Hey friends! I’m popping in today with the first recap of my recent European vacation. Today we’re talking about the first leg of our trip: a long weekend in Amsterdam! This post is pretty lengthy so settle in and prepare to scroll. 🙂
On Thursday evening, Fabio and I headed over to BWI for our flight to Amsterdam. Clearly, we were excited.
We wound up flying through WOW airlines, which is a fairly new airline that goes through Iceland. We decided to fly through WOW because the airline was really, really cheap, but it wound up being a bit of a hassle because you have to pay a lot for your bags and you have to pay for any food or drinks. What airline doesn’t serve free drinks on a 5+ hour flight?
The layover in Iceland wasn’t too bad (we were only there for about 5 minutes due to our first flight being a little delayed) but obviously a direct flight would have been better. On the positive side, on the way to Iceland our pilot turned down the lights in the cabin because apparently we flew through a display of northern lights! Sadly it was on the left side of the plane and we were seated on the right so we couldn’t see anything, but I still think that was pretty darn cool.
Our plane landed in Amsterdam around noon on Friday, and Fabio and I wasted no time in exploring! After dropping off our bags at our friends Jess and Erick’s apartment, we headed over to Dam square for a free walking tour through the company New Europe.
This company hosts free walking tours all over Europe as a way to provide tourists with an affordable way to see cities and learn a bit about their history. At the end of the tour, you can tip your tour guide based on how much you think the tour was worth. Tips can range from 20 euros, 10 euros, 5 euros, to just a handshake and a “thank you.” Cool idea, right?
Our tour guide’s name was Julian and he took us all around the city and told us everything we needed to know about the history of Amsterdam. In addition to taking in the beautiful canals and architecture, I loved hearing about all the history of the city from the medieval days to WWII.
It was so cool hearing about how some of the buildings along the canal are crooked because they are built on old pilings on top of the water, and hearing stories about how trading used to be done in the “new market” square in the 1600s. We also heard about some gruesome public tortures that used to take place on the square. Yikes.
We also of course walked through the red light district and learned about its origin. Apparently when sailors would return from long, dangerous journeys around the world selling spices and other goods, they needed a little distraction and relief when they got back. Hence, the red light district’s creation. Fun fact: there was also a huge old church built right in the red light district, which the sailors used to go to after a long night of partying to pray for forgiveness. 😉
Overall I would give the tour two huge thumbs up and we made sure to give Julian a nice tip for spending two hours of his day walking us through town.
When the tour was over we noticed that the line for the Anne Frank house was incredibly short (usually there is a huge line to get in) so even though we were pretty tired and jet lagged at this point we decided to knock this stop out of the way. This attraction is definitely a must-see – it was really amazing to see where Anne’s whole family hid from the Nazi’s.
After that, Fabio and I hung out by the canal for a few minutes while we waited for Jess and Erick to join us after work. It was a beautiful afternoon, and after a busy day, it was nice to rest for a minute in the sunshine.
Soon enough Jess and Erick joined us. YAY! It was so nice to see them! 🙂
Of course we paused for a necessary canal photo op. 😉
After having a quick happy hour beer at an outdoor cafe, we walked over to the neighborhood where we planned to have dinner. Fabio decided to test out one of the street urinals they have throughout the city. How weird are these??
After a short walk, we had arrived at Hoppy Days, a cute little Italian restaurant.
Our dinner was delicious and along with more beer, I enjoyed a tasty risotto in a Parmesan shell with arugula on the side. Yum.
After dinner, we met up with a bunch of Jess and Erick’s expat friends (they all work for Erick’s company and also are from the U.S.) for more beers! It was so fun getting to know more of Jess and Erick’s friends and I loved seeing how they spend a typical Friday night in Amsterdam.
On Saturday, Fabio and I headed over to the Van Gogh museum as soon as it opened. I have to say this was my favorite museum that we went to during our whole trip! We bought an audio guide for 5 euros, and although we bought audio guides at all the museums we visited on the trip, this one was by far the best. Fabio and I had so much fun walking around the museum and learning about Van Gogh’s life, seeing pictures of the Dutch countryside, and appreciating the beautiful paintings (especially the famous sunflowers!). If you’re ever in Amsterdam, absolutely check out this museum!
After the museum, Jess and Erick took us to one of their favorite brunch spots. We sat at a cute table outside and I enjoyed the most epic avocado toast with chicken sausage, crispy pancetta, truffle mayo, and Parmesan cheese shavings. Holy yum!
After brunch we walked off our food with a trip through the market!
The market in Amsterdam was so cute and I loved seeing all the fresh produce, flowers, snacks, clothes, and trinkets for sale.
The flowers were so cheap in Amsterdam! I wish we could get flowers at that price back home.
Jess made us stop for her favorite treat: small pancakes called poffertjes served with butter and powdered sugar.
We watched the guy make them right in front of us, so we knew they were super fresh.
Yummmm!! This may have been the best thing I ate during the whole trip! (I wonder how many times I’ll say that…)
We got an order to share between the four of us and each bite was heavenly. Delicious!!
After the market, the four of us headed to a brewery to meet up with Jess and Erick’s friends.
Please excuse my awkward arm. Selfie sticks take practice. 😉
The brewery was really cute, and we had a wonderful afternoon sitting below a giant windmill and drinking the cheap and delicious Amsterdam beers. 🙂
After all the beer we weren’t too hungry for dinner, so we headed back to Jess and Erick’s apartment for a little picnic on their balcony. We enjoyed our first taste of Dutch fries – which are delicious and served with mayonnaise – and just enjoyed the evening!
Such a fun day!
Sunday morning began with a group run to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s version of Central Park!
The boys were less than enthusiastic at first, but at the end of our 4 mile run everyone agreed they felt great.
The route of our run was absolutely gorgeous and I loved running past the stately buildings and seeing the sights in the peaceful park.
So fun! Thanks for taking us out there, Jess!
After showering up and eating some quick scrambled eggs made by Erick, we headed off to our next adventure: a road trip into the Dutch countryside!
We hopped on a bus from Amsterdam’s main train station, Centraal, (we bought an all day bus pass for about 7 euros) and after just five minutes of driving we were greeted with picturesque views of the Dutch countryside.
These views made me appreciate our trip to the Van Gogh museum even more, because we could see what inspired some of his paintings.
After about 30 minutes, we arrived in our first stop: Volendam!
This adorable little Dutch town is located on the East coast of the Netherlands right along the Markermeer bay. It was beautiful!
After walking around a bit, we found a table at a cute little cafe along the water and enjoyed some delicious food. I forgot to take any pictures, but Jess and I split a goat cheese panini with pine nuts and honey and some fish and chips. The food was fantastic, and you can’t beat the view.
After lunch we walked around some more and decided some ice cream was necessary. I forget what flavor I got, but I remember it was delicious!
We enjoyed our cones by the little beach, which was absolutely perfect.
After ice cream we continued walking around, and found our way into a cheese shop!
At the shop we learned how Dutch cheese was made and got to sample a few tasty cheeses. My favorite was the truffle cheese. I may or may not have sneaked more than my share of free samples of that one. 😉
Then our little group walked around the town some more and explored lots of cute canals and old church before deciding to move on to our second stop of the day. We hopped back on our bus and this time got off at Monnikendam, a cute town a little closer to Amsterdam.
We were greeted with another picturesque town on the water. How cute!
We quickly found our way to a bar that had some live music playing outside and lots of people dancing. We were pleasantly surprised to hear American rock and roll and even some Johnny Cash!
We sat down for a few more beers and had a nice and relaxing afternoon.
Eventually we headed back to Amsterdam and called it an early night since Jess and Erick had work the next morning.
On Monday morning, we packed up our stuff and headed off to Belgium! Details to come!
Of course I have to thank our hosts Jess and Erick for such a fantastic time. We had so, so much fun in Amsterdam, and couldn’t have asked for anything more!
We love you guys!
Question of the day: Have you ever been to Amsterdam? If so, what was your favorite thing that you saw? If not, what would you most want to see?