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Live Life and Travel!
Live Life and Travel!
Thinking of a layover in Amsterdam? Read how we did it in 48 hours!
During a train ride to Bangkok in Thailand, my husband and I met 2 backpackers who had been on the road for months. During our conversation, I learned that their trips are spontaneous, meaning they have nothing booked or planned, they plan as they go. They were asking ME for tips on what to do in Bangkok. Being the planner that I am, I shared my itinerary and busted out my good old Lonely Planet travel book – I felt like an expert traveler LOL. Hearing their travels were inspiring and I jokingly told my husband we should try that one day – plan a trip as you go. That day came true during our layover in Amsterdam! 🙂
We spent 2 weeks in Tanzania, Africa before arriving to Amsterdam for a 5 hour layover before our next flight home to the USA. We decided last-minute to ask the agent if we could change our flight to a future date. She told us it was unlikely since Europeans are on vacation. We gave her future dates and nothing was available. She continued to search and she found a flight 2 days later. My husband and I debated whether it was worth it since it was such a short amount of days, but we couldn’t let the opportunity pass us. So we booked it….2 days in Amsterdam! I was nervous yet excited. Luckily there was wi-fi at the aiport, so I flipped open my iPad, looked for the most popular (and reasonably priced) hotel and in 20 minutes we were exploring the streets of yet another country. Our adventure continued…
We could have easily avoided the frustration of getting lost by taking a cab especially since we only had less than 48 hours to go, but the adventurous side of us wanted to find it on our own. We got a little lost; it took us about an hour to get to our destination, but according to the locals it should’ve only taken ~30 minutes. We took multiple bus and tram rides. To top it off, it was hot! Lucky us, there was a heat wave. Tram rides felt like being in a sauna! It was crowded, you couldn’t breathe, and the air conditioner was not working. Carrying our luggage and getting lost was not fun :(. This is going to be an interesting couple of days, I thought to myself.
The hotel we stayed at was Eden Hotel (Amstel area). If you are claustrophobic, you may not like this hotel. The rooms were small, that would be my only complaint. Besides that, it was perfect! Centrally located, less than a 3 minute walk to the tram, near many restaurants (both sit-down and fast food), pubs, grocery store, close to coffee shops (both real coffee & “brownie coffee” LOL), across from the Nationale Opera & Ballet, and right next to the famous Amstel river. I was bummed that check-in wasn’t until 3pm because I was eager to get out of my safari outfit into something cooler since it was so hot. Luckily I had brought one pair of summer clothing that was somewhat clean and wore it for 2 days (don’t judge :)). We stored our luggage in their storage room free of charge then ventured the city.
We took a short tram ride to the City Centre. There you will find shopping malls, restaurants, Central Station, Dam square, and National Monument (white stone pillar). If you walk on the main street, it connects to the river. The moment I stepped foot off the tram and saw the river, I fell in love. Amsterdam is CHARMING! You will find many scenic and beautiful canals.
Early evening, I highly recommend taking a boat ride. It costs 25 euros each and it was an hour long ride on the famous Anstel river. We went with Lovers Canal Cruises which is right across Central Station. Try to be the first to board and get seats in the very back for open views of the city especially if you like to take pictures. The only downside is you won’t be able to hear the tour operator talk about the city.
Due to the heat wave, everyone seemed to be out on their boats. There were some unique boats like the one pictured below of a balcony on wheels. It was nice to see everyone having a good time. It was a beautiful ride seeing houseboats, charming homes, and boats on the canal. Amsterdam is such a fun place!
We ended the night by visiting the Red Light District. From brothels, sex shops, “coffee shops”, sex shows – it’s true what you’ve heard and read. Advice to the females – don’t stare at the prostitutes. They don’t like it unless you are male. Advice to all – don’t take pictures of the prostitutes. It’s not allowed! You can also book a walking tour. Pictured below was the main street, but there were many hidden alleys where prostitution occurs. It was a hang out spot, many people on the edge of the canal just chilling out.
Unlike anywhere in the world, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. Prostitutes stand inside a small room with windows wearing lingerie trying to seduce men. If you look in the back, you can see a small room with a bed. Men knock on the glass door to discuss a price and if agreed upon, the men enter and go to the back of the room with the prostitute. It’s pretty disturbing but still an eye-opening experience.
If you want to see some action…watch a sex show! We did :D! We decided to go to Moulin Rouge only because the name appealed to us. It costs 25 euros each person. Since we’ve seen a Ping-Pong show in Thailand, the first couple of acts didn’t surprise us. It was funny to watch everyone else’s reactions though. The main act was XXX, enough said! Now I understand why I saw XXX flags everywhere, it’s that for a reason (I know it means something else)! I won’t spoil the surprise for you :). You’ll have to watch a show to find out. We got “lucky” and sat in the very front! When we entered the room, seats in the back were full and we were left with front row seats. We were SO close to the stage, I thought the ladies’ heels could hit our faces during their leg lifting acts. If you don’t want to get picked on, you may want to stay in the back. My husband sure had fun :).
Coffee shops aren’t the traditional “starbucks” in Amsterdam. Want to feel happy-go-lucky, try some coffee :D. They have bubble gum flavor too! What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam LOL.
The next day, we walked to The Anne Frank House “hoping” the lines wouldn’t be too long. The lines were ridiculous, I believe it was about a 3 hour wait! Reservations are made up to 6 months in advance online, but you can visit the museum and purchase tickets on the spot (make sure to go early to avoid long lines). We didn’t wait so instead we took pictures of the house and its surrounding area and had breakfast nearby.
Stay on the same street as The Anne Frank House and walk along the canal heading to address 191 for about 10 minutes and you’ll see the The Pancake Bakery. This place hit the spot! They serve international pancakes – I can’t remember the name of my pancake but it had nutella and banana (it was good but it got soggy), my husband ordered the Canadian pancake which had bacon, onions, mushrooms, ham, cheese, and barbecue sauce (he really liked it and he didn’t even use ketchup which he normally does), and a side of eggs with ham and cheese. They serve big portions and prices were reasonable. I recommend this place.
After breakfast we walked to Jordaan neighborhood. We wandered the streets taking pictures of everything in sight! Amsterdam is such a picturesque place! Bikes are EVERYWHERE in Amsterdam. There were more bikes than cars. Next time we visit we are definitely going to ride bikes around town.
For Heineken lovers, check out the Heineken Factory. We aren’t big on beer, so we didn’t do the tour. It looked pretty cool inside, I saw people playing games and heard good music. If you have kids, this place may not be a good place for them. There is a store where they sell many souvenirs.
There are many street markets in Amsterdam. We visited Albert Cuyp market (considered to be the best-known and busiest outdoor market in Europe especially on Saturdays), it’s close to the Heineken Factory. Great place to buy souvenirs for less. There are over 300 stalls to include drink and food vendors. Check out this link for a list of markets in the city. Be sure to check the days and hours. Of course we learned the hard way and we walked for miles in hot & humid weather only to find out the market was closed in Jordaan :/.
I kept seeing tulip glass stem souvenirs at the airport and when I heard there was a flower market in Amsterdam, I thought I’d be seeing a bunch of real tulips. I was a bit disappointed when I arrived to the Floating Flower Market only to find fake tulips. It’s was fun regardless. There are lots of flower seeds and even cannabis seeds…hmmm not sure if airport security will be happy with that. It’s worth visiting.
I kept thinking of what souvenir to buy family and friends and I stumbled upon a Stroopwafel store near city centre (sorry I can’t remember the name of the store). You can also find these at the airport in case you don’t find the store (sells for similar price). I ate a sample and immediately fell in love! You must try them and buy some!! Your family & friends will love you! They are soft and chewy caramel filled waffles.
Europeans love nutella! Visit Ice Bakery to satisfy your sweet cravings. They sell donuts, macaroon, gelato, and muffins. Try their stroopwafel gelato flavor, Yum!
I just had to take a picture of this. I met Channing Tatum on our flight from Dubai to Los Angeles on our very first business class flight on Emirates. He was in Amsterdam at the same time premiering his new movie, Magic Mike XXL. I told my husband that Channing Tatum was following ME! LOL
Another reason we enjoyed Amsterdam so much was because we had met a couple “the honeymooners” while in Zanzibar, Africa and coincidentally we met up in Amsterdam – what are the odds of meeting 2 strangers in 2 different countries? We even stayed in the SAME resort & hotel in both countries. Something you only see in movies! We had so much fun with them! And what’s even better is that they are from the USA (Philly). It’s rare we meet travelers from the USA and when we do, we get excited! Most people we meet are from Europe. Americans we need to start representing in other countries! 😀
Snapped this picture at the airport. It’s true, Dutch people are tall. Amsterdam is a perfect hub for a layover. I loved the airport – free wi-fi, good selection of restaurants, it was clean, medical facilities, lots of shopping stores, and it was easy to follow signs unlike other international airports we’ve been to. They also have lockers to store your luggage so you don’t need to bring it with you to town.
Would I do another spontaneous layover? Absolutely! You should try it too :).
P.S. I wold LOVE to hear from you! Leave a comment below if you have any other recommendations on what to do in Amsterdam, want to share your layover story, or simply just want to say hello :).