This is a very belated post about my time spent in Amsterdam that actually covers two separate trips (within the same trip abroad) to this amazing city.
Fiets, bitterballen, canals. What else could you ask for when it comes to trying to describe one of my favorite cities in Europe (yes, I know. I have a lot). Amsterdam is quite possibly, though, my most favorite place I've been, and not just from a touristy standpoint. There is literally something here for everyone, from the crazies to the calm, and everything in between.
My first trip to Amsterdam was actually in the spring of 2014 where I spent a just one day wandering the city while a good friend of mine living over in Holland who worked during the day. He gave me his city pass which allowed me free access to all the museums and galleries in the city, and I took up all the offers from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum to a canal tour around the hundreds of them within the city. There a loads of places to visit in Amsterdam if you're into art, museums, water, or history, and there are plenty of things to do in this city that don't involve smoking weed and wandering the Red Light District (though many people love that as well).
During my second trip to this city about six weeks ago in mid-August I spent two days waiting for a bus to take me to Berlin, so I decided to wander the city and explore some of the areas I missed out on the first time. This included exploring the Red Light District (as everyone who comes to Amsterdam does and should do. It's a real sight), taking a walking tour (my favorite), eating out at a cafe, wandering through the park, exploring the side streets away from the tourist center, and just taking it all in, one delicious coffee at a time. During this second visit I knew I'd be coming back again in a few short weeks, so I saved many additional items on my "to do" list for that third, and hopefully not final, trip.
I recently returned to the city in early October with a few friends from home as we were finishing our 10-day Euro trip from Krakow to Prague to Munich and finally Amsterdam. One of them had been before so we were able to tag team a few of the decisions in terms of what to do. Unfortunately, the Anne Frank Museum is still on my list of "to dos" in this city as I've yet to be able to secure a ticket to the main attraction in the city. Instead, we found plenty of other activities to do during our three days here. My favorite, though, was renting bikes to ride around the city for a few hours. This was one item on my list of things to do that many people had suggested in the past, and up until this trip, I'd just never made time for it. I'm a big cyclist back home so it did seem weird to me that I still hadn't partaken in this very Dutch activity, but nevertheless, it proved to be one of my favorite things I've done yet.
There are hundreds of bike rental shops in Amsterdam so you really can't go wrong when it comes to which shop you choose. Most of them will typically have a 3-4 hours rental for around 10 euros, give or take a couple euros. We settled on the first place closest to our hostel and decided to explore outside of the city center, making our way deep into some of the more residential neighborhoods. This was really the first time I'd seen this section of the city from outside of the train, and I must say that I truly loved it. The canals don't stop even once you're outside the city center, and the people and area you are in are much more enjoyable to be around. Everyone is simply enjoying breakfast or a coffee at an outdoor cafe, taking in the beautiful fall weather that we had on that Saturday morning. We toured through Vondelpark, the biggest park in the downtown center, explored some of the weekend markets in the outskirts of town, and dodged the hundreds of other bikes on the road who really don't care if you're in their way.
All-in-all, my third trip to Amsterdam was probably my favorite. A lot of it has to do with the company I was with. A lot of it has to do with the activities we did in the city. Most of all, though, is that I'm now pretty familiar with the city as a whole and I finally came to the conclusion that if I was to move to any European city, Amsterdam would be it.