Romantic Travel Idea ~ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Photo credit: Adrien Olichon
Amsterdam, the Netherlands capital, is a canal-centric city and my favorite romantic city in the world. I came here with my partner a couple of years ago and it was so much fun, but I have come through on tour with my band as well and got to experience the city in a different way. Amsterdam is such an exciting and relaxed city to explore. Each suburb holds a unique appeal and it's easy to walk around (they have a fantastic & inexpensive tram system), so you can see a lot of the city and what it has to offer with ease. We fell in love with the suburb of Jordaan and highly recommend staying there when you visit. It's a little less touristy as it's off to the side but still in the main city proximity, with traditional Dutch architecture and a quaint feeling to it. It has our favorite traditional dutch pub/resturant in the entire world, De Reiger, which has the best ribs we've ever eaten and Binky, the super cool lazy pub cat. There's a reason I go back here every time I'm in Amsterdam and introduce whomever I can to this place. For breakfast, you can't miss Kessens, a wonderful spot and the perfect way to start the day.
To explore the city when you first arrive, you should definitely take a boat tour around the canals to learn the history of the city. I recommend KINboat as they have smaller group tours and more intimate boats that can fit down the smaller canals and under the lower bridges that larger boats can't. You'll get to see more this way. Plus, their tour guides are great!
There's a few 'musts' that have to be tried in Amsterdam. Try the traditional pickled Herring with onions and pickles from one of the Herring stands situated around the city. I was weary trying it the first time, but honestly, it's really good (for those wondering, it tastes a little like a McDonalds Fillet-o-fish. I doubt I'm the first to think that). Another culinary must is van Wonderen Stroopwaffles. Their stroopwaffles are pressed in irons right in front of you, then dipped in chocolate and your chosen treat stuck to the outside. My other half loves the M&M's, but I think the traditional (without chocolate) is perfect. Definitely visit the Rijkmuseum, its fantastically laid out and has some wonderful art. The Anne Frank House is also something I highly recommend, although getting a ticket is difficult. Get online early (daily) for your ticket (we had 3 devices in-line trying to get our tickets and it was worth it). You will learn a lot about this somber story. They've maintained a great tribute to the tragic events of the Holocaust. Obviously, you have to experience the Red Light District. By-day and by-night are two very different displays. While I think it's a little trite, it's something you should see at least once. One last culinary treat I recommend, Indonesian food, is amazing in Amsterdam. My favorite Indonesian restaurant, Warung Spang Makandra, is located in the suburb of De Pijp. The Beef Rendang is top notch. Lastly, see a band at Paridiso, a great venue that showcases some fantastic international touring live music.
Another thing you should definitely do is take a quick train ride outside the city to Haarlem. It's a beautiful little city outside of Amsterdam with some great restaurants and beautiful cobble streets. We stayed at a really nice artsy hotel, Boutiquehotel Staats, that had wonderful interior design and a big bed which was great after staying in Amsterdam's cozier offerings. Rent a bike and ride around for the day and make sure to have a drink at the end of the day at Jopenkerk, a fantastic brewery/restaurant. And if you're there during the Keukenhoff tulip festival, it's worth taking the bus ride out to Lisse to see.
Where to stay in Amsterdam:
I cannot recommend Jordaan enough. It's a beautiful suburb that sits on the canals, walkable from most of the main attractions, but away from the main crowd so you can see what it feels like to be a local. - But then a few steps away and you're back in the hustle and bustle of the city. Even when I have visited for work, I always find my way back to Jordaan. We stayed in a hotel called Mr. Jordaan, which was wonderful. The rooms are small, but that's just part of the Amsterdam experience. It's worth paying a little extra for a canal facing room, too. It's very pretty to wake up and watch the boats and ducks float along the water in the morning. One thing to be aware of in Amsterdam, due to property taxes being calculated by the width of a building in old Amsterdam, they built skinny houses and grew vertically instead, so there's a lot of stairs to climb and if they do have an elevator, it's usually tiny and always a little awkward to manage.
When to go:
Completely depends on what you like, over winter the canals freeze over and people ice skate on them, which is pretty amazing. The end of March/beginning of April is a really nice time to be in Amsterdam as the weather is still crisp and it's right before peak tourist season, so that's when I like to be there.
~ written by Dustin Koester, Drummer of Eric Burdon & The Animals
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