On to the second leg of our trip, Amsterdam! Admittedly, Amsterdam was a late addition to our trip. We knew that we wanted to go to London and as we were booking our flights, we realized that we should look into spending time in another city. Going through the effort and expense to get across the ocean, we wanted to make the most of our time! Neither of us knew much about The Netherlands, but Mike found that the train could get us there in about 4.5 hours, so we decided to go for it! We booked two activities – the bike tour and the canal tour – and then wanted to play the rest by ear.
It wasn’t until we arrived to our hotel Sunday night that we realized just how little time we would have there. We had two full days to explore and then we’d be waking up early on Wednesday to head to the airport. Our favorite thing to do in a city like this is to just walk around and take it all in. We could be happy walking all day, popping into shops, stopping for a bite to eat or a drink, people watching and experiencing life there. And that’s a lot of how we spent our time! The one thing we should have made more time for was the Van Gogh Museum. We tried getting tickets to the Anne Frank House about a month before our trip, but they were already completely sold out for the two days we would be in the city. So, we didn’t do our best with time management or planning ahead, but we still enjoyed our time there!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hotel Ibis Centre Stopera. This hotel is situated on the East side of the city, but is only about a 15 minute walk from the train station. It was clean, quiet, and had good-sized rooms. We “upgraded” to a view of the canal from our room, which was really pretty. They offer a good breakfast, which we opted for the first morning we were there, due to timing constraints. They also have a bar/restaurant, which is nice for the evenings, if you want to get a drink! It’s a bit of a walk to get to the other side of the city, say to the Van Gogh Museum, but I would definitely recommend the hotel.
What We Did
Monday: We woke up early to head over to the bike shop to meet our group for our bike tour! We did a 4-hour countryside tour with We Bike Amsterdam. Our tour guide was great and the biking was really fun. It was a little intimidating at first because we had to ride through the busiest part of the city during rush hour to get to the ferry, but it was a fun experience. We rode all through the countryside, stopping in some of the villages to learn about the history and lifestyle of the people there. We stopped about halfway to get some dutch apple pie, which was delicious, and then finished our tour. I love that we were able to see the non-touristy parts of the area – it was beautiful and serene riding along the paths and through the villages. We’d definitely recommend this tour! After we returned, we spent the rest of the day just walking around the city – taking it all in!
Tuesday: We did more walking through the city – walking past the Anne Frank House (which was wanted to go into, but couldn’t get tickets!), along the canals, and through the Jordaan Neighborhood. In the afternoon, we did a canal tour with Those Dam Boat Guys, which was great! It was informative and fun. I liked doing the canal tour because we got a different view of the city from the water and get a better appreciation for just how amazing the canal system is.
What We Ate:
We’re really bad at being patient for food. We’re the kind of people that don’t go looking for food until we’re hungry, so we have very little interest in waiting for a table or in a long line. It seemed like all the highly-rated and recommended places had long lines (makes sense), so we ended up just walking on to find a place to eat for most meals. We found a couple winners, but didn’t necessarily eat at any of the hot spots!
- Toastable for lunch – we popped in here for sandwiches and were not disappointed! It’s a cute little restaurant with minimal outdoor seating.
- Cafe in de Waag for breakfast – this was a last resort option, since we couldn’t find anything else without an hour long wait where we were. Food was fine, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend.
- Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx for fries – the classic street food to get in Amsterdam, we opted for the “fries sauce”. There was a line, but it goes very fast!
- Piccolo Mondo for dinner – we were craving Italian food of all things, so we had dinner here on our last night. It was good!
- Stroopwafel from Stach – with a hot latte, the stroopwafel were to die for!
There you have it, a little glimpse into our time in Amsterdam! It’s one of the more unique places we’ve been, with the canals and the architecture and way of life. I’ll never get over just how many bicycles we saw every day riding through the city – it’s truly a sight!