In November, I visited Amsterdam for the first time – I had two nights there before heading to Münster for grad school, so I had a full day and some change to see the city.
First of all, I’m not big on trying to hit every attraction a city has to offer. I plan travel around meals, and a lot of times, whatever errands I need to run, like shopping for things I can’t find in Amman. I also like to walk. A lot. Especially in a city like Amsterdam. Basically, my favorite thing is when I can experience a city as though I live there, so I was admittedly pleased with myself when I left a hair salon that morning and someone stopped to ask me directions in Dutch.
The train from Schipol airport to Amsterdam Centraal station takes barely 20 minutes, and trains run pretty often. My strategy, when I don’t have a lot of time, is to find a hotel close to the station, so that I’m not struggling with luggage. Unfortunately in Amsterdam, a lot of hotels right next to the station were way out of my price range, so I still ended up walking about 20 minutes in the cold wind and rain to get to my hotel.
But luckily, a very cozy place awaited me – I stayed at Pension Homeland, which offers modest, yet comfortable and warm rooms in a historic building, built on top of a brewery. They also have a nice restaurant and bar with a tasty menu and two of their own beers. Did I mention the hotel is above a brewery?
The view from Pension Homeland. Along this area by the water were a few other interesting looking restaurants, but I didn’t make it there.
Thanks to the time difference, I woke up before dawn both days, which gave me a chance to get some work done in my room before restaurants opened for breakfast. So around 9 am, I trundled off towards Bakers and Roasters, which I mainly picked because it was open and only a 10 minute walk away, but I was not disappointed.
After that, I walked over to Oxococo salon for a haircut (I’d made an appointment online in advance), and then made my way towards the museum district, passing some markets along the way. The one touristy thing I did was go to the Van Gogh Museum (again, I bought my ticket in advance online). It was an impressive museum, and Van Gogh isn’t the only artist in there – they have a large collection of work by his friends and contemporaries – but by noon or so when I got there it was CROWDED. The rooms were packed and a lot of times it was hard to get close to the art. If you can make it work with your schedule, get there early.
In search of athletic shoes I needed to buy, I headed off towards the shopping district around de Bijenkorf, close to the National Monument and De Oude Kerk. Along Nieuwendijk street is a hectic, but well-stocked shopping area (I found my shoes). I stopped for a waffle, then, as it was starting to get dark, I made my way to Haarlemmerstraat, which is known for its boutiques. I didn’t buy anything, but I did ogle some fancy pastries and a shop that was literally called Cheese Land.
I ate a simple dinner of a salad I’d bought at a grocery store, went down to the bar to read and enjoy one more beer at Pension Homeland, and then got ready to catch my train to Germany the following morning.
There are lots of other museums you could visit, more restaurants, Vondelpark, historic churches – but this wasn’t a bad way to spend the day.