Over December break, my family traveled to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a perfect and small city to be in for the holidays. Besides the fact that the city itself is tiny, all of the houses, streets, buildings, and even the canals were decked with Christmas lights and decorations. Amsterdam was an ideal place to celebrate Christmas. Plus, because of the city’s small size, it was effortless to travel throughout the city on our feet. The lengths of our walks were no more than 30 minutes. We did not have to travel in a taxi once, although me, my dad and my twin brother, Mason, often urged my mom and older brother, Daniel, for a taxi ride. They never obliged!
My family stayed at the Andaz hotel. The hotel was in an ideal location, centered in the city, so it was extremely easy to get all over. The hotel accommodations were great; they were quick with service and had a knowledgeable concierge and staff. My family of 5 decided to get two rooms, the rooms being located next to one another. My room was very spacious and had a very “open” feeling. The bathroom was split and scattered throughout the room, which was a little weird and very cool! The room also offered complimentary food and drinks, excluding alcoholic beverages.
The first day, my family arrived in Amsterdam at around 3 pm, so we stuck with dinner for that day. We ate at Cafe Panache. My mom and I shared a salt-crusted white fish. Although it was delicious, many bones were in the fish, which made it a little unenjoyable. However, all of the sides and other meals were great, and the service was excellent! My family wanted to explore a Christmas market in Amsterdam, so we decided to explore one located near the Rijksmuseum. The market was also located next to a nice and touristy ice skating rink. The market was closed when we arrived, but we were able to see the Amsterdam sign. Unfortunately, the sign was very crowded, so my family could not get a picture of the whole sign, but it was still very cool to see the sign!
The next day, my family did a private walking tour throughout Amsterdam’s city with a knowledgeable tour guide named Lisa; she has her own company called “Journeys Through Amsterdam.” I would definitely recommend her as a guide for others; she was extremely knowledgeable, interactive, and did not hold any information back. On the tour, my parents told Lisa not to be hesitant to share any information with my brothers and me. We started the tour in Dam square and learned a little information about the national monument, the formation of Amsterdam’s city, and the city’s history. We then made our way to the Red Light District. Lisa was not hesitant about taking us. Because it was Christmas Eve’s morning, there were not many “girls” in the windows. However, we were able to learn about the Red Light District (prostitution is legal) and the district’s history. My brothers and I listened attentively, as we were fascinated by what she was telling us about the girls’ jobs. We also learned about a church located next to the Red Light District (weird, right?) and how the church was where people used to go to get forgiveness after spending time with the girls.
Lisa also showed us a few of the coffee shops. Although my family could not go inside them because of age requirements, it was cool to see Amsterdam’s “culture.” For those who are unaware of what a coffee shop is in Amsterdam, it is a shop that only sells marijuana and products with marijuana.
On the tour, we also went into many cute shops. We first explored a duck store, where they only sold rubber duckies. They had some humorous ducks, including a Donald Trump duck. My older brother, Daniel, bought an Amsterdam duck. We also went into a cookie store, where they only sell one type of cookie. The cookie happened to be amazing and is probably one of the best cookies I have ever had. It’s a chocolate cookie, with chewy and melted white chocolate pouring out of the center; it resembled an Oreo. Lastly, we went into a cheese store. Cheese is extremely popular in Amsterdam, and many of the stores have many exotic kinds of cheese that are not found in America. In the cheese store, we tried many samples. Unfortunately, Daniel does not like cheese and refuses to try it. At the cheese store, we bought a small cheese cutting board. We also saw the skinniest building of all of Amsterdam; it is one window wide! We also saw areas like the Jordaan, a district in the center of Amsterdam known for the nice houses, restaurants, shops, and boutiques. It is an area that should be explored by all families traveling to Amsterdam; there are great photo opportunities! Finally, we saw the Rembrandt house, an art museum containing painter Rembrandt’s paintings and etchings. The house is also where Rembrandt lived and worked.
We then ate at a small cafe in Amsterdam to try traditional Dutch food. Daniel, my mom, and I all tasted Stamppot, a traditional Dutch food with potato at its base mixed with seasonal vegetables topped with either sausage or a meatball. I stuck with a meatball on mine. The meal was superb; I wanted to eat every bite of it! But, my dad’s biggest regret of the trip was not ordering it, so he kept stealing mine. Daniel and I convinced my mom to make the meal at home!
After the walking tour, my mom and I decided to shop on the 9 streets. The 9 streets are what you think it is; 9 streets. They are filled with many vintage and designer shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. I bought a sweater, and my mom bought a scarf, and we explored many hip and interesting shops!
We next did a Christmas/ light festival boat ride down the canal. Truthfully, the canal ride was a disappointment. My family and I were expecting to see many light configurations; however, we only saw a few— less than 5. But, the boat did go through a small tunnel of lights, which was very cool! However, it was nice and interesting to see and explore the canal, the buildings surrounding the canal, and the houseboats despite the lack of light figures.
After the light festival on the canal, my family ate at Indrapura, my favorite restaurant of the whole trip! It was an Indonesian style restaurant known for its rice tables. Although the menu was quite confusing, the food was spectacular. My parents split one of the large rice tables; it is most certainly too big for one person, even two people. The rice bowls consisted of numerous toppings and add ons, even too many toppings, but Daniel and I helped my parents finish their meal! I got lamb and nibbled on my parents’ food, but overall we had way too much food! There was a pianist at the restaurant, which made the meal nice and calm. The service was great, and the food was absolutely amazing!!!
The next day, we ate breakfast at The Pancake Bakery. The Dutch are well known for their pancakes, but their pancakes don’t resemble typical American pancakes. The pancakes have savory toppings on them, like bacon and cheese, rather than sweet toppings like whipped cream and fruit. The pancakes were enormous and on the table was a larger pot filled with syrup (see my picture up top). I got a pancake with ham, cheese, and tomato. I regret getting the tomato on the pancake, but it was still a delicious combination. The restaurant was charming as well. It was practically underground and truly represented Dutch culture and food.
After breakfast, my family went to the Anne Frank house. The Anne Frank house was 100% the favorite part of my trip! The line was fairly long, and my mom had to buy tickets 60 days in advance because of the museum’s popularity. In the museum, we learned about and saw Anne’s journal entries, the building and annex they hid in, the history of the time, and the experience they went through. It was gratifying because I am a teenage girl, and I could resonate with Anne, allowing me to feel connected to her and her story. The museum was also very informational and interactive, giving each visitor a headset with clear and guided directions. The museum was amazing, and I recommend it to all!
After the Anne Frank museum, my family went to the Rijksmuseum. We had a hard time deciding whether to go to the van Gogh museum or the Rijksmuseum, but our tour guide Lisa from our walking tour, helped us decide. My family learned “The Starry Night,” the most famous painting in the Van Gogh Museum, is actually in New York, so we opted to explore the Rijksmuseum. To be honest, the museum was not too enjoyable. It wasn’t interactive at all, and it was very crowded. My family decided to “spice up” the experience and have a scavenger hunt for some of the pieces. Instead of exploring the whole museum, my family looked up highlights of the museum and saw those. Personally, I thought it was boring and not a great experience for kids.
Lastly, to end off on our trip to Amsterdam, my family decided to spend dinner with the Dutch, with the company “Dine with the Dutch.” Dine with the Dutch offers a dinner with a Dutch family or group of people at their home. My family wanted to get Amsterdam’s full cultural experience, so my mom decided to book a dinner, which happened to be on Christmas. We had our dinner with a few members from Amsterdam who had a Dutch background. For the Christmas dinner, we had a “Thanksgiving” type of meal with typical Thanksgiving food; turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc. The food was delicious! Furthermore, my family and I learned plenty from the Dutch members of the dinner. It was a wonderful experience and a great way to end our trip!
Overall, Amsterdam was a perfect place to celebrate the holidays, and I’d recommend the trip to many other families! Thumbs up for Amsterdam!!