Okay so I’ve fallen WAY behind in blogging so in an effort to get back on schedule, I’m backtracking starting at summer 2017…
When I started my job at Spotify and was told that I would be attending “Intro Days” in Stockholm. Knowing that they only hold Intro Days four times a year (February, June, August, November), I felt very lucky to be getting the chance to go to Europe in August (no snow, woohoo!). With such luck, I decided to maximize my time abroad and brainstorm which other city I could squeeze in time to visit. After juggling options and asking around, I felt Amsterdam would be perfect spot for a laidback solo trip.
Day 1 – First Impressions
I landed in Amsterdam and was able to easily navigate my way from the airport to my hotel using public transportation. Upon arrival I checked into The Student Hotel, located in Wibautstraat. While the hotel housed travelers, it also served as a permanent living space for students and provided a working space for professional creatives. I liked the fun and young communal vibe.
After taking a moment to lay down and regroup (I never sleep on the planes) I figured the best way to adjust to the time difference was to get up and go out. I figured I’d also tackle the most touristy activity first–a canal boat ride! In Amsterdam you can take an evening canal ride from 7pm until midnight and enjoy a glass of wine along with it. So that’s what I did–somehow I managed to stay up until midnight listening to the history of Amsterdam while cruising through the canals. While difficult to capture on camera, the city was beautiful at night.
Before the boat ride I wondered around the city and was surprised by the diversity in the city. With a prominent black community I didn’t feel like I stood out like a sore thumb, but I honestly feel like a saw all races, religions and shades represented in Amsterdam. That evening I walked past several art performances in the streets that all centered around the themes of ACCEPTANCE and EQUALITY.
Day 2 – Biking Everywhere
I expected to see lots of bikes in Amsterdam but I didn’t comprehend how many bikes would be whizzing by. While Amsterdam has reliable public transportation, cars, and Uber, the majority of locals opt for their bikes. So I rented a bike from the hotel to visit as many of the different neighborhoods of Amsterdam that I could squeeze in one day. That included: Canal Ring, Centrum, Oost, Jordaan, Noord and probably several others that I don’t know the names of.
In the Canal Ring I visited Bloemenmarkt, a flower market, and walked down a never-ending strip of tulips. I also walked through the Cheese Museum (seriously) and admired all the cheese from a distance. In Jordaan I treated myself to stroopwafels, a heavenly Dutch cookie made with caramel, waffles (and love). By Centrum I walked into Greenhouse Cafe and people-watched (calm down, mom) locals openly smoking weed, or as it was only refer to it there, cannabis. I took a ferry to Noord where I headed to A’DAM Lookout, which provided amazing views of the entire city. I biked all the way to NDSM Werf, where I thought I had made a wrong turn because I found myself alone with a bunch of empty warehouses. Turns out I was in the right spot because toward the water were restaurants and bars with games and music for those who dared to venture off the beaten path. I ended the day at Vondelpark where I realized how tired I was after a full day of biking and walking.
I ended the day at spot called, Pancake Corner, which sold sweet and savory giant pancakes. I got the shrimp and spinach pancake and it hit the spot! Actually, didn’t end the day there; I somehow mustered up more energy to head out that night to a jazz spot in the center of town. I can’t recall the name but it was enjoyable. And yes, at 2am people were still riding to and from the bars on their bikes.
Day 3 – All Day Art
I purposely saved all the museums for the chilly, rainy day. I started at the FOAM Museum, which had an exhibit of Gordon Parks’ photography. It was interesting being in Amsterdam viewing art all centered around Harlem, my current home.
On my way to the next museum I passed through the neighborhood of De Pijp and ran into Albert Cuypmarkt, which is a foodies dream! Oh my goodness, so many tasty renditions of pancakes and waffles! I recorded several vendors making fresh stroopwafels with warm caramel. My mouth is watering thinking about it. You could also find clothes, souvenirs, seafood, nuts and sandwiches in the market. When I finally reached Museumplein, where various prestigious museums are located, I chose to go to the Rijksmuseum, which is a 19th-century building housing Dutch Golden Age painting masterpieces. Also in the area are the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum.
I returned back De Pijp to pig out on a full rack of ribs (I was SO hungry) at Cafe de Pjip. Re-energized, I decided to hit up one last museum for the day–the Anne Frank Huis. I don’t want to go through all the details as to why, but this was by far my favorite museum in Amsterdam. I left with tears but feeling so fortunate to have been able to walk through the house where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years.
Be forewarned, this museum seems to be a favorite to others as well. I came at the end of the day since hoping to miss the crowd. When I arrived at 8pm I still had to wait an hour to enter. Still, well worth it. In fact in while waiting a Dutch man came and started playing “Despacito” on the violin. All the locals knew the Spanish words; it was great. That night while scrolling through social media I learned about the white supremacists in Charlottesville. It was (and still is) eery, sad and very scary. Please, visit the Anne Frank House while in Amsterdam and tell others to do the same.
Day 4 – Dutch Countryside
On my last full day in Amsterdam I was excited to venture out to Old Holland, specifically Zaanse Schanse and Volendam. I wasn’t sure how to get to either town but after wandering through Central Station I found a bus that was stopping at both. I hopped on and decided to see where it would take me.
First stop was Zaanse Schanse. It’s a very touristy so I recommend getting there early before all the crowds arrive. It’s dressed up to mirror old Dutch lifestyle with windmills, old-fashioned bakeries and clog shops. In each space there is a shop that showcases how
After the crowds started getting out of hand in Zaanse Schanse I decided it was time to hop on the bus to Volendam. It was a perfect day for strolling down the boardwalk and tasting different chocolates and caramel treats. People anchored their boats at the dock and just laid out for a perfect day of sunshine.
That evening I had dinner at Moeder’s, which is Mother’s in Dutch. If you’re looking for some comfort food, I recommend stopping by.
All in all I highly recommend Amsterdam for a solo traveling woman. The city is easy to navigate, the people are friendly, and you can easily get by only speaking English.
Let me know if you have any plans to visit Amsterdam!