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Monday, July 25, 2022

Things To Do In And Around Amsterdam

Check out these Things To Do In And Around Amsterdam before your trip to the Netherlands.

If it is going to be one of the stops on your cruise vacation, like it was for us, click here for a list of things to pack to make sure you have everything you need before you board your ship!

The 4th stop of our Transatlantic cruise brought us to Amsterdam, Netherlands. This was also the last stop of our cruise so we decided that we would stay for four days before we flew home. I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam. I always imagined it to be a fun, relaxed and lively city and we found out it was all that and more.

Good to know: We only needed a one way ticket back to Miami which we thought would then cost half the price of a round trip. We actually wound up buying a round trip ticket because it was much cheaper than the one way. We could also play around with the day of our return (maybe one day :) to find the best price.

After dropping off our luggage at our hotel, Hotel Ibis Amsterdam Centre, we headed to the first stop on our "To See" list, Dam Square. On our walk there, we immediately saw why every souvenir tee shirt had tall, slim buildings and bicycles on them. They are everywhere in this city.

When we got to Dam Square, we looked for some historic buildings I had read about. The first one we spotted was Nieuw Kerk. The New Church is 600 hundred years old and the second oldest church in Amsterdam. If  you don't want to pay the 15.50 euro to get into the church you can look around just inside the entrance and find the 1655 organ and beautiful stained glass windows. I forgot that we were supposed to look for these things so I can't guarantee that they are actually here! It was things I read would be here though. 

The Royal Palace was the second building we came to see. The palace, built in 1650, was originally built as Amsterdam's town hall. You can buy tickets (12.50 euro) online or at the palace, if you'd like to look around inside, but make sure before you visit that the palace is open as it may be closed due to Royal Events. We only came to see the building itself.  

The National Monument is also in Dam Square. It is a World War II memorial. Here we read to look for Jesus, dogs and men in chains. We found them all.

It was time for lunch after we saw everything we wanted to see in Dam Square. We were going to have our first taste of dutch food. One food item I kept reading about was bitterballen. When I saw that we could get a version of it at FEBO, a fast food chain that sells their snacks out of automats, we just had to do it. What could be a more fun and different way of getting lunch and besides that, it was located just around the corner from Dam Square.

Soko had the kroketburger and I had the bunless kroket. They were not like anything we have ever eaten before. The shape of our food was the only difference between mine and Soko's selections. Both were tiny bits of meat in thick gravy, breaded in a panko-type crumb and fried. They were nothing like anything we have ever had before and we weren't sure if we loved them but it was more about having a very fun and different way of getting our first meal in Amsterdam.

After lunch, we were off to the Red Light District. There were a couple of churches I wanted to see here but I was a little nervous about wandering around in this area. It was fine and a lot tamer than I thought it would be after reading about it.

Oude Kerk, Old Church, is the oldest building in Amsterdam. It was built as a Roman Catholic church until Catholicism was declared illegal here. It then became a Calvinist church.

Two short blocks from the Oude Kerk was Our Lord In The Attic. This church was built and hidden in a private home during the two centuries when people of Catholic faith were not allowed to worship in public. We paid 15.00 euros to enter the canal house.

We were given an audio guide and learned about the wealthy merchant, Jan Hartman, who had a small church built in his home so that Catholics in his neighborhood would have a place to worship. The government tolerated practicing of the Catholic religion in private homes.  

When I first saw this bed cabinet, I thought people were very small in the seventeenth century then learned from the audio guide that people in those days slept sitting up in bed so that was the reason for it being only about 4 foot long.

After touring the lower levels of the house, we got to the church. We loved the small church in this house. It was more that we expected to see. It had everything you would see in a Catholic church and even had a confessional. 

The church was hidden on the top three floors of the house. Extra beams were put up to support the balcony seating. 

We spent a good amount of time here and now it was time to quickly get back to our hotel to check in. And then get to the canal cruise we booked online. We didn't realize when we booked that the Rederji Lovers B.V. canal cruise was only 1/2 block from the hotel but it worked out perfectly for us today as we were running late.

The hour long tour was informative and relaxing. We had an audio guide here too so we were able to learn a lot about the area as we enjoyed the ride and the sights. 

Our first day in Amsterdam ended with a haring (herring) sandwich at the famous Stubbe Haring. My sister said I needed to eat this or I would miss out on the region's delicacy. I had the sandwich the way it is traditionally served with onions and pickles. The texture of the fish is more suited to the taste of someone who likes sushi like my sister. I think she would have loved my broodje haring! Soko wasn't feeling that adventurous and had a sausage sandwich instead.


We started day 2 with a delicious breakfast at Cafe Kobalt, just a short couple of blocks from our hotel. We came here to try a Croque Monsieur. It's a grilled ham and guyere cheese sandwich topped with bechamel. I loved the crispy edges. We usually eat our sandwiches with our hands but we needed knives and forks for this one!

After breakfast we made a quick stop back to our hotel so I could put my jacket away. Our hotel was conveniently located right across the street from Central Station where we were to meet the tour bus that was bringing us to Keukenhof for the day. Because we were in The Netherlands (I remember it being called Holland) I needed to see tulips.

This 80 acre garden is home to 7 million flowers and travel writer, Rick Steves, describes it as the "greatest bulb-flower garden on earth".

There were lots of beautiful tulips here. Who knew there were so many varieties.

They also had a windmill!

And wooden shoes!

And the most delicious strawberries I have ever had in my life! We walked past the vendor at first but the sweet smell made us turn back. Soko doesn't eat strawberries but he ate these so that tells you something. The texture and sweetness was just incredible. I could have eaten at least another cup. I never read anything about how delicious Amsterdam strawberries were. This should be a known fact!!

Besides for the hundreds of tulip displays, there were rooms filled with flower displays that were created by different sponsors and organizations. Each display was unique, colorful and so much fun. We enjoyed them all and were in awe of how creative each one was.

We had a great time at Keukenhof but we were ready to board the bus for the return back after 5 hours of walking through the garden and we were starting to get hungry for dinner.
We wanted to try some pizza in Amsterdam. It seems like people all over the world eat it and sometimes the way the pizza is prepared is unique to the area. We like to try a slice or two whenever we are in a new country or even a new state back at home in the US. 

I found a pizza place that was across the water from our hotel. We took the free ferry that was located just behind Central Station. It was packed with young people. I don't think anyone was over 30. 

Everyone had the same idea as us. It seemed like half the passengers headed to Pazzi Noord, which was located only a few steps from where the ferry left us off. We waited awhile but the crowd never let up and we couldn't get a table so we decided to go back and find something near our hotel.

We did find pizza but I'm sure it was not as good as the pizza at Pazzi Noord. We thought this might be the case when we stepped into the restaurant and saw that there were no customers at all here.

Before we went back to the hotel to call it a night after our long day, we stopped in Albert Heijn supermarket to get some coffee for the morning. As we walked through the store I spotted strawberries. They looked as wonderful as the ones we had at the garden. They were amazing! And we couldn't pass up the olives. We wound up at Albert Heijn's every day after that for coffee, strawberries, olives and Soko's usual treat, a cold Heineken!


We started day 3 with another dutch favorite. We stopped by the Pancake Bakery for a couple of pannekoeken. I had mine sweet with apple and bacon and I used the caramel syrup which our waiter recommended I cover it with. Soko had a savory version with chorizo and cheese. They were, I thought, a cross between a pancake and crepe and much larger than either. I have since learned from a friend of mine that we should have eaten them rolled up after we topped them with syrup.

It was Sunday so our next stop was 11:15 mass at Church of Our Lady, Amsterdam. There was so much picture taking and movement by the parishioners so I felt OK taking this picture of the inside of the church. Usually I would not want to be disrespectful and take pictures during mass.

We soon found out, actually we are guessing, that some children of the parish were receiving their first holy communion and that was why there was an air of excitement in the church and so much moving around. The priest directed his homily to this group of children which was fine with us because we couldn't understand a word of it anyway. 

After church, it was time to find a park that I kept reading about. By day 3 we were looking for a quieter, bike free place to spend some time. Vondelpark was not bike free but not as hectic as it is in every other part of Amsterdam.

We stopped at Proeflokaa't Blauwe Theehuis, a cafe in the park, for a snack of bitterballen and beer. The bitterballen were exactly the same thing as the krokets we had at FEBO on our first day except in a different shape and a bit more meatier. It was nice to sit and relax here for awhile on this beautiful day.

After the park, we went looking for a couple of museums. We are really not history buffs so we rarely go into museums but I wanted to see the buildings and take pictures. The first museum we found was the Stedelijk museum. This was one of the of the most impressive buildings we saw so far.

The Rijksmuseum was another impressive building and one I saw a lot of pictures of as I researched things to do in Amsterdam. 

One more building we needed to see in this area was the Rembrandt House. It was cool to stand in front of the house Rembrandt once lived in.

Right around the corner was Rembrandt Corner, the restaurant we wanted to eat dinner at. We picked out a table for two with a view of one of many canals in Amsterdam and ordered two stamppots. This is a traditional Dutch dish. We had three to choose from and we both picked the Hollandise which is the original stamppot. It was mashed potatoes mixed with spinach and topped with dutch sausage and meatballs and gravy. The sausage was very spicy so I had to give it to Soko. The meatball was pretty good but I was beginning to think that dutch food was not my favorite cuisine.

But I was loving all the sweet goodies Amsterdam had to offer like the poffertje we had for desert! Yum!

Even though I was stuffed after dinner, we couldn't pass by, actually we went out of our way to get to Albert Heijn for strawberries on our way back to the hotel!


We made reservations for the Anne Frank House and it would be the highlight of our last day in Amsterdam but first we had to get our Covid test out of the way. The test would cost 58 euro each if we waited until tomorrow to get it done at the airport. Also, we just wanted to get them done so we wouldn't have the stress of having to figure out where and how to get the test done at the airport. 

Soko searched every day we were in Amsterdam and finally found a testing center not too far from our hotel and it was going to cost half the price of what the airport testing center charged. We got appointments for 10:35 and 10:40.

We were glad to get that out of the way with plenty of time to spare before we had to be at the Anne Frank House.

Good To Know: The Anne Frank House is a "must see" for sure in Amsterdam and everyone who visits this area wants to see it it seems. The tickets get sold out very quickly. Every first Tuesday of the month, all tickets for the following month become available so on Tuesday, April 5th we purchased our tickets for May 16th. I was hoping to be able to go first thing in the morning but the earliest we could get tickets for was 12:45. I guess I should have been on the computer earlier in the morning. (Go here for ticket info.)

We paid the extra 7.00 euros for the 30 minute introductory program. We were very happy we did. Neither of us have read The Diary Of Anne Frank so we didn't know anything about the Secret Annex she hid in for 761 days or about the other people she was in hiding with. The presenter was so easy to follow and she invited anyone to ask questions at the end. Even though we had an audio guide with us as we toured the house, we felt the program helped us appreciate the tour more.

We were allowed to take pictures in the introductory program room only. 

Walking through the house and imagining how hard it must have been for Anne Frank and her family to live in hiding for so long was so sad but so amazing at the same time. At the end of the tour there is a small museum and we saw the actual diary that made Anne Frank such an important part of history. It was a pretty incredible experience and we would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Amsterdam.

It was raining when we got out of the house but we couldn't wait for it to let up because we had a 30 minute walk to the Albert Cuyp Market. It was 3:00 already and the market closed at 5:00.

We stopped in briefly to take a picture of the inside of the beautiful Westerkerk because it was right next door to the Anne Frank house. We didn't have time to really look around but would have looked for the tomb of Rembrandt if we did.

As we walked once again in the rain, looking for a shop that sold umbrellas, I wondered how I was going to manage eating everything I wanted to at the market while holding an umbrella. Luckily the rain stopped and the sun popped back out before we got to the market.

We really enjoyed the walk to the market now that the rain stopped. On the way we saw a park and walked through. We saw this very interesting sculpture there. We couldn't read the dutch inscription on it, but, seeing all the flowers lying beneath it, we knew it was a memorial of some kind.

And we saw this adorable duck family!

We made it to the Albert Cuyp Market before it closed. The first thing I found was fries. These were the ones I was looking for in Belgium.

I picked the dutch special and they were delicious.

Now to find the stroopwaffel. I had read that you had to have these at a market where they are made hot and fresh and that they would be the size of a frisbee, well almost. I thought Soko was going to help me eat it but he only wanted one bite. I was forced to eat the whole thing myself :). The stroopwaffel was one my favorite foods in Amsterdam. 

I was not very hungry after visiting the market so we decided dinner would be a small, take out pizza and salad from our favorite supermarket, Albert Heijn. Soko was curious to try it. They were made fresh and baked for you while you shopped and only cost 2.00 euro. It was, surprisingly, a much better pizza than we had a couple of days before. And, we bought one last container of strawberries for desert. It was a delicious way to end our vacation in Amsterdam.


We picked Hotel Ibis Amsterdam Centre because it was recommended by Rick Steves and because it was conveniently located next to Central Station. We could barely hear the trains as they passed by or feel any rumbling but this was the view we had from our room.

We never used the subway until the last day when we used the it to get to the airport. An Uber would have cost 60 euro compared to 5.70 euro each for a train ticket. The train stopped directly under the airport. We followed passengers with luggage up an escalator and there we were. It was an easy, inexpensive and very convenient way to get to the airport.

We got to Schiphol Airport time to spare and sat around for a couple of hours waiting to board the plane. As we were finally on line to board and at the ticket agent, the agent who was sitting beside her called our name over the loud speaker. The ticket agent handed her co-worker our passports. We were then told that our Covid tests were expired. They were more than 24 hours old. When we asked what we were supposed to do, the agent proceeded to tell us that someone would help us after the plane departed!! Luckily, a supervisor appeared in the booth and the agent showed him our Covid test results and he waved us through!

Good To Know: When I got home, I looked up the CDC guidelines for travel and found out that Covid tests were needed to board an international flight to the US  but were valid as long as it was taken at any time on the day before the flight so our tests were not expired! The travel guidelines have since changed but I will make sure I read the fine print before we travel internationally again.

We had a great time on our first repositioning cruise and at all the ports it brought us to but after our harrowing experience at the airport, we were very happy to be on the plane and on our way home!

Posts about the other stops this cruise brought us to:

Have you been to Amsterdam? What things did you find to do?

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  1. Other than the covid/flight scare it sounds like you had a great trip. I'm pretty sure I would have liked the desserts and sweets better than any of the foods you tried.

    1. We did love Amsterdam and their desserts! I hope you get a chance to go and try them one day. I think you would like them too!

  2. Looks like a place I would love to visit. So very cool. #anythinggoes

    1. I really hope you get a chance to go. I think you would love it!

  3. Thanks for the photos and info! I doubt I will get there but I love seeing your posts about it.

    Thanks for sharing your link at My Corner of the World this week!

  4. What a great place to visit on your amazing trip! I would love to go to Amsterdam and tour the Anne Frank House. Thanks for sharing

    1. I hope you get a chance to go to both Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House. I think you would really enjoy it!

  5. Wow - looks like you packed a lot in. The bulb fields look amazing (and are on my list!) and you can't not go to the Red Light district can you? Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

    1. Yes, you are right. You do have to check out the Red Light district when in Amsterdam lol!

  6. Apart from the airport,I've not been to Amsterdam since the late 80s when I spent some time out there, it's somewhere I really want to revisit.
    Thanks for linking with #pocolo, sorry for the delay with commenting

    1. I hope you get a chance to go back, especially now that it's a little easier to travel without covid restrictions.

  7. Wow! What an incredible trip. The historic buildings are amazing, and all the food looks incredible, especially those grilled cheese sandwhiches.

    1. That breakfast was the most incredible, and filling, breakfast I have ever had!