I am finally making good on a long-held promise to myself and taking a solo trip to Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels! I’m looking forward to checking out the art museums, sitting in canalside bruin cafes to read and journal and people-watch, and riding a bike through through the Dutch countryside and along the backstreets of Bruges. First stop is Amsterdam for six days, which I hope will be long enough to settle into my comfy Airbnb abode near the Jordaan and pretend I live there. That way I can see and experience what I want without having to rush around too much.
Photo by Frank Frambach/My Shot, National Geographic
To get myself in mind for the journey, I’ve been studying Fodor’s Amsterdam and Rick Steves’ Amsterdam Bruges & Brussels, and incessantly watching Rick Steves’ videos in the Netherlands and Belgium. The following posts have gotten me giddy too—I can’t wait to check out these places for myself.
My favorite jogging/walking route is along the entire length of the Keizersgracht—my favorite canal. It’s an excellent walking route through the heart of the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Start at the canal’s intersection with the Brouwersgracht. You’ll pass the wonderfully atmospheric Jordaan neighborhood, the shopping haven in the Nine Streets neighborhood and many stately houses before reaching the Amstel River. I can also recommend the route along the Amstel River to Ouderkerk. As you leave the city behind you, you’ll pass beautiful windmills, grazing cows and sheep, and historic mansions. [Note: Keith’s “Cycling Route North of Amsterdam” has me equally convinced that I need to hop on a bike and pedal out of the city too; the weather’s supposed to be in the gorgeous low 70s F/low 20s C.]
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to my favorite neighborhood restaurant: Eten aan de Rijn. I love to cook but I enjoy eating out just as much. Eten aan de Rijn has a daily three-course menu for 25 euros. Excellent food and the owners Jaap and Nadja are great company!
The FEBO, a Dutch institution, is the spot for late-night eats. It’s a quirky experience as you eat ‘out of a wall’ but you have to try it!
What did you do?
Scott: For five days we covered the city on foot and bicycle, eating, drinking local beer, and photographing the beautiful architecture and scenery. It was great to get lost and wander, marveling at the houseboats along the canals, wondering who the hell lives in there. We also took a day trip by bike to a nearby village.
Laura: We rented a sweet, two-level apartment in the gorgeous Jordaan neighborhood. We made a food map based on loads of pre-trip research, so we truly did a lot of eating. Between meals we wandered the city strolling canals, taking lots of pictures, drinking beer, visiting the occasional coffee shop. We went to the big museums (Anne Frank, Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum) and shopped and snacked at the best markets (Albert Cuypmarkt, Saturday/Monday Noordemarkt). On our last day, we finally made like locals and rented bikes, which we took past the windmills and farms to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, about 12 km south of A’dam.
What was the best tip you got before you left? And where did you find it?
Scott: We heavily researched the city for food, accommodations, and nightlife options, so were very prepared. But our best tip came from a friend-of-a-friend (and former Amsterdam resident) who told us to go to a very special restaurant we would not have found on our own.
Laura: Restaurant Utrechtsedwarstafel! Seasonal food from a daily changing menu, wine pairings with every new dish, and a table-side visit from the chef and sommelier to describe each course. The host was surprised we foreigners had found it, as most of their business is by word of mouth.
Speed round of favorites.
3. Site/place/thing you did:
Scott: Bike riding through the city at night.
Laura: A bike ride out of the city is a must.
4. Cafe/casual hangout:
Laura: Café Winkel in the Jordaan was our morning hangout, with great coffee and the best appeltaart in town. At night, it was Café ’t Arendsnest, where we spent a lot of time exploring the amazing selection of Dutch craft beers.
“One night, as a special treat, we went to dinner at De Kas, an award-winning restaurant in a greenhouse, where we had one of the best meals of our lives. I loved that people still rode their bikes, even though it was a super fancy place.” [Note: Suffice to say, given all the positive press I’ve read about this place, I booked my reservation three months ago.]
For A’dam eats I also referred to Mark Bittman’s two—I hope not too dated—articles for The New York Times: “Eating Out in Amsterdam: Way Beyond Herring” (January 20, 2012) and “Choice Tables: In Amsterdam, Mediterranean-Style Holds Sway” (September 15, 2002).
I can hardly wait. Every year I travel both in the U.S. and internationally with family or close friends, but I haven’t taken a vacation abroad by myself in 10+ years and I miss it! It’s exhilarating and empowering to be able to do what you want, went you want, and step outside your day-to-day bubble for a bit.