I loved Amsterdam's streets and museums (all of them)…
… and there really was never any doubt that I'd warm up to this friendly, pretty, postcard-perfect city.
When I was putting together the itinerary for my trip and listing all the cities I could not skip, Amsterdam was one of the top billers. I don't know a whole lot about Dutch culture and Amsterdam itself except for bikes and coffee shops and canals, but it looked too pretty to pass up. Plus, it was incredibly near Paris anyway, so why not?
I flew into Schiphol airport from London Heathrow, was upgraded to a business class direct flight, so I was already feeling pretty good en route to Amsterdam. On my way out of the airport, I got tagged by someone taking a survey, which resulted in a conversation about the city… the sun was shining, the airport survey person was so nice, I had an incredible seat on the plane (too bad the flight was so quick), and everything seemed to be going right.
I was staying at The Albus Design Hotel, which was a walk away from virtually everything. After a week and a half of uncomfortable showering in my London Airbnb, I was ecstatic to find myself in a beautiful hotel room. Complete with rainfall shower head.
I walked a lot in Amsterdam because the weather was good, the museums were literally 10 minutes away from my hotel, and because the sidewalks and roads were stroll-perfect. There was a marathon going on the day I decided to visit the Rijksmuseum, so I had to take a lot of detours. You can't really complain when your detours have you surrounded by water and willow trees, right?
The city is also known for its very distinct architecture. The evening of my first day in Amsterdam, I took a lot of photos, only to realize the next day and the next net day that these beautiful structures were basically, everywhere. It's postcard perfect everywhere, and I love that they've really kept the city (at least the part I was staying at) so beautifully scaled.
Also, because everyone's on bikes, I realized very quickly that you need to stay extra alert and (literally) on your toes as a pedestrian. People walking around are only second priority on Amsterdam's streets, it seems.
I made my way to the bench from "The Fault in Our Stars," because of course. (I love Ansel Elgort). There were some teenagers hanging out there and the sun was setting and I was getting hungry, so I did a quick snap and left. I wouldn't have made it to this spot, btw without this handy and incredibly detailed guide—bookmark it if you're planning to find this signature spot.
First order of business was the Rijksmuseum, which is famous for housing Rembrandt's Night Watch. Other than that, the museum came highly recommended by my friend who'd just visited Amsterdam the previous year. This huge space is best visited via the app, which takes you on a hassle-free guided tour of the museum's highlights (you can opt for more detailed tours on the app too).
The Rijksmuseum building is pretty famous too, as it was designed by the same person who did Amsterdam Centraal (train station), Pierre Cuypers.
I took a gazillion photos at the museum, but I'm not going to bore you with all of them. That said, even if you're not a museum going type of person, this one's worth a visit just to experience the breadth of its collection. The building is also laid out pretty cleverly, making it fun to head from one collection to the next.
My favorite spot in the whole museum was the library, which you can peep through a glass wall. What a dream to have access to a space like this!
Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands
A few days after my visit to the Rijksmuseum, I met up with Yanina (my Berlin buddy!), her dad and their friend Rhea, who'd been living in Amsterdam for quite a while. Rhea took us to Rembrandtplein Square where there was a—gasp—life size 3D Night Watch. I did not know this even existed. It was pretty cool.
Museums were really the main To Do of my stay in Amsterdam, just because there are so many of them all located next to each other with the Rijksmuseum being the main one. I'd already been making my way through several museums at this point in my trip and of course, it went without saying that I would need to pay homage to one of my impressionist faves, Van Gogh.
It'll pay to book your tickets to the Van Gogh Museum in advance, whether you're doing it online or at one of the visitors' kiosks scattered all throughout museum row (what I did). I got a super early slot so I made my way to the museum way before it was opened and was able to get first access.
The museum's building is impressive on its own—after descending the stairway by the entrance you make your way to the collections, which unfortunately, are off limits to cameras. It was a good thing though—sometimes I'm so intent on snapping the paintings that I don't really pay attention to all the bits and bobs. Needless to say, I learned about Van Gogh.
My museum trip actually coincided with the release of "Loving Vincent." Unfortunately, I haven't seen the film!
Van Gogh Museum
Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Next on my museum list was the Moco, which I was looking forward to since it housed Modern + Contemporary art. I like how everything is situated in this relatively small-sized house! After having explored the really big and expansive halls of the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, the Moco is a lot more intimate, a lot friendlier and welcoming.
The museum holds works by Dali and Bansky, with Bansky taking up the upper ground and second floor and Dali occupying the street level area. The house has a pretty garden encircling it too so that when you make your way out of the gift shop, you have an opportunity to linger and check out the gardens and sculptures within the complex.
I don't know why this struck my fancy, but I really loved this piece. It gave me "Marie Antoinette" (Sofia Coppola) vibes.
If you want a low-key museum experience and really aren't into the old stuff and would rather concentrate on more modern work, then the Moco is a pretty bang-on choice for you. If you're like me and want to squeeze in as much art as you can without burning out, then pairing this smaller-sized spot with something quite heavy and big like the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum is a pretty good idea.
Honthorststraat 20, 1071 DE Amsterdam, Netherlands
On to the next museum (!) which I didn't really plan on going to, but couldn't resist because its gift shop kept calling out to me. The Stedelijk tackles modern design, and as someone who's into interiors and architecture and furniture, I couldn't pass this one up.
The De Stijl movement has always appealed to me and it was so interesting to see its different applications—from two-dimensional design to actual vignettes of rooms and entire homes. My inner designer nerd was at an all-time high in this museum and I was so glad I decided to go there.
Also, if you can afford to take a step back once you're out of the Stedelijk, it'll be worth your time to take a look at the actual building. I can't believe I didn't take a photo!
Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Just running through all my photos and doing research (again) on the museums is giving me Amsterdam overload—but I'm going to end this week's post with just one more museum-y place. Begijnhof (which is impossible to spell without googling) is a group of historic buildings right in the middle of the city, within walking distance to a delightful restaurant, Upstairs Pancakes (make a reservation!).
ANYWAY, this pretty little alcove holds private residences (I can't imagine living in a place where tourists stream in and out all the time), a courtyard, and a church. I didn't read up on the history of this place and tbh, it was on the list of my friends' recommended spots list, which is why I ended up there, but suffice it to say it was very pretty. Like most of Amsterdam. :)
1012 AB Amsterdam, Netherlands
And if art and architecture are not your bag, next week I'm going to finish off my documentation of my five days in Amsterdam with a round-up of other sites and interesting places.
PS: I'm so happy I've kept up with these posts over the last full quarter! Way to extend the high of a trip :)