The Netherlands – Amsterdam
When planning my vacation I thought I would prefer Belgium over Amsterdam but just the opposite was true.
I arrived in Amsterdam from Brussels via Train. The ride was less than 2 hours. I bought my ticket online here about a month prior to the trip. The ticket cost was about $38 and very convenient. My hotel in Brussels was within walking distance to the central rail station. That morning I made the 10 minute walk to the station and the train was right on time. The seats are assigned automatically when you buy the ticket .
Arriving in Amsterdam I took a tram which brought me within a block of my hotel, The Hotel Pulitzer. It’s so difficult deciding on where to stay in a city. Each section of the city has something to offer but I was happy with my choice.
Amsterdam is a great city to tour solo. It’s very safe, walkable, charming and everyone speaks English. I recommend buying tickets for as much as you can (transportation or activities) online in advance before you leave home. I know it may be a challenge because sometimes you have to commit to a particular date and time in advance. I bought my Ann Frank, Van Gough and Rijksmuseum tickets in advance online.
The Ann Frank and Van Gogh have date and times assigned so I had to show up on time. This was appreciated when I arrived and saw the crazy long lines. Especially at the Ann Frank House. I would not recommend paring any other activity on the same day as the Rijksmuseum but the Ann Frank and Rembrandt Houses could be combined in the same day. I combined the hop on hop off bus with the Van Gogh museum. On my Pedometer, I averaged walking 9 miles per day with one day of 12 miles. The Rijksmuseum museum is huge so you can see that it’s almost impossible to cram anything else on the day you visit.
Amsterdam’s culture is based on tolerance and diversity. I heard some negative things about Amsterdam in that it’s not appropriate for children or seedy and this is so far from the truth. Yes prostitution and weed is legal but the women are not on the street but rather a designated area that you can easily avoid. The ‘coffee shops’ are very non-descript. I am pretty sure that children would not realize what’s going on inside if walking by….not at all. If this is a concern I’d say please put it aside.
Amsterdam is divided into 8 boroughs or neighborhoods. The Hotel Pulitzer is located in the Central borough , which was between everywhere I wanted to visit. As I mentioned, I walked everywhere I wanted to go and did not take trams or buses. Amsterdam is very flat. This is another reason why biking is so popular. Yes there are bikes everywhere outnumbering cars by far. I did not rent any bikes or go on a canal tour. I didn’t want to bike because it would have taken all of my focus and I wanted to take in everything along my path.
I had 3 days in Amsterdam. Most of my time was spent at the museums, window shopping and eating. Shopping is good but not outstanding. There are no Dutch restaurants in DC so I was not expecting a lot from Dutch cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised with so many fantastic places to dine. Even the café at the Rijksmuseum was outstanding. I would suggest having lunch there when you visit for your tour. For dinner my favorite choice was the Thijs restaurant located at Prinsengracht 438. OMG if you are anywhere close please stop by. You will not be disappointed.
The hop on hop off bus is a good idea to get an overview of the city. You must take time out to sit and take in the sun with a beer like the locals at a café. When possible I ate all my meals outdoors. Especially after spending so much time walking, it was very relaxing to have a drink and people watch. Also, make sure you bring a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and with chip and pin. There were a few places that do not swipe cards and you must have a chip and pin to make your purchase.
Although I had a short visit I managed to get a great feel for the city and I loved it.