I learned *a lot* in Amsterdam…
… and it wasn't just by way of all the museums I visited (although I'm adding yet another one to the list in this post). Everything I learned about the city came from a bit of YouTube research (thank you, Lily Pebbles), my own exploration of the canals, and by sheer luck, making friends with someone who's been living in the city for a couple of years.
The first Amsterdam ticket I booked came way before my trip even happened. After securing my room at The Albus, their super friendly staff sent me an email to warn me that if I planned to visit the Anne Frank House, it was best I get my ticket way ahead of time. And so I did, praise the Internet. (It's easy, it's worth your money, and it's book-able two months before your designated date). Seriously, the €9.50 I paid was a small amount compared to the depth / breadth / fullness of the whole experience.
If you've seen (and here I go mentioning it again), "The Fault in Our Stars," you have a pretty good grasp of what it's like to walk through what used to be Anne Frank's house. They don't allow cameras inside and it's absolutely right that it's the rule—taking a trip back in time to really dive deep into the Holocaust is solemn, serious and you wouldn't want to diminish that experience by not being *in the present* the entire time you're there.
All I can say is, I don't think anyone leaves the Anne Frank House without shedding a tear (tears, more like…). I read Anne Frank's diary a couple of times when I was her age, saw the black and white movie even, and was inspired to keep my own diary because of her. Being in the actual place where her family managed to survive (and thrive) during the war was a one-of-a-kind experience. You literally walk her footsteps and get a sense of what it's like to be so cut off from the outside world.
The museum also does a good job of providing context—letting us know how life was many decades ago when so many innocents, like Anne, were being persecuted.
*I'm getting a little emotional just writing about this now! If it's your first time in Amsterdam, and you're open to seeing one of history's darker periods, then you can't miss this.
PS: There's a tourist-trap crepe place right beside the museum where I scored a pretty yummy hot chocolate. Perfect spot to stay in while you're waiting for your line to open.
Anne Frank House
Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam, Netherlands
It's almost feels sacrilegious to jump from the war all the way to present times, and I cannot possibly think of any way to segue… but anyway! Another big feature of Amsterdam, according to the taxi driver who took me from the airport to my hotel, was the shopping. 9 Straatjes or 9 Streets is delightful, boutique shopping area combining everything from fashion to accessories to books, gifts, jewelry and lifestyle stuff all in walking distance from each other.
Again, this was a short walk from my hotel and I liked spending the evenings just wandering around the streets and looking through the shop windows.
My last day in Amsterdam was spent doing a bit of window shopping, thanks to recommendations I'd gotten from an old video by one of my British YouTube favorites, Lily Pebbles. She was in the city for a really short time and had compiled a couple of suggestions from viewers about where to go, and indeed—the shops she went to were cute and lovely and worth a look-around!
Anna + Nina
Derde Oosterparkstraat 201, 1092 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
All the Luck in the World not only has a cute name (probably the longest name for a boutique too), it also has a fun selection of my waterloo, washi tape. Right near Anna + Nina, this is eclectic little shop has stationery, accessories, home stuff and seriously, all the pretty things.
Linnaeusstraat 20HS, 1092 CK Amsterdam, Netherlands
I was quite ravenous after all the walking I did, and ended up spotting a pretty Dim Sum Shop on the way back to my hotel. If you're a people-watcher, then grab a spot by the window and watch Amsterdam pass you by as you snack on your dimsum platter and sip your tea. The interiors are adorable too.
Dim Sum Now
Ferdinand Bolstraat 36, 1072 LK Amsterdam, Netherlands
There was no way I was going to be in Amsterdam without riding one of those canal boats. So instead of going rogue and tossing caution to the wind, the tourist in me decided to purchase a Hop On, Hop Off pass that would take me through all the canal routes. And yup, I rode them all.
Apart from the pretty houseboats I came across riding canal, after canal, after canal, it was interesting to pick out all the progressive architecture floating around the city.
And since I am on the subject of modes of transport, I took the bus to head out of Amsterdam and visit my friend who had an apartment in the outskirts. Amsterdam Centraal is pretty much the hub for everything, so I hopped on a bus from there and marveled at the De Stijl motif. (Why can't all bus stops be this pretty?)
Thanks to my friend, I was able to make it to Zaanse Schans, home of pretty (and expensive) traditional houses, gardens and windmills. We made it before sunset but it was a pity that the sky was pretty overcast that day. It was my last afternoon in the city and it was such a delight to see something so green and picturesque.
Amsterdam offered me a pretty eclectic travel experience—there was history, art, food (all of which I enjoyed too much to document), walks, water, nature and more. It's one of the places I think I would definitely make a trip back to, just because. :)