Last summer, Nathan and I embarked on a 3 week trip of a lifetime to Europe! Better late than never to share it, right? Since I experience travel anxiety, I had always daydreamed about Europe but wasn’t brave enough to visit until last year. The Netherlands was the first place that Nathan and I both agreed was a must see, so we decided to start in Amsterdam. We were so excited to experience Dutch culture since both of us have strong Dutch family history.
Capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is an interesting place. The canals are beautiful, and the row houses in shades of brown, black and grey never get old. The area around Amsterdam Centraal station is quintessential but crowded, but the surrounding neighbourhoods offer an enjoyable slower pace. Bike lanes are everywhere, but to navigate between the crowds, the cars, and the narrow streets seemed frantic. We avoided biking on our first visit, opting instead to walk everywhere. Amsterdam is very walkable and more enjoyable when you can tuck yourself away down random streets to get lost.
Airbnb on Govert Flinckstraat
Our Amsterdam Airbnb on Govert Flinckstraat was perfection. Vermeer painting, much? We took the tram from Amsterdam Centraal station to De Pijp, a quiet residential neighbourhood. We hauled our luggage up two flights of the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen to the tip-top of a three-story narrow building, met our host Petra and settled in.
The window bench overlooking the street below was my favourite place to sip tea in the morning, and unwind with a glass of wine every night. After a quick unpack and a refresh, we headed out to explore the neighbourhood, and find food and coffee.
Albert Cuyp Market
We happily discovered that the Albert Cuyp market was just around the corner from our Airbnb. Block after block of vendors were selling everything from bolts of fabric, flowers, and fresh produce to clothing and antiques. Food stalls selling delicious local treats like poffertjes, croquetten, and stroopwafel were everywhere and are a must!
Dinner at The Butcher
We stumbled upon The Butcher, a tiny restaurant with Delft style illustrations of meat and cooking tips on white square tiled walls. Nathan had The Butcher burger with cheese, and I had The Codfather fish and chips. Our food came on silver trays covered in newsprint, and the portions were generous and delicious!
Amsterdam Red Light District
The Amsterdam Red Light District is similar to Times Square in New York–overcrowded and overwhelming but something you have to see once in your life. It is a bizarre thing to explore the narrow alleys bathed in red light, filled with bachelor parties and families with children shuffling by the women in windows, single file. Nathan asked me how much I thought it cost to hire one of them, and Google confirmed that my guess was bang on. 50€ for 15 minutes. Overall not my favourite place, but I’ve crossed it off the travel list!
Late Night Cocktails at Door 74
If you’re in the mood for sipping on amazing cocktails in a speakeasy with a hidden door, do yourself a favour and make reservations the day-of at Door 74. The interior is straight out of the roaring twenties, and the cocktails were some of the best I’ve ever had. We scoured the street to find the hidden door, the only visible sign of its existence a small brass plate engraved with the logo.
An impeccably dressed gentleman turned away a bachelor party of rowdy boys and let us in. Hilariously, this added to the exclusive feel of the experience. Once inside, we sat at the bar and watched the bartender work his magic. No photos allowed, so you’ll just have to trust me! Find out what their unique cocktail of the day is on the Door 74 Facebook page.
After a whopping 36 hours of being awake, we stumbled home and immediately fell asleep. All in all, a great first day of our European adventure. Part 2 of my 48 hour Amsterdam travel guide will be coming up next.