Springtime is the absolute best time to discover Holland and the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Flowers galore, picturesque views while meandering the canals, bikes aplenty, apple pie, beer, pancakes, stroopwafles, poffertjes (pronounced pufferchis), and did I mention the flowers?!
Amsterdam is a professional photographers dream – albeit I’m in no way a professional photographer, I did take tons of photos.
We spent a lot of time in the city walking around and getting lost between all of the canals. The main reason I wanted to visit the Netherlands at this time of year was to see the tulips in bloom. But before making our way out to the famous, Keukenhof, we explored the city center.
The bikes in Amsterdam outnumber the amount of cars. There are dedicated bike lanes beside each and every car lane in the entire city. The bikes are taken very seriously here. If you were to walk in to a bike lane (which can be confusing if you’re unaware, some looked like walking paths), the bikers would ring their bell at you and tell you to get out of the bike lane. The whole time we were in the city I felt like there was a never ending war between the pedestrians, cars, and bikers. Obviously pedestrians have the right of way, but in this city I believe the bikers ruled the streets.
My favorite foods in Amsterdam were the stroopwafels and poffertjes. The stroopwafels are two gingerbread-like cookies smashed together with caramel in between. It was first made in the Netherlands in the city of Gouda. Now almost every bakery in the country has these delicious treats. The poffertjes are mini, fluffy Dutch pancakes covered in powdered sugar – they melt in your mouth! I also couldn’t leave without having Dutch apple pie and this was the best apple pie I have tasted.
The first Heineken brewery was built in 1867 in Amsterdam. Until 1988, it was the primary brewing facility for the beer. The new brewing facility has been moved to the outskirts of the town. And today, the old brewery serves as a visitor experience to educate patrons on the history and brewing process of this famous pilsner. The tour here was certainly a point of interest and a fun one too. My favorite part was the tasting – the tour guide was describing using all five senses to taste the beer. She described the sight and smell of it and how these have always remained the same throughout the years. The touch she simply described as cold. Then she told us to listen to our beer… everyone looked at each other, then hesitantly held their small tasting glass up to their ears. The tour guide then begins to laugh as we realized the joke was on us! Then we all said “Prost” and tasted the beer.
My favorite part of this trip was Keukenhof. Keukenhof is about an hour south of Amsterdam with plenty of frequent bus rides to take you there. Keukenhof is also known as the Garden of Europe and it’s the world’s largest flower gardens! It consists of about 79 acres of flower gardens with over 7 million bulbs planted annually. The gardens are only open from March through May but the best time to see everything in bloom is mid-April. We spent the entire day here strolling through the various gardens and admiring all of the beautiful flowers. I also found my new favorite flower, the Hyacinth (pictured below in the first row on the right).
Another noteworthy area of Amsterdam is the Red Light District. We even saw families walking down these streets. It’s become a tourist attraction as well as a place to procure prostitutes, male and female. There are “red lights” illuminating windows when the prostitutes are available. We were surprised that this area was not as flashy as we thought it would be. It was the same as walking down any of the other streets except there were half-naked people dancing in the windows of the row houses.
We couldn’t leave without snapping a photo in front of the “IAMSTERDAM” sign. It was extremely crowded here, but we got a small part of it in. Sadly, we did not get a chance to visit the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum while in Amsterdam – other very noteworthy sights to see. But a great excuse for a return trip!