Here’s a trip I’ve been SO EXCITED to share the itinerary for! About a week ago, I returned from a magical 10 day trip to Amsterdam with my boyfriend. He went for work, I went for 50-50 work & pleasure reasons. Although I’ve been to Amsterdam before, this was his first time visiting & the first time I’ve been on an International trip that wasn’t planned by my family. Oh, and also my first legit trip out of the country with a boy – so yes, this was a trip full of lot’s of firsts!
10 days in Amsterdam allowed for the both of us to grow closer as a couple, as well as truly test our compatibility. In retrospect, we only had 3 full days where we spent the entire time together because he had to be in the office during the week & had 2 nights of team dinners. This meant I was on my own 75% of the time, but I knew that would be the case ahead of the trip. This was an opportunity to experience solo traveling & exercise my independence in a foreign country (something I didn’t get to do while in college.)
That being said, I HIGHLY recommend Amsterdam as a place to visit alone, if traveling with friends isn’t an option at the time. It’s an incredibly easy city to navigate because English is a mandatory 2nd language there; everyone speaks it! I also felt very safe walking around & comfortable dining alone – more so than in NYC at times, shockingly.
Without further ado, please enjoy this list of places to eat/drink/be merry if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the future!
WHERE WE STAYED
Given my boyfriend works for this company, headquartered in the Netherlands hence why this was a work trip, we got to stay in the original (2) CitizenM locations in Amsterdam. It’s important to keep in mind that CitizenM is unlike most hotels. The concept is designed around the mobile traveler, someone in town for work & needs just the necessities. Every room design is exactly the same – king size bed with a shower/bathroom in the room itself, built like a pod. This means there are no luxury suites and no adjoining rooms – so not the place to stay when traveling with family.
We stayed 5 days at the CitizenM Schiphol Airport location before moving to the 2nd location later in the week. This was our first room design format. As you can see, everything is in the room itself…EVERYTHING. So if you’re planning to share the room with someone, you definitely want to be very comfortable with said-person. Space is tight for a party of two, from shared space to privacy. You’ve been warned.
Every room is one large window wide, with a king-size bed. Storage for clothing is underneath the bed, along with a tiny rack for hanging garments by the door. Perfect for one human for sure!
This was the room design in the CitizenM South location. It’s the older format, separating the shower and toilet into tubes with a much smaller sink & limited storage. They’re slowly starting to renovate all the rooms to be similar to the first format for efficiency reasons. But as you can see by this layout, we got VERY comfortable with each other by the end of our trip (LOL.)
CitizenM is building FAST in the US, with locations popping up across the country. If you think about it, it’s such an ideal situation for the type of customer it attracts. You can do practically everything from the hotel lobby, with multiple tables & conference rooms to work from, as well as a fully-stocked kitchen & bar scene to order meals & enjoy happy hour drinks from.
WHAT WE DID
Technically, this was an activity I did on my own during one of my solo days in the city. I was so lucky to be able to visit during this time of year because of all the baby animals! Seriously couldn’t get enough of the cuteness.
Overall, the zoo is pretty massive for being in a city. There’s a large variety of species and interactive habitats to explore & enjoy. What made me the most impressed was the quality of care and genuine happiness of the animals there.
This was a pretty unique experience provided how mysterious Banksy is & how protective he is about his work. We got to see a collection of some of his most known work, including “Laugh Now”, “Girl With Balloon”, & “Soup Can.”
Rented Bikes & Explored the Countryside
Hands-down the BEST part of our trip! Sure you can rent bikes and roam the city streets, but you don’t get to appreciate the sights as much. You’re too focused trying not to get run over by locals on bike or avoiding clueless tourists walking in the bike lanes. If you really want a taste of the Netherlands, bike outside the city to the countryside!
We biked 9 miles north to the historic city of Monnickendam, passing through small towns, farms, and beautiful water views. I’ve truly never seen such beauty. Best part: the bike path is 95% flat and very quiet, with the occasional cyclist passing by.
We rented our bikes from Discount Bike Rental – reserve in advance, as bikes aren’t guaranteed available the day of without notice. We had the option of getting handbrake bikes with gears, making it much easier to get across bridges and hills (note: most bikes there are pedal brake.)
Roamed the Neighborhood of Jordaan
On our first day, we explored the back streets of this beautiful neighborhood to escape the chaos of tourism. We were awestruck of the beauty of these buildings, noting which ones we’d “live in” should we hypothetically decide to live there.
Fun Fact #1: Most buildings have large hooks up towards the pitched roof; these are for lifting furniture up from the street and through the large windows. The reason for this is because the buildings are purposely narrow due to taxation back in the day. It’s unlikely large furniture will fit through the doorways or up the stairwells.
Fun Fact #2: You’ll see that most of the buildings are slanted, from slightly to the extreme. This is due to the swamp soil the foundations of these buildings were built on.
Private Canal Tour
Okay, this might be tied with renting bikes as the BEST thing we did while in Amsterdam. I remember doing this with my parents a few years back & wanted my boyfriend to have the same experience this time. You truly get a greater sense of appreciation and admiration of the city from a canal point of view.
We booked a 2-hour private canal tour, complete with snacks & open bar, with Pure Boats. HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing a private tour over a group, especially if you want to learn the history of the city & ask the questions important to you. The group canal tours we saw looked like packed cattle, full of loud, drunk humans. Unless that’s your speed, I suggest going private to truly enjoy the experience.
*If booking with Pure Boats, you have a variety of ways to customize your experience that works best for you/your group. We toured the canals with Captain Coen (he was amazing!) on the Schollevaar – a fully restored electric salon cruiser from 1912.
If you’re going to do a museum, then definitely check out the Rijks. Most museums sell out MONTHS in advance (i.e. Anne Frank, Van Gogh) but you’re guaranteed to get a ticket to the Rijks day of visiting. There are a few Rembrandt & Van Gogh paintings here as well, including the famous Self Portrait.
WHERE WE DINED
Had a delicious brunch here after visiting the museums. This place is popular so definitely make a reservation in advance. Highly suggest getting the Eggs Forentine (poached eggs with spinach & hollandaise) & the Goat Cheese Baguette (with walnuts & honey.)
Kudos to my man for finding this delish restaurant after hearing how much I was craving French cuisine. This place is unique in the sense that you can’t find a menu online, because it’s SET & changes daily. For instance, we dined on an evening that was serving duck – so our starter and entree plates were pre-determined incorporating two ways to serve duck. I don’t recommend dining here if you’re a picky eater or have too many restrictions but if you’re an adventurous eater, you’ll love this concept!
Aside from the duck, they also served seasonal local oysters which we of course ordered as well. SO DELISH – I’m so happy I love them now!
We stopped here for a quick dinner after a long work day. It definitely satisfied our sandwich & burger cravings. Great variety of local beers on tap & seemed to be the place to meet up with friends, according to the amount of people that came in throughout the evening.
Another shoutout to my man for finding this unique dining establishment too! Similar to Café de Klepel, the menu changes daily but offers a few more plates to pick from. However, you need to decide from the recited list given to you by the waiter – no paper menus here! I instantly went for the Broccoli Soup & Indonesian Curry Chicken plate, which was OUT OF THIS WORLD!
The inside is tiny & they don’t take reservations, but it’s definitely worth waiting it out at the tiny bar in the back.
Recommended by our friends who went here on their honeymoon, we decided to celebrate my early birthday dinner here. Translated to “Restaurant of the Five Flies,” this dutch establishment is made up of the merging of 5 homes, resulting in several dining chambers connected by winding hallways filled with historic architecture and walls covered in gold plated leather from the 17th and 19th Century. There’s even a room with 4 original etchings of Rembrandt!
Highly recommend reserving for a romantic dinner, as there are plenty of cozy corners to be tucked away in.
You’ll only get to experience this incredible farm-to-table dining if you find yourself in Monnickendam. We ate here after our 9 mile bike ride to the adorable fishing town its located in. We ordered homemade lemonade and indulged in the freshest, and easily the healthiest version of an Italian sandwich. Still dreaming about how delicious it was.
Another fab recommendation from a friend we had to try! Loved it so much that I went back a second time during one of my solo city days. Definitely had the best breakfast menu & fantastic coffee. You can reserve tables during the week only, not weekends.
I remember going to this Indonesian Restaurant with my family & how amazing the food was! All the more reason I wanted to go back. My man was hesitant about it (likes spicy food but not crazy about it like I am) but was pleasantly surprised with how much he liked the (2) chicken dishes we split. Definitely make a reservation in advance, this place is packed almost every night!
WHERE WE DRANK
A great spot to grab a nightcap on the water. We watched all the boats pass by and definitely enjoyed the people watching that came with them.
The first bar we visited on our trip! Located just outside the areas of tourism chaos, so it’s perfect for anyone looking for a quiet, local escape. Ps, it’s known as the infamous lesbian bar in Amsterdam!
One of our favorite finds to enjoy a beer while sitting outside & people watching. I came here by myself before meeting for dinner and loved it so much that I made my man come back with me afterward!
There are a few beer halls in central Amsterdam, but we really enjoyed this one – especially after our total 18-mile bike ride! Lots of local beers to choose from and a great food menu.
I didn’t get a chance to photograph this bar scene because it was super late at night & so dark inside. But given this was our only true night out, we definitely had the BEST TIME here! There’s live music daily & we even got to experience the most enthusiastic evening of karaoke ever! The band played the music selected by the singer, and the lyrics were in a large binder. Very old school and VERY fun!