In November 2017, our Viking River Cruise of the Rhine ended in Amsterdam so we scheduled two days in the city before our return flight to the U.S. Although we’ve visited Amsterdam several times previously and we’ve seen most of the top tourist sights, it was time to revisit some favorites and add a couple of new experiences, too.
The ship docked within walking distance of Amsterdam Centraal Train Station and we headed there first to orient ourselves for the walk to our accommodations at Swissotel just a half mile down Damrak.
Although it was too early to check into our hotel, we left our bags there and ventured out to explore the area before our scheduled 1 p.m. tour at the Anne Frank House.
Our hotel was next to Dam Square where the Royal Palace of Amsterdam is located. Originally built in the 17th century as the town hall of Amsterdam, it was converted to a palace for Napolean’s brother, Louis Bonaparte, who was named King of the Netherlands and lived there for 5 years beginning in 1808. Since the departure of the French, it has been used by the Dutch Royal Family for royal receptions and ceremonies. Today, it is one of three palaces used by the royal family and is normally open to the public. We didn’t have time this trip but I’d be interested in a tour next time.
We walked back to the Amsterdam Tourist Office located right outside Amsterdam Centraal Train Station to purchase our GVB multiday ticket which allowed us unlimited use of public transportation by bus, tram, and metro during our stay.
We checked back at the hotel and we were able to deposit our luggage in our room prior to setting off for the Anne Frank House. We arrived early for our tour and rather than stand in line with our pre-purchased tickets, we elected to explore the area a bit and take some photos. As you can see below, both canals and bicycles are ubiquitous in Amsterdam!
I’ve toured the Anne Frank House twice before and each visit was busier than the previous one. It’s amazing that nearly 1.3 million people from all over the world visit the museum each year. Anne’s life and her diary have made an enormous impact in our world and the continued interest gives me hope for humanity.
After our tour, we wandered some more, finally returning to our hotel as the sun was setting where I got this photo of Amsterdam rooftops.
After a brief respite, we were off again to meet our friend, Iris, at the train station for dinner together. Iris, who is Dutch and now lives in Amsterdam, lived with us in Iowa while she volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. We were excited to see her again and hear what she’d been up to during the intervening year. She led us off on a new experience, taking the free ferry across the IJ river to North Amsterdam, where we walked a short distance to THT Restaurant. THT specializes in small plates to share and we ordered an abundance of tasty dishes which we devoured while we talked world politics and our lives since the U.S. presidential election.
The next morning we took the tram to the Van Gogh Museum where we had pre-purchased tickets. We arrived before the museum opened so we found a charming cafe, Small Talk Coffee Corner, where we enjoyed coffee and breakfast.
The Van Gogh Museum is an amazing facility housing the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, including 200 paintings and 400 drawings, as well as 700 of his letters. Photographs are not allowed of the artwork but you can see his complete works on this website. The tragic life story of Vincent Van Gogh is every bit as fascinating as his art and the museum tells the story well.
Another tram ride took us to the Dutch Resistance Museum, dedicated to the courageous Dutch citizens who risked their lives to resist the Nazis who occupied their country from May 1940 until May 1945 during WWII. It was our first visit to this remarkable museum. I especially appreciated the exhibit about the 1300 illegal newspapers which operated to ensure people were informed about what was really going on rather than relying on propaganda issued by the Germans. The papers also encouraged resistance and helped to maintain Dutch morale. If you ever doubted the importance of a free press, see this museum.
The only criticism I had of this museum was the lighting wasn’t sufficient for old eyes. I wanted to read everything and it was sometimes hard to see the print due to the lighting.
After the museum, we stopped by a small restaurant nearby for some poffertjes, a small Dutch pancake made with buckwheat flour and adorned with butter and powdered sugar. My sister-in-law, who is of Dutch heritage, introduced us to poffertjes and we’re big fams.
As we continued to wander, I captured some images of interesting architecture and neighborhoods.
The sight below definitely caught my interest, mostly because I wondered if there was an option for women or if this was strictly designed for males.
And of course, the most gorgeous photos include the canals.
When we reached the red light district, I had my I-phone in my hand and while I wasn’t taking photos, I had several women pull their curtains across their windows or mouth obscenities to me.
While in the red light district, we happened upon Bulldog No. 90, the first coffee shop in Amsterdam. When the shop opened in 1975, visitors surreptitiously smoked marijuana on the premises. Today, if you’re at least 18 years old, pot-smoking is legal in coffee shops all over the city. We didn’t go inside.
The Dutch are also known for their cheese and we needed some cheese for a wine and cheese event on a canal cruise we’d arranged that evening with two couples from our cruise. Gouda is my Dutch favorite.
As we headed to our canal tour that evening, we noticed that even though it was early November, the Christmas decorations were up and the lights were lit in Amsterdam.
The lights from the canal tour were spectacular although, honestly, I prefer a daytime tour in spite of the wine and cheese.
There’s plenty more to see and do in Amsterdam but it was time for us to return to the United States until the next time.
Based on events from November 2017.