Official Language: Dutch
$1 = 0.9 EUR
Stay: February 18th to 20th 2013
The Netherlands or Holland? Many people refer to The Netherlands as Holland but actually Holland is only a province inside the Kingdom of The Netherlands and inside this province, more specifically in North Holland is the capital Amsterdam.
When most people think of Amsterdam it intermediately comes to mind the Red Light District, crazy parties and the fact that smocking weed is legal. And Yes, when I was in the downtown area the tourist focus was mainly that but let me tell you that there is so much more to Amsterdam than those things.
The Netherlands was known for being very cultured and the center of Art and Literature. With famous artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh the capital is filled with museums. At the museum quarter you will find Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelik Museum among the most famous ones.
My husband found a great deal on expedia so we decided to take a quick trip to The Netherlands. Flight + Hotel €460 for the both of us. We flew from Oslo to Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and it took 2 hours. From Schiphol Airport we took the train towards Centraal Station for €4.10 and it only took 20 minutes. The Hotel was a few blocks away from there. We got a deluxe room for 3 nights at the Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam and for some reason when we checked in they upgraded our room to a bigger one with free minibar that was refilled every day. Since we arrived late at night, from the outside the hotel looked like a vampire’s castle from those old horror movies. But inside even though it also looked kinda old they had great amenities like a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna.
Since it was winter and low season the streets were almost empty as we walked around the neighborhoods. However compared to Norway there was no snow and it was not that cold to be outside, we even had some moments of sunshine in the afternoon.
Aside from the museums I mentioned above you can also find Madame Tussaud’s for €19 student prize, House of Bols, the Cocktail & Genever Experience for €12.5, The Heineken Experience €16, the Erotic Museum €5, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s House and Voldenpark. Around Dam Square you will see the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk, The National Monument and Magna Plaza. This is also the main shopping area where you can find souvenirs as well as normal stores. Between Damrak and Kloveniersburgwal you can find many restaurants, shops, bars, the famous cannabis coffee shops and the red light district as well.
Some of the traditional street markets that you can visit are Waterlooplein Flea market, Noordermarkt, Albert Cuypmarkt, IJ Hallen, Nieuwmarkt and Bloemenmarkt. You can also find many small design stores around the neighborhoods but they won’t be cheap.
Many typical things to buy are Cheese (specially Edam and Gouda), Delftware (those blue and white ceramics), Wood clogs and if you find them funny; any cannabis or sex themed souvenir.
We bought the 48hr tram ticked for €12. Or you can also rent bikes to move around the city. Neighborhoods like Jordaan are very enjoyable. On one side you have lines of buildings and on the other the canals. You can also take a canal cruise with dinner included.
As you might have noticed Dutch language can sound harsh and pronouncing those names can be rather difficult. If you get lost or are trying to find a certain place I recommend having a notepad with you so you can write them down when asking for directions because with names like Scheepstimmermanstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal you might have a really hard time trying to pronounce them.
The struggle was not only with street names but also with food names. We didn’t really try much Dutch food as we didn’t really know what to expect from hearing the names. We did find many alternative foods like Argentinian steak house, Mexican tacos and Chinese food (Chinatown in Zeedijk).
- We found some small shops where you could get sandwiches with popular cheese or cured ham like at Ibericus.
- I also noticed that there was a considerable amount of Indonesian presence and therefore Indonesian cuisine in Amsterdam. After all Indonesia was colonized by The Netherlands so it explains the cultural exchange. Something similar to Vietnamese and Vietnamese cuisine in Paris. Kantjil & De Tijger takeaway was an easy choice for us since we could see the actual food and choose what we wanted.
- Patatje Oorlog, french fries with a heavy mayo and sate sauce.
- Bitterballem , deep fried meatballs with mustard.
- Broodje hollandse nieuwe haring, raw herring with bread, pickles and onions. If you wanna feel like a true dutch.
- Kibbeling, deep fried fish with mayo and lemon.
- Pancakes with heavy cream and very sweet at The Pancake Bakery. Also Poffertjes which are a mini version of pancakes.
- Oliebollen, deep fried sweet dumplings.
- And what can be more representative than the national sweet Stroopwafel which are 2 thin waffles stuck with syrup.
Since this was a very short trip we didn’t really have the change to explore further from the central area of the city. Also because it was winter there was not much going on. But we definitively would love to come back during the summer and take a canal cruise and take the train to other cities like Kinderdijk to see the tulip beds and the windmills. Also Other nearby cities like Leided, Delf, Rotterdam, The Hague and Haarlem. Safe Travels!