Nick and I returned from our trip to Europe just over a month ago so it’s about time to wrap up the trip reports! The last and final leg of our vacation was to Amsterdam, where Nick and I spent four of the most enjoyable days of our trip.
We absolutely fell in love with the relaxed pace and natural beauty of the city; and our time there was the perfect ending to our two-week vacation. Unlike London and Paris, Amsterdam isn’t full of must-see monuments and sights, which some might find boring after a few days; however, after 10 long, full days of sightseeing across several countries, it was incredibly nice for us to relax and spend our final days wandering and exploring Amsterdam’s many canals, historical buildings and parks.
Admittedly, our opinion of Amsterdam may have been swayed by the weather, since despite it being late-May/early-June, the temperature hovered in the 50s and 60s for most of our trip, until we arrived in Amsterdam, where the sun shined and the temperatures rose into the 70s!
Amsterdam is lined with hundreds of canals, supposedly more than Venice, and we spent hours walking along the water and exploring many of the city’s neighborhoods. We started our sightseeing in the city center, the Dam Square, and then stopped and toured Westerkerk church, home to Rembrandt’s body and Amsterdam’s tallest steeple.
We spent our afternoon walking through the cafes and shops in the Jordaan neighborhood before heading through the popular Kalverstraat shopping area. Sidenote: Can I just share that I didn’t buy a single thing on our entire vacation! Admittedly, if I had seen something that I absolutely wanted to buy, I probably would have, but I ended the trip with photos as my only keepsakes 🙂
Nick’s grandmother emigrated from the Netherlands to the U.S. as a young woman and touring the city and shops brought back many memories for Nick of the stories she told, the foods she enjoyed to make, and the many keepsakes that she kept and loved from her life there. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year and so we’ll greatly miss sharing our photos and trip stories with her!
In her honor we made sure to stop and try the traditional Dutch dish of herring from Stubbe’s Haring, a 100-year old family-run stand that’s rumored to sell the best herring in Amsterdam. The herring is served with pickles, onions and a toothpick bearing a Dutch flag and we enjoyed it canalside.
We saw these signs all over the city and they gave us a good laugh…
While we didn’t make it to see the flowers at the zoo, we did walk along Singel canal, which is famous for its floating flower market filled with gorgeous flowers and plants. Europe was having an unusually cold spring and summer and so most of the flowers were just starting to bloom.
We walked around for a few more hours before making our way to the Red Light District, a must see for many visitors to Amsterdam. While we walked through the area somewhat early in the evening, around 10 p.m., it was far less dodgy than I’d imagined it would be; there were no gaudy neon lights or novelty sex-themed trinket shops to be seen. We stopped for a drink at an open air cafe and people-watched the hordes of gawking tourists for awhile before finally calling it a night.
After spending two days walking around Amsterdam, on our third day we decided to rent bikes and take a trip outside the city.
Biking in Amsterdam is no joke, about 40 percent of the city commutes via two wheels, and it quickly became clear to us that it was essential to know and understand the rules of the road before hopping on a bike. It wasn’t uncommon to see multiple adults riding together and we frequently saw a mother or father on a bike along with several kids and a basket full of groceries! Even though I often bike in a busy, city environment, I was very intimidated biking in Amsterdam’s city center.
That being said. Amsterdam is incredibly bike friendly. Nearly all of the main roads have traffic lines, bike lanes AND pedestrian sidewalks, and some streets even had designated bike lanes on each side of the road. In the city center the bike lanes even have their own traffic signals.
We rented our bikes early in the morning and began our day trip to Zandvoort, a major beach resort about 15-miles east of Amsterdam that runs along the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was shining and the route was a well-marked and somewhat scenic. About a mile from the ocean the headwinds really picked up, making it a difficult trip on our single-speed bikes.
Despite the shining sun, there was a really cool breeze and it was pretty chilly, I guess Europeans are hearty since Nick and I were both wearing pants and multiple layers while others were in swimsuits! The cool weather didn’t stop us from dipping our feet in the water though – we needed to compare it to our side of the Atlantic!
We walked around the small town of Zandvoort for awhile before relaxing in the sun with a picnic lunch. Eventually we hopped back on our bikes and headed back in the direction of Amsterdam. On the way back we stopped in the city of Haarlem, a cozy little city about 10-miles east of Amsterdam that is full of cute shops and outdoor cafes.
We walked around Haarlem for about an hour before making our way back to Amsterdam; even though it was early evening we still had a 10-plus mile bike ride back to the city. This is my “can you believe I only have on a t-shirt after wearing three layers and the same coat for two weeks” look 🙂
The trip back to Amsterdam was exhausting, Nick often takes long distance bike rides but the nearly 40-mile round trip ride was a lot more biking than I was used to and I was never so happy to see our rental houseboat than when we finally turned the corner to our street.
Since we rented our bikes for two days, the next morning we decided to ride around the city and spend our final full day touring Amsterdam. We started our bike ride in Rembrandt Park, a large urban park near the city center, then rode to Rembrandt Square, which pays homage to the great Dutch painter, Rembrandt.
From there we rode through Golden Bend, one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious and upscale neighborhoods along the canals.
After riding around for a few more hours, we spent the entirety of the afternoon lounging in Vondelpark, a huge city park bustling with activity…and these tiny two-person cars that are surprisingly allowed to drive on pedestrian and bike lanes.
Nick and I stayed and enjoyed a late afternoon picnic in the park and rehashed our trip over a bottle of wine. We had such an amazing time during our entire vacation and we both felt melancholy about leaving Amsterdam the next day and ending our trip and adventure.
We eventually made our way back home, where I was especially sad to say goodbye to our new feathered friends, who had been making a nightly appearance at our houseboat.
And that’s it – even though we weren’t ready to leave, we packed our bags the next morning and headed to the airport for our trip back to D.C. Two funny things happened on our way there – one, we bought train tickets to the airport on the commuter train and no one ever asked to see or take them–so I guess it’s based on the honor system; and two, at the Amsterdam airport they do security checks at the gate right before boarding the plane rather than in a main security area like in the U.S. Thankfully the trip home was uneventful and we went to sleep that night in our own bed, dreaming of all of our adventures!
Thanks so much for following along with us on our trip, I hope you enjoyed reading about all the sights we saw and the fun we had!
P.S. If you haven’t already seen enough pictures, here’s a few more outtakes from our trip, 😉