Oh Hot Dam! Exploring Amsterdam

Since Paris is literally a hop, skip, and a jump from so many incredible European cities, Kristin and I decided we had to explore a few more places while abroad. After talking to some friends, we decided to head north to Amsterdam and Copenhagen – it’s less than an hour plane ride (and a pretty cheap flight) to each city!

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Amsterdam, given its somewhat seedy reputation. Of course, I’d heard all about the weed and the red light district, but, beyond that, I was pretty much clueless. Lo and behold, there is much more to Amsterdam than drugs and sex! Sure, you can find those things if you are looking for that kind of experience, but they don't define their culture as a whole. Amsterdam is a beautiful, waterlogged city, and we really enjoyed the people we met, the museums we toured, and (of course!) the food we ate while in town. Below are some of our favorite recs!

Restaurants:

  • Pancakes Amsterdam – Dutch pancakes are a must when in Amsterdam! They’re thinner than the pancakes we are used to in America (more like crepes), and this shop offered a ton of different flavor combinations, both sweet and savory. We opted for the Camembert + ham + chicory + raspberry sauce pancake which was delicious and super unique. It had a flavor profile similar to a Monte Cristo sandwich because of the ham, cheese, and jam, but obviously was a lot less heavy since it wasn’t fried. We also shared poffertjes, small, donut-hole sized mini pancakes (kind of like ebelskivers) served with butter and powdered sugar – these were our favorite!

  • Vleminckx Fries – It’s essential to pay a visit to the “sausmeester” (sauce master) at this old school, Belgian pommes frites shop. Go for the big size and make sure to load ‘em up with sauces. I topped mine with ketchup, mayonnaise, and raw onion – yum!

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  • Restaurant Vermeer – I tried to hit at least one Michelin-starred restaurant in each city while in Europe. For our one dinner in Amsterdam, we picked Chef Chris Naylor’s swanky restaurant, Vermeer. If you only have one night in a city, you have to make it count! Boy, am I glad we chose this place – it was one of our favorite dinners from the whole trip and one of the best tasting menus I’ve had. Each course was more delicious than the last, and each bite packed with some seriously inventive flavors. Every course was perfectly complemented by a fantastic wine pairing as well as exceptional service from a very friendly staff. I could not recommend this restaurant any higher! A must when in Amsterdam.

  • Foodhallen – On our last day before heading to the airport, we enjoyed a progressive meal sampling different foods from Amsterdam’s trendy food market, Foodhallen. We tasted popular Dutch bar snacks “bitterballen” (similar to arancini balls, fried and stuffed with different fillings like truffle mushroom, chicken curry, etc.), a truffle burger, nachos, and, of course, a lavender gin & tonic from a cocktail bar dedicated solely to the G&T. This super fun spot was busy on a weekday lunch, and apparently gets packed on weekend nights when they have fun events with live music.

Activities:

  • Those Dam Boat Guys – What better way to explore the Amsterdam canals than by boat?! This super fun tour (BYOB encouraged) was a great way to learn all about the history of this awesome city. Naturally, it was pouring rain on the day we booked our tour, but we bundled up in ponchos, drank a lot of wine, and had a blast. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and gave us great local suggestions for things to do and places to eat.

  • Rent a bike – Everyone, everyone, everyone rides bikes here! If you really want to experience the Dutch way of life, rent a bike and explore! Or go “double Dutch” (ha ha ha) and sit on the back of a cute local’s bike. Let them be your personal tour guide! ;)

  • Anne Frank House – Unfortunately, the online tickets sold out weeks before our trip, so we only got to see the outside of this historic site. Plan ahead better than we did, or else you’ll have to wait in a four hour cancellation line.

  • I amsterdam letters – Photo opp alert! Yep, you’ll look like a total tourist, but you know you can’t resist taking a picture climbing on these letters. #DoItForTheGram

  • Van Gogh Museum – This might have been my favorite museum from the trip, and, no, not just because it’s home to Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” painting (my favorite!). Admission is a little pricy (about 20 euros), but we learned so much about Van Gogh and his tragic life. I loved the chronological layout and found it to be very well-designed and extremely informative.

  • Going out – We only had one night in Amsterdam, but we wanted to make the most of it! For a great view of the city, check out the SkyLounge Amsterdam at the Double Tree Hotel, but if you’re looking for a place to dance the night away, you’ve gotta go to Bloemenbar! This place was packed with locals and tourists until 4am on a Wednesday – we had a blast!

Lodging:

  • Ecomama Hotel: The cutest luxury hostel in the world! We stayed in a private room for two (a nice treat at a hostel), but even their bunk bed rooms have memory foam mattresses and feather duvets. Ecomama had super friendly staff, a gorgeous communal area complete with leather couches, board games, a teepee, and an adorable kitchen. A delicious breakfast is included at the hip coffee shop at the front of the hostel. I’d happily move in!