Travelled and Written by Allison Carneal
Where to Stay
We arrived in Amsterdam mid-afternoon, and checked into the Pulitzer Hotel which immediately offered us an exceptional brunch at their casually elegant café. The hotel is lovely and consists of many townhouses connected by a central atrium. The rooms were beautifully appointed and the bathrooms luxurious. Delicious stroopwaffles were awaiting on a tray whenever we returned to the room. If you do not know what they are, you will! The service was impeccable and the concierges were wonderful at providing tips, resources and making dinner and lunch reservations. The hotel is located along the canal in the Nine Streets area, an upscale shopping and residential district. Other highly regarded hotel options on the canal are the Dylan Hotel, the Andaz Hotel and the Waldorf Amsterdam. Another option is to stay on one of the houseboats that dot the canals but these are a little more difficult to secure.
What to Do
In order to avoid the sheer exhaustion that sometimes accompanies an overnight flight, I booked a walking tour so that we could hit the ground running. The Who was Amsterdam Tour was led by the charming Alexandra Gudowski who delighted us with anecdotes of the city and unique destinations primarily haunted by locals living in this beautiful city. One of the most delicious spots we visited was called Café Papeneiland - renowned for its apple pie! I have to admit that I was also blown away by the delicious locally brewed IPA by The Broujerij’Tij Brewery. When not actually brewing its beers, it offers tours and the ability to sample their different brews along with “beer snacks” such as cheese and sausages in the taproom.
Speaking of beer, another fun adventure we had was at the Heineken Experience located not far from the museum district. We learned about the process of making beer in a fun and lively setting ending in a tap room which allowed the over 18 set to sample a freshly made brew. There were lots of games and photo-op experiences and it was both educational and fun.
Of the plethora of museums available to visit in Amsterdam, I narrowed it down to four. The Moco Museum was the one my teenagers enjoyed most – it features art by the whimsical artist Banksy as well as other modern artists (Warhol, Kusama, Lichtenstein, Hirst) and is housed in a small manageable mansion. Nearby are both the much larger Van Gough Museum and Rijksmuseum – both exhibiting vast collections of the beloved Dutch Masters. The Rembrandts are truly a miracle to behold with their intricate details and the Van Goughs are magical in their colors and swirls. The one museum I would have liked to have seen was the Stedelijk Museum – a recently renovated contemporary art museum that is truly cutting edge. I booked all of the museums ahead and we were able to sail through the long lines at each museum visit. In each museum we also took advantage of the audio-tours which enlightened the entire experience and provided valuable insight.
As with any visit to Amsterdam, the Ann Frank House was a sobering, but memorable destination. It is important to book 8 weeks in advance as the museum is not that large and the number of entrants is limited. Tickets are almost always sold out on a given day. The tragic story of Ann Frank comes to life in the location of where she hid with her family in the “secret annex” during the Nazi occupation, before they were discovered and deported to concentration camps. Editor’s Note: Book your tickets to Anne Frank House way in advance of your trip. If you can’t get them for your desired dates, ask your concierge or check online daily just before you go, as they release a few tickets each day.
To lighten our mood after the Ann Frank house, I had booked a private canal tour through the company called Dam Boat Guys. The guide (actually an American woman from Baton Rouge who has moved permanently to Amsterdam) was excellent and engaging and it was pleasant hour spent talking more about Amsterdam’s history, culture and way of life. I picked this tour company because they seemed very lively in our correspondence and they lived up to my expectations! If we had been so inclined we could have brought out own wine, beer or snacks, but we had decided to save our appetite for dinner.
For our four dinners in Amsterdam, we ate once at Breda, a local favorite that features set menus and is considered one of the favorite elegant choices of the city. For more casual fare and to experience how the Amsterdammers eat, we visited Café Sonneveld which featured the famous “bitterballen” Dutch meatballs and fried croquettes along with other Dutch fare. We also sampled delicious dim sum and other South East Asian food at Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy (with two locations) and the final night we experienced an Indonesian Feast at Indrapura where we sampled an authentic “rice table’ – a unique and delicious experience. If there is still time for culinary adventure, reach out to Hungry Birds, a small tour company focusing on Amsterdam street food and local culture. If you do not have time for a food tour, go out of your way to sample the famous Dutch pancakes and crispy French fries that usually come with a little dish of mayo!
We loved everything about our time in Amsterdam but mostly, we just loved to walk the city and take in the beautiful canal views, the local bicycle culture and interacting with the friendly and down to earth people of Amsterdam.
Kelly’s Packing List
From top row, left to right: Isabel Marant belt, Illesteva sunglasses, Nickho Rey Rose Gold turquoise and hoop earrings through Moda, Alexa Chung vinyl trench coat, Sally LaPointe sweater through Moda Operandi, Lixirskin Vitamin C paste, Neous leather slides through Moda, Tibi leather skirt, Corroon "Go" bags, you still need a clear plastic bag to go through security in European airports, so this helps you do so with style!