From Brussels, Rachel and I took the Thalys train (about 2 hours) straight to Amsterdam for a two day stay in the city. At the central station just walk outside and grab a tram (you can buy the tickets on the tram, get a full day ticket so you can hop on an off) and check into your hotel. Don’t bother with a taxi or uber – it’s easier and faster to take the tram. I chose the Hotel Seven One Seven and I could not have been more in love. The sitting room and library were so rich and inviting, and the rooms named after famous authors are luxe and quiet. We had the JRR Tolkein suite – just stunning.
Soak in the hotel’s atmosphere before heading out for a walk about. We first headed straight for the Anne Frank House – this is a MUST while in Amsterdam. However, the line is several hours long if you did not book tickets online in advance. Tickets are booked up months and months in advance, and give timed entrance up until 3:30 pm. After that, walk ins are taken until closing, but the line is daunting. Do not let this deter you, you should visit this museum line or no line, it’s worth the wait. But we learned a secret when we headed to the tourist office next to the museum. We were given a tip that some timed tickets are released online each morning at 9 am. We set a timer and checked the following morning and were able to snag two tickets for later that afternoon! So definitely do this if you aren’t able to book in advance, this freed up a lot of time to experience the city. So, we instead purchased tickets for a canal tour (we went on a Lovers tour, which are great, but you can also book a dinner tour, a private hire boat, or basically any type of tour you desire) and headed back to central station. A canal tour is the perfect way to start your visit to the city as it will give you a lay of the land and some great history. Also, the canals of Amsterdam are stunning.
I want to grow old with Carleton on a house boat on an Amsterdam canal. #Dreams
After your tour, make your way via tram or on foot to the Jordaan. This charming neighborhood is typical Amsterdam. Have a perfect dinner at Trattoria Donna Sophia and an ice cream from the little shop across the way. Wander a bit before heading back to your hotel, through Leidseplein and Vondelpark, and admire the canals at night.
In the morning, head to the Van Gogh Museum – purchase timed tickets from a tourist booth the night before, or get there at opening for faster entry. This museum is wonderful and immersive – I couldn’t help but read each description as it pieced together the story of Van Gogh’s life and art. If you are up for two museums, the Rijksmuseum should be next. If you are museum-ed out, book a bike tour. Amsterdam is a biker’s heaven, but unfortunately it was raining most of this visit so we didn’t take a bike tour like I did in Copenhagen, but I would highly recommend it. Otherwise, head back towards the canals and find a pretty spot to have a sunny lunch by the water. Apple pancakes and local beer can’t be beat.
In the afternoon, the Anne Frank Museum is an emotional experience. The museum is in the actual “secret annex” where she and her family hid from the Nazis. I can’t put the experience into words, as a Jew and as a human being.
This is the actual faux bookshelf/door the family hid behind. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make the time to see this museum when in Amsterdam. I will leave it at that. You will have your own experience of it.
After the Anne Frank Museum you can cross the canal and walk a block to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. I’m not sure the museum itself is a must-do, but it’s interesting to learn about the tulip hype and crash, and the museum is quick. You can pick up some bulbs to bring home (they have a special selection approved to bring into the US and Canada) from the gift shop. There are also so many flower stalls on the street that will also sell you bulbs. It was peony season a few weeks ago. I couldn’t get enough.
Take a rest for a bit so you can stay up late to see the sunset around 10 pm. In the evening, take the tram to the Red Light district. Instead of just gawking, visit the Red Light Secrets museum to get some context for prostitution in the country and a look at the lives (and often, exploitation) of sex workers in Amsterdam. I chose not to take pictures here, except of this Croissanterie. Because, croissanterie.
In the evening, you can have a cocktail at Vesper or wine at La Oliva, or go out clubbing Dutch-style at Cafe Nol if that’s your thing. Or you can smoke pot legally. You can already do that in California (the novelty is not there for me), and also I’m too old for that business, so we headed back to the hotel to rest. For our final morning, we enjoyed coffees and shopping on Haarlemmerstraat. While there we wandered into Posthoornkerk – a stunning church. Then we walked around a bit enjoying the brief sunshine, and stopped for a sunny moment at Winkel where the apple pie should not be missed.
Head back to your hotel to gather up your things and take the tram back to central station. Next stop, Paris!