Amsterdam quickly became one of our all-time favorite cities. Somewhere between the world-class museums, scenic bridges and canals, and crooked houses, it stole our hearts. We liked the young vibe and relaxed attitudes. We liked the delicious street food. We liked the people. It was truly an amazing and unique city.

Destination: Amsterdam | Netherlands | Europe

Traveled: May 2014

Strategy: We planned to spend four days in Amsterdam after our time in Brussels and Bruges. We devoted a half day to travel and one day to tour the countryside, which left two and a half days for museums and exploration.

Adventures: Amsterdam Canal Ring, Dam Square, Red Light District, Anne Frank Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Heineken Experience, Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room, evening canal cruise

Memorable Moments:
 1) Seeing the pictures Anne Frank pasted on the walls of her room in the Secret Annex. 2) Walking the picturesque streets and canals in the Jordaan. 3) Sitting in a bar in the Red Light District drinking beer and people watching.

Takeaways: 1) Cafes and coffee shops offer very different merchandise. 2) Always book tickets for popular attractions in advance of the trip. 3) Pancakes are not just for breakfast. 4) The Red Light District is interesting but much more normal than expected. 5) It takes a day to remember to look for bicycles when crossing streets. 6) There is no language barrier here.

Foodstuff: Our love addiction for frites (fries) in Belgium continued in Amsterdam. These fries are served hot and fresh with a big dollop of mayonnaise on top. Yes, we thought it sounded gross too, but by the end of the week, we were wondering if we could ever make the transition back to American fries with ketchup. Delicious.

We tasted poffertjes (little, puffed pancakes served with powered sugar), pannenkoeken (large pancakes, which are much thinner than the American version and sometimes incorporate things like fruit or bacon), stroopwafels (chewy, syrup waffles), and oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) while in Amsterdam, but these Dutch treats were not just for breakfast. They were served as street food to snack on throughout the day.

We were fascinated with FEBO, a walk-up, vending machine-style fast food restaurant. Food items like hamburgers and croquettes were displayed behind tiny, coin-operated glass windows. The food quality might not be the best compared to other restaurants, but the novelty of the quick snack wasn't lost on us. We were those people taking pictures in the establishment as we pulled out our hamburger. Embarrassing, we know, but we had to document it.

Heineken Lager Beer. This Dutch beer has to be mentioned here. We learned from our guide at the Heineken Experience to "drink like a man." It's important to take bigger gulps of beer so you don't just taste the bitter foam head.

Other items of interest included pea soup, Dutch stew, and raw herring (with onions, of course).

Restaurant Picks:
Greenwoods English Tea Room (serves all day breakfasts, including an amazing English breakfast)
Singel 103

Pancakes! Amsterdam (serves traditional and global pancakes)

Berenstraat 38


Cafe van Zuylen (cozy atmosphere)
Torensteeg 8

Cafe Sonneveld (large portions, reasonable prices, and free wifi)

Egelantiersgracht 72-74


Manneken Pis (voted #1 fries in the Netherlands)
Damrak 41

Recommendations: 1) Pack casual clothing and good walking shoes. 2) Buy tickets in advance for the Anne Frank Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. Otherwise, you can expect to wait hours in line. Note the emphasis on hours. 3) The Heineken Experience offers a complimentary shuttle by boat to their downtown Brand Store. Do it. It's essentially a free canal tour! 4) Do not take pictures of the girls in the Red Light District. 5) "Watch twice." Look for bicycles as well as cars when you cross the street.

Next Time: We missed the famous Rijksmuseum.


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