Day 5 (Cont’d)
After a lovely, speedy, scenic trip by train from Brussels to Amsterdam, we emerged from Central Station to find a place to get public transit tickets. Joe immediately broke his principled stance re: paying to pee, and used a few euros to use the restroom while I bought us two 92-hr transit passes (good for trams, ferries and buses). We decided to hold off on activating them, even though it was drizzling out, and walked to our AirBnB instead. We wound up going right through the Red Light District (though, I didn’t actually see any red lights, but it was also mid-afternoon). There were a lot of sex museums, sex shops, strip clubs, etc. But really, it took me a while to realize it. If you aren’t paying attention to the storefronts, you’d just notice the canal, cobblestones, and lovely architecture! Joe must have been well-hydrated from the train ride, because he had to stop and pay to pee again. We bought macarons to snack on as we walked.
We easily made it to our beautiful AirBnB, which had an enclosed garden patio outside of the bedroom. We were pretty impressed!!! It wasn’t in the City Centre, but it was on the periphery, and it was only a few minutes walk from a Tram #3 stop. We wound up FREQUENT users of this tram, since it encircled the City Centre and made it very easy to get anywhere we wanted.
After an incredible, in-depth tutorial on Amsterdam from our host, involving a thick binder full of info about the AirBnB itself and the city, we had a good rest. We took some time to catch up with folks back home, and search for a GF/Veg-friendly restaurant nearby. We found out about a pizza place called Mastino V and decided to try it out. We hopped on Tram #3 and found it easily on Bilderdijkstraat. Let me just say, it was so good, we came back again before we left Amsterdam. I think we could’ve eaten there every day…
The day started late after a good lie-in in our lovely AirBnB. After figuring out how to get to a market that our host recommended, we made our way a few steps up the street to Bagels n’ Beans for brunch. This was a Monday morning, so as we sat down on the patio to eat, we also got to watch all of the well-dressed Dutch ride their bicycles to work. It was incredible to us how pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, rollerblades, trams, buses AND cars all navigated intersections seamlessly. Halifax could learn a lot!
Bagels & Beans was the perfect brunch spot for newbies to Amsterdam with “special diets”. They easily accommodated us with gluten-free options for me, and vegetarian options for Joe. My plate was a mix of sweet and savoury, with fresh cream cheese, salmon and cucumber for my bagel, and a yogurt/banana/walnut parfait with some chocolate sprinkles on the side. Joe ordered the “Goodmorning Breakfast” with likely the healthiest-sounding bagel option. We really loved the presentation of the toppings, and I have been searching for those tiny condiment dishes ever since! 😛
After brunch, we hopped on Tram #3 to Norderkerk Market. Even though it was near closing time, there was still tons going on! My favourite part was just the walk there, where we saw a HERON, just chillin’ on top of a parked car. He was completely unfazed by us, even when I stopped to take photos. He looked like he was waiting for someone, to be honest…
At the market, there were stalls upon stalls of clothing, antiques, food, and random bits n’ bobs. I found some Dutch-themed painted knobs that I bought. One of which I immediately installed on my desk when we returned home! After exploring the market, we continued on strolling, and found a neat café to stop in for a caffeine and snack fix. The café – De Koffieschenkerij – was located inside a 13th century church (De Oude Kerk aka the old church) and had very cool furnishings! We both enjoyed poking around and taking photos upstairs.
From here we just strolled until dinnertime, soaking up the beautiful sights of the city. We tried to go to Anne Frank’s house along the way, but found out you need to reserve your ticket ahead of time (as in, weeks ahead). That was surprising considering we were there during the shoulder season, not peak tourist season… so I was a bit disappointed, but what can you do! I have no doubt we’ll be back anyway. We loved Amsterdam too much to never return.
After a while more of strolling and a bit of shopping, we got some basic groceries for the next couple of days’ worth of breakfasts and evening snacks, before heading back to relax and figure out dinner. After a bit of research, Joe suggested a place called SLA (also along the Tram #3 route!), so off we went!
SLA treated us very well, with very creative AND filling vegetarian/GF salads and soups. Joe was in love, and was happy to have a big, healthy meal. The man loves salad! We walked home from there, taking in more of Amsterdam’s gorgeous scenes after a stroll through Vondelpark. We even saw another heron! The same, I couldn’t say. But how odd to see so many herons! The only chance we have to see herons at home is to go out canoeing in the wilderness! We were entranced by all of the beautiful restaurant terraces and private balconies, filled with people having big dinner parties or intimate conversations over drinks. What a truly beautiful city!
Breakfast in the garden was a lovely way to start the day, before hopping on the tram to Central Station to catch the ferry to Buiksloterweg. It was quite impressive how many bicycles could cram onto a ferry, and how efficiently the 2-minute ferry ride transported thousands of commuters! We got caffeinated (and orange juice’d) at Coffee Virus, where Joe had an in-depth conversation with the staff about bean sources and brewing options. From there, we walked a short way to Amsterdam Bike Company to get a couple of rental bikes for the day. The folks there were SO nice and helpful, and even though it was cash-only, they let us leave the remaining euros we had and my driver’s license as collateral. We even got excellent directions to Marken, which were spot-on!
The leisurely 20 km ride took us 2h30m, including a stop for a picnic of sandwiches, fruit and chips. The villages along the way were adorable and tempting, and Marken itself was pretty charming! We had some fancy ice cream before locking up our bikes and hopping on the ferry to Volendam (or, as Joe referred to it, Voldemort). By the time we arrived in Volendam, I may or may not have had a case of heat exhaustion/dehydration. So I was less than peppy about walking in the sun to the giant waterslide that Joe spotted along the shore. I got a good video of him sliding happily into the sea, but I didn’t go in myself. As grumpy as I already was, I did not want to be soggy as well! 😛
We explored Volendam a bit more before getting back on the ferry. Joe ensured that I drank lots of water before our bike back, since he was worried about potential heat exhaustion. I guess I wasn’t doing too bad though, since I sped ahead and got us back in 1h20m! Joe panted, faaaar behind me, and asked me several times if I’d ever done a triathlon (answer: no), and insisting that I should. Poor Joe. We managed to get some cash exchanged in Central Station, before ferrying back again to pay the rest of our bill and returning our bikes before they closed for the day at 6pm.
We rested for a while at home before dressing up and heading out to a dinner reservation at Haesje Claes (a traditional Dutch restaurant) for 8pm. We really were not feeling well (heat, dehydration) but went anyway, in order to try some traditional Dutch fare. The towering cheese plate alone would have filled us up (thankfully we could only handle a few pieces) and the pea soup was THE BEST I’d ever had. We probably should have stopped there. The mains were HUGE. Joe did eat all of his (no meat, wise choice). Mine was literally mashed potatoes and gravy, with a giant meatball, sausage AND bacon on top. With the new sunburn/dehydration/possible heat exhaustion, I very nearly puked it all up. I may have visited the bathroom twice in quite rapid succession. Don’t worry, all was well. But I did need an extraordinary amount of water to keep myself upright.
We finished the evening with a walk home along canals in the cool air, and slept VERY well!
Our last full day started with a HUGE gut-busting laugh for me, as Joe plonked himself down quickly on the wooden patio chair for another breakfast in the garden, and let out the most hilarious expression (auditory AND facial) of pure pain. After the prior day’s 40K bike excursion… his butt was officially broken.
I laughed my head off, for several minutes, as he howled and hopped around. It is still one of my favourite trip memories.
Even so, I did take it easy on Joe finally. We started the day trying the coffee at Lot Sixty One, strolling lazily for a bit, and then figured out the train/bus route to Weesp. I had done some research, and apparently Weesp had THE. BEST. ICE CREAM in the ENTIRE country. So that was the mission.
As it turns out, Weesp is an adorable little canal town, with locks and an old fort. We did find the ice cream at Nelis’ IJssalon, and … it was pretty intense! There were a LOT of options! We were pretty pleased with the results. 🙂
We enjoyed exploring along the canal in Weesp, before finding our way back to Central Station in Amsterdam once again. From there we used a coupon from our AirBnB hosts’ binder and bought tickets for a Canal Tour through Amsterdam. it was a bit overcast, and perfect for photos!
Of course, before we left Amsterdam, we had to return to our favourite restaurant, Mastino V, to try something more adventurous. Again, we were bowled over by the amazing, fluffy, doughy GF pizza crust AND the vegan cheese! I could not believe how delicious it was (I’m a cheese-lover… so this was a big deal for me to admit!)
We walked home for the last time, again taking in the cool night air and beautifully lit canals. I had more energy than I should have had, and quietly packed everything up while Joe passed out in bed after a much-needed soak in the bath.
Due to the “Magic Elves” that packed the night before, Joe woke up ECSTATIC that he did not have to do anything. We had a bite to eat, using up the last of our groceries, and headed out for the airport. Unfortunately, Joe couldn’t find his transit pass (I probably packed it), but we managed to easily find a vending machine in one of the subway stations and got a cheap one-trip ticket. Phew!
We were bummed to be leaving Amsterdam, as we had fallen quite in love with it, but we were also pretty excited to be on our way to Prague!
- Accommodations: $558.63
- AirBnB (garden room in the beautiful Weesperzijde neighbourhood beside the lovely Amstel River – worth every damn penny!) for 4 nights
- Food/Coffee/Other: $489.26
- We 110% recommend Bagels & Beans, Mastino V and SLA
(all DELICIOUS and all GF and vegetarian-friendly!)
- We 110% recommend Bagels & Beans, Mastino V and SLA
- Transport: $180.42
- Bike rental (24-hr): €37.69 for two bikes (21% tax and €6 insurance inc.)
- Two 96-hr transit passes: $70.49
- Ferry (2 return tickets) between Marken and Volendam: $39.20
- Other transit ticket for unknown reason (likely that bus to Weesp was not included in city transit pass): $8.68
- One-way transit ticket (Joe lost his 96-hr pass on last morning :P): $4.65
- Entertainment/Attractions: $56.24
- Canal Tour (I think we had a coupon from our AirBnB host)
- Other purchases (souvenirs, etc): $176.44
- Includes a bath bomb from LUSH that Joe insisted on after the killer bike ride 😛
Approximate total for 4 days in/around Amsterdam: $1284.55 (not including souvenirs/other purchases) out of trip total of ~$9200
- $642.28 per person
- $321.14 per day
- $160.57 per person per day
Again, if we ignore the AirBnB, since it was booked and paid for in 2017, we spent $725.92 (out of ~$5200 total) while actually there.
We saved big in Amsterdam by just using public transit and renting bicycles. We didn’t rent a car or take any other transportation not covered by our transit passes (no taxis, no Uber).
We also saved money by getting basic groceries (e.g. fruit, yogurt, bread (GF croissants!), cheese, milk, eggs) at the Marqt grocery store on our second day there, and making breakfast two of the mornings. That way we headed out to explore with full bellies. When we did hit up cafés, we weren’t tempted by the pricey pastries and other treats.
While we could have spent money on museums (there are a LOT) or other attractions (*cough* Red Light District *cough*), we were actually 100% entertained just by walking around, looking at the architecture, ogling the bridges and canals, and checking out what was down adorable, narrow streets. Amsterdam is so beautiful, it IS the attraction! Perhaps this only works though if you’re either alone, or on your honeymoon, and not looking to take part in the more famous tourist attractions of the city. One day, if we’re able to return with our kids, we would definitely give ourselves a lot more time in the city, and we would probably spend more money on attractions and museums, since there are a lot of things to see! Here’s hoping we can actually make that happen someday. 🙂