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Trip report for 3 nights in Amsterdam

Day One
Getting to Amsterdam from Bruges was simple and uneventful. After much deliberation, we decided to stay in the Jordaan district, and I am so glad we did. It is so much quieter, but with an interesting vibe all its own and lots of interesting restaurants. We stayed at Mr. Jordaan, which is an absolutely wonderful boutique style hotel. The receptionist who checked us in was so great, giving us a map and recommending all his favorite spots and encouraging us to take a canal cruise on Saturday. The rooms are comfortable (aside from not having air conditioning, as it is an old canal house), and the view over the canal is spectacular.
The first thing we did was get a classic lunch at a restaurant called Toos and Roos. We had a simple meal of a Dutch cheese sandwich with some fabulous gouda, and soup. We found that everything we ate in Amsterdam, no matter how simple, was just really, really good quality. After lunch we visited the Rijks museum, which was nice but incredibly crowded, and the Van Gogh museum, which was the same. We don’t normally try to do two museums in the same day, but due to a complication when we ordered our tickets, it turned out that way. The city is so crowded I don't think it would have mattered when we went.
We did very much enjoy walking around the museum district. There were some very nice little gardens full of tulips at this time of the year, and it felt like the whole city was out enjoying the glorious weather. There is a fountain area in front of the Rijks and kids and dogs were playing in it and everyone was having so much fun. We wandered a bit through Vondel Park which was a very interesting and unique experience. The place was absolutely packed with picnickers eating all sorts of delicious looking things, drinking bottles of wine and cases of beer, people smoking whatever it was they were choosing to smoke, and just relaxing and talking. I’ve never seen such a relaxed atmosphere in my life. We saw college students playing street music with people who looked to be older homeless men, parents with kids, young friends, just a huge hodgepodge all enjoying the weather together.
For dinner we tried the famous rijtaffel, and it was just amazing. Super filling, but unlike anything we had ever had before. I was a bit nervous about the spicy factor, because I am a total wimp, but it was delicious and not too spicy hot at all. We ate at the restaurant Rick Steves’ recommended in his book.
After dinner we decided to brave a short walk through the red light district. This part I was a bit nervous about, as the guidebook describes it as a bit rough, but it really wasn’t as scary as I thought. There were tons of restaurants and people relaxing, eating and hanging out just like anywhere else in the city. There were alleys with the famous windows, but we went early enough, I believe around 7 or 8, that there wasn’t much activity going on yet. I am happy I saw it for cultural purposes, but have no desire to go back. I imagine it is a much different experience late at night.

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Day Two
Today was Keukenhof day! This is the day I was the most looking forward to of the entire trip. Though I had seen tons of photos of the gardens, nothing could have prepared me for the reality. We got an early train from Amsterdam to arrive at the airport before 8 so we could be on the first bus to Keukenhof. The trip was easy and we arrived to the gardens early. We saw the beginning and realized quickly that if we headed towards the back we could experience it mostly alone. We stopped at the main pavilion on the way, as people had recommended to see those before it got too busy. The advice was good and we had the pavilion almost to ourselves. We spent some time investigating some of the most unique tulips I have ever seen. Then we headed out and found a path that had no one else on it.
We walked through this tree-lined path that opened into a garden area just carpeted in purple, blue and pink hyacinths. The smell was so unbelievable. The trees surrounded the area, the birds were chirping, and there were cute little white bridges constructed throughout. I felt it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and honestly teared up a bit. I felt this sense of wonder throughout the entire garden. The dedication the garden staff have to perfection and the creativity they had to come up with all the displays was just incredible. There were areas with flowering trees, which just added to the magic. I felt like I never wanted to leave, but the later on in the morning it got, the busier it got until it was almost unpleasant, so we decided to head out. I definitely recommend getting an early start to fully enjoy these gardens.
We went out to the bike rental place in the parking lot. For 10 euro each we were able to rent 2 bikes for as long as we wanted them. The staff at the desk helped us select a route, and the route was well marked. We headed out into the country side surrounding Keukenhof looking for tulip fields. The path was well marked, but much busier than I had expected. I guess I was expecting quiet country farm type roads, but we had to ride through several busy roundabouts. It was a bit unnerving, but worth the reward. The tulip farms were fabulous, just acres and acres of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils as far as the eye could see. We came to one area where there were some houses backed up to the tulip fields and an older gentleman was just sitting on his porch waving at everyone and watching everyone that stopped by to look at his field. It made my day! The ride we chose was 15 km, which was a lot for me as it had been a while since I had been on a bike, but we stopped regularly for photos and to look at the fields, so it was just fine. I think we were gone for 2.5 hours or so.
Instead of taking the bus back to the airport, we asked about taking a bus to Haarlem instead, just to look around for a bit. The bus driver agreed that we could use that bus with our passes, so it didn't cost us any extra. We walked around the town a bit and had dinner in the Grote Markt at a really good Mexican restaurant. It was a very relaxing, comfortably evening. On our next trip I would definitely like to spend some more time in Haarlem, especially to visit the ten Boom house. Upon our return to Amsterdam, we visited Cafe Winkel 43 at the recommendation of the receptionist at our hotel, just for their apple pie. This pie is the stuff of legends, seriously. I have never had a better piece of any type of pie anywhere. It is almost a hybrid pie/cake with the filling like a traditional apple pie with raisins as well and the crust made up of a sweet cake-like crust. It was delicious, and the perfect end to an absolutely perfect day.

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Day Three
We had a slow morning and chance to relax a bit today. We had no real plans. We signed up for a tip-based canal boat tour through our hotel at 10. It was a small boat with only 10 people on it, and the canals were still quiet in the morning. Our driver was very pleasant and taught us a lot of neat little tidbits about the city. We got to view several houseboats, including a houseboat with 25 cats living on it that serves as a cat shelter and adoption center - didn’t expect to see that! He said that every year they have to pull 400 cars out of the canals since they park so close to the edge. He also said they have to remove 15,000 bikes from the canal each year, which sounds astounding, but judging by the sheer number of bikes here, I believe it is possible! The best moment for me was when the church bells rang in the church at the end of our canal and he told us these are the same church bells Anne Frank heard from her hiding place, and that she referred to in her book. Realizing I had been hearing bells from the same church while laying in bed the past few nights just gave me chills.Extraordinary! Riding the canals is definitely a more peaceful way to view the city!

After our cruise we headed to the neighborhood street market recommended by our hotel and got a sample of several different kinds of gouda, as well as a freshly made sandwich from one of the stalls, and ate it overlooking a scenic canal. It is hard to beat market food! The afternoon we dedicated to walking through the city taking photos and relaxing, and then visiting the Dutch Resistance museum. That was really well done, and sets the tone for us to visit the Anne Frank house tomorrow.
Our feet were sore and I may or may not have tripped in a hole and fallen on the sidewalk, so we decided to cut the evening short. We spent the rest of the evening in our room near the window looking out onto the canal, people watching, and listening to the sounds of the city. We were so glad to have spent the extra on a hotel with a canal view at this moment, as it was just magical.

Day Four
We visited the Anne Frank house this morning. I reserved tickets at 9 am, though I am not sure if the entry time matters very much, as they tightly control the crowds. People are given a 15 minute entry window, and even inside that window they stagger entry. You get a free audio guide, which was great. It had both historical facts as well as bits from Anne’s diary. This was the most pleasant museum experience we have had in a while, as it was so well organized and uncrowded. It was really moving to be standing there, in the same rooms they survived in for 2 years. Learning about the families and the people who helped them gave a more personal side to the entire conflict.
After the museum, we returned to Cafe Winkel 43 for breakfast/lunch. We couldn't leave without one more slice of that amazing apple pie! And it was just as good as the first. This should definitely be on your list for visited Amsterdam, although it is best to come early or late, as it gets quite busy. After the cafe, it was time to pack up and head to the airport.
Overall impressions of Amsterdam - we liked it much better than we had expected. I was not terribly excited to visit the city, I just came mostly for the tulips. But I was blown away by the architecture, the good food, the scenic canals, and just the relaxed lifestyle lived by the residents. It felt much less touristy than many of the other place we have visited, maybe just because it is so large. It actually became one of my favorite European cities yet, though I will admit having perfect, sunny weather in the 60-70 degree range with blue skies probably helped with that assessment! The next part of our trip is the RS Greece tour, which starts on Monday, so I will try to make a trip report for the tour forum when we return. Hope this was helpful for someone!

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2538 posts

Thank you for the trip report, it brought back many lovely memories of our trip to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities and very under rated. We have been there twice and plan to visit again in the near future.

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152 posts

Enjoyed your reports on Paris, Brussels, Bruges and now Amsterdam. Two years ago, we stayed in Haarlem as we joined the BOE tour to include the Keukenhof Gardens. Our time pre-tour was cold and a little rainy, so we missed biking and visited some museums. Enjoyed the Resistance Museum. Looks like I’ll have to go back for apple pie at least. Luckily, our tour started May 1, and we had great weather throughout. Our tour ended in Paris, so we stayed, then visited Brussels and Bruges. Your reports have brought back great memories. Enjoy Greece. I’ll look forward to your report.

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2329 posts

Loved your report, reminds me I am sorry I missed a visit to De Poezenboot (houseboat with cats). I was there last year right about now and while I absolutely loved Amsterdam it was one of the coldest vacations I've ever taken (no more than 45 degrees in the daytime), but I wanted to see Keukenhof so not much wriggle room with that.

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1199 posts

Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, but I always wonder if its because I have Dutch heritage. I am happy when I read that others find it as special. Your trip sounds perfectly planned. The busy museums you describe are actually great first thing in the morning, like you did Keukenhof. Thanks for the report.

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961 posts

Sounds like a lovely time in Amsterdam, one of our favorite cities! We got in the habit of having Winkel's apple pie and hot chocolate every Saturday morning after going to the Noordermarkt across the street in the church courtyard. After six weeks we still weren't tired of it. There is also a cat museum called Kattenkabinet down on the Herengracht near the end where you cross around to get to the Hermitage museum. We loved all the cat art. So sorry to hear about your fall but it sounds like you weren't seriously hurt - at least I hope you are now recovered? Enjoyed your trip report!

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3453 posts

Tamara,

Thanks for keeping us updated along your journey. Great report! Living vicariously, as Amsterdam is still on our list to visit in the future. Can hardly wait to hear your impressions of Greece. Top of the list of our favorite RS Tours.

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112 posts

Thank you for the reports and the ideas. We're going in about 6 weeks, and I'm adding some things to the list! Hoping there will still be flowers of some kind to enjoy.

Posted by
112 posts

Thank you for the reports and the ideas. We're going in about 6 weeks, and I'm adding some things to the list! Hoping there will still be flowers of some kind to enjoy.

Posted by
28098 posts

Great report - thanks.

The idea of a small tour boat is one I haven't yet tried.

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441 posts

Thanks for the great report! Very helpful as we will be in Amsterdam next month and now I want that apple pie :) Also glad to hear the Red Light district was worthwhile and not too scary lol. I want to see it but will have my 12 year old and 14 year old so I want to go before it gets dark ;) Our hotel is adjacent to Vondelpark so that should be interesting! Glad you had a great stay!

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1885 posts

I was in Amsterdam this time last year, and also was surprised how much I loved it!
Can't wait for another visit!

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608 posts

Glad my report was helpful!

Jessica: I wondered if the museums would be a lot better early. We usually try to visit important museums as soon as they open, but this time we had something planned for each of our 3 mornings. I'll just have to go back again!

Nance: so glad you've had the apple pie! So incredible! My fall resulted in no injury, thankfully. I'm just as super clumsy person

diveloonie: we were there from April 19-April 22, although w had unseasonably warm weather.

Dellinda: Have a wonderful trip! It seems the Dutch love flowers and there were little flower boxes all over.

Ferrin - definitely do the apple pie! I think it would be ok with your girls, it was very tame early in the evening. Have a wonderful time!

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382 posts

Oh Tamara, I'm so envious of your trip to Keukenhof. I know what you mean about being overwhelmed by the color, blooms, fragrance and designs of the gardens. I'm the same way. When we visited Bodnant Gardens and the Chelsea Flower show on our Best of England tour, I think I walked the entire time with my tongue hanging out. I was probably drooling at the same time. : ) Going to Keukenhof is definitely on my bucket list. Would you say that the gardens were at their peak of color? Or were you early? Which day of the month of April were you there? I'll take notes for a future trip. I hope you make a Scrapbook so I can see all of your beautiful photographs. Please consider it.

I'm also looking forward to your trip report of the Greece portion of your trip.

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998 posts

Thank you for your report, it brought back memories of visiting Keukenhoff last year. I agree, the crowds were huge and we were glad we brought our own lunch and found a quiet bench to relax and enjoy. I’ll have to put that apple pie on my list to try next time. Hope you got to try the stroopwafel!

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608 posts

Janet - I thought the colors were pretty great, just about peak, but we got very lucky because they were about 3 weeks behind schedule due to an unusually cold winter. We thought we would miss it, but the week before we arrived it was 70 and sunny, so the blooms popped out. From what I've heard, the end of April is usually a fairly safe bet. They had their flower parade the Saturday we were there, I think April 21st? So I would imagine that is usually when the flowers are peak. It is just incredible, you will definitely have to travel there if you can. We are hoping to do the Best of England tour next year at the time Bodnant is peak like you did, so hopefully that works out!

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396 posts

We were at Bodnant last year during the last week of May and the flowers were luscious. The roses in particular were magnificent. The famous laburnum arch was in full bloom. It was a cool, intermittent drizzle day but that didn't get in the way of enjoying it tremendously.

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2142 posts

Tamara,
We went to Keukenhof on 4/24! A fantastic visual feast, a bucket list item for me!
Enjoying your trips reports. I'm writing mine for Paris now and plan to post it, my first trip report! I think I will do as you did and post my Holland trip separately.

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608 posts

Lia - we are hoping to visit Bodnant at that time next year!

Judy - So glad you had a great time at Keukenhoff. It really is other-worldly, isn't it?

Posted by
2995 posts

Ha, it's funny how your expectations of Amsterdam mirrored mine when I first went, but the advice to stay/hang out in the Jordaan is really good. I know some people who were underwhelmed with Amsterdam but they stayed near Damrack and never went west of the Anne Frank House, whereas I never visited the real touristy center/red light district until my second trip. Amsterdam is really just one of my favorite places to hang out, and having just returned from Haarlem, I can add that one to the list. (I've also been to and liked Utrecht, so there's really nothing in the NL I wouldn't recommend!)

Glad you enjoyed the Keukenhoff and great weather - you were lucky, it turned ugly a couple days after, but we visited on 5/2 and we had sunny weather in the high 60s/low 70s which was perfect. Northern Europeans really do go crazy going outside as soon as that warm spring weather starts and I'm glad you got to experience that! Great trip report.

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Thank you so much for your reports on Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam! My husband and I are heading there in a month, and I’m so glad to have read all that you did. Will definitely head out for some of that pie while we’re there. I wasn’t sure what to expect (I’m tagging along as he goes to a conference), but I’m very excited to have some time to explore on my own. We’re adding three night in Belgium at the end of the trip, and I’m glad to be staying in Bruges to experience it once the crowds leave! Again, thanks for posting.

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11292 posts

I missed this when it was originally posted, so I'm glad it's been brought back to the top. Great report, and thanks for taking the time to post it.

I'm one who didn't care for Keukenhof, partly the place itself, but especially the crowds. It's interesting that, even though you loved it early in the day, even you said "I felt like I never wanted to leave, but the later on in the morning it got, the busier it got until it was almost unpleasant, so we decided to head out." Unfortunately, I arrived mid-morning, and mostly experienced the unpleasantness. If I go again, now I know (thanks to your post) to go really early!