A Weekend in Amsterdam Travel Guide

10 Must Do’s at The Cosiest Place in The World

The moment I settled in my spacious seat, I knew I was with the Dutch. It almost felt like a train library. Everyone was reading or munching an apple. The smell of cheese wafted through the air like Western durian. Unlike my ride to Warsaw where chats were constantly layered above one another, this time it was a quiet, smooth and comfortable ride, like butter.

All the way from Rotterdam Central to Amsterdam, the view outside my window was peppered with dainty tiny yellow flowers. A couple of white swans were happily idling away. The train passed yards and yards of green meadows signifying spring and I saw more and more cute farm animals I couldn’t identify.

Suddenly I was reminded of the purpose and importance of travel and why I love doing it so much, even to a point of addiction. I have to admit that some other countries need me to do a bit of work internally to reach that realisation but with Netherlands, it comes naturally.

Amsterdam in A Glance:

  • Rijksmuseum
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Anne Frank’s House
  • Royal Palace of Amsterdam
  • Begijnhof
  • Tulip farm at Keukenhof or Amsterdam Tulip Museum
  • Cheese Museum (Try: beer cheese and buy back some)
  • Canals of Amsterdam
  • Brown cafés (HIGHLY recommended: Dokter Cafe)
  • Amsterdam Red Light District
  • Bonus: Pancakes. Amsterdam for brunch

No thanks to the popular stereotype my acquaintances painted of Amsterdam, for the longest time I had the impression that the city is all about smoking weed and red light districts. I did not try any of them, yet Amsterdam turned out to be an incredibly cool city I enjoyed dearly.

Netherlanders even have a special, untranslatable word for cosy that is gezellig, a word to encompass the heart of Dutch culture.

Must Know: Most restaurants accepts only cards and no cash, so make sure your cards are working.

 

DAY 1

Includes: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank’s House.

Tip: Buy tickets online for the first 2 museums before your trip or on-the-spot to skip all-year-long queues. It is advisable to book tickets to Anne Frank’s House (TWO MONTHS in advance). More about this under #3.

 

1. Rijksmuseum

{Spot the architect of this museum peeking somewhere around the corner of this building!}

Whether you love museums (like yours truly) or not, you shouldn’t miss seeing The Night’s Watch by Rembrandt and The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, at the very least. Make sure to also check out their flower pyramids; vases like no other.

Ideally, be there with your ticket in hand at 9 a.m. Visitors typically spend 3 hours here, so unless you only want to lay eyes on the items I mentioned, start your day early because early birds catch the worm!

As Rijksmuseum is open till 5 p.m. and Van Gogh’s (#2) till 6 p.m., I definitely recommend visiting this one first.

A tour within Rijksmuseum really makes me smile. It reminds me of why I love Europe or its beauty in terms of how rich it is in arts and history, extremely well preserved.

 

2. Van Gogh Museum

{Can I just say, that this is my FAVORITE museum up-to-date?}

Van Gogh fans or not, this museum is a must. Only a 3-minute walk from #1, everything about it wins my heart.

As reminded from the start, it is wisest to purchase tickets online. If for some reasons you couldn’t plan your trip in advance, as long as you have internet data and a working credit card overseas, do so outside the museum to skip the shocking queue.

Have lunch at the museum because there is a lovely café inside. Their menu changes diversely from breakfast to lunch, so any visit will be greeted with a surprise spread. Think of it is as IKEA’s canteen having a ‘finest foods’ area.

Visitors usually spend 2.5 hours here (excluding dining time).

 

A look into this museum and my connection with it (Skip if you’re not a museum fan)

This museum is designed for you to get up close and personal with the late Van Gogh, journeying through his entire life story; often painted with strokes of dark history as you speculate both his famous and less famous works. Little did I know that he had such a close relationship with his brother, cut off his ear and committed suicide by shooting his chest.

The Potato Eaters study section is my favorite part, where Van Gogh identified himself as the ‘Painter of Peasants’. He specifically practiced drawing hands, believing they are the most expressive features of a human being. He also referred to cottages as ‘human nests’, deeming them safe and secure.

As you move to the ‘Paris’ section, you’ll be introduced to bright colours; a total opposite of his previous style – a different kind of beauty made for admiration. ‘Dreaming of Japan’ section was my least favorite, as he copied some original paintings from Japan, adding his own twists to it. I personally think the Japanese versions look better.

A fascinating piece is a painting of sunflowers, which his brother described as ‘painted as if it was weaved with silk and gold’, and I am sure anyone who laid their eyes on it would agree. With that, Van Gogh called himself the ‘painter of sunflowers’.

I think calling Van Gogh’s museum shop the BEST IN THE WORLD is probably an understatement. Not just selling another piece of fridge magnet or gaudy dad’s tie, this shop offers endless varieties of souvenirs designed by Klevering. Unfortunately Klevering doesn’t sell products sold in the museum nor do shipping to Asia, but do check out their site and you’ll see why I adore their products.

P.S. Once you exit the museum, you can not enter the shop again. So do your shopping before you exit!

 

3. Anne Frank’s House

I read Anne Frank’s diary after a visit to a concentration camp in Munich. Ever since, #3 had been in my bucket list for 4 years!

I learned too late that tickets are best booked 2 months in advance. Otherwise, brace yourself for hours of standing under the sun or in the cold. Mine was the latter and I kid you not; after 2 hours, I couldn’t feel both my legs anymore and almost blacked out because I didn’t dress to cosy up, as I wasn’t expecting this:

So definitely keep note of the tip above.

If you ask me whether the queue, wait and visit is worth it, I’d say ONLY under 3 scenarios:

  • You read The Diary of A Young Girl and became a fan.
  • You bought tickets in advance – Entry time for this is between 9 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.
  • You try your luck 2 hours before closing time – Closing time differs depending on the season. Find out more here.

As a 过来人 who has done both, I’d say my imagination gained from reading the book is much more vivid and memorable than visiting the actual house itself. Reason being Otto Frank, Anne’s father, decided to remove all the furnitures / content of the house, leaving it absolutely bare.

From here, take a 15-minute walk to Café Pieper for a Dutch beer break after / before dinner.

 

4. Brown Café: Café Pieper

While this makes a very interesting old bar, don’t come expecting proper food to be served for dinner.

A meal in Amsterdam costs roughly about 14€.

 

DAY 2

Includes: Royal Palace, Begijnhof, Tulip Museum, Cheese Museum, Canals of Amsterdam, Brown Café. 

Breakfast: 

Recommended by my Dutch ex colleagues, this pancake shop is indeed worth the try. I firmly suggest going to the branch near Anne Frank’s house because it is huge with two storeys, which means no / less queue.

A huge pancake costs 9.50€ while a coffee + eggnog, 6€.

 

5 + 6. Royal Palace + Begijnhof

How important it is to visit the Royal Palace depends on each individual. Only a 6-minute walk from the Royal Palace, Begijnhof is another must-see tourist spot, where the oldest house of Amsterdam is nestled within a courtyard of a tranquil neighbourhood.

 

7. Tulip Musuem


Alternatively, I highly recommend going to the tulip farm at Keukenhof, which is 36 km / 42 mins drive from the city.

 

8. Cheese Museum

Lavender, wasabi, pesto, beer cheese . . .  Just name it! Whether you buy some home or taste all the flavors there, make sure to do either one.

 

9. Canals of Amsterdam

How can you not take photos at the famous canals? ;)

 

Repeat #4: Try another brown café – Dokter Cafe

I can’t say I’ve traveled to all cities in the world, but I sure can say I’ve traveled enough to say this is next best jazz bar after Dresden Room in LA.

A clown hanging from a parachute. Aged still-life paintings which reminded me of Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. Two lamps hanging from each side of the bar; one with a handbag perhaps from WW2 and the other, a huge cage, both covered in tangled web.

The bar tender, DJ, accountant and waiter is an old man dressed in a crisp shirt plus a neat tie with a gold clip on it. He’s always smiling – I can’t remember the last time I saw someone who’s so in love with his job!

He recommended me the Texels Skukoppe beer then proceeded to his vinyls, constantly changing one record to another. 

 

10. Red Light District

I couldn’t imagine the fun or thrill of visiting #10 without É or a girl friend, so I decided to skip. But you don’t have to be like me! Be adventurous – try a puff of weed at least because it is legal there, take a good look at what’s happening around you, absorb the culture, be careful, use protection, and have the time of your life.

Then end of your trip by saying out loud “I AMsterdam”. <3

 

 

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