What we did: Bloemenmarkt, Canal Tour (we used Flagship & loved it), Anne Frank House, Beginjhof, Keukenhof Gardens & tulip fields (we also rented bikes there), Dutch Countryside & Windmill Tour, Vondel Park, Stroll along canals & Jordaan neighborhood
Where we ate: Blue Amsterdam, Foodhallen, The Pancake Bakery, Cafe Loetje, Salsa Shop, Van Wonderen Stroopwafels, Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx
Where we stayed: our airbnb is no longer active, but we stayed on one of the main canals about 15 minutes (walk) from Amsterdam Centraal Station. We actually really liked the location & the pretty canal views, but looking back— I think it would’ve been better to stay closer to Centraal to cut down on the amount of walking/Ubers.
Foods to try: stroopwafel, patat fries, bitterballen, poffertjes
Things of note: (On biking) There are a crazy amount of bicycles in Amsterdam and they take their biking rules very seriously. Tourists must take extra care in making sure they are not walking in a bicycle lane (which will usually be right beside the walking path). Unless you’re really familiar with where you’re going, I wouldn’t recommend biking around the city (at least it would’ve stressed me out). However, we loved renting bikes further out from Amsterdam where the bike lanes were not as crowded :)
(On the party scene): While most are familiar with Amsterdam’s infamous reputation, we really didn’t find it to be an issue. We definitely noticed that it was much more crowded on the weekends with celebratory groups of friends heading to the “coffee shops” (aka where it’s legal to smoke marijuana). It’s supposed to be illegal to smoke in public, but many people still did. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t list Amsterdam’s long-standing reputation as a reason not to visit; the city is so much more than the red light district & the coffee shops!
day one: bloemenmarkt & canal tour
We landed in Amsterdam around lunchtime on Saturday and took the train straight into the city. We couldn’t check in our Airbnb for a few hours, so we dropped off our bags in the storage lockers inside of Amsterdam Centraal Station, which ended up working out perfectly.
With lighter loads, we walked straight to lunch at Blue Amsterdam. We quickly learned that Amsterdam restaurants are a bit pricier than we were used to, but the food was yummy and it had cool views of the city, so we happily downed our food and espressos before heading to Bloemenmarkt.
The cutest flower market, Bloemenmarkt lines the canal with lots of vendors and beautifully decorated booths. We (Okay, I ) loved walking through the booths of the endless plants and florals while enjoying the wonderful weather. The best booth is on the corner with bouquets hanging from every inch of the ceiling. It was magical!
After Bloemenmarkt, we walked over to Beginjhof, which has the prettiest courtyard surrounded by historic buildings and two churches. We circled around the houses for a bit and then left to meet our airbnb host to grab keys to our apartment. Our perfectly-Dutch building was covered in ivy and flowers and sat right on the canal, so we soaked in the scenes of our home for the next few days before mustering up energy to continue exploring the city.
We dodged bikers and wandered through the Jordaan neighborhood while snapping photos of the crooked-but-quaint rows of houses. We walked around the corner of the Anne Frank Museum to wait for a canal tour with Flagship. Since we didn’t know the timeline of our schedule for that day, we didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, but had no trouble catching a boat for the hour-long tour. While there are many boat tours near Centraal Station, we opted for an open-air cruise with a live guide and a smaller group. We loved our time on the boat ride— our guide was great and we really enjoyed learning more details about Amsterdam.
After the tour, we dropped off our luggage at the apartment and walked around the corner to eat dinner at Salsa Shop (it’s a chain, but it was a 1 minute walk from our airbnb & ended up being very similar to Chipotle so we’ll call it a win). Exhausted but already in love with Amsterdam, we settled in for the night so we would be ready to explore again the next day.
day two: Anne Frank House & Keukenhof
Our first full day in Amsterdam, we walked through the (darling) Jordaan neighborhood once again to eat breakfast at The Pancake Bakery. This was one of our favorite meals of the trip, because we really love breakfast food and this cute restaurant offered the biggest pancakes & omelettes I’ve ever seen. It was also really convenient to eat there because we had tickets to the Anne Frank House that morning, which was right down the street.
The Anne Frank Museum was one of our favorite (although difficult at times) experiences and is a must-see if you’re ever in Amsterdam (Important note: you must buy tickets 2 months in advance and enter at your ticket timeframe since they only allow a limited number of visitors per day). They don’t allow photos inside the house or museum, but I didn’t mind because I was too busy taking in all of the facts and history in those holy little rooms. We walked the narrow, steep staircases and marveled at all of the history and horrors that occurred in those spaces.
We wrapped up our time at the museum, and then walked back to Centraal Station to catch a train to Keukenhof, a beautiful park full of tulips (and about an hour outside of Amsterdam). Originally we thought we would miss out on the tulips completely since we visited in late May, but we (excitedly) managed to grab tickets on the last day the park was open.
Even though some of the flowers were no longer in bloom, it was crazy-pretty with the rows of bright florals and idyllic scenery. The park is huge, with lots of places to stop and eat or grab coffee (we did both). We spent a couple of hours walking along the bloom-filled paths and then rented a bike from the little parking lot stand. Typically, visitors rent the bikes to explore the surrounding tulip fields. But since the bulb fields were no longer in bloom, we just biked around with no agenda and enjoyed the more laidback bike paths (compared to the crazy busy ones in Amsterdam).
Note: If seeing all of the tulip fields in bloom is high on your priority list, the locals recommended visiting in April!
As it was nearing dinner time, we wrapped up our bike rides and grabbed an Uber back into the city. We ate dinner at Foodhallen, which was a really cool spot with delicious food stands (the sweet potato nachos I ate were unreal, y’all). We also bought some bitterballen from one of the vendors, which were so good and a must-try when in Holland. We saved a bit of room for dessert, so we navigated our way over to Van Wonderen Stroopwafels to try another famous Dutch food: the stroopwafel! We waited our turn and then walked back to our airbnb while trading bites of the most delicious warm, salted caramel dessert. I am actually still dreaming about it.
day three: Dutch countryside & windmill tour
We had heard good things about the tour of the Dutch countryside, and I am so glad we ended up going! Even if you don’t do a bus tour, I highly recommend going to some of the smaller historic villages outside of Amsterdam; they were so traditional and quaint and lovely.
We didn’t buy tickets for the tour until a few days before, so we were stuck with the earlier time slot, but we grabbed a coffee and took an Uber to Amsterdam Centraal station to join the rest of our tour group. After a few songs on the keyboard and a few more witty remarks, our bus driver and tour guide woke us all up and got us excited for the day ahead.
Our first stop was Zaanse Schans to see the (gorgeous) windmills. We were able to go inside of one of the windmills there and learn about how they worked, then snapped photos and climbed to the top for a pretty view of the other windmills along the water.
Next, we drove a bit more to the little fishing village of Volendam. We listened to a presentation on how Dutch cheese is made, and then we were able to taste lots of different types. It was the perfect appetizer, as we quickly headed to a lunch spot down the street toward the docks. With full bellies after our delicious & much-needed lunch, we walked down the dock to our boat that took us over to Marken.
Once off the relaxing boat ride, we walked through the charming streets of Marken while I admired the cutest houses and ended up at our last stop, where we learned the traditional practice of wooden clog making! It was a really cool and impressive experience; after the demonstration, we laughed as we tried on some of the wooden clogs. Although we left empty-handed (our feet were clearly not cut out for the wooden clog lifestyle), we headed back to Amsterdam full of unforgettable experiences after our (6 hour) trip through the Dutch countryside.
Once back in Amsterdam, we walked to Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx to order the famous fries-in-a-cone. Chatting and eating yummy fries, we continued walking through the gardens & the tunnel at the Rijksmuseum (it was near closing time, so we unfortunately never made it inside the museum as we had opted to explore the countryside that day instead). From there, we headed down the street and entered the pretty gates of Vondel Park. With miles of green space, we soaked in the pretty scenery of the park: locals lounging by the lake, a family of ducks following each other around the water, bikers heading home from work, and kids heading to soccer practice.
The brief rest in Vondel Park gave us the energy we needed to walk to dinner at Cafe Loetje (one of our Uber drivers recommended this place- it was good & affordable for a steakhouse). We took our time dining and people watching from the restaurant patio before we headed back to the airbnb, exhausted after our day full of adventures.
day four: amsterdam to athens
We slept in Tuesday morning, taking our morning slowly with no particular agenda. We packed our bags and sipped coffee while snapping a few last photos of the canals, then grabbed an Uber to the airport because our next stop was GREECE!