At the end of March, Lauren and I spent a weekend in Amsterdam. It was a rainy and chilly most of the weekend, but I fell in love anyway. The city is young, vibrant, modern and full of life. It’s full of artsy shops, interesting restaurants and beautiful museums. And I’ve never seen a city that’s so bike-friendly, although joining that biking throng ourselves was a bit nerve-wracking. (Trams + cars + pedestrians + other cyclists = a lot to navigate. I banshee-screamed through intersections more than once.)
The level of English spoken by Dutch-speakers impressed me in Belgium, but I was blown away by the level in Amsterdam. Nearly everyone we met — from the museum guard at the Van Gogh Museum to the pleasant guy manning the train ticket booth — spoke beautiful English. And they were so friendly about it, too. While I felt bad I could only speak about three phrases in Dutch, they were more than happy to chat with us in English.
Overall costs were reasonable, even coming from budget-friendly Spain. You can get a three-day transport pass for about 18 euros, and food/drinks were affordable. We found hostels to be surprisingly expensive, though. (Excuse me. When did hostels decide they could start charging 20 euros for a bunk bed in a mixed dorm?) If you’re traveling with friends, make sure you check out Airbnb. We ended up finding a private room in a cute neighborhood just outside the city center. Even that cost about 25 euros per person per night, but it was much more comfortable than a hostel.
In the interest of actually getting this post out there, these were the highlights from our trip:
- Taking a day trip to the Keukenhof Gardens, which are renowned for its beautiful field(s) of tulips and impressive flower arrangements.
- Visiting the Anne Frank House, despite the hour-long wait to get in.
- Renting bikes and touring the city like Amsterdammers.
- Eating bagels at Bagels & Beans, my new favorite European chain restaurant.
- Spending an afternoon in both the Rijksmuseum (National Museum) and the Van Gogh Museum. (Pronounced “Van Hocgh” in Dutch, with an exciting guttural sound at the end.) I contentedly nerded out about the paintings in both museums.
- Taking a delightfully touristy canal tour. Totally worth the euros, in my opinion.
- Eating cheese at every turn.