January 29, 2018
Trip Report: Three Days Exploring Amsterdam in January
I flew over to Amsterdam for 3 days after spending New Years in Munich with relatives. I was excited to see Amsterdam for the first time after hearing so many positive things about the capital of the Netherlands. After checking into the Apollo hotel, it was time to explore!
The Rijks museum (pictured above) is a Dutch history museum located about a 10-minute walk from the Apollo hotel where I was staying. There was a busy ice skating rink opposite the entrance when I visited in the Winter.
There was a fairly long line to purchase tickets, and another line to actually get inside. So it’s best to buy your tickets ahead of time online. The museum is filled with centuries of Dutch artwork. I mean, how cool is this model ship?
The whole museum is three floors. I generally go through museums at a brisk pace and was able to see everything in a couple hours. Though if you’re someone who enjoys taking their time I can see it taking a whole day to see everything. Naturally, there was a self-portrait of Van Gogh. I want to mention that the Van Gogh museum is about 5 minutes from the Rijks. Tickets were already sold out when I wanted to visit the Van Gogh museum so I missed out on that. If you know you want to visit, make sure to purchase tickets in advance.
Probably the first thing you’ll notice when visiting Amsterdam is the plethora of canals. It felt like the entire city was build on water and connected by small bridges. This definitely gives the city its own character that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Blue Boat Company Cruise
There’s many cruise operators running boats tours along the canals. I booked a boat ride with the Blue Boat Company. The boat was well heated and fully enclosed. Passengers sit at six person tables and can plug a complimentary set of earphones into the side of the ship to hear a guide explain what you’re seeing as you sail around the city. It was fun for about 15 minutes or so, then it got pretty boring for the next hour. Everything you’re seeing starts to look about the same after a while. I would recommend skipping this unless you want a fun way to just sit and relax for 75 minutes.
You’ll find vendors selling Stroopwaffles (Syrup Waffles in English) throughout the city. I went to a small shop where they were making these fresh to order. They put a ball of dough in the waffle cooker which turned it into a thin pressed waffle. Then they cut the thin waffle in half, spread a layer of ‘syrup’ in the middle, and closed it back up. A layer of chocolate sauce goes on top of that, and then you can pick a topping-I went with gingerbread crumbles. It tasted incredible. Definitely buy one of these when you’re in Amsterdam. You’ll find both premade and freshly made Stroopwaffels. Buy the fresh ones. They only taste about 1000x better.
Zaansa Schans is a residential area about a 30-minute car ride north of Amsterdam. You’ll find close to 10 decommissioned windmills along the river in this small town along with various craft stores and demonstrations.
The Netherlands is big on their Gouda cheese. It felt like every other street had a cheese shop. There’s a large one at Zaansa Schans which also has workers giving a brief explanation on how they make Gouda cheese. You can also buy tons of flavors of cheese to take home-like coconut, paprika, cumin, garlic, pesto, and so many more!
Another historic staple is clogs. People living in this area used to wear these wooden shoes hanging from the ceiling above. There’s a shop here with live demonstrations showcasing how clogs are made where you can also buy a pair for yourself.
As I mentioned, old windmills still line the river here for historic reasons. You can purchase a ticket to go up if you want an elevated view of the area.
The Heineken Experience is located close to the Rijks museum. It’s a fairly comprehensive tour in an old Heineken brewery showcasing the history of the beer company and how the beer is made. You’ll be given a free sample during the tour. The whole event finishes in a room under the brewery that feels like a nightclub. There’s music playing, green Heineken lights flashing, and bars serving Heineken. The tour comes with vouchers for two drinks here. I don’t love Heineken, but I enjoyed this tour and would recommend it for any beer drinker.