On my backpacking adventures around Europe some years ago, I stopped for a couple of days in the Netherlands, determined to see as many countries as possible! Next time, I would resolve to spend a lot longer exploring the area, which was full of surprises around every corner. The history of the place is fascinating, the culture is constantly evolving and the weather was surprisingly sunny for most of my stay! Here’s what I got up to:
On a short trip to the Dutch capital, I was blown away by the anything-goes attitude, the creativity in the city and the enormous number of bikes. In a day, you can explore the Red Light District, slightly suspicious cafes, large floating flower markets selling all kinds of bulbs imaginable and grand museums full of some of the finest art in the world. This city is an explosion of art and life!
Take a tour along the canals and learn about the history of this vibrant city
The tours are good value and a wonderful way to get some pretty bridge photos. I particularly enjoyed learning about the large hooks on the exterior of the narrow buildings, which are used to transport furniture to the upper levels via the windows! I have noticed nothing like it in Australia, so it was quite a novelty to discover their purpose.
Visit the floating flower markets
The floating flower markets sell endless fresh flowers, bulbs and seeds, along with other produce, such as hard cheeses and clogs! You will definitely find some souvenirs to take home with you. Just be careful not to pack too many seeds in your suit case or customs will be suspicious!
Stroll through the Red Light District
Take a walk through the Red Light District and examine what is a perfectly normal part of this city. Photographs of the windows are prohibited, but let’s just say that all facets of life are openly enjoyed!
Visit one of the local cafes
If you’re not comfortable choosing from the extensive collection of illicit substances behind the counter, simply sit back and observe. You are bound to see some interesting characters throughout the evening!
Enrich your mind at the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum or The Anne Frank House
For anyone interested in art and history, these museums are a must, despite the sometimes lengthy queues. I found the Rembrandt House Museum particularly fascinating, as it gave a look into where this famous artist lived and worked. And whilst it took a long time to get into the Anne Frank House, it is extremely moving to discover her story in the place where it actually unfolded.
Try some traditional Dutch treats
Some of the delicious snacks on offer include the Poffertjes and Stroopwaffles, available at most markets. Both are deliciously sweet and indulgent. My Dutch friend surprised me with some Stroopwaffles back in Australia and the flavours took me right back to the markets of Amsterdam!
Drink beer at a local brewery
There are plenty of local breweries to enjoy – some even include free peanuts in a big hessian sack on the wall. Grab a handful for your table and discard your shells on the floor. You will find yourself wading through peanut shells at the end of the evening, which is a lot of fun!
A Day Trip to Delft
Whilst Amsterdam delights in all things confronting and offers plenty of opportunities to be run over by the thousands of bicycles that flash around every corner, Delft is a step-back into peace and tranquility. A university city, known for the famous Royal Delft pottery, Delft not only hosts charming canals, pretty bridges and excellent museums, but provides a slower pace of life. Just an hour away by train, you can easily walk around all the major attractions in a day, or hire a bicycle to get from place to place.
Have a coffee overlooking the pretty canals
After sipping on coffee by the canals, take a walk and soak in the beauty of the arched bridges and the reflections in the water. You will even see some of the Royal Delft designs on lampposts. There is plenty of inspiration around every corner. It would be a wonderful place to bring your art kit for the day.
The Royal Delft Factory and Museum
Enjoy browsing the Royal Delft collection, as well as seeing a worker in action, demonstrating the extremely precise craft of painting the glaze. These artists are chosen from a young age, preferably with no prior training, in order to commit their life to Royal Delft art. It requires a keen eye, patience and a steady hand!
Visit Vemeer’s studio
See where this famous artist painted Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665), amongst other artworks. The museum goes into great detail about Vemeer’s painting technique and how he portrayed light in his domestic scenes of middle-class life. It is interesting, later, to walk around the local neighbourhood and imagine life in the 1600’s.
If you have any time left over, be sure to check out the town square, join the university students in their happy hour or dine at some of the fine restaurants. It was difficult to leave this relaxing place and head back into the hectic streets of Amsterdam!
Where would you suggest visiting on a trip to the Netherlands? What is your favourite Dutch city? I would love to hear about your adventures!