Amsterdam has been on my bucket list since…forever. Tulip is my favorite flower, so I have always dreamt of frolicking in the tulip fields of the Netherlands in the Spring. When Bridgette picked Amsterdam as the third destination to our Europe trip, it was not lost on me that I wouldn’t be able to frolic amongst the tulips in November, but…I was still overjoyed to get to step foot in a country that I have longed to visit!
Edinburgh to Amsterdam was just a short 1.5 hour flight. When we arrived, we took the bus to our Airbnb and settled in first before scouting around the neighborhood for food. Amsterdam is an expensive city, so in order to stick to our budget, Bridgette chose to rent a small private room in an apartment complex. It definitely felt more restrictive to be confined to just a bedroom after our beautiful and spacious Edinburgh apartment, but it was important for Bridgette to learn how to adapt and to be flexible in order to stick within a budget.
Amsterdam was every bit as magical as I imagined it to be. Despite there not being tulips at that time of the year, we were instead rewarded with beautiful fall foliage everywhere. I literally wanted to stop for a picture every few steps that we took because it was so picturesque no matter where we looked!
The canals looked like to came alive straight from the storybooks, and there seemed to be an infinite number of them all throughout the city. I was completely mesmerized by the stunning reflections of the trees and the houses whenever we passed through a canal!
Amsterdam is a city built for bicyclists and pedestrians. In fact, the number of bikes in Amsterdam exceeds the number of residents there! Bridgette and I considered renting bikes to get around, but we saw that it was actually pretty difficult to find available bike parking spaces, so we decided to explore by foot instead. This option also gave me the chance to stop often for pictures! 🙂
Bridgette booked a bike tour and a food tour for us, and both turned out to be absolutely fantastic! The bike tour gave us a chance to navigate through the streets by bike like a local, and our guide taught us so much about the history and culture of Amsterdam. We learned why buildings were often tilted, how marijuana came to be so popular there, amongst many other interesting facts. We had a great group of people on our bike tour from Vietnam, Switzerland, and the U.S. and we enjoyed each other’s company so much that after the tour, we spent more time together over mint tea and apple pie (two items that are very popular in Amsterdam). It’s always so fun to meet new friends while traveling!
While we’ve taken a lot of food tours in many different countries, the one that Bridge booked in Amsterdam was definitely the best one we’ve had. We had a small group of just 4 girls–Bridge and myself, a gal name Sheena on a work trip from Australia, and a gal name Jen who was solo traveling from New York, plus our local Dutch guide name Thijs. We first met at a cafe where we took some time to get to know one another over mint tea and poffertjes. Then, for the next few hours, Thijs took us around the famous Jordaan neighborhood where locals patron, so instead of the the usual touristy spots, we got to try a lot of great Dutch food in local places. This included local pubs, local fish stalls, local cheese and butcher shops, etc. In between all the eating, Thijs would talk to us about Dutch history, Dutch culture, and Dutch life. It’s so awesome when you get to talk extensively to a local in a foreign country because they really give you a deeper insight into what life is like in that country.
Amsterdam felt so quiet and peaceful at that time of the year, with few tourists. The temperature was pretty cold, but we lucked out with very little rain during our time there. Mint tea and apple pies are some of the staple items there, which we gladly welcomed nearly every day during “break times” when we needed to escape from the cold. I LOVE pies, but I almost never order apple pies in the States, for I much prefer strawberry and blueberry pies. In Amsterdam, however, I learned to love apple pies too! After trying a ton of them during our week there, Bridgette and I agreed that the best one was from Wikel 43.
Food, in general, was delicious in Amsterdam. We mostly ventured around and randomly picked restaurants that looked good to us at a price point that would work with our budget. We found ourselves loving Dutch food quite a bit, but after a week of that, I insisted on finding an Asian option for one meal, lol. We settled on a small, cozy udon place that was filled with people. It turned out to be pretty good, but we waited nearly an hour for our bowl of noodles!
The most memorable part of Amsterdam for me turned out to be Anne Frank’s House. They only allow a certain number of people inside at a time, so booking your tickets ahead of time is highly recommended. No photography or filming is allowed inside, and each person gets a headset for their self-guided audio tour. The tour takes you through room by room inside the building, and describes each display in detail so that you know what you are looking at.
Because everyone had their headset on, completely focused in their own self-guided audio tour, there was a level of sadness and intensity that could be felt through the silence that accompanied us as we walked from one space to the next to learn about the horror of what Anne and her family experienced during the Holocaust. We actually got to stand inside the rooms that Anne and her family hid for 2 years, with some of the original furniture and personal items that had been preserved. It felt surreal, and I found myself trying hard to imagine what it could’ve felt like for them, living in such fear each and every day, with no connection at all with the outside world.
I never liked history while in school, but traveling has really made me understand the importance of history and how history helps us to connect the dots to our current world affairs. Touring the Anne Frank House was definitely an experience that I will always remember, and I would recommend this to anyone who visits Amsterdam!