The moment you step off the plane in Amsterdam, you can imagine little elves hanging up signs that say “Welcome to the most picturesque city in the world!” You buy a train ticket from the friendly lady at the information booth, and look out the window at the lovely countryside. Soon you’re leaving the station, being offered a myriad of ways to get to your hotel: bikes! boat! taxi!
With only one weekend to soak everything in, you decide to walk. The city is small, and you want to see every canal and twisted cobblestone street. You walk past the noisy hostels and coffeeshops where the young, boisterous traveling types hang out, and jump out of the way of annoyed locals as you learn that pedestrians better stay out of the bike lanes. You walk past little kiosks serving small fried fish, and look down at the many tour boats moving slowly through the canals.
After finding your hotel and settling in a bit, you’re ready for some food. Wanting to escape the rowdiness of the Red Light District and busy squares, you walk North into the lovely Jordaan neighborhood. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, but dark clouds quickly move in and it suddenly begins pouring. Seeking shelter, you run into a cozy restaurant called De Vliegende Schotel (The Flying Saucer), and warm up with a cup of tea and some vegetarian quiche and quinoa salad.
Feeling sleepy and satisfied, you decide to hop on an hour-long canal tour in a long, skinny boat. You sit at one of the many tables on the vessel, and look out the window at the rainy city from below the sidewalks. You hear the history of each neighborhood in about 3 different languages before the boat drops you off right in front of the Anne Frank House. The line is long (about an hour long unless you reserve tickets online), but the sun has come back out, so you decide to wait. The museum is full of pictures and models, and perfectly preserved from after the raid.
You decide to take a long walk down to Vondelpark, where beautiful flowers are planted along the pathways and there are tall trees to sit under and enjoy the grass. You people watch for a while, and grab a coffee at the park cafe. Though it’s still light out, it’s getting late and you’re tired from traveling. You take a bike taxi back to your hotel and fall asleep to the sound of boats splashing in the canal.
The next morning you enjoy a wonderful complimentary Dutch breakfast at your hotel, complete with tea, white bread, and chocolate sprinkles. You decide to check out the Red Light District in the early afternoon to avoid crowds and general debauchery, and walk through the pretty streets until you find the XXX signs. Nearby, you explore the Old Church, Amsterdam’s oldest parish church consecrated in 1306.
Wanting to get a bit outside of the city, you decide to take a 4-hour Dutch villages and countryside Bike Tour. From Amsterdam, the guide takes you through historic towns and along beautiful waterways. You stop for lunch with the group, and enjoy the quaint, quiet surroundings. By the time you get back, you’re worn out from all that cycling. You make your way to the Van Gough museum, where it’s less crowded the later you go. As you experience the beautiful paintings, you listen to the pleasant live music coming from downstairs. After you’ve visited all the floors, you make your way to the band and enjoy a glass of wine with the other listeners.
For your last meal, you sit alongside a canal and eat in the open air at nice restaurant with delicious food and strong beer on tap. The sun sets late, and you enjoy your last evening in Amsterdam, hardly dreading the easy train ride back to the airport you’ll have to take in the morning.