Enjoying the “Ins” of the City
Biking to Marken on our first full day in Amsterdam helped relieve our initial Culture Shock. Then, a canoe trip with Wetlands Safari on day two put us in our comfort zone- on the water. We spent two days enjoying the “outs” of the city, but with still two more days, we needed to face the fears we encountered on our arrival to Amsterdam and embrace the “ins” of the historic city…
And the only way to do that is by bike.
I can equate biking in Amsterdam to driving in New York City; constantly a thrill and not for the faint of heart. Yes, there are bike lanes, but with more than 881,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, they sure can get crowded! The trick we learned is to keep with the flow. We missed a number of turns and had to back track often but eventually, Jarrett and I became biking pros in Amsterdam.
With Volkshotel being approximately 2.5 miles from the center city, our bikes were our life line to all of our favorite stops of Amsterdam. We were lucky enough to get the last two rentals that had gears because with all the canals interlacing the winding streets, it was near essential to be able to adjust the gears and climb the slight inclines and never lose pace. We embraced this culture and in doing so that initial shock and fear of the big, unknown city faded.
Our eyes were opened to the beauty of Amsterdam.
Our Favorites in Amsterdam:
1. The Floating Flower Market
The floating flower market is iconic with Amsterdam; a series of barges set on a canal holding all the beautiful flowers of the country. It was a little crowded for our taste, but just meandering through the shops was definitely a highlight of our trip. Though the tulips had already reached their peak, the Flower Market was filled with bulbs and other souvenirs to remember the country.
2. The Fault in Our Stars Bench
I was a latecomer to reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green but once I finished it, I couldn’t wait to see the movie, which I forced Jarrett to watch with me. It was one of those incredibly sad, cry your eyes out movies, but it brought us closer as we discovered through Hazel and Gus’ story that life is too short and everyday is worth living. So when Amsterdam was added to our itinerary, we embraced the color orange and I sought out filming sites, one of which was the iconic bench. Though the original bench was stolen a few years ago, it has since been replaced and is covered with locks and words symbolizing love and hope. We found it at a quiet time of the afternoon and just sat and watched the world go by feeling grateful for the life we have together. It wasn’t until other fans arrived that we had to share our little sanctuary but it will remain one of my favorite spots of Amsterdam.
Vondelpark quickly became one of my favorite parks. I still to this day dream of returning to just sit and watch world go by. It is a refuge for so many Dutch locals and tourists alike, with green space and water features throughout. And of course what better way to explore all of Vondelpark than by bike. Devote at least an hour to just biking the park, then pick your favorite spot and set up post with a picnic lunch and just relax. Vondelpark radiates this quintessential European mentality so embrace it.
4. De Bierkoning
As the rain began to pick up during one of our bikes rides through the city, we found refuge inside the bottle shop of De Bierkoning. Sitting diagonal from the Palace, De Bierkoning is the perfect stop to pick up a tasty brew from some of the most renowned European breweries but with SO many choices, be sure to give yourself enough time to peruse their full selection.
5. Oedipus Brewing
This was a planned beer stop and though it technically was “out” of the city, it was still within walking distance. We had our bikes but chose to leave them at Centraal Station as we boarded the free ferry across to Nord Amsterdam. After about a fifteen minute walk, and we felt as if we were back in the U.S. as Oedipus Brewing emerged before us amidst warehouses and shipping ports. We enjoyed the summer weather sipping delicious craft beer. Check out our full adventure at Oedipus Brewing here.
6. Anne Frank House
Leading up to our trip to Amsterdam, I knew I needed to book tickets to the Anne Frank house. I religiously checked online to see when the window would open for our time frame, but then the window opened and I was consumed with work and missed it! You would be amazed at how fast the online tickets sell out. So a tip to all travelers, book tickets online EARLY! We did bike over to the house and the line was already wrapped around the block by 8 a.m., so we chose to just ride by the house and then parked and took in the view from across the canal. Though I was unable to feel the presence of the Frank family within its’ walls, I felt Anne’s words whisper across the wind… “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
7. The Begijnhof
With bikes still locked at the flower market, we made our way by foot down Kalverstraat, a well-known foot-passenger only shopping street, so unsurprisingly, it was packed! However, by following my pre-programmed Google Maps, we located the entrance to the Begijnhof and that face-paced, consumer-drive world melted away… We were in a place of serenity, as the women who had founded this settlement intended. We snapped a few photos (against their policies, mind you), before quickly tucking our cameras away and enjoying the peace and quiet of the courtyard.
8. Biking the City
The best part of the city was by far our method of transportation. Once we became adapted to the streets and gained a sense of direction, we just rode freely like two kids. This was the best way to take in all of Amsterdam’s beauty. Through enjoying our beloved hobby of biking, we came to love the city we once feared. Along cobbled streets, over bridges, and beneath the shade of history, we learned of Amsterdam the Amsterdam way- by bike.