By Eileen MacTigue
Holland? The Netherlands? Whatever. All we care about is Amsterdam anyways. This city is different from any other in Europe. First off, Dutch people are beautiful – always manicured and tucked in. This is the Dutch royal family. I want to meet anyone who is this excited while watching a women’s 4 X 100m swimming relay, but Princess Maxima in particular. Dutch people are also super friendly and accommodating. Everyone is Amsterdam speaks English allowing for effortless direction asking once in the city. There are a few things to know before you visit this wondrous place in order to have have the best experience possible.
Rent bikes and go to Vondelpark or Westerpark to have a picnic. I went to Westerpark more often because I lived near by. However, Vondelpark is more popular. This was one of my favorite things to do if weather permitted. We would grab a blanket, bottle of wine, and some snacks to lay in the sun by the lakes all day.
Eat all the poffertjes you can get your hands on. Poffertjes are simply mini pancakes but everything seems so much better when they are mini (and you don’t need to stress about mayo being snuck on these bad boys).
Mata Hari is one of my favorite places to get dinner and beers. It is about a five minute walk from Dam Square. This is where I discovered my love for La Chouffe beers and croquettes, or Krokets, in Dutch… basically breaded, deep-fried, creamy balls with meat and cheese inside.
Take a day trip to Utrecht or Zaanse Schans. They are two very different places, but unique in Holland. Utrecht is similar to a smaller Amsterdam with a higher concentration of young people. It is where a lot of people in college or recent graduates, reside. It is quaint with many boutiques, restaurants, and pubs.. but nightlife get wild. Zaanse Schans is one of the towns with those iconic Dutch windmills. Now don’t get me wrong, the windmills are really beautiful. But that wasn’t why I loved this town. The nature here was gorgeous. It was lovely getting out of the city for a day and walking around the fields, seeing flowers blooming everywhere, and visiting mini farmers markets at every corner. I ate the most amazing lunch of my life at a cafe that sat on a dock over the water. You can find the website here.
Check out the festivals at the parks. Many times, online you will be able to find an event calendar for Vondelpark and Westerpark. There are food truck festivals, music festivals, wine & beer tasting festivals, concerts, the list goes on.
Don’t do what I did for so long and convince yourself that the beauty is all in your head. I was used to my sneakers and Nike running shorts and I did not bother to change that for some time. Dutch people don’t really wear shorts..I swear it was the most rare thing to witness. I left my apartment once in jean shorts and knee-high boots and every person I walked by 100% thought I was employed for the Red Light District. Dutch people are proud people and they look good for a reason. So don’t stand out like a sore American thumb.
Don’t avoid the Red Light District… it is awesome!!! Where else can you walk down the street with an ice cream cone while simultaneously checking out chicks inside a window. Whenever I saw them on the phone inside, I always pictured them talking to their moms.
To snowball off of the above… DON’T take pictures. Whoops! That is a no no. If you get caught taking a picture, they will yell, come outside, bang on the glass. It is terrifying!
Don’t bike around your first time without a clue of directions. In Amsterdam, the cyclists have the right of way. They have their own streets, stoplights, and rules of the road. It’s not that it is hard… riding a bike is the same everywhere. It’s the others that make it tricky. This is how they get everywhere every day. Don’t get in their way because you forgot to signal you were turning right. Otherwise it is a lot of fun! That’s why I suggest going to a park. You can bike around for hours without any worry. This might seem silly, but to put it into perspective: 80% of people in Amsterdam own a bike. There are 2.3 million people who live in the metropolitan area. That is 1,840,000 bikes!
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