Last week, Ian and I made our way to Amsterdam for a few days of bike rides, museum hopping, canal rides, and foamy pints of Heineken. It was my first time there and I was so excited to just explore the city and be off the clock…
When we arrived, the weather was all kinds of nasty – rain, hail, sleet, and snow all in one afternoon. But we were too excited to let that stop us from exploring. So after settling into our little boat (above) and getting our coffee fix, we headed out for a little snowy excursion.
We wandered the streets as the sun finally made an appearance scoping out the other boats on the canal and pointing out our favorite buildings – Ian was a fan of the slanted houses, whereas I went for the crazy family crests. I swear there was one that was just a shield with three bananas on it 🍌🍌🍌
I loved the storied feel of everything and yet somehow the whole city looks like it just got a fresh coat of paint. At times, I felt like such a creep because I couldn’t stop peering into people’s kitchens and living rooms for some major home design inspo. They were all perfect – like does anyone in that freakin’ town have bad taste?
When looking for where to stay, we kept getting recommendations to stay on a boat so I went on the prowl and found this sweet AirBnb. It was a little basic on amenities (bathroom not on board, little petrol heater, cots, etc.), but it wasn’t too far from the city, the harbor felt very safe, and it felt worth it just to say we’d stayed on a boat!
The harbor has lovely hotels, if the boat is not your thing, some nicer looking restaurants, and a bike rental shop right across the street so it made for a good home base. It was quiet and relaxed at night, which made it great for unwinding at the end of a long day.
The funniest part about our stay on the boat was that everything swayed like we were on the water at all times – at dinner, at the airport, drinking coffee – I always kind of had this sense we were still moving. It took about 2 days of being home for it to go away! Bring your sea legs!
When it wasn’t spitting rain, we decided to rent some bikes and head down to Vondelpark for the afternoon. It was amazing to see so many people outside with their families and walking their dogs – at one point we watched a doggie play group run around for half an hour and it basically fed my soul. We took a detour out of the park to check out the enormous houses (embassies? hotels?) across the pond and ended up back at the park’s bar for some bird watching and Heineken drinking… 🍻
In case you haven’t sensed a theme, we did a fair amount of drinking on our trip. One of our favorite places to go was The Bulldog, which has several locations around the city and is an old haunt of Ian’s. There’s a whole string of their bars and coffeeshops on Oudezijds Voorburgwal (how’s that for a street name) right near the Red Light District, which makes them super convenient for a night out. The crowd was older than I expected for a hostel and it’s a great place to meet fellow travelers, if you’re interested.
On the same strip is Cafe Emmelot, which was a bit more subdued than The Bulldog with epic 80’s music videos and a pool table. I cracked up at all the reviews online saying how bad the service is because the woman behind the bar is comically unimpressed. That is, until we left a tip and then suddenly our service was great… amazing what a few euro can do, people! 😂
We also hit up Cafe Zwart right on Dam Square (shown below), which is amazing for people watching with its heated outside seating area and busy locale. But the place will completely rob you (Bavaria is like €9 a pint!) so it was more of a one time place for us…
In terms of where to eat we didn’t do a whole lot of high class dining, but had a lovely time at Greenhouse Kitchen, which is v hipster plate sharing restaurant and vaping cafe. We also had good meals at Cau, one of the city’s 1000million mysterious Argentinian Steakhouses, and Ponte Vecchio, a seedy looking but strangely endearing Italian restaurant we had all to ourselves.
For breakfast, I totally recommend Bagels & Beans, which was right next to the harbor we were staying in. It was the perfect place to plan out our days over big cappuccinos and carrot bagels: good wifi, complimentary tampons in the bathroom, and local fresh fruit on the way out! 🙌We went like every morning and I would live there if we had one in Dublin.
If you’re in the museum district, I definitely recommend Cobra Cafe right outside of the Rijks. Even though it was super busy, it was by far the best service we had in Amsterdam, the beef croquettes were a major hit, and they have the craziest bathrooms. Both museums have cafes in them that we didn’t check out, but judging by the long lines they must be pretty good too.
Oh and get your hands on a waffle and some mayonnaise smothered fries while you’re there…
On our last full day in the Dam, we made our way to the museum side of the city to check out the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve heard amazing things about both from the art buffs in my life and was definitely not disappointed. If anything, I was hit over the head by how much art we saw that day. I didn’t take photos inside the museums because it stresses me out, but I did pick up a few postcards of my favorites…
The Rijks Museum has a great Catwalk exhibition right now with a ton of beautiful clothes, including a classic Yves Saint Laurent dress and this hilariously enormous gown. The Van Gogh Museum is an all around amazing feat of curation and I learned so much about Van Gogh’s sweet, sad life. It illuminated for me the deep effect of family and friendship on the life of an artist. I whole heartedly recommend both if you’re planning a trip!
We loved our time in Amsterdam and can’t wait to go back. And a special thanks to my wonderful friend Kelly for all her recommendations! Till next time 😘