I hadn’t been to Amsterdam since my post college graduation Euro-railing days. I remember flea markets, cheese, canals and a youth hostel. But, I had to pick a European destination on the Air Iceland route and the flight dates and times worked seamlessly with my itinerary. Epiphany: Amsterdam is what Paris used to be pre-Euro nose dive/Francois Hollande econo-nightmare. Translation? Vibrant, artsy, fashion-forward and above all, happy!
A Gouda Paradise A Canal in the Nine Streets
We stayed in the Nine Streets neighborhood, a shopper’s paradise tucked into a maze of canals and super narrow bridges within walking distance to all of the museums. The Dutch have imposed a law in this district: no chain stores. The result is, again, what Paris used to be: a super local series of independent, shops, art galleries and boites that exude a singular Dutch style. Within moments, I fell in love with au courant designer Tony Cohen and profited from the end of summer sale. My kids only tolerated my shopping because they knew that there would be a reward. Amsterdam is known for Pannekoek, fluffy mini pancakes dusted in powdered sugar. We used these light-as-air treats as bribery material every time I needed a fashion pick-me-up.
Nemo Science Center
WHAT TO DO
Amsterdam is made for wandering. I planned a cultural activity per day and we spent the rest of the time meandering through the canals and side streets enjoying the architecture. A canal cruise is the perfect way for families to get their fill of the city’s vast history. We took the blue boat tour which, at 75 minutes, is the perfect amount of time. Boats are small and pleasant equipped with headphones so guests can listen to the guided schpiel or tune out and enjoy the scenery. Art lovers are ecstatic over the re-opening of the famed Rijksmuseum. Hours can be spent exploring the furniture, decorative objects and bevy of Dutch and international masters. To perk up the kids, head outside to the Museum Gardens where fourteen massive Alexander Calder stabiles and mobiles are displayed surrounding an interactive fountain that invites kids (and adults) to run in and out of the water stream. The groovy Renzo Piano designed Nemo Museum is paradise for pint sized science lovers. While my kids enjoyed four floors of hands on science exhibits, I chilled out on the rooftop “beach” that proffered a killer view of the city.
Nemo Science Center, Fountains at Rijksmuseum
The Dutch are up front about the atrocities that befell the Jews in World War II. It is mentioned often on tours and numerous Holocaust memorials are peppered throughout the city. For a real feel of Nazi occupied Amsterdam, we visited the Resistance Museum. Exhibits document the political upheaval of 1940-1945 with authentic household artifacts, propaganda posters, documents and behind-the-wall hiding spots which echo the chilling feel of the period. There is a special exhibit for kids which showcases the painful reality inflicted upon Jewish children. We were all emotional. But, reality was reality and I felt this museum was important to visit.
The food in Amsterdam was excellent; honest, innovative and fabulously fresh. Personally, I love fish for breakfast. Caffeine + pure protein =sightseeing energy. Of course, the coffee shops in Amsterdam are world famous. I avoided the ones with grassy offerings on this trip. But, we did indulge in the café culture. Like Paris. Amsterdam has outdoor cafes in the town squares and in front of the canals where people have a coffee or a beer and simply luxuriate in the moment. If you are in the mood for a trendy meal ( I always am), chic restos are plentiful. We loved the Lion Rouge and Café Daalder, an adventurous gastropub. After dinner each night, we strolled back to the hotel basking in the golden Dutch sunset. Sublime.