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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

WEEKENDER GUIDE: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Back at it again with ANOTHER weekender guide, and this time it is all about visiting the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam was one of my top destinations for travel while studying abroad, so when I finally got to go - I could not wait to get off the plane.


I am happy to report Amsterdam not only reached my expectations, but even exceeded them. So if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam soon, hope to visit one day, or maybe you're just curious - I've got you covered.


You know the drill by now. Let the weekender guide begin.



 

How We Got There


Traveling within Europe while abroad as you probably know by now, is relatively easy. We were lucky enough to have a direct flight from Florence to Amsterdam which made the whole travel day feel much quicker.


However, in a COVID semester, we have to be extra careful when booking our trips and make sure we constantly stay up to date with every regulation of the country we are visiting. It just so happened our first day in Amsterdam, the city would be mandating a QR code only accessed through a European green card or a negative COVID test. While our US white CDC vaccination card is recognized in the EU and UK, it took some additional research to navigate downloading the app associated with the QR code we needed to be let into any museum, restaurant, etc... I'd be lying if I told you there was never a moment where we worried about getting there and literally not even being let into a restaurant to grab dinner. Luckily, we figured it out and booked COVID tests (which were free) at a clinic right near our hostel. Since leaving Amsterdam, they have only continued to mandate strict regulations making traveling there require a little more planning. So, if you happen to be reading this in November of 2021, check before you book anything that isn't refundable.


Where We Stayed


Most weekends we find ourselves staying in Airbnbs, but we changed our M.O this weekend and I'm happy we did.


We stayed at the Generator, Amsterdam. The Generator is a hostel, and one of the coolest ones I have personally ever been to. We booked a room with two bunk beds and had a shared bathroom, that ended up just being shared between the 4 of us. The overall vibe of the place was extremely friendly, upbeat and filled with interesting people. We felt extremely safe, and it also felt very clean - which is important in a hostel (or really anywhere you stay while traveling)! It was located a little outside the main city center, which meant using Uber, but once we found our way to the main downtown area we didn't need to taxi or Uber again, which is a plus. Overall this was a 10/10 stay and the Generator has locations throughout Europe, so I would definitely recommend seeing if they have a spot in the city you are planning to visit!


You can book rooms with them through Airbnb or directly through their website, and from what I have seen, I don't think it makes a big difference either way.



What We Ate


One thing I can CONFIDENTLY tell you about Amsterdam is that it is truly a city for foodies. My friends and I were SO impressed with all the food that Amsterdam had to offer and we did not leave hungry. Food wise, this may have been my favorite place yet. We had done a little bit of research before coming to this city, so we made reservations in advance for most of these places - which I would recommend doing if you know you definitely want to try them.


Bar Botanique: We ate here for dinner on our first night and LOVED it. Our waiter was great. A stand up guy for sure. The cocktails were a hit and the food was delicious. It was in walking distance to our hostel, which was convenient and we booked the reservation only a few hours before - so it was good on short notice. I got the Falafel Vegan Burger which was definitely out there for me but I loved it, leaving full & happy.


Van Wonderen Stroopwaffels: Before we had even left for the airport, I could not stop talking about how excited I was try a Stroopwaffel, and they did not disappoint. We ended up trying Van Wonderen, which seems to be one of the most popular and well known places to get the famous dessert in Amsterdam and we were impressed. If you don't know what a Stroopwaffel is, I would suggest just googling a picture. But warning, it'll probably make you hungry. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you'll love it. For reference mine had a cookie butter topping on it.



Stroopwaffels in Amsterdam



Pancakes Amsterdam: If you didn't know already, Amsterdam is famous for its pancakes. There are few really popular places that make the famous dish but we settled on Pancakes Amsterdam and have no regrets. We went here for breakfast our first morning and can safely say it was worth the hype. They had sweet and savory pancakes, so there is something for everyone. They have a few locations in Amsterdam, so I would add this spot to your list for breakfast (or any meal of the day) while in the city!


Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx | The Best Homemade Fries Shop In Amsterdam: After a few hours of exploring, a snack was necessary. And what better snack than fries in a cone? We stopped at Vlaams Frithuis Vleminckx located on one of the central streets in Amsterdam, somehow missing the huge line that formed minutes after we walked away with our fries. It turns out this place has been infamous around Amsterdam since the 1950's so I am thrilled we had a chance to try it for ourselves. You walk up to the window, order and within seconds you have a cone filled with fries and sauces of your choice. There were SO many sauces, I personally tried the Truffle Sauce and Garlic Sauce. I am still thinking about it.



Can I have sauce with a side of fries please?


Sumo Amsterdam Leidse: This by far was my most interesting culinary experience yet while abroad. Which says a lot. Sumo is a sushi/asian restaurant in Amsterdam that we booked honestly after seeing one of my favorite influencers go there. Turns out, it is an all you can eat restaurant with a set price that literally will allow you to eat your body weight in sushi, rice, noodles, tempura dishes and MORE. (We did not know this when making our reservation, so it took us off guard at first.) The set up is like nothing I have ever seen before. We did make a reservation here in advance, which I would recommend doing because they did not have many available tables.

Here is a quick breakdown:

You sit down and meet a waiter who will only be in charge of your drinks. They give you an iPad and explain that every 10 minutes you can place a new order on it with up to 4 things per person, which for us meant every 10 minutes we could order 20 new dishes. I know. For every piece of sushi you don't finished you can be charged, *which we avoided at all costs* and you will have 90 minutes at your table. We were SO overwhelmed at first, and morale was low. We ended up having so much fun with it after realizing the portions were considerably smaller and we didn't have to order 20 things each round if we didn't want to. This was my first time trying sushi (I know, shocking) and we left very full with unbuttoned jeans but had so much fun.



Sumo Amsterdam


What We Did


We filled our weekend in Amsterdam with a little bit of everything. Food, shopping, art, exploring. I left wishing I had more time but feeling extremely content with how much I got to see and do.



Canal Tour: Our first night we booked a canal tour for after dinner and this ended up being a great decision. We had a chance to sit, relax, and enjoy the views of Amsterdam at night. This was a perfect activity to do on our first night because we were able to gain a stronger understanding of where we were and how to navigate around the city. The canals of Amsterdam are unlike anything I have ever seen before. I was fascinated by the houseboats that filled the canals and couldn't look away from them as we passed by. The tour also had a headphone narrative guide that told us interesting tidbits about the history of Amsterdam which helped put everything else we saw during the weekend into perspective. There are SO many canal tours in Amsterdam but here is the one we did:


The Anne Frank House: This was not only something nearing the top of my list of things to see while abroad, but a life bucket list item as well. I was SO grateful to have had the experience to visit the Anne Frank House while in Amsterdam. We booked our tickets a month in advance, as tickets for the museum are released on the fifth of the month (this may be subject to change). Our friend who booked her ticket later was able to get a spot but not for the same day and time as us, so we had to go separately from her. This is why if you are planning on visiting Amsterdam I suggest you make sure you can get tickets to the museum before booking your flight if it is something you really want to do. I will never forget visiting this museum. While abroad I have had the privilege of seeing so much history, art and culture, but nothing that has moved and humbled me as much as the Anne Frank House. I left feeling such gratitude for the freedoms I have in my own life and an even stronger respect and admiration for Anne Frank.


The Van Gogh Museum: Another unforgettable museum was the Van Gogh Museum. We booked our tickets in advance for this as well, and from the line out the door - we were glad we did. I could have spent the whole day here admiring the beautiful art. I loved that the museum not only showcased his art, the art of his inspirations and those he inspired, but also talked a great deal about Vincents life, mental illness, relationship with his brother and so much more.



The Bedroom by Van Gogh (and my personal favorite)


Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: This museum came highly recommended and was conveniently located right next to the Van Gogh Museum, so after we finished at Van Gogh we walked right over. Being abroad in Italy, seeing modern art is a rarity, so I was excited to see this modern art museum for myself! While it was definitely a great museum, we only spent about an hour here. I think going directly from Van Gogh we had shorter attention spans then normal. I would say if you have time, check this museum out - but definitely do the Van Gogh Museum over this one if you have the choice and not enough time to do it all. We booked our tickets for this the night before but I don't think it was sold out and is something you can decide to do on a whim!


Within minutes of arriving in Amsterdam, it was OBVIOUS that biking is a huge part of the lifestyle here. I thought I knew this before coming, but I don't think I really understood how major the biking really is. We all simultaneously thought how fun renting bikes would be as a way to navigate the city ourselves, and before we had the chance (luckily) our waiter politely let us know that it is probably the most terrible idea in the world that as foreigners we rent bikes. It is VERY dangerous, even for locals, and while it looks like a romanticized daydream, it would actually end up being scary and could result in injury. So, I am passing on this little tidbit of advice from my cute waiter at dinner to you all.



 


The rest of our time in Amsterdam was spent exploring the charming streets, shopping around and taking it all in. I think I can speak for my friends when I say that we ALL loved this city and wanted to extend our trip a few days. Which in all honesty, we seriously looked into. I will bookmark Amsterdam in the back of my mind until the day I get to return and spend even more time at this slice of heaven in the Netherlands.



Until next weekend, xo.


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