What to do in Amsterdam

We didn’t plan on traveling to Amsterdam because let’s face it. The city has a reputation for two things: prostitution and legalized marijuana—two things that Patrick and I aren’t exactly interested in seeking out. But my friend Dionna currently lives in Amsterdam and that fact alone was enough to make a detour from England to the Netherlands.

And as it tuns out, the one place we hadn’t planned on going became our favorite place of all.

Welcome to Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 2013

A quick overview.

Amsterdam is a very old city, built on canals and waterways that can be flushed and cleaned in just under eight hours. There is no foul dirty-water smell like I’ve heard there is in Venice. The canals are in concentric half-moons, and act as streets—plus, all of the streets that run parallel to the canals. (For example, Prinsengracht, the first canal, is also the street where you can find the Anne Frank Museum and as well as local restaurants and boutiques.) Watch out for the bikes. I’m pretty positive I would have been killed had Dionna not yelled, “You’re in the bike lane!” at me multiple times a day minute.

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed in Dionna’s apartment. And you probably can’t do much better than her apartment. But, I would highly recommend staying outside of the main canals and closer to the Rijksmuseum (pictured above) like we did. A quick Airbnb search yields this incredible apartment near the museumplein. (More on why I love Airbnb soon.)

Here are a few pictures of Dionna’s sweet pad.

Dionna's apartment Amsterdam

red modern kitchen

open living space

WHERE TO EAT

For Brunch: Bakers and Roasters, in the northern part of a neighborhood called De Pijp (pronounced Da Pipe). Patrick had Huevos Rancheros, and Dionna and I both ordered Eggs Benedict. Also, keep an eye out for the Bakers and Roaster’s daily salad—it’s not on the menu, but is always displayed near the coffee bar.

Bakers and Roasters Amsterdam

For Dinner: Envy on Prinsengracht in the canals. Make reservations in advance and save up your appetite. Then order the tasting menu and prepare to be wowed. Here’s a photo of our first course of cucumber (butter) soup, steak tar tar, smoked salmon, and pumpkin puree.

Envy, first course

Envy’s interior:

Envy, interior

WHAT TO DO

  • Take a nighttime boat ride in the canals with a private guide
  • Visit the Anne Frank Museum either early when it opens or late before it closes to skip the lines.
  • Go shopping in De Pijp neighborhood
  • Visit the Van Gogh Museum but know that Starry Night isn’t currently housed there. Instead, go find my favorite painting of the peasant’s potatoes.
  • Walk down P.C. Hoofstraat (a street outside of the canals) and find Azzuro boutique. They carry Scotch and Soda, my favorite European clothing store, which originated in Amsterdam.
  • Talk a walk through the red light district during the day. Despite the terrifying fact that prostitution is happening, and legally, in Amsterdam, I believe it’s important to understand and see the truth about the world we live in—even if it’s harsh.
  • If you happen to be there on a Sunday, visit Hillsong Church Amsterdam. You won’t regret it.

WHAT TO SKIP

Dionna convinced us not to take a bike ride. She was right. The city is easily explored by foot and the stress of riding a bike and being “that” tourist that causes an accident because she wants to stop and take a picture isn’t worth the hassle. Also, we skipped the “coffeeshops” that sell marijuana.

And just for fun… a few more photos from Amsterdam:

van gogh IMG_4228 street chessDionna and the Gibsons

Amsterdam, nightI amsterdamAmsterdam, what to do Amsterdam

And of course, none of this would have been possible without Dionna’s generosity and hospitality. Thank you so much for introducing us to your city. It was better than we ever imagined.

Dionna dn Claire in Amsterdam

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