I wanted to check back after my trip to thank you all for the information you provide here! This forum was a great place for me to research and plan my trip and I had an excellent time.
I was in Amsterdam with my boyfriend from May 8-11. We had exceptionally beautiful weather for the duration of our trip. We hadn't planned much, but found that even our sparse itinerary left us a bit over scheduled so we cancelled and rescheduled a few things - all the more reason to return! Amsterdam is probably the most beautiful city I've ever visited and I loved every moment of it.
Day 1 -
Landed at 1:00 pm after a turbulent red-eye flight from Boston - Rekjavik - Schiphol. We took the train to Amsterdam Centraal and it was really easy. I am a complete public transportation newbie, but we had no trouble. We walked from there to our Airbnb in Westerpark neighborhood. After freshening up, we spent the afternoon in a haze of no-sleep at a cafe called Rooster. They were very nice and patient with us despite our confused and incoherent state and even read the menu to us and double-checked that there was no dairy in anything they served us. (I am lactose intolerant).
Eventually, we headed back to our Airbnb and despite our best efforts, we did nap for about 45 minutes. We managed to rouse ourselves to barely make it in time for our Those Dam Boat Guys canal tour at 9:00 pm. On the way we stopped at Coffeeshop 137 where a concerned budtender made sure I hadn't already smoked too much. I'm a regular smoker at home for medical and recreational purposes, so I assured him I was ok and after rolling a very speedy joint I was on my way. I appreciate his concern given the stories we often hear of first-time smokers overdoing it and having bad experiences.
We made it to Cafe Wester just in time and headed off to our boat tour. I can't recommend this enough! Our guide was Dom and she was excellent. I've never seen anything so beautiful as the lights on the water as the sun set over the canals. I think I will do this tour each time I visit Amsterdam. I don't see how I could ever get tired of it. The boat was comfortable and everyone brought something to drink, eat or smoke. It was really the most perfect way to spend an evening.
Day 2 -
Another beautiful, warm, sunny day. We spent the morning at Cafe Thijssen, snacking, drinking tea and coffee, and watching the world walk past. It was perfect. Decent food, good coffee, nice waitstaff, and a lovely canal view. The street was busy enough that there was plenty of people watching to do and OH MY GOSH I knew that children rode in the baskets on bikes but I was not prepared for DOGS in baskets! I hope that never ceases to delight me. So cute!!!!
We spent the afternoon wandering around the city in the general direction of the Museumplein. We stopped whenever we felt like it to sit on benches on the side of canals or in little parks. Eventually we made it down to the Liberty church and then were surprised to find ourselves in Vondelpark. Soon it was time for us to go to the Concertgebouw to see the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest play Mahler and Prokofiev. To be honest, I didn't care for the Prokofiev, but the Mahler piece had me almost in tears. It was really amazing. Afterwards, we made our way slowly back to the Airbnb, where we sat and watched the lights on the canal. I loved this day so much and I think it may have been the very best day of my life so far.
Day 3 -
We woke up late in a funk with very sore feet. I think we had walked for 8 hours the day before, and my shoes, while comfortable in normal circumstances, were simply not up to the task. We walked to the nearby Rollende Keukens festival. This was a nice little food truck festival, but clearly is designed for locals. We did not find a single Dutch cuisine stand of the lot, but had very good chorizo sandwiches and duck steamed buns. I was hoping this would be the place for fresh stroopwafels and haring, but alas. We made our way from there back to the Museumplein for the Van Gogh Museum. Van Gogh & Japan was a very nice exhibit and I thought they did an excellent job with crowd control. I enjoyed the opportunity to see the textures of Van Gogh's paintings up close and I think I will make a point to visit the pieces of his which are close to home. We had some unremarkable Thai food for dinner after having to cancel our Rijsttafel reservation. We visited the Avondmarket and got some stroopwafels there. So many foods I was certain I would find time to try that we missed. We will have to have them on our next visit!
Day 4 -
This was an unremarkable day of packing and cleaning up the Airbnb. We took an Uber to the airport and were on our way home.
I loved this city so much and I hope I get the chance to visit again soon. I didn't notice any of the supposed Dutch "overdirectness" at all. Everyone we met was really friendly and helpful. I did notice a bit of a blank stare whenever I used my kneejerk greeting of "Hi, how are ya?" (note to self, just say "Hi"). Also, it's not that hard to not get hit by a bike... just look both ways before crossing the street as you would in any city.
My tip for a first time visitor? Schedule 1 thing per day maximum. This city is so enjoyable when you have nowhere in particular that you need to be. Travel styles differ, but that's just my opinion.
Also, get an idea of the tram or bus system. I didn't think we would need it, but my tired feet would have thanked me if I had used it once or twice. Lastly, wear good walking shoes - and that doesn't just mean anything without a heel. Arch support is key!
There are a million things I had on my list to see, eat, and do that our trip was just too short for. Even so, I wouldn't give those few days for the world. It was an awesome experience and a great first-time-overseas-trip for my boyfriend. Thanks again for all the information and guidance you provide on here. Hopefully this report was too too long and you all got some enjoyment from it.