I’ve heard nothing but great things about Amsterdam. The canals are gorgeous, the museums are awesome, and the biking culture is nothing like you’ve ever seen (yes, even for you Davis alums). Seriously, Amsterdam does not disappoint, and I’d say there is a little something for everyone in this charming city. Enjoy this two-part post!
I checked out my first travel guidebook from our local library, and created a google spreadsheet filled with suggestions and recommendations from friends. We arrived Friday night, geared up for the Van Gogh Museum (open until 10pm on Fri) and for a rice table dinner. Indonesian food is a must when you’re here, and Kartika has an unbelievable spread.
The Van Gogh exhibit, comparing the works of Edward Munch to Vincent Van Gogh, was a strong start to our trip. I know it sounds ignorant, but it was only after seeing their artwork in person that I could really understand them as masters. It was tough for me to see Van Gogh in books and really understand the depth of his work. These two artists were truly dedicated to creating art modeled after real life, not memories, fantasies or fairy tales, and the curator displayed their pieces side by side when they chose similar subjects to paint, or when one could tell that they were inspired by the same techniques, specifically those of French artists. Yet, these artists NEVER MET though they painted in the same time period, and had very parallel experiences.
Then, the infamous rice table. Our AirBnB host suggested Kartika Indonesian for dinner, and we are gladly passing this recommendation on to you. A rice table has about 28 different dishes that you eat….well, over rice. Ok, not 28, but there is a spread like no other. We had the basic Ramayana menu and were incredibly satisfied! Go there, now!
We set an early alarm to be at the Anne Frank House by 8:15am on Saturday. One should get online tickets, but there were not any available until December! The secret annex is simply laid out, yet incredibly powerful. You can see scaled models of the annex during the war, but today, it is purposely kept vacant to symbolize the vacancy in one’s heart after losing so many souls.
To be honest, within less than 24 hours in Amsterdam, we’d already seen the top items on my list. This meant that the remainder of the weekend could be dedicated to exploring on the go.
We ventured into Dam Square, through the Bloemenmarkt (the floating flower market that really just feels like a souvenir tourist trap), and back through the Negen Streets with fun shopping. Corey found a cozy cafe for sandwiches and tea, Gartine, where we had our own lofted dining area. I led us on an excursion through crowded streets to the Puccini Bomboni chocolate shop for decadent sweets.
The weather was just perfect and of course, I felt like I was chasing light as each canal shot seemed more picturesque than the last. You’ll note I have way too many ‘bike and canal’ shots in this post, but I couldn’t resist!
We walked to the I Amsterdam structure, and then lazed around on the green with our chocolate treasures. The neighborhoods near Looiersgracht were really sweet (on the Keizersgracht ring), and we ended up at a local pub called The Cuban to watch the Rugby World Cup Championship game between New Zealand and Austalia (the All Blacks won!) We finished our evening at Blauw -a fine dining French restaurant, though we were searching for Blauw, the widely recommended Indonesian restaurant. Not mad that we’ll have to go back.
We got a tip to head out of the canal ring to see the windmill park at Zaanse Schans, which made Sunday another early morning. The fog was so heavy at 8:30am, but the Bay Area native in me told me that it would burn off as the day continued. The windmill park felt like being in the shire. The small cottages, the willow trees, the tiny hot chocolate stands, and the winding windmill path along the Chocolate River. Yes, there is a chocolate factory in the area- see my pic below of the Cacoa Gerken tanks. I believe the oil mill had the best hot cocoa and the woman offered us biscuits as well.
Be warned though! Corey and I arrived around 9am to stroll along the serene river path, but at about 10am, the tour bus masses descend upon the sleepy river, and the quaint cottages open their doors to reveal somewhat kitschy souvenirs. There is an easy to spot tourist area where you can see the local art of clog making, cheese making, and gingerbread baking. I thought the only bonus here was getting a hot stroop waffle which we didn’t have in Amsterdam.
We had such a great morning out of the city, but knew it was time to say good bye to our AirBnB on Kinkerstraat and head for Schipol airport feeling full and content. Thanks, Amsterdam, for being such a wonderful host. It was a weekend that felt full but not rushed. A real balance of sights, and getting lost wandering through the streets without ever being mad about not knowing where we were. Here are some more pics before you get to the shoutouts!
Shoutout to Mom Marilyn for filling our houses with Van Gogh’s art– all that prior knowledge came back to me as I wandered into each hall at his museum. I didn’t realize how many pieces I would recognize!
Shoutout to Nate Ryan for turning 5 years old, and for being kind to your new teammate at school. Transferring to a new school is tough but I hear you are making this change easier for him.
Shoutout to Daisuke for taking your first steps! Ask me for that video, and you shall receive.
- Van Gogh Museum
- Anne Frank House
- Dam Square
- I Amsterdam structure and neighboring park
- Vondel Park
- Spend time on Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht (the 2nd and 3rd canal rings)
- Streets we enjoyed: Utrechtsestraat, Looierstraat, and Kinkerstraat market
- Ride bikes if you feel comfortable
- Take the train to Koog Zaandijk to see Zaanse Schans windmill park, about 20 min outside of Amsterdam from Amsterdam Central
- Eat at Kartika
- The flower market wasn’t worth it, and I’ve been told the same about the Heineken Experience (tour)