I originally had this post planned for earlier in the week, but in light of the recent tragedy in Paris – talking about how great my own international travels had been just seemed insensitive. But I thought twice about it since then and realized that now is exactly the time to see the beauty of travel and the good in the world around us. So without further preface, my complete guide to Amsterdam.
By the time we reached Amsterdam, Adam and I had already had amazing times in Copenhagen and Prague – so falling so in love with Amsterdam was honestly kind of unexpected. But when you find a city that mixes rich history, charming architecture, a bustling art and food scene with a modern sensibility – all set upon picturesque canals.. it’s kind of hard to resist.
While we stayed just south of city center (in this Airbnb, maybe the best one of the whole trip), the neighborhood offered a peak into local life and also happened to be close by to lots of great cafes – Anne & Max and Bagels & Beans were favorites – which is basically a prerequisite for me. In order to reach the main canals we cut through Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s Central Park equivalent), where locals let their amazingly well behaved dogs run loose, children play in public tree houses and a leisurely picnic lunch is encouraged.
While any area of the canals are beautiful, my favorite was the regal homes set along ‘Golden Bend’ – a historically affluent area that allowed homeowners to build wider houses than the rest of the city. Museum Van Loon was one such house, owned by the same Van Loon family since the 1700s – which offered a well preserved look into the grandeur of life in Amsterdam’s Golden Age. Less crowded than the more popular Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum (both of which are also worth a visit), this was one of our favorite sights.
If you time your walk through the Golden Bend just right you’ll finish at the Canal of Seven Bridges right at dusk and coincidentally the romantic moment that all of those aligned bridges light up, casting a gorgeous glow to the old homes that line the canal.
While at first we resisted a canal tour, it ended up being such an incredible way to see the city from the vantage point of the water. We went at sunset and packed a snack (stroopwafels! delicious!) and saw more of the city in an hour than we had covered in an entire day. The main canal tours pick up near the Anne Frank House. While definitely the most somber part of our trip, it was such an impactful moment to walk through the small, dark rooms in which Anne Frank and her family spent several years hiding out, and where she penned her famous diary. Nearby Kessens provided a delicious lunch, while The Hoxton Hotel was a perfect spot to grab a coffee or a cocktail after seeing local sights.
One of my favorite quick stops was Bloemenmarkt – the city’s famous flower market that sits along Singel within the inner canals and offers up a selection of Holland’s famous tulips (among other blooms) in every imaginable variety. Locals pick up the fresh cut tulips and bulbs are available for visitors looking to take a piece of Amsterdam home.
Besides the shopping (De Negen Straatjes or ‘The Nine Little Streets’ was full of vintage shops, independent boutiques and small designers), museum hopping and cafe indulging, walking (or biking if you want to fit in with the locals!) along the canal bridges and taking in the quirky architecture – like that incredibly crooked corner building below – could have filled an entire week. Each home with more charm and each bridge with more flowers than the next. Amsterdam, we’ll definitely be back for you. If you’re thinking of planning your own trip, shoot me your questions here and be sure to check out more of my top Amsterdam spots in this article over on The Everygirl!