“Where the broad ocean leans against the land,” (Oliver Goldsmith) you’ll find a place stacked tall with narrow living, a maze of canals, and a bustling of residents dreamily riding bicycles with high handlebars. Some still call it Holland. But the names printed on maps know it as The Netherlands—and this city, Amsterdam. To visit this city below the sea is to experience a culture rich in architecture, art, and history. With 17th century neighborhoods, to markings of Van Gogh’s starry night, to memoirs of Anne Frank, to a city brimming with bikes and delicious waffles, to outskirts so green with mighty windmills and Dutch traditions, Amsterdam is yet another place to mark on your map of adventures.
Although exploring a city should be an experience that you make fitting to your heart and soul, and your merriments as a traveler, below are a few tips should you ever find yourself in Amsterdam:
Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I don’t know anything with certainty but seeing the stars makes me dream.” The Van Gogh Museum instills this to the very core. His work as an artist will make any museum-goer dream, especially when journeying through the largest display of his art here in Amsterdam. Also located in the museum center is the Rijks Museum. With over 125,000 works of art, one can be submersed in the art history of the Netherlands, and see many masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Degas.
Amsterdam’s population of bikes nearly doubles that of its residents. Bike tours and bike rentals are readily available. Explore the city like a local, and bike all over the map. Pedal through the city center, to the east and to the west, past old courtyards and the royal palace, over canals, past leaning buildings, along house boat property lines, and stop at the vibrant floating flower mart or in a local shop for a tasty Dutch cappuccino.
17th century homes, a labyrinth of narrow streets, and little canals make up the perfect atmosphere for a stroll in a neighborhood called The Jordan. Dutch painter, Rembrandt, lived here and his home and art studio are still standing along the Rosengracht and Bloumgracht—two canals within The Jordan. Take a stroll through this part of Amsterdam, as it is surrounded by such old fashioned charm.
Bordering close to The Jordan you’ll find Anne Frank’s house, and the opportunity to journey through the annex in which the Frank family hid during the Holocaust. Although now empty, the rooms still breathe an air of history and life that passed through its walls. Bits of wallpaper and few objects left behind remain, taking you through an emotional and historical experience unlike any other.
Eat & Drink
There is something so exciting about stumbling upon local food as you go about your travels—not really planning it out completely and being caught off guard by the menus you have to decipher. It’s almost as if your palette gets an adventure apart from everything else. And with every explorer, the level of dining is going to be different from person to person. While some make food the center of their travels, others may not. So I’ll leave you with two tips: Whatever you do, be sure to purchase a waffle from a street vender. Lightly powdered with sugar, perfectly warm, and wrapped up in paper—you won’t regret it. Also, if traversing with your husband, brother, or dad (or even just for your own enjoyment), be sure to stop at the Heineken Brewery or the Brouwerj’t pub for some Dutch beer.
If given more than a few days to explore, venture outside the city. Stop in at Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken to experience traditional cheese making, a fishing town, wooden shoes, rows of tulips, and windmills. Tour groups embark to these towns daily on big buses, however the more adventurous at heart may want to explore without the structure of a scheduled day. Look into a bed and breakfast in one of these towns and enjoy country life for a few days. Canal tours also embark beyond the city, and may be a grand adventure for those who want to go out to sea!
Essential to wardrobe in Amsterdam is functionality and layering. Rather north for a city, even the summer days can be chilly. Walking and biking are the main ways to get about, so comfort and functionality are a big part of street style. Girls layer boots and tights with dresses, or skinnies with layered tees, sweaters, and the oversized scarf. Think J.Crew meets The Sound of Music and you’ve gotten pretty close to style in The Netherlands.
I urge you, darling explorer, to mark your map for your next adventure. Whether you embark to The Netherlands and find yourself navigating a boat through the canals of Amsterdam, or whether you pedal your bike to the nearest Dutch bakery in your hometown and indulge in a pastry that awakens your palette—go experience the new! Like Van Gogh, look at the stars, and dream of where you want to go next, its out there waiting for you.