June 18, 2014 5 min read
Planning a trip to Europe can be both exciting and frustrating. Looking at your travel pin map, there are so many cities you want to see and experience, but there is never enough time to visit them all in one trip. Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands, is one city that I feel should not be overlooked. Having visited Amsterdam on two separate occasions, I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite cities in Europe. It is truly a city of beauty and culture with unrivaled character and charm.
Upon arriving in Amsterdam, you will instantly notice the awe you feel at the overall magnificence of the city. You will take in the spectacular canals glistening in the sun, the dozens of bikers zipping by you with extreme precision and the architecture that looks too remarkable to be real. Once you settle into your hostel or hotel, you will be eager to start exploring right away. Here are some of my favorite Amsterdam points of interest, based on my own research and experience.
Amsterdam is the home to many world renowned museums that are well worth a visit. The Rijksmuseum (National Museum) hosts an outstanding collection of paintings from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including works by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Vermeer and more. The Anne Frank House is another popular museum where you can visit the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II. Get to this museum early as the lines can be exhaustingly long. My absolute favorite museum in the city is the Van Gogh Museum, which hosts the world’s largest collection from the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The museum features a great deal of drawings and letters from the artist, as well as more than 200 paintings, including some of his more famous ones such as “Sunflowers”, “The Bedroom” and my personal favorite “Almond Blossom”. The rich colors and incredible textures pop off the canvases in ways not possible in a book or on a computer screen. Unfortunately, you will not find “The Starry Night” here in Amsterdam. It is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The Heineken Experience is a pretty enjoyable self-guided tour through Heineken’s former brewery, which has been transformed into an interactive tour highlighting the brewing process. I have visited several brewery tours in the past and this is definitely one of the most unique and interactive ones. The tour takes approximately 1.5 hours to walk through, and you get to learn about the entire brewing process, with staff members at every section along the way to answer questions. There is even a silly little 4D ride where you step onto a platform and get to see what it’s like to be a bottle of beer throughout the bottling process. Cheesy? Yes. Fun? Absolutely! At the end of the tour you get two “free” beer tastings in the tasting room. All and all it is a fun experience where you actually learn a lot about beer, for the minimal cost of the tour.
Full disclaimer, I have never had the pleasure of exploring Holland’s magnificent and world renowned tulip fields. But it is definitely on my Bucket List, as the pictures I’ve seen are just breathtaking, and tulips are my favorite flower. The tricky part is that you can only see them about 2 months out of the year. The exact dates vary each year, thanks to Mother Nature, but generally speaking the tulips begin to bloom in March and can be seen through May. My research has indicated that mid-April would be the optimal time to plan a visit so that you are there right during the peak of the season and don’t miss them by going too early or too late. The Keukenhof Gardens are the most famous and are about an hour outside of Amsterdam. Information for these gardens can be found here: http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/#
Amsterdam has over 65 miles of canals that weave and wind throughout the picturesque city. What better way to get acquainted to what Amsterdam has to offer than with a relaxing canal cruise? There are many different cruises to choose from- from romantic candlelight dinner cruises, all you can eat pancake breakfast cruises to the standard afternoon hour long cruise. I found this great article with some tips for different canal cruises: http://www.fodors.com/news/amsterdams-coolest-canal-tours-6657.html
A review of Amsterdam without the mention of the notorious Red Light District would be incomplete. I was very hesitant to go here because of the bad rap the area gets, but, I have to admit, the area is not as seedy as I expected. In fact, during the daytime, you might not even notice anything too unusual about the area. We actually saw plenty of families walking around during the day. Sure, there are the “coffee shops” where people smoke legalized marijuana, and there are women in scantily clad outfits in windows glowing bright red, but there are also tons of shops, bars and restaurants that are worth a visit. And I can definitely say that the people watching here cannot be beat.
While in Amsterdam, don’t forget to stop into some of the lovely cafés throughout the city for some scrumptious pastries. I’ve never had such delicious croissants in my entire life! Not even in Paris. I swear, I still dream about them. They are so warm, soft and buttery! Mmm… Also be sure to find one of the many stands selling dessert waffles with melted chocolate or Nutella topping. Such a decadent and delicious dessert. Don’t share one though; you will want the whole thing to yourself. Trust me! Lastly, the famous I AMSTERDAM sign is located in a gorgeous park in the museum district. Getting a close up picture with the entire sign is quite tricky though, as you can see from my picture above!
Even with all these things to do and see in Amsterdam, my favorite part was just strolling around and exploring the city and taking in all of it’s charms. Every street, every bridge and every canal has its own character, and you could happily get lost for hours without getting bored. If you do happen to get lost, friendly English-speaking locals will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. So go on, book your trip to Amsterdam and get that pin in your world travel map in one of Europe’s most quaint and beautiful cities!
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