him!
Bakery & Coffee Shops
Okay, I know this is hard, but do your best to try as many as possible. Don’t miss your chance to try any of the pastries, cakes, buns, and treats. All of which go beautifully with a blissfully strong cup of coffee. We found a little bakery just around the corner from the place we were staying that was as good if not better than anything we saw in any of the guide books.
This is the best kind of gem to find. Everyone was so friendly and the treats were all out of this world. I think I had tried one of everything before our trip was over.
When traveling to Amsterdam your trip would not be complete without a day in the country… on a bicycle. You must see the windmills! Ride just a little outside of the city (I think it was 45 minutes by bike but I really don’t remember) and you can admire your fair share of windmills in the outdoor museum – Zaanse Schans. It pays homage to Dutch heritage. In a land that used to be dotted with 10,000 windmills, these are an essential part of it. We had a great chat with the locals and they told us all about the windmills and how they were moved from the city. Stop and listen – you will learn a lot.
If you need more suggestions of places to visit and eat in Amsterdam check this post out. Please let me know if I missed anything on your Amsterdam must do list. Have a great time next time you are traveling to Amsterdam!