I got up very early in the morning of Friday, wondering about the destination of my next trip. Yes, because my boyfriend decided to organize a surprised-trip for me! I just knew that it would be somewhere in Europe. It was such an amazing feeling to be at the airport, staring at the flights board ignoring where you are going to!
We stayed there 4 days which is more than enough to get inside the vibrant atmosphere of the Venice of the North.
Our hotel was the Qbic, located in the south part of the city. After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we had a relaxing stroll towards the center.
Nearing the center, something catches your eye – apart from the thousands of bikes you see parked along the canal bridges or you bump into during the pathway. It’s the leaning houses with a hook on the roof. After a guided boat tour, we found out that they are pendent for a simple reason. In Amsterdam, most of the houses are very narrow and tall. So, when people need to move from one building to another, they can’t move furniture up the stairs. Hence the hook and the leaning houses.
I can promise that the houses are incredibly narrow inside, more than they seem from the exterior.
A must-do in Amsterdam is the canal cruise, which is even better by night! We had the opportunity to visit the city during the Amsterdam light festival, a magical set up of color and light effects created by famous artists with a common theme. This edition has the theme “Existential”: they want to “stimulate visitors to think about what unifies people – and what role light plays in these processes”.
Apart from the popular museums that an art lover cant’t miss, like Van Gogh museum, Rijskmuseum and Reimbrand house, you should add other points on your to-do list.
Start with a church tour. There are a lot of churches worth a visit in Amsterdam. I’d like to mention three of them. The first one is the OudeKerk, meaning the old church. It’s one of the most secret and ancient buildings of the city. Built in 1306, during the medieval time, it represented the fulcrum of the city when Amsterdam was at the beginning of its development.
After the Protestant reform, all the churches were converted to Protestantism. The Oudekerk church is still protestant all these years later, even surrounded by the red-light districts. You need to visit this gothic place and breathe the dark atmosphere of this church-museum and its periodical exhibition. This year’s edition was “Na”, by Christian Boltanski. It’s a display where the guest is invited to experience the absence of the predecessors. There are graves all over the church’s floor. You’ll feel their presence and absence at the same time. The artist scattered several coats throughout the church to remind visitors of the presence of someone and invite them to make a reflection about the life and death of anonymous people. It was a very touching place that you must visit
The second church you should visit is the St. Nicholas Church, the main Catholic point of reference of the city. It’s huge and re ally well decorated. The adjective ‘impressive’ is a euphemism! See for yourself.
After this classic church, you have to visit a very weird one. It’s Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), an exceptionally preserved seventeenth-century house from the Dutch Golden Age. That’s a church in the attic of an ancient house. After the protestant reform, all the churches were converted, but the conscience freedom remained. So, people could profess their religion or have their churches in their own houses. Therefore, a lot of Catholics decided to build their personal church. The Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is an example, but there were many of them. This house-museum is a great experience that you can’t miss!
The most touching place is without a doubt Anne Frank’s house. Walking and being in the same small rooms where that little girl remained hidden for 25 months is such a moving feeling. Also her sister Margot wrote a diary, but nobody has found it. Anyway, this helps us to remember that Anne Frank’s story is just one of many stories.
If you like gardens, you can’t miss the Hortus botanicus, one of the most ancient botanic gardens in the world with more than 6,000 species of plants. I love exploring botanic gardens because I can always discover something new.
If you want to do something for free, go to visit the most ancient wooden house of the town. You’ll find it inside the Begijnhof courtyard. Here, all the houses date back to the 17th century, except one, the wooden house no34 that comes from around 1420. This is the only one that remained after the great fires of 1421 and 1453.
Of course, you need to discover the most transgressive essence of the city: the Red Light District and the coffee shops. Take a photo behind the Bull Dog sign, but after go to a less crowded and less touristic coffee shop!
A day in Amsterdam isn’t complete without trying the authentic pancakes! It seems that pancakes are the Dutch special dish! They are a bit different from the common ones, because they look like a pizza. You can have sweet or savory.
During these four days, I had the opportunity to get to know Amsterdam, a city both well-organized and lively, efficient and energetic and full of things to discover!