Amsterdam held a certain interest for me. I wasn't sure what to expect, so when The Professor asked if I wanted to go, I didn't hesitate to say yes.
Now, I don't know about you, but I can still remember hearing friends in college boast about their trips to Amsterdam. Many came home with tales of debauchery, but few spoke of actual substance (other than the mind-altering sort). Their stories of adventure in Amsterdam left me wondering if going Amsterdam was just one big party?
Adventures in prostitution, legal drugs, and all-night dance parties doesn't sound appealing to me, though. Even now, I read travel blogger's accounts of Amsterdam and am left wondering: does Amsterdam have anything else to offer visitors?
So, I went to Amsterdam on a mission to prove that adulting in Amsterdam was possible. The Professor and I went for a work trip, which meant that less out-of-pocket expense for us.
Looking back on our journey, I can honestly say that I found more culture in Amsterdam than I expected. But, I would do some things differently if I had it to do over again.
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So, I wrote this series of posts to share my experience with fellow travelers who may be considering a trip to Amsterdam. Keep reading to find out what I liked and didn't like about my Adult Adventure in Amsterdam.
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What's with The Weather in Amsterdam?
I'll admit it: my judgment about our trip to Amsterdam was clouded by the weather (pun intended). We went in February, which is traditionally cold (30-40 F, 0-8 C) and wet! We hadn't necessarily planned to go to The Netherlands in February, but we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the city at a reduced cost.
Based on my research, I expected some showers and frigid temperatures during our trip. So, I was somewhat surprised when it rained every single day we were there. Even the novelty of my brand new raincoat and rain boots wore off by the third day of constant rain.
Now don't get me wrong: running through the historic streets of Amsterdam is beautiful no matter what. But it's a bit harder to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings when you're constantly looking down to make sure you're not about to slip and fall.
I was hoping for a few days filled with sunny skies and windmills. It wasn't until after we left Amsterdam to visit a few other Dutch cities that I got my wish.
Gear Up Before Going to Amsterdam
Although the weather definitely made it hard to love Amsterdam, I did make some great travel memories during my Amsterdam adventure. And contrary to what you might believe, I AM encouraging you to visit Amsterdam to experience it yourself. I just hope you either go prepared.
What to Wear in Amsterdam
So, I've read that it rains nearly year-round in Amsterdam. Granted, the summers are supposed to be spectacular. Still, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
Rain gear is essential in Amsterdam, especially if you are visiting during the winter months. Be sure to bring a waterproof jacket (mid-weight) with hood, waterproof shoes, and travel umbrella.
You'll also want warm socks and a cozy knit hat if visiting in the winter time as we did. Getting caught without these things could ruin your trip.
Protecting Your Camera in the Rain
Now, if you've read my About Me page, then you know that one of the main reasons I love to travel is to take photos. What I find surprising about Amsterdam is that I have so few photos from my time there, at least when compared to the other Dutch cities we visited.
It turns out that I hadn't properly planned for shooting a city in the rain. Can you imagine trying to take photos while holding an umbrella?
Although my DSLR is weather-sealed, it's not water-proof. So, taking my camera out in the pouring rain would have been ludicrous. I found it hard to get the shots I wanted in the rain without the proper gear.
Fortunately, I was able to snap a few shots here-and-there between showers. But, after a while, I stopped even bringing the camera along on excursions. Even The Professor noticed this highly unusual behavior. Looking back, I wish I had prepared for the rain by bringing some essential gear for shooting in bad weather.
Adventure in Amsterdam: Lodging
The Professor has a knack for finding fun, modern, and affordable places to stay. And he totally knocked it out of the park in Amsterdam!
He discovered an excellent home away from home on Prinseneiland, one of the many small islands that form the city of Amsterdam. When visiting European cities for more than three days, we like to rent apartments, as it gives us the most flexibility.
Our Amsterdam apartment, The Wharf House, was a super-modern apartment with sleek finishings and an incredible view of a large canal. And even though the property owners were next store, we totally felt like we had complete privacy, something we expect and desire.
I simply loved the layout of the apartment: the bathroom and bedroom were downstairs while the kitchen, dining and living area were upstairs. The elevation and large windows provided a terrific line of sight to the beautiful canals.
The open, airy space partnered with modern furnishings produced a romantic feeling that I fell head-over-heels in love with INSTANTLY. Best of all, we had everything we needed to save a few bucks by dining in for breakfast, munching late afternoon snacks and taking much-needed coffee breaks after long excursions in the rain.
What to Eat in Amsterdam
One of the things I look forward to the most when traveling is trying local foods. I love tasting foreign delicacies and experiencing new, unfamiliar flavors. Initially, I felt underwhelmed by the lack of variety in Dutch foods. But, over time, I grew to appreciate the cuisine in Amsterdam once I understood the subtle flavors and the difference that FRESH, quality products made.
There were so many yummy things we savored during our stay. But best of all was the beer. I loved the clean, light flavors of Dutch beer, which partners quite well with many of the fried pub-foods offered in Dutch bars.
Overall I would say that our dining experiences in Amsterdam were great. And although we didn't find much variety in the menus, the foods we tried were terrific. I still crave some of the treats we found in Amsterdam!
The amount of fresh fish in Amsterdam was surprising, yet it shouldn't have been. We found fresh fish on every menu, even on the street food menus! We enjoyed a variety of deliciously prepared, freshly-caught fish over the course of our stay.
During our time in Amsterdam, we enjoyed a variety of deliciously prepared, freshly-caught fish. One fantastic local restaurant stands out in my mind: De Gouden Reael.
An institution in Amsterdam, De Gouden Reael offers diners a taste of Amsterdam's rich history. You quickly realize that the restaurant has been there a while (since 1648 to be exact). The lamp-lit, quiet atmosphere of the place makes it feel home-like with a romantic touch.
We were warmly greeted when we arrived, and, I must say, we received excellent dinner service. One thing we tried was plaice, a delicate flatfish.
Traditional Dutch Cuisine
An excellent example of traditional Dutch cooking is Moeders, a sweet little restaurant dedicated to the mothers of the world. Dining at Moeders was an unforgettable experience. Brightly lit and toasty, this place is welcoming from the very start. Yes,
Brightly lit and toasty, this place is welcoming from the very start. Yes, it's crowded, but the overcrowding works in the restaurant's favor. The proximity to your neighbors helps create a home-like atmosphere that perfectly complements the restaurant's theme.
The walls are covered with framed photos of other people's mothers. You can’t help but relax and enjoy your fabulous comfort food when surrounded by pictures of smiling mothers.
My selection was a traditional hotchpotch, or stamppot, which was amazingly warm and comforting after our walk in the misty night air. Think of shepherd's pie but way better. The tables are few, so try for a reservation if you can.
Other standouts were the local sweets. Poffertjes are the most delicious little pancakes dusted with powdered sugar. Pancakes Amsterdam is a great place to enjoy authentic Dutch poffertjes in a bright, cheery atmosphere. Their poffertjes were oh-so-tasty, and their coffee was deliciously strong.
I later discovered fresh stroopwafel at a local outdoor market. This amazingly addictive cookie is made from thin, crispy waffles with a gooey caramel center. And, trust me, finding fresh is so worth your effort. You'll find it hard to stop eating these sweet, gooey cookies!
Amsterdam's Street Food
Much to my surprise, there was a definite street food culture in Amsterdam. By far, my favorite local street food was patat, golden fried potatoes slathered in curried mayo!
Trust me guys, this is street food at its finest if you ask me. Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx gets top nods around the web for their frites! Best of all, the stand is super close to the train station.
The Professor also really enjoyed another local delicacy: pickled herring. We found a sweet little street food stand in the Albert Cuyp Markt that was exactly what he was looking for: unassuming, no frills, local.
I must say, I am not a fan of the herring, but to each his own. This is a traditional food if ever there was one, so you have to try it at least once. So, I gave it a whirl only to find out what I suspected from the start: I'm not a fan of pickled herring.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Amsterdam was the warm and cozy atmosphere of many of the local pubs. Most of the bars we visited were found out of sheer necessity: we had to escape the rain. But each one welcomed us and made us feel instantly at home.
One of my favorites was Cafe Van Daele, situated right off Dam Square near the Royal Palace. The cozy, quiet atmosphere mixed with tasty treats and delicious brews made this place so worthwhile.
Another thing I loved was that each pub had a unique selection of beers and small plates. We enjoyed local pub foods including kroket (meat-filled croquettes, deep fried) and bitterballen (crunchy, deep-fried meatballs).
Most of the pubs offered free WiFi (with purchase). And every single one was welcoming, with friendly, helpful staff and locals.
And let's not forget the amazing Dutch cheeses (did I mention I'm addicted to cheese)! If you like Gouda, you must visit Amsterdam.
One day out of sheer coincidence we found ourselves in the most fantastic little cheese shop ever, De Kaaskamer. There was cheese as far as the eye could see, stacks and stacks of it. You can tell by the gleam in my eye that I was enthralled with it all.
We were able to try samples of local cheeses before making our selection to take back to our temporary home. The staff were welcoming and encouraged us to explore different cheeses and flavors. With their help we found the perfect Dutch cheese to savor for the rest of our stay.
More of Our Adventure in Amsterdam
I'll leave you here, hungry for more! Be sure to read the conclusion to find out more about our trip to Amsterdam, including all my favorite sights!
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Drop a line below telling me your thoughts on Amsterdam. I'd love to hear about your experience.
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