The Netherlands

The Netherlands may be a small country, but in the spring season especially there is no shortage of things to see. TGP founder Meredith has compiled her favorite places in Amsterdam, as well as a bucket-list day trip that cannot be missed!


AMSTERDAM


STAY

DUTCH MASTERS APARTMENTS  Located in the heart of the canal district along the Keizersgracht canal, these nine luxury residences each feature a famous Dutch artist in decor and artwork that is unique to each apartment. The apartments are meant for longer visits (at a minimum of 7 nights) and offer guests a comfortable and inviting home in a historic, canal-front property originally built in the 1600s. The location could not have been better, we were right around the corner from fabulous restaurants, shops and sights. I stayed in the Vermeer residence and found it hard to leave for sightseeing from my morning coffee perch at the tall windows!

 

HOTEL SEVEN ONE SEVEN  Located just a couple canals over, this boutique hotel feels as though you’re stepping into a gorgeous Dutch home upon entering. A winding oak staircase leads to seven differently decorated suites that are the perfect refuge after a long day of walking. Enjoy a bubble bath overlooking the Prinsengracht canal and home-made breakfast on traditional blue and white china every morning on the ground floor.

 

COCOMAMA HOSTEL  For when you can’t totally splurge but still want a boutique experience, this funky hostel, housed in a former brothel, sits on the border of the up-and-coming De Pijp neighborhood. They call themselves the bridge between the style and comfort of a hotel and the communal atmosphere (and price) of a hostel…sounds pretty good to me!

 

EAT

The hip atmosphere at Coffee & Coconuts

COFFEE & COCONUTS  Located in the trendy neighborhood of De Pijp, this cafe is bustling with a creative Dutch crowd and in-the-know visitors. Enjoy everything from breakfast to a late dinner in the stylish, two-story space. During the day there’s a no-reservation policy, so consider yourself lucky if you can snag a spot! Be sure to check out the cool shops in the neighborhood after your coffee-fix, like Things I Like, Things I Love, which is just down the street!

CAFE GEORGE  The perfect spot for a stylish dinner rendez-vous in the middle of one of the most picturesque parts of the canal district. This French brasserie is full of chic locals, the people watching was almost better than my champagne cocktail and steak frites!

CORNER BAKERY Head here for the brunch of your dreams! This cute little cafe is only open for the breakfast/brunch crowd and serves up everything from bagel sandwiches, to pancakes, to giant milkshakes sprinkled with fruit loops!

SICHUAN CHINESE RESTAURANT  This is probably the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in Europe. It’s appropriately located in Amsterdam’s Chinatown, which we also discovered is in the famous Red Light District when what we thought was a dumpling restaurant was, ummm, NOT (“OH! Excuse us, sorry ma’am, we’re just looking for some Asian food….”). We luckily stumbled upon this place, after sheepishly walking past several windows illuminated in red and enjoyed the aaamazing traditional Sichuan Chinese food.

VIEWS

Damrak Street

 THE NINE STREETS (or De 9 Straatjes) This is what one envisions when thinking of Amsterdam. This area consists of nine little streets of canal houses, packed with boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and places to grab a local Heineken beer. It’s located in the heart of the UNESCO recognized Canal District. Spend a long afternoon getting lost in the narrow streets and discovering your own favorite local gems!

DAMRAK STREET This is one of the postcard Amsterdam snaps that we’ve all seen. It’s located in the middle of the most touristy area, but worth the crowds for the view of the crooked houses on the water! Also, if you’re looking to take a canal cruise, lots of the boats leave from this spot!

RIJKS MUSEUM  Housed in a building just as impressive as the iconic artworks displayed inside, this museum is a must-visit! There are also beautiful gardens just outside, as well as the Van Gough Museum (the largest collection of Van Gough paintings in the world!) and, if you’re feeling extra touristy, the popular “I Amsterdam” sign/photo-op ;)

 


SIDE TRIP: LISSE

Cycling through the farmland outside of Lisse

Lisse is a small town located just a short 40 minute bus ride from the Amsterdam Schiphol airport. From early April – early May, it’s a wonderland of colorful spring flowers, most notably Dutch tulips! The most popular destination is the Keukenhof Gardens, which is known as the world’s largest flower garden. Inside the entrance are millions of blossoms in perfectly manicured designs.

I’ll admit, we never made it into the actual Keukenhof gardens. If you’re looking for fewer crowds and a more authentic experience, rent a bike (for less than the price of a ticket into the gardens!) just outside of the entrance to the gardens and set off on one of the many cycling paths that have been easily marked in the areas outside of town (the country’s tulip-growing region). You can choose a longer route or one that will only last around 1-2hrs. It was absolutely magical riding through the countryside, passing massive, multi-colored farms with tulips, daffodils and other beautiful flowers. On some, there were guards prohibiting us from entering the actual field. Others were completely open! We were even caught in the middle of a daffodil field by the farmers, who to our surprise didn’t kick us out but just nicely just asked us to be extra careful (which we were). If you’re visiting Amsterdam this time of year, the tulips should NOT be missed!