Exploring Quirky Amsterdam

Amsterdam

After a rainy start to our stay in Amsterdam the day before, the next morning we awoke to clearer skies and after fueling up on a deliciously prepared breakfast from the bed and breakfast we were staying at, we walked along the Amstel and crossed over the Skinny Bridge toward the daily flea market at Waterlooplein next to the National Opera and Ballet.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

After browsing the stalls of clothes and various knickknacks, we walked through the Jewish Historical Quarter and the Auschwitz Memorial Monument on our way to the Verzetsmuseum, the Dutch Resistance Museum. The museum presents stirring insight into ‘Life in Amsterdam’ before and during the Nazi occupation of WWII as well as the various actions of Dutch citizens in either adapting, collaborating, or resisting in response.

More than 107, 000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands between February 1941 and September 1944, with the nation’s Jews suffering the lowest comparative survival rate in the Holocaust at only 22% and there are many monuments and remembrance plaques along the streets of the old Jewish neighborhoods.

Amsterdam Holocaust Memorial

Amsterdam Holocaust Memorial

Amsterdam Holocaust Memorial

Amsterdam Holocaust Memorial

After a quick lunch post-museum, we ambled our way over to the modern, expansive Amsterdam Main Library for views of the city from its 7th floor cafe terrace before admiring more canal-side scenes.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Continuing along the Prins Hendrikkade, we stopped at the Schrierstoren, also known as the Weeping Tower, for the women who gathered there and wept as their husbands departed from port to head to war or on trading expeditions. Erected in 1462, Henry Hudson set sail from this point on his trans-atlantic voyage that would lead to the discovery of Manhattan  and the Hudson River.  The VOC Cafe, named after the Dutch East India Company, occupies the tower now, and we stopped in for an afternoon libation of besenjenever or black currant gin. Jenever, a juniper flavored liquor from which gin evolved, is a popular drink in the Netherlands and Belgium. The besenjenever was fantastic and the taste had a reminiscent quality of sangria.

After battling the crowds to exit the square after the yearly May 4th Remembrance Day events had concluded (read all about it here), we walked back up Rokin and past Centraal Station to the SkyLounge on the 11th floor of the DoubleTree Hilton for views of the Ij and the Amsterdam city skyline with a fancy cocktail.

Amsterdam

On our return journey back to the hotel we wandered through the Red Light District once more to see the center of sin lit up in its nighttime neon before stopping off at a canalside cafe for a hot tea before bedtime.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Our last day in Amsterdam greeted us with overcast skies but nonetheless after dropping off our luggage for the day at the decently priced storage locker near the Church of St Nicholas, we walked down to the Begijnhof, an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century that includes Amsterdam’s oldest surviving house, the Het Houten Huis, dating from around 1420. Originally built as a sactuary for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood without monastic vows who lived like nuns to care for the sick, the houses in Begijnhof are still occupied by single women.

We then hopped aboard the #16 tram, getting off at Stadhouderskade and after passing the growing queue gathered at the entrance to the Rijksmuseum we made our way out to the throngs of picture takers gathered around the “I amsterdam” sign that looks out upon the Museumplein.

 

Amsterdam

We then ventured into the De Pijp district to wander the stalls of the daily Albert Cuypmarkt street market where I picked up a few new scarves and we snacked on the nation’s popular stroopwafel, two delicately thin wafers sandwiched together with caramel and in my case, also dipped in melted hot chocolate. It was absolutely delicious and reminded me of the taste of cinnamon graham crackers. We passed several herring stands but neither Dan nor I have the stomach for the national delicacy of Hollandse Nieuwe, raw herring caught at the end of spring and typically eaten with raw onion in a hoagie roll.

Amsterdam

Heavy rain with gusty winds and lightening was predicted for the early afternoon and sure enough just as the clock struck 1pm the skies lit up and a deluge of rain began to be pushed around by strong gusts of wind. We quickly ducked into a cafe to warm up with a mug of hot tea and gaze out the window as gusts of wind knocked over parked bikes on the street while we waited out the worst of the storm before heading to Amsterdam Centraal Station for our train back home to London.

Dan and I were sorry to have to say goodbye to Amsterdam so soon as we discovered there were so many more nook and corners of the city that deserved our attention. The liberal, artistic heritage of the once historic port city with its abundance of bicycles, canals, tulips, Gouda, and quirky character has now taken the cake as my favorite European city we have traveled to thus far!

*Check out my handy printable travel guide here to plan your own long weekend Amsterdam getaway! 

You may also like