Amsterdam may be best known for its ‘pleasures’ (the infamous Red Light District and its ‘coffee shops’) but the city is so much more than just that. Out of all of my travels around the world, Amsterdam is one of the most relaxing, laid-back places I’ve ever visited, and I’d love to go back someday!
We drove up to The Netherlands after leaving Paris and making a quick pit stop in Brussels. We stayed at the Brooklyn Hotel which is a really sexy boutique hotel where you are greeted with chocolates as soon as you arrive! The ambiance is very sophisticated and the rooms are sleek and did I mention sexy?! 😉 Unfortunately we only stayed one night but it’s a hotel I’d definitely recommend. The only issue we had was that when we called the front desk for more towels, housekeeping brought them up immediately but came right into our room without knocking! This actually happened to us several times in various hotels throughout Europe, so perhaps it’s a European thing?!
The hotel is located on the NDSM-werf, a wharf/edgy artistic community set against the backdrop of colorful graffiti walls, and abandoned boats and trolleys. It’s a neighborhood filled with art studios and galleries, a skate park and the place to find cool cultural events, music festivals or parties on the weekends. And there’s a free ferry that will take you right into Centraal Station in Amsterdam.
Since we had a rental car, we drove into Amsterdam city center (about a 15 minute drive from our hotel) instead of taking the ferry. The city, with its tree-lined streets, the most canals in the world, and easygoing people riding bikes everywhere immediately gave us a relaxed vibe. We drove around for a while then parked along one of the canals to walk around the city.
You’ve probably read about Amsterdam’s many canals but it’s hard to imagine how beautiful they are until you see them in person! Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful! Literally every street in the city borders a waterway, many filled with houseboats and lined with trees and bikes. And like the canals, bikes were everywhere! I haven’t seen so many bikes since we went to China! Riding a bike seems to be the easiest and quickest way to get around Amsterdam, and the city is very bike-friendly so it’s safe to ride around.
We had lunch in one of the city’s many candlelit restaurants – Restaurant-Café In de Waag. The café, which was formerly a Weigh House built in 1488, sits in the middle of Nieuwmarkt (or New Market Square). Inside the historic building are thick wooden tables and approximately 300 candles lighting the interior. They offered a great mix of American and Dutch dishes for lunch. But the most memorable cuisine was this fresh Belgian waffle topped with warm cherries and whipped cream. Seriously, it was divine! Check it out if you’re ever in Amsterdam.
After lunch, we walked around the area and did come across the infamous Red Light district, which, aside from the obvious ‘shops’, is quite beautiful. The cobblestone streets, waterways and colorful buildings are very picturesque. And overall, the city just felt so carefree. Everyone was pleasant and the vibe was so laid-back and cool. It’s definitely a place to go if you want a nice, relaxing trip.
Since our time in the city was short, we explored a bit more by car. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the famous Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House (though we quickly drove by just to see it). They’re definitely on my list for our next visit, along with visiting the windmills. Before we left, of course I had to make a quick stop in a couple of stores to grab some souvenirs and a fashion item or two for myself. There are plenty of great shops and places to explore. A day and a half in Amsterdam just wasn’t enough!
Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you love most about the city?