Our first official stop on our RTW trip (that’s round the world for the non-hip folks) was Amsterdam!! Such an amazing city to begin our epic adventure in… home of Heineken, canals, bitterballen, clogs, and the infamous red light district. While we only spent 36 hours in this city as a long stopover, we were sure to make the most of it. Since we knew that we were only going to be in Amsterdam for a very limited time, we decided to stay at the Ibis right next to Centraal Station so that we could easily jump on and off the train to the airport – funny that while we planned for that, all trains to Centraal Station were cancelled upon our arrival so we quickly had to figure out new plans, thank god for the friendly English-speaking Dutch!
We chose Amsterdam as a layover city based on its walkability, array of cultural and fun museums, sights, and experiences, and of course the fact that it is just absolutely gorgeous! Here are the top things we managed to pack over our 36 hours that you should add to your “must see list”:
Living in San Diego, we know a thing or two about breweries so when we found out that the Heineken Experience was in walking distance (in European terms) we had to check it out. An amazing thing about being able to walk there was the fact that we got to get the lay of land and check out all the cute bars and restaurants, amazing canals, and little shops along the way. Being American (Marlie), I always cherish the walkability of Europe and how it really helps to get you acquainted with a place… and plus it helps to burn off the cals from all the delicious food! Anyways, the walk from the Ibis to the Heineken Experience took us roughly 40 minutes with a nice lunch break at a local cafe, Bar Do (more on this below).
Once you arrive at the Heineken Experience, you can either buy tickets there or have your e-tickets ready to be scanned (you can buy your tickets ahead of time here, which is recommended as it can get busy: https://tickets.heinekenexperience.com/. The tour is self-guided and includes a mix of history of the Heineken family and the brewery as well as a lot of interactive activities, including a ton of picture taking opportunities – case in point below 🙂
While neither of us are huge Heineken fans, we really loved the whole tour as it was informative but really let us touch a ton of things and gave us three beers… who can complain with that?! Also, for an extra cost you can personalize your own beer bottles to take home with you. An added bonus includes a rooftop bar with an included beer that gives you nice views over the city, that’s what we call a win win.
Bars and Restaurants
Bar Do – this was a cute, local cafe that we stumbled upon on our walk to the Heineken Experience and was filled with fashionable dressed, chatty Dutch locals! Always a great sign to eat somewhere the locals eat, especially when it’s outside on a nice summer day. Our waitress was such a doll and helped us pronounce the various beers and sandwiches we ordered, which to our surprise came as 1) an open faced tartine with thin sliced roast beef, truffle aioli, and cheese *droooool* and 2) a bowl of sliced meatballs in mustard gravy with a side of pickles and pickled onions and mustard with toast. Got to love the various ideas of what a sandwich is! Both were so delicious and Dutch, which was exactly what we were looking for and the nice atmosphere of the cafe and staff really made it so enjoyable. Definitely recommend visiting this cafe located at Vijzelgracht 35, 1017 HN.
Waterkant – a kind of shipping container bar right on the edge of one of the canals, a pretty vibrant place filled with tourists and locals alike, selling local beers and much to our surprise, Kona Brewing Co’s Big Wave! It has Surinamese roots, so expect to see an eclectic menu with somewhat unfamiliar, but tasty-looking food – check out the vegetarian banana burger. The Waterkant is a short walk (about 10-15 mins) from Anne Frank’s Huis on Marnixstraat 246, 1016 TL.
Foodhallen – such a fantastic place! Any San Diego residents who know Liberty Market will know exactly what this is like – over twenty small stalls selling all kinds of foods, from tacos to pintxos, dim sum and gateaux, to burgers and flatbreads, this place has something for everyone including an on-site bar! We went for a platter from Dim Sum Thing, some pintxos from Txosta and bitterballen from De Ballenbar. Also good news… Foodhallen is inside so when it gets cool outside, the inside is a delight, as we found out even in July it can be pretty cold in the Netherlands! It’s open from 11am to 11pm, except on Fri and Sat when it’s open until 1am. Located at Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT.
Stefs Bakery – we stopped in here for a sandwich and coffee – great food, friendly staff and is pretty close to the Rijksmuseum so great for a refill pre- or post museuming! Located at Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 62, 1017 DH.
If we’d had more time, we would have loved to visit the brewery called Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Funenkade 7, 1018 AL – right by a cool windmill but not that close to the center), the beer tasting room with over 100 beers called Proeflokaal Arendsnest (Herengracht 90, 1015) and REM Eiland (Haparandadam 45-2, 1013 AK) – a cool restaurant/bar in an old illegal-TV station broadcast platform out on the Houthaven.
Vincent Van Gogh Museum and Canal Tour
With a little research ahead of time, we scored on a combined discounted ticket to the Vincent Van Gogh Musem with an hour-long canal tour with Lovers. You have to decide the time you want to go to the museum at the time of booking the tickets but you can walk up anytime you want during your stay to do the canal tour, which is helpful as our first day was cold and overcast and the second day was all sunshine.
The Vincent Van Gogh Museum building itself is architecturally beautiful and is located in an area filled with museums – Bansky’s exhibit at the Moco Museum was about 50 yards away. The self guided tour takes you either on the highlights or leisure pace through all of the paintings, which really showcases how Van Gogh’s life and style changed throughout the course of his life. By the end of the 3 floors, we really found out that we don’t really like Van Gogh’s stuff… who knew, clearly not us. Also, they really glazed over the story of him cutting off his ear and becoming unstable mentally…. but I guess best not to dwell on the negative. However, the picture of the Sunflowers was pretty incredible (Sorry no Starry Night here… huge bummer it’s in NYC), especially as they show how they have restored the painting over the decades.
The canal tour was the lazy afternoon we were hoping for without missing any action. We walked right up with our ticket vouchers and was immediately sat on the next boat. A couple of tips from our experience: 1) pick a tour group that has boats without bars or awning structures for unobstructed views… we learned that the hard way. A lot of the smaller boats were all open- air and seemed to be able to see a lot more; 2) make sure you sit facing the front of the boat as Marlie sat facing the rear and was pretty lost as to what we were looking at as it wasn’t in view till way after it was talked about; and 3) bring a hat/wear sunscreen and bring water as it gets really sunny and hot!
Red Light District
While this “attraction” has been covered and discussed ad nauseam, since it was Marlie’s first time witnessing the Red Light District, she has covered it briefly from a woman’s perspective. The Red Light District was soooo different than I thought it be both for better and worse… the women aren’t nude but in sexy lingerie and are mostly either looking bored, on their phone, or cat calling guys (which I must admit was a funny turn of events). It didn’t seem as seedy as I thought it’d be but also super weird to see women selling themselves so outright. While I think it was worth walking around, I don’t think I would need to do it twice!