Amsterdam has been on my travel bucket-list for years. So when it came to planning our trip home, I felt it would be downright scandalous not to go through Amsterdam! Luckily the difference in cost between going directly from Warsaw vs. stopping over in Amsterdam was a few hundred dollars which basically was our accommodations in Amsterdam so we went for it.
Compared to other cities we’ve been to, Amsterdam is expensive. The hostels are expensive and there aren’t as many Airbnb’s available as there where in Portugal and Spain. Since we were in Amsterdam for only two days so we stayed at the centrally located Stayokay Amsterdam Vonderplark Hostel in a mixed dorm room – which was the most affordable hostel we could find in the center of the city. We knew we only needed a place to sleep & shower, so it was perfect.
Day 1: Did we really just walk in circles all day?
We landed in Amsterdam at 9:30 am and due to the über efficient public transport from we were in our hostel in under an hour. An express bus which costs about 5 euros runs very frequently from the airport to the city center so there is no need to take a cab. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we checked in, stored our bags and set out to explore.
We walked a lot.
Amsterdam is easy to get around but, unlike Toronto – bikes rule the roads. For anyone that come from a city where cycling for transport isn’t a thing, Amsterdam traffic can be jarring to get use to. What you assume is a road for cars is actually bike lane-sidewalk-road. You end up dodging street cars, bikes and the occasional car as you wander around trying to take in the sights. But, mostly bikes as it is the main form of transport in Amsterdam. Even for me it took some getting use to, as I’m not use to empty “roads” that are dedicated bike-lanes and are empty because people are at work.
We didn’t have a “plan” for Amsterdam. We wanted to take in the city, walk, people watch and just enjoy our time there. Amsterdam is laid out in a circular pattern which meant it was quite hard to get lost, even when you don’t know exactly know where you were and thought you may be lost, you turned a corner to find yourself back where you were or where you wanted to be. We did find our favourite coffeeshop on our first day, it was close to our hostel which turns out makes it less touristy and more chill. I read that some travellers found the staff in coffeeshops less than friendly – this was not our experience at all and I’d recommend you find the less popular, less centrally located coffeeshops to hang out at.
We did head back to our hostel after lunch to settle into our room and shower before we continued enjoying Amsterdam. We didn’t know how long we’d be out and didn’t want to deal with our bags at night. We were in a mixed dorm room and other guests were expected, and we didn’t want to be THOSE people. Our mid-day stop back at the hostel did give us the a much-needed nap and re-charge before we headed out into the streets of Amsterdam.
One thing we did find ourselves craving on our first day is Pho. Travelling can do a number on your digestive system and I found soup is the best meal on the first day. In Toronto Pho is a fairly inexpensive meal but, as we found in Amsterdam Pho is a fairly new cuisine and in our luck we stumbled upon the rather hip Bo Nam bistro to eat our Pho at. The most amusing part of the experience was when after we were served our Pho we had to ask for chopsticks to eat. I guess not everyone eats Pho with chopsticks in Amsterdam. It was the most expensive Pho I’ve had in my life at 15 Euro but, it was delicious and frankly I believe in treating myself to good food when I travel.
We ended our first day in Amsterdam with a few beers at the hostel bar, which you had to enter via a window/stair case type of set-up that definitely resulted in some accidents. The bar was full of young Brits focused on getting drunk as cheaply as possible rather than in meeting other travelers so we spent the time discussing, reminiscing and laughing about our trip.
Day 2: We now know where we are now.
Our second (and last day) in Amsterdam started with an Instagram worthy breakfast and espresso from a nearby cafe. Food presentation was a THING in Amsterdam. I never got a visually unappealing meal in the city. We knew the city more, were well rested and followed our none-plan of doing things we felt like.
One of my favourite things about Amsterdam is the number of odd shops of things. There were tea shops, Delftware shops, postcard shops, cheese shops and record shops. I did not resist the urge to shop when it came and I did not worry about adding weight to my backpack as – I was going home next anyways!
My one ridiculous impulse purchase in Amsterdam was 2 records – Tokyo and one disc of a two disc record called Cajun Swamp Music Live by The Clifton Chenier Band. It was ridiculous because I did not own a record player.
I have to confess I did not visit any of the museums or galleries in Amsterdam. It just didn’t happen. The weather was too nice, the line up at Anne Frank’s House was too long and we probably needed a third day to have time to fit that into our time there. We did do one super touristy thing to make up for it – we took a canal boat tour. For 20 euro’s we sailed along the canal’s of Amsterdam, saw the key sites, heard some interesting stories and enjoyed a Heineken. Highly recommend this as a somewhat affordable, touristy thing to do in Amsterdam option.
Amsterdam Canal Boat Tour
Our tour guide obliged us with some interesting facts about Amsterdam, such as that fact only billionaires live in the houses along the canal and that there is a boat house of rescued cats. He also pointed out a local legend, a man who was sitting at the window of his home looking out at the canal in an extravagant robe. This man has been throwing extravagant parties at his house for decades. He looked like he was ready for that evening’s party.
The Best Meal in Amsterdam
I’ve discussed the amazing food I had the pleasure if tasting throughout the trip so you shouldn’t be surprised that I feel the need to share THE best meal we had in Amsterdam. It was at rainarai a place we found on our walk to the boat tour and it looked so interesting that we went back. The menu at rainarai, consisted of a two meal type choice of the things that were cooked that day. There was a meat and an all vegetable option. I choose the all vegetable option and I did not regret it. It was delicious.
Saying goodbye to Amsterdam
Two days in Amsterdam is not enough to see everything but, it’s just enough to get a taste. I enjoy just being in a place when I travel. It’s not always necessary to fulfil the guidebook “must see/ do” list, to get a feel for a place and to get the most out of the experience. You miss some interesting things if you aren’t open to venturing off the planned path. Part of what made Amsterdam amazing was the time I got to spend with Klara and Bil.
As we wandered the Red Light district at night, because it turns out we had been there during the day but, the subtlety of neighbourhood meant we missed the obvious signs. We didn’t care to gawk at the workers in the windows but, wanted to see the lights which were the main way of advertising the services available.
We spent our last day in Amsterdam at Leidseplein square, at the Grandcafe De Heineken Hoek, which was prime people watching territory. As our epic 2017 European vacation drew to a close I felt lucky and grateful for the opportunity to travel in Europe with some of my favourite people and to see 3 new countries I’ve never been to.