This post is a long time coming. So long, in fact, that it’s almost like when you hide money for yourself, but forget you hid it and find it again three months later. Which makes it more exciting, right?
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.