I absolutely loved spending time in Amsterdam and its surrounding cities! I could wander along the Amsterdam canals for hours on end. I’ve heard a lot about Amsterdam, especially the Red Light District, but it’s something else to experience that area and the rest of the city altogether.
I went to Amsterdam with my parents and to my surprise, they enjoyed it, including the notorious Red Light District! Even making comments like “these women are so hard working, at least they aren’t stealing or doing something criminal to make money” and “your dad was so busy looking at the pretty women, he almost pushed me over.”
Plus, Amsterdam really knows how to do tourism! Their official site helped plan most of my trip. I definitely recommend checking it out!
Bird Thais Restaurant
This was a spur-of-the-moment restaurant decision thanks to Yelp (4 stars), close proximity, and starvation. The restaurant served Thai food and I had no complaints about the pad thai or the rice. Then again, I was quite hungry! The price was decent and the portions were big. My parents and I split two plates and left the restaurant stuffed.
Red Light District
There’s something about the Red Light District that’s very mesmerizing to me. There were prostitutes standing in glass doorways, sex shops, and even live sex shows all on one street. I even saw a prostitute open her doors for her next customer! I’ve heard about this district but I didn’t expect to find it so fascinating. I went on a Friday night and it was crowded with groups of men and couples walking along the canals. I definitely plan on coming back here without the parents one day to experience this area a bit more.
TIP: Buy the combi ticket that includes entrance to the park and the bus ride to and from the airport.
Keukenhof Gardens is the reason why I wanted to travel to Netherlands. As someone who went to Washington DC two weeks in a row to catch the cherry blossoms at their peak bloom, it is no wonder that I would want to fly to another country to catch the blooming tulips. Keukenhof Gardens is only open from mid-March to mid-May. I wish I had gone earlier to see the tulips at their best. Sadly, many of the tulips in the field were already beheaded. Still, the park was beautiful and many flowers were still in full bloom.
We only spent 4 hours at the park but I could’ve been here all day exploring the different exhibits and wandering through every inch of this beautiful garden. You are able to see unique flowers and I was impressed by how beautifully the flowers were arranged, making it a breathtaking sight of bright colors.
For lunch, we ate Spaghetti Carbonara and Caprese Pizza at the Schiphol Airport. For a restaurant at the airport, it was delicious! I preferred the pasta to the pizza, but that’s just a personal preference.
Amsterdam Centraal Station
Since we stayed at the airport, we would take the train to Amsterdam Centraal to reach city center. It was a hot day in Amsterdam but who wouldn’t enjoy walking past the many canals in the city.
On our way to the Anne Frank house, we passed by the place with the #1 Holland fries. A must try in Amsterdam is Patatje Oorlog – fries with sweet mayonnaise on top. I thought it was good but not as special as I expected it to be.
Anne Frank House
TIP: If possible, buy tickets ahead of time.
As expected, there was a long line to get into the Anne Frank House. I was unable to buy tickets online and thus could only visit the museum after 3:30PM. I arrived around 5PM and was told that the wait would be 2 hours. Thank god for the free wifi that kept me entertained in line. It went by faster than expected and I was in the house after an hour. It took about 1.5 hours to get through the whole house. I never read Anne Frank’s Diary but it was still interesting to see the house where her family hid. It’s hard to imagine being in her shoes, hiding away in a small space for two years of her life in fear of being caught. Her diary is now on my reading list.
The Pancake Bakery
Poffertjes are a must try on every foodie’s list. They are little fluffy pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar. I thought it was delicious! We also ordered more pancakes from the menu but it wasn’t what I expected – it was more of a crepe than a pancake. We ordered the Indonesian and the Banana Chocolate Whipped Cream pancakes. I preferred the savory one to the sweet, simply because the flavors were more unique. On a fun note, the waiters were super cute and I’m sure one of them winked at me 😉
Unlike the Red Light District, there wasn’t a lot of people in the Jordaan area. It was quiet and calm walking through the streets. It was a very cute area with older houses and local restaurants. My dad (being the typical nerdy engineer) noticed that the houses had hooks on top. We found out that the hooks were used to carry cargo into the houses! My mom (who loves sweets like me) couldn’t help but swing into Monte Pelmo for some icecream.
My parents really wanted to see windmills (they said it’s a must in Holland), so that’s exactly what we did on Sunday morning. From what I read online, this area is supposed to be overwhelmingly touristy. Having said that, I really enjoyed it! It was like walking in a cute little town with windmills. My favorite part was actually the clog museum. I got to take pictures with some gigantic clogs – what can be more fun than that?! I also tried stroopwafels and they are delicious! With caramel in the center, it was a chewy cookie with great texture – it’s a must-eat in the Netherlands!
TIP: Don’t buy souvenirs at the clog museum because you can find all those items for cheaper downtown at local stands.
Funny Story: Some guy selling portraits on the side of the road started hitting on me in mandarin. Funny thing is I don’t know mandarin (I speak cantonese) so my dad awkwardly had to translate, “Can I have a hug?”
My parents read in a Chinese blog that this was the best place for Chinese food in Amsterdam, so of course, we went for lunch. It’s in the Red Light District and I thought the food was good, nothing special though.
Right around the corner from here, there was a mini street fair. Local merchants set up stands and sold different types of goods. They had really cheap souvenirs here – and it’s the same stuff that the Clog Museum sold! I recommend the Clog Slippers 😉
The must-go area for any tourist because this is where the I amsterdam sign is. There are tons of people by the sign so another tourist will most likely be in your picture on a busy afternoon. Also, I don’t know how people come up with creative ways to pose with the sign or climb on top for that matter… I tried to sit in a cute way in the “d”… and I slid. Warning folks, it’s slippery.
As for the rest of the area, it was a really hot day so there were people laid out on the grass, playing volleyball, and even splashing around in the fountain. This is also where the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum are. My parents were all museum-ed out from the Louvre so we didn’t go, but it’s definitely on my list for next time. The Rijksmuseum is beautiful from the outside and I hear only positive things about the inside.
Longchamp on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat
As we were walking towards Vondelpark, I saw stores! I couldn’t help myself and had to peak into Longchamp. I’ve been meaning to buy a Le Pliage tote because I use them religiously for work and they’re supposed to be much cheaper in Europe than in the US. And as rumored, they are – it was only €80! I bought one in purple, and just might buy another in Paris.
It was a beautiful day for a picnic in the park! Without a blanket to sit on, my parents and I decided to sit on the grass and enjoy the waffle we bought. The waffle wasn’t great… and I was quite surprised because there’s a lot of stores that sell them in the Red Light District. My advice: don’t buy it.
There was a lot of people hanging out at the park, most tanning on such a warm day. It wasn’t as beautiful as its pictures but it’s still a really nice park.
We decided to try Dutch food on our last night in Amsterdam. It turns out traditional Dutch food is just mashed potatoes with vegetables served with a smoked sausage or meatball. My favorite part was the meatball, but the dish wasn’t anything special. I also read that herring is a must try so we ordered the salted herring on the menu. I love fish but I absolutely hated the herring. It was a really fishy fish. After this meal, I now understand why there aren’t a lot of Dutch restaurants around the world.
Amsterdam Canal Cruise
At night, we went on an evening cruise to explore Amsterdam from the canals. Since it’s May, the city didn’t light up like I wanted it to, but we did see the sun start to set on Amsterdam. I enjoyed sitting outside with the wind in my face as I took in the city. However, there wasn’t enough room outside for everyone on the cruise. The cruise came with a free drink and an audio tour. The audio tour wasn’t great and you could only listen to the commentary from inside the ship, but the free Heineken made it worth it.
Funny Story: Some guy on another boat in the canal invited me onto his boat. He made sure to mention that it was an all inclusive ride… no thanks.
Top Tourist Spots: Red Light District, Keukenhof Gardens, and Zaanse Schans
For Next Time: Rijksmuseum, Albert Cuyp Market, and Winkle 43 for some apple pie (I wouldn’t mind going back to the Red Light District without the parents!)
Must Eat Snack: Stroopwafels
What to Skip: The Pantry
The Other Necessities
We stayed at the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel. It was reasonably priced for a hotel and it was just a quick 20 minute tram ride into the city. Plus, it’s a really nice hotel so everything was wonderful!
Let me just say that I loved Amsterdam but this airport makes me never want to return to this city ever again. The airport itself is beautiful and clean, but their operations is a disaster. I was staying at the airport and made it just in time for my flight. My parents, on the other hand, missed their flight. All because of the stupid passport check! The passport check line was ridiculous and the people checking the passports – completely incompetent. If you ever go to this airport, prepare ample time before departure so you don’t miss your flight. It was a logistical nightmare!
Get the Amsterdam Travel Ticket. It includes unlimited travel on all buses, trams, metros and ferries. And trust me, you will save a lot of money this way! You have to scan your card when you get on and off your choice of transportation, even buses. There are also no gates at trams, but people do check for tickets from time to time once in route so make sure you have it handy!