Usually when traveling to a new destination Abbey and I take a train to the main train station near the city center. However, Amsterdam was slightly different because we were meeting up with our old roommate in Boston. He was flying into Amsterdam on the same day we were arriving by train. So instead of going to Amsterdam’s central train station, we went to the airport to meet him. We timed things well and didn’t have to wait long for him to collect his bags and find us. From the airport we hopped on a bus that took us close to our accommodation.
Before arriving in Amsterdam I had already learned something very important about it, accommodation was crazy expensive. Our budget was about $150 per night between the three of us, which in most cities would have at least been enough for a semi-private AriBnB in a decent location. However every AirBnB in the main part of the city was well above our price range. Hostels were worse, even for mixed dorm beds. Our only affordable options was to sacrifice location. We ended up booking a private room in Osdorp, a suburb well outside the city center. Our saving grace was the home was only five minutes walking from a tram stop that would take us directly to the city center in a “quick” 45 minute ride.
We were able to check in in the early afternoon and the weather outside was fantastic. We weren’t expecting to get many sunny days, so we decided to head into the city for the evening. We didn’t plan to do anything that day other than wander around and pop into anywhere that looked interesting. Once we arrived in the city center I began to realize just how beautiful Amsterdam was. I didn’t really know much about the city aside from its infamous pleasures, so I was surprised to see how picturesque it was. The canals are peaceful and the architecture is lovely. Just in my first day I could tell it was going to be one of my favorite cities to walk around.
Walking around is exactly what we did for most of that day. We stopped for a pint and sat outside to soak up the comfortable weather and busy streets. We got an okay Italian dinner, which, thankfully was the last mediocre meal we would have. As the sun and the temperature were dropping, we got back on the tram and went back to our accommodation for the night.
The next day the weather wasn’t quite as nice, but still decent. I had signed us up for a walking tour which began in the late morning. We still had to wake up early due to the long travel time into the city, but we made it to the meeting point with time to grab breakfast and enjoy the sights along the way. Just enjoying the scenery while walking was quickly becoming my favorite activity in Amsterdam.
The walking tour was much better than expected. It took us into the early afternoon and was interesting for the entire duration. It gave a very good explanation of the history of the city and why prostitution, drugs, and bikes became so popular there. I think part of the reason the walking tour was so interesting was because Amsterdam has a more eclectic and unique history than other cities we have visited.
After the tour we decided to go get lunch at Vegan Junk Food Bar. This was by far my favorite food I had eaten on the trip (Spain would eventually dethrone it). The double burger and loaded fries were super indulgent and didn’t feel like any vegan food I had had before. It was one of the few times I didn’t feel healthy after eating vegan food and I absolutely loved it. Vegan or not, anyone visiting Amsterdam should check out this place as anyone with taste buds will find the food to be fantastic.
After a great late lunch the weather was still okay so we headed over to the south end of Vondelpark. We slowly made our way through the park, stopping to look at interesting sights and wildlife along the way. Even though it was too early for any of the flora to be blooming, the park was still beautiful and I can only imagine how great it is in the warmer months. You could make a day out of wandering the park and hanging out in the grassy areas if the weather is nice. We eventually reached the end of the park where there was a bridge with some creepy statues of children underneath.
The end of the park led us back into the main part of the city. From there we didn’t have any other set plans for the day, so we just began wondering for a bit. Considering it was still tolerable out, we wanted to spend as much time as possible outdoors. We eventually found an open park bench next to one of the canals where we sat for the rest of the afternoon. Watching the canal was very calming and it was fun to examine the many boat tours as they passed by. Eventually we grew hungry and found some dinner before heading back to the AirBnB for the night.
We had gotten lucky with the weather on our first two days and by the third day our luck had ran out. We awoke to dreary skies in the morning and by the time we made our way into town a rain had set in. We obviously decided that it would be better to spend the days indoors and ended up having a very quiet day.
After lunch we visited a cat cafe called, Kopjes, where we got to sip coffee and interact with the many adorable cats in the cafe. I was afraid the cats would be sleeping the whole time, but most of them woke up and were interactive during our time there. We really enjoyed our time in the cafe, but it really made Abbey and I miss our cat, Ember, back home. If you plan on visiting this cafe you need to make reservations ahead of time which allow you to spend two hours there.
The next day Abbey wasn’t feeling all that well and decided to stay behind. The weather was good, so we decided to spend more time outdoors. I was trying to be frugal that day, so we got hot dogs from a street vendor for lunch. We had enjoyed our time observing the canals a couple days ago so much that we decided that would be the best way to spend the afternoon. We found another empty bench in the sunshine and sat there for most of the evening chatting and enjoying the views of Amsterdam.
Using the restroom was easy for us because Amsterdam have small public urinals all over the city center and one was located near the bench we were on. It is essentially just a concrete slab surrounded by a metal barrier with a drain at the bottom, but it gets the job done. I wish the city was able to figure out something that would also work for women as I can only imagine males using these facilities. As the sun began to set we found some cheap dinner and ended the night at a hookah lounge.
The next day was our last full day in the city and Abbey was feeling better so all three of us made our way into town together. We ate lunch at Foodhallen, which was essentially just an indoor area for food stalls to be set up with a large dining area. I think many of the stalls were a bit overpriced, but it was a cool experience and there are many different options of food available. After lunch we didn’t do much aside from roam the streets, this time spending more time in Dam Square rather then beside the canals.
Again, we were trying to not spend much money, so we didn’t do many activities our last day. This didn’t bother me at all however as I just liked being out and about in Amsterdam. Dinner time eventually came around and we returned to Vegan Junk Food Bar as I had to have some of those loaded fries again before leaving Amsterdam. Keep in mind that this place gets very busy in the evenings, so plan ahead if you want to eat dinner there. After dinner we headed back early and got packed up to leave the next day.
I have to admit, I’m not so sure I loved the city as much as Kevin did. It’s not that I disliked it, I think it was more that nothing was all that surprising. It was exactly what I imagined. That being said, I still think it would be a destination that I would advise people to visit at least once. The canals really are fun to sit by and wave to the boat tours going past or to throw moss to the local birds to eat.
It was a bit disappointing that our commute into the city was so long, but that was better for our budget. The architecture in Amsterdam was beautiful. The buildings by the canals were just as charming as you see in pictures. The roads, however, are a bit hectic. You have the sidewalk, a bike lane, parked cars, moving cars, then a tram going down the middle of the street. Definitely use crosswalks and be sure to look and listen out for bikes – the “silent killers,” as our tour guide called them.
A closing point of advice: If you are looking for a cup of coffee, ask for a café – if you ask for the location of a coffeeshop, you will be greeted with the lack of coffee and with an abundance of marijuana.