I believe that life is a journey which will be enriched by small adventures exploring the world full of color and diversity. This series of my blog posts are observation, stories and learning that I have encountered through each adventure, with the desire of recording impressions, experiences and memories. This article is about my trip to Amsterdam, the last destination in my Winter vacation.
I arrived Amsterdam on the last days of February 2018 when Europe experienced a super cold weather and the lovely city of Amsterdam was not an exception. -10 degree Celsius was how the weather those day, making the charming canals frozen. Nonetheless, the biting cold weather can not slow me down in discovering this place’s beauty and culture. Luckily, despite the coldness, the sun still shined, giving me perfect light and clear sky for city wandering and photo taking 🙂
The cannot-be-missed CANALS
Known as the symbol of Amsterdam, the system of canals has a rich history from original built as defense moats to local transport of merchandise and now has become a tourism attraction. Walking alongside the canals gave me view to historical houses, museums and sometimes peaceful scene of swimming ducks. Another way of experiencing the canals is on the water! An-hour cruise on the canal gave me another view point to the streets and houses along with audio guide told stories of main points that the boat passed by. It’s so funny that whenever the guide talked about something on the left, everybody on the boat turned to the left and the same people moved to the right. Personally, I was not much impressed by this cruising tour because the whole story was presented not very interesting and lack of interaction with guests.
Down the Singel Canal is the colorful Flower floating market. It is called floating market because part of it is on the canal. People sell a lot of stuffs here: flower seeds, fresh flowers and a lot of Dutch souvenirs. On the opposite side of the market are cheese shops, coffeeshops, bakeries selling Stroopwafel – a typical and delicious Dutch waffle. Getting frozen under the biting cold weather, those souvenir shops became perfect place to heat me up for a while, ready for the next walk.
Pigeon Dam Square
Just 5 minutes walking from the Centraal Station is the historical Dam Square existing from 13th century. There’s a collection of attractions here: Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk church and the former Post Office (now is Magna Plaza Shopping center). This square is full of pigeon walking and flying around. Sitting here for a while, playing with pigeons and enjoying the sunshine is very beautiful experience.
Amsterdam is also known as the city of museums with quite a few rare names, like Museum of Bags, Body Worlds or Red Light Secrets. For art-lovers, Rijks Museum is a must-see. Rijks features a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, archaeological artefacts, clothing, prints, etc. vividly showcasing 800 years of Dutch history. The building itself is a piece of architecture artwork with beautiful stained-glass windows and huge wall-pictures at the Great Hall. Besides famous master pieces like The Night Watch or Threatened Swan, Rijks embraces a very beautiful, tranquil and ancient Research Library inside. It’s just so amazing when stepping into the library, you might feel like living in a totally different world to the displaying rooms outside.
I really love the way this museum is well-structure helping visitors follow the whole 800-year history through the arts with comfort. That good structure is also reflected in the informative and intelligently designed guide book which gave me a clear outline of going where to see what, as well as highlights of the museum and the Rijks apps which navigated me in the museum and showed me the way to my wanted place and also provided some free audio guide for a certain number of artwork. I was also impressed by the way they help visitors enjoy and understand famous pieces of artwork by giving a detailed introduction sheet with clear art and technique analytic of famous and highlighted art work. That way of organization, to me, helps a lot in art education and preservation, helping tourists and youngsters from different cultures understand and appreciate those historical works.
Enjoying local FOOD is a thing we can never miss when traveling anywhere especially to Amsterdam. I tried a lot of food here and much LOVE them!
‘Very Dutch Breakfast’
I had a really great breakfast with Turnover cake & Ham croissant and a cup of black coffee at the famous Bakery named Banketbakkerij Lanskroon at no. 385 Singel street. The triangle turnover cake was very crunchy and yummy and told to be a ‘very Dutch breakfast’ by a local elder woman I met at the bakery. Nodding her head, she showed her thumb up for my choice. It’s also interesting to realise that the croissant in Amsterdam is bigger and much curvier than that in Paris. :D. I’m wondering whether the cow’s horns in Netherland is bigger and curvier than those in France, reflecting in the different size of croissants – just kidding! 🙂
Fries dipped in sauces for Snack
Fries-lovers can not miss out this street homemade fries by Vleminckx Sausmeesters at no.31, Voetboogstraat street. It’s interesting to know that French Fries even named with ‘French’ included is not originated from France but from Belgium. And Vleminckx Sausmeesters positioning itself as Belgium fries maker has become so popular in Amsterdam. Normally, Dutch people eat fries with mayonnaise. At this fries store, they offer 25 different types of sauce from regular ones to Belgian ones. I tried Peanut and Tartar sauces, which were sooo yummmy!
Dutch Croquettes for Snack or Lunch
Croquette is a deep fried, breaded roll of meat ragout with soft texture inside. Dutch people usually eat croquette with mustard. I had croquettes of veal and shrimp for lunch along with 2 slides of whole wheat bread at Cafe Luxembourg, no. 24, Spui street. Those croquettes look small but a bit creamy and a bit fatty, so two are enough for lunch.
Pancake for Snack or Lunch as well
Pancake is a little bit similar to Crêpe in France. In Amsterdam it is not wrapped into triangle shape, but displayed openly like a pizza. There’re many different toppings to put on the cake, among which I tried one with cheese and one with Dutch sausages. The restaurant was De Vier Pilaren, no. 11, Stadhouderskade street, which is near Rijks Museum. After finishing pancakes, you should try a plate of poffertjes (smaller pancake) with chocolate sauce on top!
Sandwich for a nutritious lunch
Enjoying different types of sandwich with a cup of coffee and having a beautiful view to the canal or seeing people biking on the street, why not? I did have that experience for lunch at a small et cozy lunch café – Singel 404 Cafe (no.404 Singel street). You can choose your favourite type of sandwich ranging from white, brown, bagel or panini.
Try out Dutch beer of a pure Dutch brand – Brouwerij ‘t IJ Brewery (no. 7, Funenkade street)! They offer a set of 5 different tastes in small size for trial; then we decided what to go for big glasses. Beer and sausages here are perfect. Also, if you want, you can register for a beer tour at this brewery house which presents steps of brewing beers and of course several types of beer for tasting to end the tour. Brouwerij ‘t IJ is great place thanks to its beautiful windmill that you can take photo outside.
Last but not least, one thing that made me really enjoy this city is the local people. No matter who they are, how old they are what they are doing – walking, biking, selling, serving, they look so fresh and happy, bringing me a cheerful atmosphere. And indeed, they are so friendly, polite and helpful. Altogether, I did have a great time and learn a lot from the culture and history of this city throughout the 3 days there despite of the freezing weather. Under any condition, any places have its own unique beauty for us to enjoy and earn our own experiences.