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During our around the world celebration for my husband’s 40th birthday we met up with a few friends in Amsterdam for a 36 hour celebration.  We met up with a couple we flew in for the event using LifeMiles (oh boy was that process fun) and another friend who was already in Europe for the week.  All things considered, I think we made pretty good use of our limited time in Amsterdam.  While we didn’t actually go in any museums or historical sites on this trip, we did get a decent feel for the city and had a great time in the process.

Here are other posts from this around-the-world-birthday trip:

Introduction to an Around the World Trip on Points

Highlights from Business Class Flights Around the World on Miles (Part 1)

Review of Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht

Things to Do With 36 Hours in Amsterdam

Overview of the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa

Which Park Hyatt Maldives Villa is the Best

Food and Activities at the Park Hyatt Maldives on a Budget

Are the Maldives Worth It?

Review of Singapore and EVA Business Class Flights Home

This post is certainly not a guide to all things Amsterdam, but I thought I would share the things we did and saw during our brief time there in case they can help someone who has a similar trip on their agenda.

Eating in Amsterdam:

I love to experience the world with my taste buds, and Amsterdam did not disappoint in that category.  Some of the food wasn’t quite up my alley (crispy hotdog?), but lots of it was very fresh, local, and delicious.

For an inexpensive meal enjoyed outside by the canal, we loved Cora as it offered great sandwiches and good juices.  I would smile a little bigger if we had something like this where we are from instead of just Subway!

For my husband’s actual birthday dinner night out with friends we went to Restaurant De Kas (make reservations in advance).  This restaurant is set in its own greenhouse where they grow their own vegetables and herbs.  They have one set menu per day based on the daily harvest, supplemented with the best additional ingredients from local suppliers.  The three course fixed price menu is €49.50 at dinner, or a two course menu for €39.00 at lunch, so not inexpensive, but really fantastic.

I ended up not remembering to really take photos of the meal (too much celebrating?), but I remember thinking it was outstanding. However, if you are a pickier eater I would not recommend this place since the menu for the day, is the menu for the day.  I wish I could provide more details than that on the food, but you know, birthday celebration in Amsterdam…

Cheese plate from De Kas

Visiting “Coffeeshops” in Amsterdam:

I could pretend I don’t know what you mean by “coffeeshops” in Amsterdam, but that would not be entirely the case.  While I am far from an expert on the topic, as you likely know, coffeeshops in Amsterdam aren’t like Starbucks here, but instead are the equivalent of bars for pot (though coffeeshops do not sell alcohol, so don’t get confused).  They are everywhere, and you can’t hardly miss them for the smell when you walk by on the street.  Here is a post with 15 of the most “famous” ones, and that will give you far more info that I could on the different shops.  From that list I do remember visiting Dampkring Coffeeshop, where a scene in Ocean’s 12 was filmed, but there are literally hundreds in the city.

Now I won’t say whether this was from personal experience in our group or not, but if you decide to partake in some of the coffeeshop fares, and you aren’t someone who typically does so back home, go slowly.  Very slowly.  Don’t try to look like a pro if you need some help/advice, and don’t eat the whole brownie (or spacecake as it may be).  I repeat, do not eat the whole brownie, or whatever edible item you prefer.   If you do, you might end up feeling more whacked than after taking 15 shots from a “shot girl” in Cancun.  You may feel fine for a while, but an hour or so later may be a totally different thing…and your legs may stop working, you may not be able to say the words you are thinking, and you might think elevators are evil and all winking at you.  Just sayin’.  I’ve read recently that some of the similar shops in Colorado have started issuing some advice/warnings about edibles there, and probably for good reason.   Here is another good article to read if you want to visit coffeeshops in Amsterdam, but are a novice with such things.

Red Light District in Amsterdam:

I’m sure many visitors to Amsterdam will at least walk through the Red Light District, even if you would never consider making a “purchase” there.  I know our group took a stroll through the area out of curiosity, and it was not what I expected.  I thought it would be a street or two with lots of adult oriented businesses, but what it really is are streets with little glass windows with girls (and probably guys) who are selling themselves.  Right behind their little windows are their beds.  Some of them will yell and tap on the glass to get your attention, some even ran after us in the street.  I was expected seedy, but in a Vegas sort of way.  This is seedy with an extra side of seedy.  Certainly don’t take kids there, but I don’t even need to go back there myself.  Once was more than enough for me.

Exploring Amsterdam:

Other than the food, my favorite thing we did in Amsterdam was just walking around and looking in some shops.  We were blessed with amazing weather in late April, and the city is so walkable and bike-friendly.  As you can see, cars aren’t even permitted on many of the streets.

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Had I not been recovering from an ACL injury, we likely would have done a bike tour, as there are several that sounded like a good way to experience the city, but for this trip we just walked around and explored for hours.

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Anne Frank House – get tickets in advance!

 

I loved being in Amsterdam, and while I don’t personally need all of the seedier elements the city has to offer, I loved the food, the shops, the flowers, the people, and the pedestrian friendly design.  We got a taste of Amsterdam (literally) during our 36 hour visit, but I very much want to return and explore much more…or at least go eat another sandwich from Cora!

Amsterdam was a great stopping point on the way to the Maldives, and the perfect city to have a birthday celebration with friends.  If you have been to Amsterdam, what are some of your favorite things to do in the city!

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