The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, and it is a pristine and picturesque city. The city is not only known for it’s artistic heritage, but also its 17th century colorful gabled homes and beautiful canals. We visited in the winter right after Christmas, on our way home from a fun New Year’s trip.
Amsterdam is of the most friendly cities in Europe, and you can walk everywhere. The primary language is Dutch, which is somewhat similar to German, but not always.
There are three official languages in the Netherlands: Dutch, German, and French. In Old English Dutch, Amsterdam simply meant “people or nation.”
One of our hotel concierge attendants spoke five languages fluently.
Cycling is the key to the city’s character. You can rent bikes, you can ride easily – and we learned that 20,000 bikes a year end up in the Amsterdam canals. There are separate bike paths along the road – however, it’s an adjustment if you’re not used to navigating through busy traffic.
We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam, mainly because we wanted the great concierge service they are known for. They have fantastic suggestions for restaurants, activities and will book it all for you.
The Waldorf Amsterdam has been ranked number one in Tripadvisor for several years. While there are many hotels to choose from, our decision was based upon wanting a great experience for a quick couple of days, and we had it.
Our room overlooked the canal. Hard to beat the view.
A favorite part of the trip was the private boat tour the concierge arranged for us. Decorated for Christmas, the refinished 1920s wood boat was a warm, cozy respite for a 1 hour tour.
What we loved about the private tour was we were able to find out all about the history of the buildings as we passed by, real estate costs, house boat laws and what life is like to grow up and live there. An interesting fact – there are 2,500 houseboats on the waterways of Amsterdam (Next time we’re going to look into renting one!)
Our Captain was very knowledgeable about the Netherlands and it’s European history. We felt like we really got 2 tours – one of beauty and architecture and the other full of history and facts about the city. Not only did we have a great experience, when we asked for a whiskey he served us a 16 year old single malt.
Museums, there are many many museums to make time for – a true trip of learning and seeing. There are seventy-five Amsterdam museums.
The Van Gogh Museum was something we definitely had on our list of things to visit – and it did not disappoint. A big tip though – plan ahead and get the tickets online (we waited in line for an hour, and it wasn’t tour season). Sadly we did not stay long enough to visit the many others (we will definitely be back!)
The city has a number tickets you can purchase ahead online (something we will do next time). If you go to iamsterdam, you’ll find a City Card, Canal Cruise Tickets and even a Nightlife Ticket – all which give you access to several tours, transportation and museums.
We will definitely be back for a longer trip to see many more of the city’s beautiful and cultural sites.