My first trip outside of Scotland was to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I was going solo (something I was nervous about doing since I’m a vulnerable looking woman) and I was doing it in a weekend.
Leading up to my trip I read The Diary of A Young Girl to learn more about Anne’s story. I would highly suggest reading it as the story will be fresh in your mind and as you go through the museum you remember Anne’s descriptions and stories. It truly enhanced my experience.
Tip: Don’t rent a bike. As I was going through blogs about trips to Amsterdam, every single one told me to do as the locals do and rent a bike to travel around. However, if you’re like me and you’re incredibly clumsy or get really anxious and stressed if overwhelmed, Amsterdam is not a fun place to bike in. Everybody has a bike and goes really fast. I saw way too many almost wipeouts because of pedestrians not looking where they were walking and stepping right into the path of a biker. I am so relieved I didn’t bike because it’s an overwhelming scene and I believe the constant anxiety that I would’ve had could have ruined the trip. If you’re a comfortable biker and are used to scenarios like this, good for you! Go rent a bike if you really want to, but I suggest checking out the city first and seeing if you actually want to bike it. If you do, be careful!!! The majority of accidents there are because of tourists.
Not much of a day really, I had booked this when I still had classes on Fridays so it was a later flight to ensure I’d make them. Now I have Fridays off and an extra day for traveling!
My flight left Edinburgh at about 4:30 pm and it was a quick one hour flight to Amsterdam. I took KLM which is the Royal Dutch Airline and it was great! They supply you with a little meal pack with a vegetarian wrap and a cup of water. You also receive an additional free beverage of your choice. For only an hour flight it was unnecessary, but appreciated. Amsterdam is also an hour ahead of Edinburgh.
Amsterdam’s international airport is called Schiphol and it’s quite easy to get to the city from it through public transportation. I decided to take an uber to my airbnb though since it was later when I arrived, about 7:30/8:00 pm.
My airbnb was about fifteen minutes south of the centre, but very conveniently located near public transportation. It was perfect as it was a warm bed and my host provided a fridge, espresso maker, a tv, a bike, and many guidebooks. She ensured I knew which tram to get into the city and advised against taking the bike. It was everything I needed to come back to at night.
After a day of traveling I was ready to go to bed, but I was starving and decided to head out for something to eat. I just went to a grocery store a block away called Dean’s. Everything was in Dutch and there were none of the ready-to-go meals that are so popular in Edinburgh. Then when I tried to pay they didn’t take cards and I had to go down the block to the atm to pull out euros. My sister had told me I wouldn’t need any cash, but I did.
Tip: Take out cash! Even if it’s just $20, it’s good to have a little in case of emergencies or if the grocery store doesn’t take cards.
I also got a little bit lost on my way back. I am so glad I have data that works in Europe because it’s been a lifesaver. I have a UK sim card where I pay twenty pounds a month and receive 12GB of data a month that works all over Europe as well. Yes I did mean to say 12GB, it’s an insane amount and right now I have a week left to use up 9GB. But I never have to worry about getting lost because I can use GPS, it’s great.
I woke up bright and early at 7 am to ensure I got into the city centre before my 9:15 time slot at the Anne Frank House. I also wanted to get breakfast somewhere before and do some people watching. I got into the centre by 8 and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I quickly learned that the inhabitants don’t rise until the sun has as well…
Nothing was open when I arrived. Dam Square was deserted and I saw maybe two other people walking around. It was cold being the end of January and I was starving after a lackluster dinner the previous night. I read on the store windows that the majority didn’t open until 9. Thus, I was just walking aimlessly around the city for an hour trying to find food. I finally found a bakery open but they didn’t have seating so while I solved my hunger problem, I was still in the cold.
By the time 9:15 came around I was more than ready to go inside the Anne Frank House and be in warmth.
Tip: Book the Anne Frank House in advance!!! There were so many people who showed up and were turned away because it was fully booked. You are allowed to buy tickets at the door at 3:30 pm, but people line up for this and the wait can be more than two hours. You still have to pay for those tickets so save yourself the miserable waiting and just buy them online.
Personally I believe reading the book makes more of an impact than the museum. It is probably the most major tourist attraction in Amsterdam and so it is very crowded, it can’t help it. One of my friends didn’t go because they considered it a tourist trap. I think that has some merit, but I do believe it’s worth it to go. It’s a story that must never be forgotten and the museum is still very moving. It’s just a very personal experience seeing where these families hid for two years, but then you have thirty other people around and bumping into you.
After the Anne Frank House I headed to a cafe to regroup my thoughts and prepare myself for my 12:00 cheese tasting.
For 15 euros you can go to the Reypenaer Cheese store and taste six different types of their cheeses. You also get three different types of wine with it. They don’t skimp on the wine or cheese either. You can take as many slices of the cheese as you want and if you finish your wine they’ll refill it. I used it for my lunch that day and it was fantastic. After you finish you get 15% off the store if you want to buy some cheese to take with you.
Next up was my free walking tour! First of all, it wasn’t truly free. You don’t pay before the tour yes, but your guide will tell you they don’t get paid for doing these tours and at the end you’re supposed to pay what you think it was worth. It’s supposed to make the guide work hard for each tour. You’re not obligated to give them money at the end, but you are guilted into it a bit.
Reserve Your Spot Here They only have dates up for that week so you can’t book too far in advance.
You’ll meet in Dam Square next to the National Monument (picture on the right):
The picture on the left is the Royal Palace and notice how many more people are there at 1:30 compared to my early morning shot of it at the beginning of this post. I realized it was actually really nice being able to see Dam Square without all of the tourists. Later on in the day city centre gets packed and I was glad I got a moment of quiet in it, even though it was so cold!
The tour was about three hours long and you go through the Red Light District and learn about the city’s history as you walk around. I found it to be interesting and the three hours went by quickly. Wear comfortable walking shoes and I’m sure it’d be even easier if you go during a warmer season!
After the tour, ask your guide for dinner suggestions. I decided to just walk around to buy some souvenirs and then try to find something cheap. Kalverstraat is a major street that has a lot of shopping and I discovered a cool store called Bershka. The street is right near Dam Square and you’ll be able to buy all the souvenirs you want.
You can even buy edibles in the souvenir shops (baked goods that contain marijuana if you don’t know). I am not into that personally and thankfully it’s not something shoved in your face. You’ll smell marijuana occasionally when you walk by a coffeeshop (coffeeshops sell marijuana and cafes sell coffee here), but it’s really only around those areas.
It was a long day and as I was trying to find somewhere to grab dinner, the streets were packed and so were the restaurants I looked into. I was just tired and wanted something quiet and low key so I decided to head back to my airbnb’s neighborhood and grab something there. It wasn’t in the city centre, but after spending the whole day there and walking eight miles, I was tired. So I ate and then went to bed quite early.