3 Days in Amsterdam
Where do you go when you want to travel halfway across the globe but you’ve only got a long weekend?
You can’t see everything in 3 days, but I was able to hit all the major tourist attractions with time to spare. Amsterdam is so picturesque; I’d love to go back just to have more time to get lost among the cobblestone streets, canals, and quaint little rowhouses. Sigh.
Amsterdam was the perfect place to dip my toe into European travel. Almost everyone speaks English, it’s relatively inexpensive, and public transportation is easy to navigate. Just watch out for that tricky European outlet situation. Between myself and a girlfriend, we fried two hair straighteners, a blow dryer, and the outlet adaptor itself...
We stayed at the Inntel Hotel, which looks like a cross between a gingerbread house and something made out of legos. It also has amazing coffee, which is a very important tool in your battle against jet lag. Dutch coffee changed my life and ruined it at the same time. When I came home, regular coffee just wouldn’t cut it anymore. It took me 6 months, but I finally was able to recreate the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
Our flight got into Amsterdam relatively early, so we hit the ground running and started in the museum district. Our IAmsterdam City Card (which I HIGHLY recommend) gave us access to the Van Gogh Museum - a must-see. You’ll recognize some of his more popular works (though don’t expect to see Starry Night - that’s located at the MOMA in NYC), but the temporary exhibitions are not to be missed.
Included with the IAmsterdam City Card are also a number of smaller museums. We were excited to check out the Diamond Museum and the Museum of Purses and Handbags, but we were disappointed. Save yourself the trip and just go wandering instead. We got lost in a trendy district called “De Pijp” and stumbled upon a cool outdoor market.
One of the most exciting things we discovered while walking around was a Dutch toy shop that looked like it was straight out of a children’s book. This is where I did the majority of my souvenir shopping.
We capped off our day by eating dinner at a steakhouse we discovered on our way back to the hotel. A cheese tray, 2 steaks with sides, dessert, and several glasses of wine cost less than $100 US for the two of us.
We began our day at a pancake house where we enjoyed poffertjes, which are mini puffy pancakes. Easily my favorite thing we ate. Our plan was to walk down the street to the Anne Frank house, but the line to get in was wrapped around the block.
Pro tip: buy your tickets to the Anne Frank house online MONTHS in advance.
Instead of wasting our day waiting in line, we decided to take a canal tour and do some more exploring before coming back in the evening.
Part of our afternoon was spent at the Heinekin Brewery. Even though I live in Missouri, home of Anheuser-Busch, I have never been on a brewery tour. The beermaking process was quite interesting, as was the history of the Heinekin family.
When we returned to the Anne Frank house that evening, we only had to wait about 20 minutes in line. I’ve loved The Diary of Anne Frank since I was a little girl, and never did I think I’d get to visit the Secret Annex in person. Although the family’s furniture is no longer there, the original bookcase that hid the door to the annex, and Anne’s diary, Kitty, have been preserved. It was a surreal experience, to say the least.
On the third day, God created windmills.
We woke up early to take a short train ride to the town of Zaanse Shanse. When you step off the train, you’ll see a cocoa factory down the street. Do you know what that means?
The whole town smells like chocolate.
As if that’s not enough to make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale, you’ll see cobblestone streets, bakeries, bicycles, chickens pecking on the front lawns of tiny cottages, ducks, goats, and, of course, windmills.
It was drizzly the day we went, but had the weather been nicer, Zaanse Schans is a great place to rent a bicycle and take in the scenery. The quiet streets are much less intimidating than trying to ride a bike inside the city.
There are several gift shops in Zaanse Schans where you can buy cheese, wooden shoes, and Stroopwafel tins to take home for friends and family (or eat them all yourself on the plane and just give the person the tin as if that were the plan all along).
We arrived back in Amsterdam around lunchtime, leaving us the remainder of the afternoon to tour the Rijksmuseum. You’ll definitely want to make sure you’ve got at least 3 hours to walk around (don’t miss the jaw-dropping Cuypers Library!). They have a lovely cafe near the main entrance if you need a snack break.
Once night fell, we set off for the famous Red Light District. It was mostly what you’d expect - women hanging out in windows underneath red lights and lots of tourists gawking at them. The real surprise was the beautiful architecture. The Red Light District is in one of the oldest parts of the city, and I’d love to go back and see it in the daytime.
You might be wondering if we ventured into one of the world-famous “coffeeshops.” I will neither confirm nor deny, but if it’s on your bucket list, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to check that one off. The coffeeshops are (from what I’ve heard) very clean with friendly employees who are more than willing to help out tourists who have no idea what they’re doing.
I think it would be pretty hard to beat Amsterdam, but what are some of your favorite places to vacation over a long weekend?