72 Hours in Amsterdam: Tulips, Stroopwafels & Lots of Bikes
I'll be honest, I didn't know what to expect when we booked our train tickets to Amsterdam. While the city wasn't necessarily at the top of my bucket list, my sister really wanted to visit and I could never say no to a new and promising adventure. Embarrassingly, when I thought of Amsterdam, I thought of canals, weed, stags on a mission to drink Heineken and visit the Red Light District...and that one scene in the Fault in Our Stars. What I didn't anticipate was how at home and at peace I would feel in a city so foreign to me.
While we only had 72 hours in Amsterdam, it was all I needed to fall in love with the city.
We uncharacteristically went into the trip with little to no schedule, ready to go with the flow and see what the city had to offer. Looking back, Amsterdam was the perfect city to facilitate this- and it's exactly what we needed after five nonstop days in Paris. It didn't feel like a marathon to get through all of our must-see attractions. Amsterdam was alluring, magnetic and so incredibly inviting. 72 hours was the perfect taste of the city, and I'm more than ready to come back for more.
This blog post is dedicated to our magical three days in Amsterdam- where we ate, visited, tips, tricks, what I wish I knew going into our trip and more! Enjoy and, as always, feel free to leave any recommendations for other readers and, hopefully, for my next trip.
DAY ONE: Arriving & Already Falling in Love
The timer on our 72 hours in Amsterdam commenced as soon as we walked through the doors of Amsterdam Centraal Station. After a three-hour Thalys train ride, abundant with stunning views of the Dutch countryside, cows, tulips, windmills and more, we were eager to explore the city.
Our exhilarating five days in Paris were the perfect prerequisite for our trip. As soon as we exited the train station and headed down the street to call an Uber, I knew that we were in for a unique and exciting adventure. The juxtaposition between the zooming cars circling the Arc de Triomphe to the eerie lack of cars just metres away from Amsterdam's main train station was jarring. I quickly realised that they weren't being sarcastic when they said there were more bikes than people in Amsterdam.
We arrived at our charming Airbnb, quickly refreshed ourselves and were ready to take on the day. Similar to our time in Paris, the best way we could have connected with Amsterdam was to simply walk around and soak in the city firsthand. Luckily, our Airbnb was located in a prime location in Amsterdam-West, just two blocks away from Negen Straatjes, a vibrant area in the city with nine bustling streets of fabulous shops, cafés, restaurants, attractions and more! We really couldn't have chosen a better location.
Right off the bat, I was impressed at how accessible and manageable the city felt. It was very easy to navigate, and though biking was the preferred form of transportation for many, it was very walkable. We actually walked most of our trip, minus a few bus rides for further distances. In terms of language, a vast majority of the population speaks English. Many shopkeepers were very friendly and I noticed that there was even a large ex-pat and remote working crowd living in the city.
One thing that I did not expect from the city was how fantastic its shopping was! There were so many trendy and cool stores around Amsterdam-West, such as Muze the Store and The Cool Collective. I was so impressed and was going crazy window shopping. At Muze, a vegan patent leather bag from a local brand called GLYNIT was calling my name and I had to respond. At Kramer Kunst & Antiek, I couldn't help myself from grabbing my fair share of Delftware, aka the iconic blue and white Dutch pottery. I picked up a few mini ceramic tiles, a house, a Christmas ornament and an adorable dog that looked just like Charlie, my Cocker Spaniel.
We then briefly walked through Albert Cuypmarkt, an outdoor street market featuring tons of stands selling a variety of products, from food to clothing and more. There are tons of physical stores as well in the area, including Noor Amsterdam, a colourful boutique that immediately caught my eye. I was prepared to go bankrupt at a vendor whose table was piled with plastic woven baskets and bags. Upon conversation, I learned that the bags were all handmade by women in Myanmar at a Women's Centre which was so heartwarming- as if I didn't need an extra push to bring one home. Honestly, if I could've, I would've brought back an entire suitcase of these bags but I ultimately settled on a black and white patterned basket bag with a red tassel ornament.
Later that night, we grabbed dinner at Foodhallen, an indoor food market housed within an old tram depot. With a vast selection of food and drink stalls to choose from, this industrial-style food market was a fitting option for our first meal in the city. I opted for a Chicken Bowl from Viet View, a Vietnamese Street Food stall, and also got some edamame from Meneer Temaki. The food was delicious, and the ambience was even better. The entire vibe reminded me of the Distillery District in Toronto, and I genuinely loved it here. Even though it was a Tuesday evening, the entire hall was buzzing and full of energy.
DAY TWO: An Afternoon of Art & An Evening of Peanut Allergies
After a very Instagram-worthy breakfast to start the day at Pluk, we were stoked to immerse ourselves in art at the iconic Rijksmuseum. In comparison to our Parisian adventure, our 72 hours in Amsterdam were relatively unplanned. It was definitely an adjustment but also refreshing being able to plan as we go, though in retrospect I wish we thought ahead for certain attractions, such as the Van Gogh Museum. Nevertheless, we secured our space at Rijks and were ready to soak in as much Dutch art as we could.
All four levels of the Rijksmuseum were completely fascinating. From the intricate Dolls' Houses of Petronella Oortman to a vast collection of ceramic Delftware, I could've stayed in the museum for hours. There was even a Monet piece, La Corniche near Monaco, which slightly made up for not being able to visit the water lilies in Paris. Personally, the real highlight was Operation Night Watch, an almost 400-year-old painting that had only recently been displayed after a period of research and treatment of deformations.
Afterwards, we decided to walk around Central Amsterdam. Similar to the previous day, we mainly window shopped and popped into many vintage and thrift stores to see if anything was calling to us. Our trip coincided with their tulip season which truly made the city streets come to life! Before heading back west, we stopped for a grilled panini at Adesso Espresso, a café we stumbled upon with the friendliest staff in the world.
Unfortunately, when planning our trip, we were unable to secure tickets to tour the Anne Frank house. If you're interested in visiting, make sure to book them online in advance. They go on sale every first Tuesday of the month, for the following month. In our case, we were planning to visit in April, so tickets went on sale on the first Tuesday of March. Since we planned our trip in mid-March, we missed our chance but I really wanted to visit the historic house.
As a child, Anne Frank's diary was a formative part of my childhood being one of the first novels I actively remember reading. Her story, amongst others, is devastating and standing in front of the house itself was chilling and an emotional experience. The house looked so normal and all I could think of is if it wasn't for the crowd in front of it, I likely would've walked right past it. This made me start reflecting on relics of our past and history living among us, and how we can continue to honour them decades later.
Later that night, I was so excited to meet up with a friend from university who is now working in the Hague, just a 50-minute train ride from the city centre. If we were staying another day or two in Amsterdam, I would have loved to visit the Hague after hearing so many great things. Nevertheless, I was so ecstatic to reunite and see a familiar face! We decided to dine at Soil Vegan Café where I indulged in the Ben Ben Noodles, coated in a creamy sesame sauce with fresh vegan 'meatballs'. The night was full of good food, laughs, life updates...and a slightly alarming allergic reaction. If you saw us running through the streets trying to buy Benadryl, no you didn't.
DAY THREE: Cruising on the Canal & Sweet Treats
Time really does fly when you're having fun and somehow it was already our last day in Amsterdam. For our final day in the city, we wanted to soak in as much of Amsterdam as we could given our limited schedule and cross off many bucket list items.
Our main objective of the morning was to visit the University of Amsterdam, which is a story in itself. After a delicious breakfast at Moak Pancakes, briefly walking through the city centre and Dam Square, we boarded a bus to the University. Funnily enough, the campus we initially wanted to explore was located across the street from our bus stop in the heart of the city. We actually travelled more eastern to their Science Park campus. While it was a hilarious hiccup, in retrospect, I enjoyed seeing another part of the city that I necessarily wouldn't have seen otherwise.
After returning to the city centre and visiting the campus we initially meant to, we walked around and popped into a few shops. Since we were nearby, we briefly walked through the Red Light District. Personally, this was more of a 'let's visit it so we say we could' excursion and was a more tame experience than expected since it was the middle of the afternoon. On our way home, we stopped for iconic, must-have stroopwafels at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels, which were nothing short of caramel perfection. Of course, I grabbed a bag to bring back to Jamaica.
Since we had a bit more time on our hands before dinner, I convinced Emma to do an evening canal tour with Flagship. I had spotted a few of their boats on the canal throughout our trip and felt inclined to do a tour with them since others seemed a bit more boring and...geriatric. Flagship had tons of time slots to choose from and many pickup locations across the city, though we opted for their spot across the street from Anne Frank's house. While I was expecting the tour to be informative, I did not expect how much I would have loved it!
Honestly, the one hour tour wasn't enough. This tour was genuinely one of my favourite experiences of our trip. Their team was so friendly, engaging and entertaining, one of whom was even from the ABC Islands! I learned so many niche facts and Dutch history that I otherwise would have been oblivious to. Doing the tour gave me a new perspective on many of the streets that we had previously just walked by and overlooked. We were able to cruise by the city's most expensive houseboat, see the Rolling Stones headquarters, see leaning houses (aka the 'Drunk Houses) and more!
To round off our final day, night and trip, we met up for dinner in De Pijp with Emma's friend at Bar Dó. Bar Dó was such a vibe and had both indoor and terrace seating options. This restaurant wins simply because of its Kaastengels. This classic Dutch-Indonesian bar snack, essentially a cheese stick wrapped in spring roll paper, now lives in my head rent-free. I'm definitely going to try and recreate it at home one day. It was the perfect final meal and curtain call to our 72 hours in Amsterdam.
Till Next Time!: Reflections
On Friday morning, we said our final goodbyes to Amsterdam and made our way back to our London base. As someone who suffers from travel tabanca, I found myself mourning the trip and wishing I could've stayed another day or two. Amsterdam was truly a gift and only needed 72 hours to steal my heart. I was surprised by how drawn to and connected I felt to this city. Amsterdam was charismatic and inspiring, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit.
Make sure to watch the '72 Hours in Amsterdam' vlog out now on my YouTube channel!