Amsterdam Blog in Photos: Impressions from Amsterdam

Welcome to my Amsterdam blog post. In this article, I’ll share impressions from my recent visit to this magical city criss-crossed by canals and filled with determined cyclists, coffee shops, and tall narrow houses. Pickled herring and pannekoeken? Yes please!

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Amsterdam at sunset

Daniel and I arrived in Amsterdam after wrapping up a tour of Istanbul and Cappadocia in January. The last time I visited Amsterdam was over 20 years ago and I honestly didn’t recall much of the experience. I was looking forward to rediscovering the city with Daniel and his daughter, Katjia, who flew out to Amsterdam from New York to meet us there.

Amsterdam Blog Part 1: Dam Square

Positioned in the historical center of Amsterdam, Dam Square is located directly in front of the Royal Palace and is a popular gathering place and tourist attraction. The first time I entered Dam Square, I was stunned by the beauty and grandeur of the square and all the buildings surrounding it. We returned to Dam Square a few times during our stay, once at sunset and once at sunrise. It was fun to see how the square changed at different times of day.

Dam Square at Sunset

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The Royal Palace Amsterdam
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Madam Tussaud’s and the Royal Palace Amsterdam
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The Dam Square hot dog guy
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Another view of Dam Square as it gets darker

Dam Square at Dawn

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Madam Tussaud’s in Dam Square at dawn
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National Monument in Dam Square
A 3-wheeled bicycle sits alone in Dam Square at sunrise.
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The streets are eerily empty at dawn.
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I got up early to photograph sunrise at Dam Square. I don’t look tired at all!

Amsterdam Blog Part 2: Oh those Beautiful Canals

Amsterdam is famous for its many canals – in fact there are over 1000 kilometers of canals in the city as well as 1500 bridges. Constructed in the 17th century, the historic canal rings in the city’s center are now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I fell in love with Amsterdam’s waterways and spent many enjoyable hours wandering the streets, camera in hand, taking photos of canals.

Canals at Sunset

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Canals at Night

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Canal Boat Cruise

As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, canal boat cruises shuttle hoards of eager tourists around the city’s waterways in cute little boats. We were initially hesitant to take a cruise because it seemed a bit *too* touristy, but we eventually decided to go for it anyway. The boat ride ended up being pretty fun and it was a great way to explore the city’s canal system from a different perspective.

Amsterdam blog: Our boat for the Amsterdam canal cruise.
Our boat for the Amsterdam canal cruise.
Amsterdam blog: Daniel, Katjia and Matthew are ready to cruise the canals!
Daniel, Katjia and Matthew are ready to cruise the canals!
Amsterdam blog: On the canal boat cruise.
On the canal boat cruise.
Those are some really skinny houses.
Those are some really skinny houses.
Another canal boat.
Another canal boat.

Amsterdam Blog Part 3: Bicycles and Tiny Cars

In Amsterdam, cars do not rule the road. Rather, the road belongs to vehicles of the two-wheeled variety and the streets are always filled with an impressive number of cyclists. Most streets have dedicated bike lanes that look a lot like sidewalks. For the uninitiated, it’s easy to walk blindly into a bike lane – only to narrowly miss being mowed down by a bevvy of cyclists. I learned to constantly look for bikes before crossing any sidewalk, intersections or road.

Bicycles Everywhere

Amsterdam Blog post. All the bike racks were filled with bikes. Seemed like a lot of competition for bike parking.
Bike racks lined every street.
Amsterdam Blog: A huge bike parking lot near the metro station.
A huge bike parking lot near the metro station.
Amsterdam blog: This multi-story canal barge served as a giant bicycle parking lot.
This multi-story canal barge served as a giant bicycle parking lot.
Amsterdam blog: A very unique bike. I got feeling this was mostly for the benefit of the tourists.
A very unique bike. I got feeling this was mostly for the benefit of the tourists.
Amsterdam Blog: This is what happens to your bike when you're not looking.
This is what happens to your bike when you’re not looking.

Cycling Around VondelPark

Katjia and I were curious about cycling in this fair city, but we were a bit nervous to join the throng on Amsterdam’s congested bike lanes. So we rented bikes one afternoon and pedaled around Vondelpark for a couple of hours. The timing of our visit was unfortunate as we happened to ride right into a marathon that was situated in the park’s center. But once we got past the crowds, we had an enjoyable afternoon.

Amsterdam Blog post: I follow behind Katjia as we cycle through Vondelpark.
I follow behind Katjia as we cycle through Vondelpark.
Cycling in the bike lane as we return to the bike rental shop.
Cycling in the bike lane as we return to the bike rental shop.

Tiny Cars

Daniel is obsessed with tiny cars. Every time we pass an ultra small vehicle, Daniel whips out his phone and takes a photo. And there are a lot of tiny cars in Amsterdam – most notably the Canta LX which is so small that it it’s legal to drive them in bike lanes.

You can read more about these tiny cars in Daniel’s blog post: Spotlight: the Canta LX (and other tiny cars of Amsterdam)

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Daniel loves tiny vehicles!

Amsterdam Blog Part 4: All the Museums

There are a lot of great museums in Amsterdam – the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House and MoCo Museum to name just a few. Most are situated in an area of the city called the museum district. We are not particularly big on museums so we didn’t end up seeing very many. But we did end up making it to a couple of them.

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The Rijksmuseum
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The MoCo Museum was featuring a Banksy exhibition at the time of our visit.

Anne Frank House

I first read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank in elementary school, and her harrowing story has stayed with me ever since. It was incredible to see the rooms where she and her family hid from the Nazis behind a hidden door. Seeing her actual bedroom with the magazine photos that she pinned to the walls was a powerful and sobering experience. She really was a remarkable young woman.

Everyone should visit the Anne Frank House at least once in their lifetime.

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The Anne Frank House

Amsterdam Museum

We also visited the Amsterdam Museum during our stay and learned all about the city’s history. Did you know that Amsterdam is built on eleven million poles because most of the city is situated below sea level? Neither did I until I visited the Amsterdam Museum.

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Painting of Anton Dreesmann. Daniel is convinced that he must be one of his long-lost ancestors. The resemblance is uncanny.

Amsterdam Blog Part 5: Foods of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is home to many tasty local foods and delicacies. When Daniel returned from his last visit to the city, he came back raving about the food and I have been looking forward to eating them ever since. (You can read Daniel’s blog post about it here: Bitterballen, hotchpotch stampot, jenever, and haring. Hunting down traditional Dutch food in Amsterdam).

Unfortunately, I was sick during much of our visit to Amsterdam so I wasn’t able to indulge in as many local foods as I would have liked. For those who followed along on my Pacific Crest Trail Blog, you’ll recall that I have an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. When I was hiking the PCT, I found long-distance hiking with Ulcerative Colitis to be especially challenging.

I was worried that long-term travelling would be equally difficult, but thankfully things have been a bit easier this time around. I’ve tracked down medication here in Europe – which is a fraction of the cost that I paid in the United States. As a result, my symptoms are now under control and I’m feeling a lot better.

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A selection of Dutch cheeses
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Daniel enjoys some frites oorlog

Pickled Herring

A traditional dish served with raw onions and pickles, herring was on the top of our must-eat foods list. We spent much of our visit to Amsterdam in search of the perfect pickled herring. I wasn’t feeling that great so I only had a nibble, but it was really quite good.

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Pickled herring from the street market, complete with a Dutch flag!
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Daniel and Katjia discover a new pickled herring shop.
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Stubbe Haring

Pannekoeken

Pannekoeken, or Dutch pancakes, was another local food at the top of our food list. Daniel recommended that we go the Upstairs Pannen Koekenhuis restaurant, a tiny place up a terrifyingly steep set of stairs. The pannekoeken were very tasty and I highly recommend the experience.

Note: you’ll need a reservation to eat here since the restaurant is so incredibly tiny.

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Pannekoeken. Photo by Daniel.

Where are we now?

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We are in Amsterdam! Pictured from left to right: Katjia, Matt, Daniel and Katy.

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dates: January 15 to 27, 2020
Vagabonding Journey Status: Days 107-119

For more details on our vagabonding journey, see my previous posts:

For additional Amsterdam inspiration, check out 7 Reasons Why You’ll Love Amsterdam by Curls en Route.

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