1) 1:55 pm Train I took the train from Schiphol Amsterdam Airport to Amsterdam Central Station. One of the amazing things about traveling is that not only do you get to meet really cool locals, but also some pretty cool tourists from across the globe. The guy next to me on the train had come all the way from Ghana and he told me a little bit about his country. I know it can be hard sometimes, but I’d highly recommend making an effort to talk to other tourists (as long as they don’t seem sketchy – use your own judgment).
2) 2:05 pm Embarrass Myself I did a little happy dance and was like, “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M IN AMSTERDAM THIS IS SOOOOOO COOL!” I looked appreciative, not stupid. And when it’s late at night and I can’t convince myself of that, I remind myself that it was in a different country and that nobody there knew me. Except now they do.
3) 2:10 Desperate Searching I was smart enough to mapquest my hostel ahead of time, and I wrote down great instructions on how to get there. As I therefore knew my hostel wasn’t that far away, I helped lost people on the street find where they were going. JK… I wandered the streets asking for instructions.
4) 2:30 pm Hostel… aka Stairs I got settled into my hostel. I was super glad I packed light, because my dorming room was on the fifth floor, which is European for the sixth floor.
5) 3:00 pm Dutch Pancake (Pannekoek) I wandered around a bit and found an amazing Dutch pancake place. I’m American but I was still on the Spanish meal schedule, so this didn’t seem like a strange time to have lunch.
6) 4:00 pm The Jordaan Neighborhood I explored the famous upper-middle class Amsterdam neighborhood. There are a lot of families living in this area and while it’s in the city it feels like an American suburb. Picture kids returning from field hockey games and families with bicycles built for two. I was in a foreign country, but I couldn’t help getting a bit of déjà vu.
7) 8:00 pm Surinamese dinner Just like you can’t go to NYC without trying Chinese food, pizza, and bagels, you can’t go to Amsterdam without trying Surinamese and Indonesian food. Suriname is a small country in South America that was colonized by the Dutch (it’s culturally part of the Caribbean, not Latin America). It was absolutely delicious and quite unlike anything I had ever tasted before! I’ll write more about it in the post about amazing Dutch food I’m posting soon. The other customers were so cool and answered all my annoying questions about both the Netherlands and Suriname.
8) 9:45 Exploring
10) 11:00 am National Monument This was also the meeting spot for the Sandeman’s tour of Amsterdam. You were apparently supposed to sign up and get a ticket. I made the slightly questionable decision that since the tour was free it wouldn’t be unethical to pretend I didn’t realize that I didn’t have a ticket. I later found out that it wasn’t free. That’s what Sandeman’s gets for completely dishonest marketing. I will post more about the Sandeman’s tour company soon.
11) 11:15 am The Sandeman’s Tour of Amsterdam Our tour guide took us past countless famous sites including:
12) Oude Kerk (Old Church)
14) The Red Lights District (I’ll post about my opinions on that soon)
18) the front of the Anne Frank House, and the widest bridge and the narrowest house in Amsterdam.
I think that most tour guides are generally pretty knowledgeable about their cities, but I really felt that ours went above and beyond (ask for Michael). He told us so much about Amsterdam and the Netherlands (I’ll include some of what I learned in my facts/observations post) and I was so grateful to have such a great tour guide.
19) 2:00 pm Dutch Bar The great thing about tours is that they’re a great way to meet other travelers. I explored Amsterdam with two of the guys on my tour. We hung out at a beautiful bar and talked about Amsterdam, Europe, and life.
20) 4:00 pm Very Early Dinner/Spanish Lunch I had a sandwich with whole grain bread (hard to find in Europe) and the Dutch version of lox. It was amazing (I know I overuse that word, but this is a travel blog, a lot of things are going to be amazing).
23) 7:00 pm Souvenir Shops I said goodbye to the guys I met on the tour and spent the next two hours exploring souvenir shops and trying on sweatshirts I had no intention of buying. I took the approach of photographing items I liked so I could print the photographs out in the US for memorabilia (click here for my souvenir shop photography tips, I’ve learned a lot about how to take nice photos, and more importantly how NOT to take nice photos).
24) 9:40 am Breakfast: Dutch Salmon Sandwich I realized I’d ate every meal at a restaurant the day before, so I found a local food store that had pre-made sandwiches. I had the same whole wheat, smoked salmon, and lemon thing that I ate the day before and it was beautiful.
25) 10:45 am Floating Flower Market To be completely honest, this was a bit overrated. Most of the flowers weren’t actually flowers but instead fake flowers intended as home décor. There were also a lot of seeds and bulbs. Maybe if you go during a different time of year you’ll have better luck. That said, the floating flower market is famous, and exploring it is free, so I’m extremely glad I went.
26) 11:30 am European Starbucks Experience The cool thing about Starbucks in Europe is that you can often get your drink either to stay (in a coffee mug) or to go (in a normal American plastic cup). It’s cool to see how even the most mundane things can be completely different in a foreign country.
27) 11:45 am Herring from a Food Cart I forced myself to try this Dutch specialty and I was shocked by how delicious it was. It tasted a bit like smoked salmon and came with diced onions and some pickles.
28) 12:00 pm Museumplein The park surrounding Amsterdam’s most famous museums was beautiful. I got some pictures in front of the famous “I AM STERDAM” sign.
29) 1:30 pm Van Gogh Museum This was such a surreal experience that I forgot I was in Amsterdam for a few hours and just got lost in the paintings. Van Gogh had such a talent for capturing movement and perspective that I almost felt like I was looking at scenes from my childhood when I saw his outdoor paintings. The ones that looked totally unfamiliar felt like looking at someone else’s memories.
30) 4:30 Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’s famous modern art museum was interesting, and more or less avoided the trend of drawing an orange triangle on a canvas and calling it modern art. In my opinion it still didn’t hold a candle to the Van Gogh Museum.
31) 6:00 – 7:00 pm Dinner I had the most perfect salad with some cool, refreshing beer.
33) 9:00 am Pancakes and Goodbye I had one last Dutch breakfast and tried a smaller, fluffier version of dutch pancakes. With apples, cinnamon, and walnuts.
After this pancakey goodness, I headed to the train station. It was time to say goodbye to Amsterdam and hello to Brussels.
Interested in visiting Amsterdam? If you want more ideas, check out my 24 Things to do in Amsterdam post, which has a color-coded map that will help you organize what to do when, prices for various activities, and links to where you can buy your tickets.