So now my travel has caught up with my travel posts, and I owe everyone a brief guide to Amsterdam! Isn't that fun? Amsterdam is a fun, exciting and beautiful city, with a really good reputation for being bad. It's easy to explore, and there are a lot more things to see than you would think. Read on!
Everything in Amsterdam is reachable by tram/(train if you're coming from the airport). On our first day, we were totally baffled at where we were supposed to get tickets, but not to worry. I quickly remembered that the drivers in London were able to issue tickets, and it's the same here in Amsterdam. Enter the tram you like, make your way slowly to the front and ask the driver to give you a ticket. They have a whole day pass, a 3 day pass and a 7 day pass.
The hardest thing about these trams is finding the right one! They go up to four different directions at a time, but the Dutch people are friendly enough to ask. :)
Emerge on Koningsplein on your tram to find the world's only floating flower market! We got here pretty late, but we managed to catch all the flowers for sale. Sad to report that more than half the stores sell more souvenir items than flowers, but it was still pretty to walk through.
alBERT cUYPMARKT foOD mARKET
While I award best food to Prague during our trip, walking through the Albert Cuypmarkt area was a lot of fun as well. I love that there's a street market like this available everyday, where people can buy their foodstuffs, flowers and fabrics among other things, including something called Spicy Scarves!
While you're here, make sure you grab yourself an order of pickled herring with onions and pickles. It sounds nasty and looks strange, but if you're a fan of sushi, you will love it. Have it with bread, it's salty and delicious! Oh, and the wafels, of course! The Amsterdam version has honey in between the two waffles, yum yum!
My sister told me that a lot of the ubiquitous Amsterdam stoners hang out at Vondelpark, but it's a nice place to have a picnic lunch and munch on the caramel truffles you will end up buying from the food market. We sat by the lakeside and watched people being attacked by ducks and pigeons when they had sandwiches. A nice place to chill.
In the middle of the city, just off a tram station, there's a small tunnel that leads to a central garden with typical Amsterdam houses surrounding it. Begjinhof used to be a home for women who served the Catholic Church but did not take religious vows. The Queen bought the lands and now it's a private area in the heart of the city that is only allowed to be rented out by women. There's a pretty church in the courtyard, but other than that, the peace of the place (plus the amazing gardens!) is soothing.
But the more interesting place, I think is a couple of blocks away. With the Begjinhof entrance behind you, turn right and keep walking along Spui Street until you reach the Rokin canal. Walk across the street to the little alleyway of Langbrugsteeg and Grimburgwal for cute little cafes (we loved the Moroccan feel of Residence Sweets) that usually have seating by the canals. There's also a boat that takes you on a tour of Amsterdam's canals for about 15 euros!
As far as squares go, this one is pretty Dam good (I couldn't resist!). Whether you're just looking for a spot to chill, or keen to visit Madame Taussad's (please don't), Dam Square always has a good amount of people for watching.
A short hop, skip and a jump away is Jordaan, the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and Ann Frank's House.
Reijksmuseum/Van Gogh Museum
I cannot tell you how peeved I was that they STRICTLY don't allow photographs in the Van Gogh Museum. As one of his biggest fans, it broke my heart! But the museum was so worth the visit. It was a miserably rainy day when we went--so rainy in fact that the trams all stopped and we had to take a taxi home.