Recently my little family went on a short vacation in Amsterdam. My husband had to go for a work conference, and so my daughter and I went along and turned it into a mini-trip.
What an awesome city. This was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken, and the whole experience was incredible.
Here’s the low-down.
Where we stayed: at the College Hotel
This spectacular luxurious boutique hotel is divine. The rooms have HUGE ceilings, the bar is always busy and active and there’s anothr room with fireplaces and sofas to relax during the day. The restaurant is top-notch, and the service is excellent. This is a place to go if you want to feel spoiled.
What we did:
Day One: On our first day we just walked around the city. We went to the local markets, we went to a hipster cafe, and we toured around the canals. It was a tad chilly, so we would walk for about 1 hour and then stop in somewhere for a quick drink to heat up.
Day Two: On day two one of my husband’s work mates showed up, so we all joined up together and went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was spectacular! It’s such a great space, and not so huge like the Louvre in Paris where it’s easy to get overwhelmed. They also have a great restaurant, where we had some wine and snacks in the middle of our visit so we could stay refreshed.
After this we went to the Anne Frank Museum. This is a tough place to visit, but also incredible to get such insight into how they lived, and what was going on for them. It’s impossible for me not to think about that little girl dying right before the end of the Holocaust, so I couldn’t help but shed some tears at the end. Luckily, the show you some lessons on modern day racism, and let us decide if something is “nationalism” or “racism”. It’s a good lesson for all of us.
Day Three: We were feeling thirsty! So we went to the Heineken brewery, and took a tour. What an impressive empire this family has built, and the beer is great too. At the end of the tour you are in this “bar” where there’s lots of digital games, and quizzes, and fun music. It’s really like a night club. And since we were drinking 2 big beers on empty stomachs we were feeling a bit tipsy! It was quite fun.
Following this we went on a boat tour of the canals, where they tell you the story of the city, and point out landmarks. The canal network in Amsterdam is impressive, and while it makes the city pretty damp, it adds a huge amount of character to it. Since we had our 9 month old baby with us, we had to take turns holding her, and she kept grabbing at our headsets… so I didn’t catch that much of the audio tour, but our boat driver mentioned some of the more interesting facts, so we didn’t miss out at all.
Finally we went to the Red Light District. It was interesting to see the girls dancing in the windows, in a voyeuristic way. I guess you have to go the Red Light District just to see it, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was dirty, and there were lots of drunk English guys, and let’s be honest, smoking pot on the street in Canada is not that abnormal, so I don’t really need to go into a dirty coffee shop to do it. Oh well, it was cool to see anyway!
Day Four: My husband has his conference all day, so I relaxed at the hotel, went for lunch with my daughter, and took a nap. In the evening we went to a famous Indonesian restaurant called Blauw. Indonesian food is very popular in the Netherlands, mostly because Holland colonized Indonesia, and borrowed a lot of their spices and cooking styles. The restaurant was stylish and cozy, and when we got there it wasn’t very busy (but filled up quickly). We ordered the tasting menu, which was excellent, and at the end of the night, the famous chef came out and greeted us, chatted with us, and left us with a little gift of some of his famous spices. It was true VIP treatment at one of Amsterdam’s most famous restaurants, with a celebrity chef.
Day Five: The conference continued, so we stayed close to the hotel during the day, and went to an excellent Italian restaurant at night as a way to say good-bye to everyone we met at the conference. The strangest part of the night was one of the girls from an Advertising agency telling me how much she likes to go to Sex Clubs in Berlin, and how she used to go so much, that eventually they offered her a job. So now, on top of working at a top advertising agency in Europe, she has some weekend shifts at the sex club. To each his own, I guess.
For different itenerary’s of Amsterdam, Fodor’s Guide To Amsterdam is a great resource.
In all, I would 100% recommend a short stay in Amsterdam. It’s a gorgeous city, super organized and clean. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was absolutely charmed by this city.
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