I finally made it to Amsterdam! It was a pretty quick trip, but we’ve managed to cover quite a few places outside of the main city. Amsterdam itself is very vibrant in culture and loads of things to do, but it lacks the fresh air and beauty of the Netherlands.
Oh, but one thing I have to give is – the markets and the street food! I’d never thought I’d love herring sandwich so much. And they have surprisingly yummy Vietnamese street food around too – which do not originate from Vietnam itself, but rather was sort of adapted by the Vietnamese who migrated to the Netherlands. So yes, I was in Albert Cuyp Market and was smitten by a handsome Vietnamese guy serving loempia (fried spring roll), who’s a Vietnamese Dutch. I’m so going back to his stall again during my next trip!
However, Amsterdam is pretty much textbook tourist destination with the predictable touristy things to do (Vincent Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank house, etc). None which I did, saving these things for my second upcoming trip there in April 2018. I did visit the Red Light District though, but it was late Fall when I visited and so there wasn’t too much to see (prostitutes hate being naked in the cold, I presume).
In this post, I would like to focus on the outskirts of Amsterdam and the other famous Netherlands tourist spots that you must absolutely go to.
The little Venice of the Netherlands! You literally go around the entire village of Giethoorn on foot, or by boats and they have this tiny network of canals all over. You can’t drive in the village, and cycling is pretty much hard to do with the number of people parading around on the narrow pathways. From Amsterdam, we took a 2-hour train ride followed by a 15 minute bus ride to the outskirts of the village. You would need to walk in from the main road, and you will see the start of the canal, where one can purchase a canal tour for €7 per person (recommended!) You even get coffee and tea served onboard.
After the tour, tourists can walk around the village on foot, take photos, sit in a cafe or buy handmade items from shops. Most of the houses there are owned by actual villagers, so try not to be like those ignorant China tourists – who actually opened the gate and walked into people’s gardens for photo ops! Photos are only ok from outside the gates, you’ll still get a nice view of the houses. There’s a famous house too that looks like a dog, that’s where most of the tourists congregate.
2. LEIDEN CITY
After 2 nights in Amsterdam, we actually moved to this other city for another 3 nights. If you, like me, found Amsterdam to be too congested, dusty and not-so-clean, you will love Leiden City. It is more like a town, and they have cleaner-looking canals, a lot of greens and very nice parks. In terms of food, you won’t find too much variety as compared to Amsterdam but we enjoyed a very good Italian place, and a pretty good Indonesian restaurant too.
It could be just me, but I find the folks here to be much friendlier too as compared to the main city folks.
3. ROTTERDAM – KINDERDIJK
To be honest, we didn’t have much time in Rotterdam So I couldn’t really tell you much about the city, other than the fact that it is beautiful. We passed through parts of the city briefly on the way to the Waterbus port, because we were headed to Kinderdijk. This is where the 100-year old windmills are, over 20 of them, still functioning and standing strong after more than a century. From Rotterdam Central Station, you can take a tram to the Waterbus port. Be sure to catch the right one as there are a few other routes. After a 20 minute ride, you will be taken to another port where you will need to pay a ticket for a small boat – this boat has limited seats and you may be one of the many standing.
The place is very windy, as you can imagine, so be prepared to wear a windbreaker or something thicker if you’re going in colder months. It’s a very, very long walk if you were to go along the entire stretch to see all the windmills. There are bicycles for hire, so it would save you a lot of time. While you’re there, be mindful of both the boat and Waterbus schedule as they have long intervals in between and you wouldn’t want to waste too much time waiting around.
I think this could be one of my favorite places to visit! This is a little university town and I love how the canals are actually surrounded by so many shops and restaurants, you can even dine at the canal level – and it is so clean. Some people even live by the canals, so it’s really quaint to see tiny little doors and sneak peeks into people’s homes along the canal.
We rented a pedal boat and went around part of the canal – it’s tiring because you would need to pedal as you go along, avoid other boats (some much bigger than ours) and it’s super hard to control in terms of direction. However, one of my favorite thing about this day was that the sun was out and it wasn’t as cold as most other days. Street dancers were also about and florists line their stalls overlooking the canal. I believe that there are more things to explore around the town, if only we had more time! One of the places I would love to go back to again one day.
5. THE HAGUE
This is one of the more relaxing places to visit, with street art hidden in various nooks. We had another round of delicious herring sandwiches here (beware of sandwich stealing seagulls – my aunt had half of hers stolen right off her plate) and had relaxing walks around the city. There’s a nice mix of old and new here, a little bit of shopping but not much variety in terms of food. We were very intrigued by a supermarket (named MARKT) which does not accept any cash payment, only card. It’s probably the first time I ever had to take my credit card out to swipe for a bottle of juice.
BONUS: AMSTERDAM MARKETS
As a bonus, I would like to talk a bit about the markets in Amsterdam, which I absolutely love. I visited 2 of the more famous ones: Waterlooplein Market which had a lot of vintage, home decor and antique items on sale. It’s a good place to get your marijuana fix too. My mom managed to procure a very unique metal decor of a metal fisherman, which balances on a separate metal stand, wielding his line and hook on the other end.
Albert Cuyp Market is definitely a top favorite seeing as this was where I had my first taste of herring sandwich, and also the Vietnamese loempia. You can also buy the original Stroopwaffles fresh here and buy some home too in attractive metal tins. In terms of shopping, there are very pricey items and a lot of cheap items that no one usually buys. If you live in an apartment, you’d want to check out the fresh produce at the end of the market.
This wraps up my places to visit outside of Amsterdam. Other places I hope to visit during my next trip are Alkmaar, Gouda and more of Rotterdam. Do you have any favorites not listed here? Do tell me about them in the comments below.