Judging by the reactions of my older family members and friends, it seems there is a common misconception that young adults only travel to Amsterdam for the party scene and some wild nights. However, for me and my girlfriends, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Behind the stereotypes you'll find a beautiful and culturally rich city filled with friendly people, awesome museums, and great food. I'd describe the look and feel of Amsterdam as a mixture between Venice and Boston, Massachusetts. Read my guide to Amsterdam and you'll discover more about how much this misunderstood city has to offer.
Friendly and Welcoming Folks
First off, I traveled to Amsterdam for a weekend during my summer abroad in Paris. It is true that Parisians can be a little bit on the unfriendly side, so this may have affected my perception of the Dutch. However, I still firmly believe that the people of Amsterdam are the nicest, most helpful, and outgoing people out of any European city I've visited.
My amazing experience started when I arrived at our bed and breakfast, The Blue Sheep, and was welcomed with big hugs by the hostess. Maybe I was a little homesick, but I felt more at ease here than I did anywhere else throughout my entire summer abroad.
The main room, where breakfast was served daily, smelled like blueberry muffins. What's more home-y than that? Our room was furnished and designed in authentic Dutch taste, complete with a steep and narrow staircase, colorful tiles, plenty of windows, and even a claw-foot tub. It really felt more like an apartment, not a hotel room. During our stay, we slept too late for breakfast, but our hostess was ready to give us plenty of excellent recommendations.
At each restaurant we found happy and helpful waiters who were ready and willing for us to pick their brains on all the best sites to see. Shopping was also a pleasure as the store owners were helpful and accommodating, quite contradictory to my experiences in Paris.
Having studied in Paris, I have seen my fair share of museums. While little can compare to the Musee D'Orsay, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam comes pretty close. High ceilings and large gallery rooms make this crowded museum not feel so overwhelming.
The flow of the museum is captivating, and every single piece is worth seeing. This museum is a beautiful tribute to the man behind the artist who sliced off a piece of his own ear, and is an absolute must-see in Amsterdam. Even today I continue to follow the museum's Instagram to get daily feeds of their amazing exhibitions.
The museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays. Tickets run at 15 euros for adults, but children up to 17 are free. Be sure to book your ticket online prior to visiting to avoid the lengthy ticket line.
It would be a sin to talk about museums in Amsterdam and not mention the infamous Anne Frank House. The museum is built around the original house where Anne Frank was in hiding — chilling right? Make sure you pack some tissues because this museum is not easy on the emotions, but worth it all the more because of that.
The museum documents Anne's day-to-day life in hiding, and even touches on her final days in the camp. Despite the grim topic, it still is an incredibly fulfilling experience. On the museum's website they even offer great tips on what to expect when bringing children.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter, and until 9 p.m. in the summer. The tickets cost only 9 euros for adults and 4.50 euros for kids. There can be a line, but it moves fairly quickly. The quietest times to go are right after opening and just before closing, but make sure you allow a good hour and a half to wander.
I'll admit it, I committed my biggest travel no-no twice on this trip, but that's just a testament to how delicious these restaurants were. I generally have two rules about restaurants when on vacation: don't repeat places, and no chains. Of course I didn't visit any chains, but I did go to two restaurants twice. Yes, two — I know, I'm bad. The first place was an amazing breakfast and lunch cafe that has sadly closed since my visit.
However, the mouthwatering Pancake Bakery still stands proud. The first appeal: they have an English menu! For any foreign traveler this is sweet relief because too many times I have ordered something a little too questionable as a result of language barriers. This unique restaurant serves Dutch pancakes — thicker and larger than French crepes — with sweet and savory flavors.
I ordered from their world menu both times and got the Mexican and Caprese pancakes. This was definitely one of those restaurants where you stuff yourself way past the point of full because each bite is so amazing, and you know you'll never experience it again.
As for the dessert pancakes, my friends and I ordered a banana and Nutella pancake along with Amsterdam's famous poffertjes covered in butter and sugar. Certainly not diet- friendly, but hey, you're only in Amsterdam once.