Peter and I landed in Amsterdam mid-day on a Friday and stayed three nights in Amsterdam. We had two full days to enjoy the sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures.
We spent our first full day cycling through the tulip fields southwest of Amsterdam. We spent our second full day exploring Amsterdam’s city center.
This trip was Peter’s first time visiting Amsterdam. It was my second visit. My first visit was nine years ago when I went on a girls’ trip with my friends Jessi and Sara.
Amsterdam was not my jam nine years ago but fast forward almost a decade, and I feel differently about Amsterdam. It’s totally my jam nowadays! And we agreed that Amsterdam is a city we’d consider moving to if the right opportunity came our way.
The thing with Amsterdam is that location is almost everything. It’s a big city and although public transportation is efficient and plentiful, it can take a long time to get from point A to B (read: canals and bridges).
Back in 2013, we stayed in the De Pijp neighborhood, which I described as an up-and-coming residential neighborhood. Fast forward to the 2020s, and I’d probably use the term gentrification to describe that area, as it were, back in 2013.
The long and short of it was that De Pijp was the wrong neighborhood to stay in in 2013, and I don’t think I’d be too far off in saying that, as a tourist, it is still the wrong neighborhood to stay in. It’s too far out from the popular tourist areas, so much time is spent on public transportation.
Better-located accommodation, nine years wiser, less booze, and more sleep made my visit to Amsterdam in 2022 vastly different than my visit in 2013.
Netherlands/UK entry requirements
It wouldn’t be a travel blog post in the 2020s without mentioning covid entry requirements.
There was only minor covid prep before we departed for the Netherlands. At the time, the Netherlands required every visitor to complete a Health Declaration Form before arrival. We completed the forms but were not asked by the airline or immigration staff for our forms.
I’ve since learned that as of April 20th, the form is no longer required when traveling to the Netherlands by air. We traveled by air on April 15th, so it’s unclear why our forms were not checked. I speculate that we all know that forms of those types, where a person self-declares that they don’t have covid symptoms are obsolete in this stage of the pandemic, so why bother checking them?
We were required to wear a face mask from when we boarded the plane in England until after immigration in the Netherlands. On our return flight to England, we were required to wear a face mask from when we scanned our boarding passes at Schiphol airport to when we landed in England.
This face mask rule is incredibly illogical, and my patience with illogical covid requirements is, admittedly, wearing thin.
At the airport in England, we were maskless and corralled into a small room as we waited to board the plane but as soon as we entered the plane, we were required to wear a mask. If there was covid to be spread – and there certainly was – it had already spread by the time we entered the plane.
On our return flight, we were surprised that we were required to wear a face mask because, generally speaking, airline face mask policies have been such that a face mask is required when the destination requires a face mask, and England has no face mask policies.
Note: As of February 24th, 2022, all covid restrictions in England have been lifted, including the requirement to self-isolate when covid-positive.
Schiphol airport (arrival)
Our flight to the Netherlands departed almost an hour late. We set out on this trip intending to travel to/from Amsterdam by Eurostar (non-stop journey time is four hours), but there were no return trains for the day we were traveling.
Additionally, a one-way outbound ticket was more than double the price of our roundtrip flights, so we were left with no choice but to fly.
Immigration at Schiphol was fast because they did not verify our forms. A quick stamp-stamp and we were on our way.
After clearing immigration, it was a short walk to the train station where we purchased one-way tickets to Amsterdam Centraal station (don’t forget to touch in and touch out on the card reader poles for every journey).
We waited 15 minutes for the train and the journey time was another 17 minutes. Based on the train, the journey time can be as short as 13 minutes, but the 13-minute trains run infrequently.
Protip: Need to pee? Toilets are free in the Arrivals halls and in the train station.
We stayed at the Hoxton Amsterdam. I don’t often say this, but we had no major complaints with the hotel. The hotel’s restaurant/bar, Lottie’s, is a different story.
We booked a Roomy room direct on the hotel’s website.
Our room was on the 4th floor (#419) and did not have a view, but we requested a room that was quiet over one with a view when we checked in. This hotel room was possibly the quietest room we have ever stayed in.
The Hoxton was our second-choice hotel because a few online reviews made us concerned about staying at this hotel.
First, there were recurring complaints about slamming doors by guests and housekeeping.
Whilst it is true that the doors were not soft-closing, we did not hear a door slam during our stay, not even once. The hotel was fully booked, and I can only conclude that we were surrounded by courteous guests who soft-closed the doors like we did.
Second, there were complaints about cramped rooms and low-height ceilings. It’s impossible to know what type of room those reviewers booked, but we booked the middle-sized room and felt the room was large for a city hotel.
The ceilings in our room were double-height, making the room feel larger than it was. One minor gripe with the room was that there was nowhere to set our luggage except on the floor.
The bathroom (technically no bathtub) was a generous size with ample space to set toiletries. One slight annoyance with the bathroom was that the door was glass. When the light was on in the bathroom, the bedroom was also lit – not the best design for middle-of-the-night toilet breaks.
The location of the hotel was in the Jordaan neighborhood along Herengracht (loosely translated as men’s canal). With the exception of the long walk to/from Amsterdam Centraal station, the hotel was perfectly located for sightseeing and exploring.
Last but not least, Lottie’s, the hotel’s restaurant/bar is something that should be skipped. We had an après sightseeing cocktail in the bar area on two occasions, and, out of convenience, we ate breakfast in the restaurant before heading out on our day trip to Keukenhof.
Service was the main problem at Lottie’s even though there seemed to be plenty of staff. The service is slow, 20 minutes for a coffee, slow.
We had one full day in Amsterdam city center. All of our time was spent in the Jordaan neighborhood. We walked miles upon miles that day and managed not to be hit by a cyclist, car, scooter, tram, etc.
So let’s talk about the walkability of Amsterdam for a moment.
Amsterdam is walkable but –
- there are a lot of cobblestones
- there was a lot of road construction, specifically on canal bridges
- the sidewalks are either narrow, don’t exist, or blend in with the streets
- the streets are chaotic due to cyclists, cars, trams, and other tourists
To walk in Amsterdam means that you always have to have your wits about you. Every intersection is a beehive of activity. Cars, trams, and cyclists are coming at you from every direction.
Peter wished his head could spin 360° because that would be the only way he could know for sure that he was not going to be hit by a moving object.
I remember telling myself, “hesitation kills,” meaning, that if I took one step off the curb to cross the road, there was no turning back because ‘back’ may have meant a cyclist had moved between me and the curb in that split second.
As a pedestrian in Amsterdam, I left wishing for a car-free Amsterdam in the future.
The Jordaan neighborhood is packed with shopping, restaurants, and pubs/bars. It’s also incredibly picturesque whilst at the same time being incredibly difficult to capture its picturesque-ness in pictures. There’s always something in the frame you don’t want to be there – cars, trees hiding buildings, tourists milling about, etc.
We started our day by walking to the most northern canal, Brouwersgracht (loosely translated as brewer’s canal), and ended up walking as far south as Leidsegracht.
Sometimes it felt like we were walking in circles, but I don’t think we walked the same canals more than once.
The city was full of tourists the weekend of our visit. It certainly felt like pre-pandemic levels of tourism. In chatting with a local barista, she said that they are not yet back to those levels, which was a surprise.
Protip: Get up early and tour the city pre-10am when the streets are empty and quiet.
The weather during our stay was perfect. The warm afternoons were sandwiched between chilly mornings and evenings. In the afternoons, we ditched our jackets and soaked up the sunshine anywhere and everywhere we could find a bench or cafe table outside.
There was an hour-long period when we got lucky, sat on a bench along Prinsengracht, and watched canal boats cruise below our feet.
I can only speak for myself in that I contemplated a canal cruise but ultimately decided it was too much effort to walk to the other side of the canal, buy tickets, and wait for the next available boat. So we remained on the bench and continued people-watching and being content with having our vitamin D batteries charged.
And while perfect weather is 99 percent upside, the downside is that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find outdoor seating at pubs, cafes, and restaurants. This was the situation we found ourselves in all weekend but not being able to find an outdoor seat at a pub prevented us from day drinking, which, in turn, prevented hangovers!
Jordaan and the Nine Streets area are tourist attractions in their own right. To do these areas right is to spend a full day walking the canals, visiting cafes, popping into the boutique shops in Nine Streets, and enjoying a cocktail here and a beer there. Let yourself get lost.
Dutch culture is easy, minus their love of mayonnaise.
It’s laid back. It’s unpretentious. It’s my cuppa tea. And as a bonus, tap water is free and poured without even asking. What’s not to love?
What we’d do differently
What would we do differently if we were to do our weekend getaway to Amsterdam over again?
First, we’d buy train tickets via the 9292 app versus at the machines at train stations. When buying tickets via machines, a 1€ fee is added to every single-use OV chip card.
We purchased four train tickets during our stay in Amsterdam, two from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal station and two from Amsterdam Centraal station to the airport.
Each ticket cost €4.70 + 1 fee, which increased the train fare by over 20%.
Second, I would have opted for a large backpack or duffle bag versus a cabin-size wheelie bag. Amsterdam is full of cobblestones, train tracks, and curbs, making wheeling my wheelie bag a hassle. In fact, there were sections of our walk to/from the hotel where I clumsily carried my bag because it was easier.
Eat, drink, and shop recommendations
Finally, here are a few recommendations for Amsterdam.
Note: Tap water is free and is almost always automatically poured at cafes, bars, and restaurants!
|Foodhallen||Food hall||A massive food hall with every type of food imaginable + beer and cocktails|
|Pulitzer’s||Cocktail bar||Very skilled bartenders who make great cocktails|
|Flying Dutchman||Cocktail bar||Reservations recommended|
|De Pizzabakkers||Takeaway restaurant||Excellent super-thin crust pizza|
|Cafe De Klos||Restaurant||No reservations – first come, first serve so get there early to avoid long wait times|
Protip: Large portions; one portion (e.g. ribs) is enough for two people.
|Omelegg||Breakfast restaurant||No reservations – first come, first serve; however, the queue moves fast|
|Luuk’s Coffee||Coffee||Excellent espresso, off the beaten path|