Our recent family trip to Amsterdam in mid-August was the perfect way to enjoy the end of summer as well as celebrate our anniversary and Martin’s birthday. Initially, we planned the trip around the possibility of seeing Jason Isbell in concert in Utrecht but, though the tickets were really inexpensive, a Wednesday night concert seemed like it might be a difficult date to manage considering our work schedules. The tickets were so cheap though (EUR 15) that we bought tickets just in case. In the end, it turned out to be the best motivator to actually plan a short trip. Martin strives to visit a new country each year and, though he has technically been to Amsterdam’s airport before, this trip also crossed off his new country list for 2016.
day one // Amsterdam
We arrived early on a Monday morning and, after the short train trip to the central station, we walked to our hotel, The Hoxton, to drop-off our luggage. While we waited for our room to be ready, we headed a few blocks away for a second breakfast and some coffee. Amsterdam may be known for its “coffeeshop cafes”/marijuana purveyors, but we were only on the lookout for really good lattes. Our first stop was Screaming Beans, where we enjoyed some granola and cappuccini while Reese took a little power nap. By the time we finished and took a short browse around some of the 9 Streets shopping district area all around us and passed by the Westerkerk church, our room was ready.
Following a little hotel room refresh and playtime for Reese, we were off to explore again along the canals. Our first stop was at Cutthroat Barber & Coffee, where Martin got a haircut, Reese took another nap, and I enjoyed an iced chai. Then, we wandered quickly through the Red Light district to get to Amsterdam’s Old Church (The Oude Kerk). The church is Amsterdam’s oldest building, ca. 1300, and is now a museum with rotating exhibitions in the wings. We enjoyed the mix of contemporary art and historic wooden framed architecture, as well as the beautiful light streaming through the windows.
After this, we headed over to the Van Gogh Museum for the rest of the afternoon. We ate some snacks from Blushing on the steps outside the museum before getting into the long ticket line, only to then be taken straight out of the line to the ticket office because of Reese. I guess traveling with a baby does have certain perks. (Another American family with a baby was in line near us and the husband remarked to his wife, “Well, now at least we benefit from your 30+ hours of labor.”) The museum was even more fascinating than I remembered and we spent a few hours exploring with our audio guide.
On the way back to dinner, we walked through the beautiful and bustling Vondelpark. I wish Zurich had a park with so many nice grassy spots and trees. It really made me want to picnic and relax on the grass with a good book. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious early Indonesian dinner at Sampurna before returning to the hotel to relax and read the rest of the evening.
day two // Amsterdam
The next morning started a littler slower with breakfast at Bakers & Roaster (De Pijp), a delicious New Zealand-style breakfast cafe. Considering the relatively small variety of brunch places in Zurich, it was nice to have a delicious meal to start the day. I had corn fritters with poached eggs, beetroot relish, and toast. Following breakfast, we were back to the museum quarter to spend the morning at the Rijks Museum. Since I was last in Amsterdam, the museum has been completely redone and it is impressive. Thanks to free wifi throughout the museum, we just downloaded the free museum app and followed the tour and selected audio guide. In addition to the beautiful, larger-than-life Rembrandt wedding portraits newly on display, my favorites were some of the pastoral scenes as well a painting of a historical Amsterdam book dealer’s shop from 1820 (see the gallery below).
Following the museum, we walked out Amsterdam’s Food Hall for an amazing lunch. There were so many delicious-looking stalls to choose from that it was hard to decide, but in the end we chose Vietnamese banh mi.
At day’s end, we walked along the canals out of central Amsterdam for dinner at Tapzuid Beers & Bites, a beer bar with good burgers and fries (also featured in the NYT’s 36 Hours in Amsterdam). It was nice to see even more residential areas and quiet canals with friends rowing and taking early evening boat rides. That is one thing I like about Amsterdam, so many nice residential areas, trees, and nice waterways even when you are still in the city.
day three // Utrecht
We started our third day on the hunt for Dutch pancakes but since the lines were too long we decided on an apple turnover from Cafe Papeneiland followed by amazing coffee at Bocca Coffee. Primarily a bean roastery, Bocca now has one cafe location that is well worth the visit. We enjoyed our coffee and homemade granola bar treat so much that we returned the next day and even brought some beans home as gifts. The smooth Panama and intense Ethiopia roasts were our favorites.
Around noon, we took the train to Utrecht to meet some of Martin’s acquaintances from world of sports publishing. They kindly showed us around Utrecht’s cathedral, the Dom Church and took us on the Dom Under tour, exploring the church’s archaeological ruins and history underneath the cathedral which has a history dating back to the Romans. After drinks in the Dom Square, we wandered around town and the quiet canals a bit more before a tasty pizza dinner at Bastacosi. Reese enjoyed her first bites of pizza before we walked back to the Tivoli Vredenburg concert hall for the concert.
The concert itself was packed. We received a lot of strange looks as we entered the hall, but after checking the stroller and explaining that we had noise-cancelling headphones for Reese, we were able to enter and find seats. Reese was busy making friends before the music started, but once it did her headphones were on and as long we were standing and swaying, she was too busy looking around to bother trying to take them off. After about 20 minutes she fell into a dead sleep and was the perfect angel the rest of the evening. Both Martin and I really enjoyed the concert and now, every time I hear Jason Isbell, I remember this fun night and our trip.
day four // Amsterdam
Our last morning we ate breakfast at the hotel before heading out for a last wander along the canals for shopping and coffee. We stopped by Waterstones, the English bookshop, and another one of my fave Scandi shops, & Other Stories. We also made time to pick up some out of this world chocolate cookies from Van Stapele Koekmakerij to take home before heading off to the airport.
While Amsterdam isn’t a city that has the returning draw of London, at least for me, we still have some sights to see that we didn’t fit in this time. We would like to spend more time exploring Amsterdam North, get out on the water, try more Indonesian food, and visit a few more museums, including the Anne Frank House. This recent NYT article has some ideas for Amsterdam North, in particular, to keep in mind.
- stay // Hoxton Hotel – We loved our stay at this centrally, located, newer hotel. We splurged on a canal view room that was also a bit bigger for Reese’s crib, which was provided by the hotel. The Hoxton also offers complimentary breakfast bags with bananas, yogurt, and granola.
- eat & drink // Screaming Beans, Cutthroat Barber & Coffee, Sampurna, Bocca Coffee, Tapzuid Beers & Bites, Foodhallen, Cafe Papeneiland, Ganache, Van Stapele Koekmakerij [Utrecht: Bastacosi]
- shop // Spiegel, Anna & Nina, iittala, Moooi Amsterdam, & Other Stories [Utrecht: Dille & Kamille, Combo an de Gracht]
These, and other favorites, can be found on my Amsterdam Google map.