Journeys with Juliana: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is like Venice’s cooler, hipster brother. The stunning, abundant canals aren’t choked with traffic from too many cruises, and the environment somehow perfectly combines a big-city feel with a small-town charm. It honestly seems like everyone in Amsterdam is always happy, despite the sudden stormy downpours of rain- and after visiting for just a single short weekend, I perfectly understand why.
The IAmsterdam Card
After doing some preparational research for our trip, my friends and I decided to purchase the IAmsterdam card, that was advertised on the website as an all-in-one access pass to the city: included is a free canal cruise, access to 60+ attractions and museums, and free public transport within Amsterdam. Cards can last from 24 up to 96 hours, which you can tailor to the length of your trip. For the weekend, we chose the 48 hour card for 74 euros, which is admittedly a little pricey. And at this point, you’re probably waiting for me to tell if you if it was worth it or not, but that’d be too easy- so just keep reading for the final verdict!
Museumplein? More like Museumplenty!
Fun fact: Amsterdam is home to more museums per square mile than any other city in the world, and the Museumplein, translated to Museum Square, is to thank for this statistic. The two most famous museums in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, are about a 4 minute walk from each other, which makes it incredibly easy to spend a relaxed afternoon strolling through the Museumplein. At the Rijksmuseum, admire Rembrandt’s celebrated Night Watch– that, side note, is humongous in person- as well as several other works from prominent Dutch artists, including Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. Personally, however, I stayed for hours on end just in the Van Gogh Museum. It not only houses a complete collection of his most famous works, but it also tells the story of Van Gogh’s fascinating life. Understanding the context of his paintings gave astounding depth into understanding the progression of his artistic genius, so don’t let the inevitable crowds scare you away- it’s definitely worth it.
For the Foodies
After a long day at the Museumplein, you’re bound to be craving some authentic Dutch food, but in Amsterdam, it’s hard to say where you should start. If you want a savory snack, try the city’s famous palat (french fries), at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx. There are several fry stands around the city, but don’t be fooled- this tiny establishment has survived over 60 years for a reason, serving customers perfect hand-cut fries and a delectable selection of sauces.
If you have more of a sweet tooth, there are authentic stroopwafel stands all around the city, and they’re also for sale in local bakeries. But whatever you do, you absolutely must stop by Cafe Winkel 43 for the best appelgebak (apple pie) you’ll ever have in your life, guaranteed.
And finally, if you can’t quite decide between savory or sweet, go to De Carrousel Pannenkoeken, an authentic Dutch pancake cafe serving up everything from strawberry-nutella-whipped cream pancakes to ham-cheese-pineapple ones- do you think the Dutch argue about pineapple belonging on pancakes as much Americans argue about pineapple belonging on pizza??
What You Can Only Do in Amsterdam
Be sure to visit the bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market showcasing classic Dutch tulips in every shade of the rainbow. It’s in the center of town, easily accessible by foot, but fair warning- sidewalks can be hard to distinguish from the designated bike lanes, and bikes here have the right of way. I narrowly escaped death several times, so pay special attention to your surroundings and don’t text and walk!
A canal cruise is a nice way to vary your mode of transport throughout the city as well as conveniently flee the danger of all the malicious bicyclists. Our IAmsterdam card came with a canal cruise, so of course my friends and I jumped on that opportunity- after all, who loves free stuff more than college students? Correct answer: literally nobody.
During the weekend, I honestly noticed that I didn’t actually use the IAmsterdam card as much as I thought I would. The city itself is pretty small and extremely accessible just by walking or biking, so I didn’t end up using public transportation as frequently. Additionally, the card only provides free transportation within city limits, which didn’t help when we were trying to get transportation to and from the airport. Our canal cruise was nice, but mostly because it was free- you can get many other higher quality options through various other online booking sites that offer anything from an on-board candlelit dinner, to a hop-on hop-off variety, where you can stay at any stop for as long as you want. That being said, however, I do think it’s possible to get your money’s worth from the card purely from the museums- the admission tickets can be pricey, and you also get to skip some lines, which is an added bonus. So really, it’s entirely up to personal preference.
Amsterdam is overall a very tourist-friendly destination. Everything can be managed with ease, from navigating to communicating to everything in between, and if you’re looking for a laid-back weekend trip filled with amazing food, I would highly recommend it as a place worth visiting- just make sure to bring an umbrella!