I'm just going to have to start by saying November was probably not the best time to plan a trip to the Netherlands. It was wet, cold, but SO WET. And I'm not talking about the type of English rain that subsides after 5 minutes into the speck rain that you forget about mid conversation. I'm saying, it was inescapable rain and wind. I was there for 6 days in November of which 3 days were pouring rain. I think European rain is still doable when you're a normal person trying to be a normal tourist, but when you have a child and all sorts of camera paraphernalia and need to see EVERYTHING- its just a buzz kill.
HAVING SAID THAT, Amsterdam is an extremely scenic city. So even between the very long spells of rain, it was hard not to see the beauty. The entire city is build upon bridges and canals, with tall canal houses offering a stunning backdrop to the boats and cyclists. Everyone rides a bike, the traffic is almost entirely one way, and its definitely easy to feel like youre going to get run over by a bike, car or tram whilst being on foot.
Amsterdam is known for a lot of things, namely its "coffee shop" culture and legalised (and glamorised) prostitution. Since neither of these activities are of any interest to me (AT ALL haha), I was amazed to see that Amsterdam has an entire different side to offer. It is home to some stunning museums and works of art - I was able to go to the Van Goh museum and the Rijksmuseum, both of which hosted a gorgeous collection of world famous art. The buildings in and around the city are so picturesque, the windmills transport you to another era and if you don't eat some Dutch pancakes, were you really in Holland?
- Ride a bike. I had my 2 year old with me and I still managed to get it checked off the list. It's the most Dutch thing to get from A to B on a bike and literally everywhere you go the roads have accommodated the bicyclists. Its really quite gorgeous when its not raining. Your hotel will probably be able to arrange it for you very easily!
- RIDE A BOAT. Take a pretty little cruise boat down the canals to get a quick tour of the city from someone who knows the details. Try to get in one of the classic canal boats that date back to the early 1900s. The interiors are stunning teak and the boats are smaller, so its a more private tour.
- Go outside of Amsterdam to see the windmills. It takes about 40 minutes by train to visit Zaanse Schans, a beautifully kept village that boasts a collection of preserved windmills against a Dutch landscape. This was one of my favourite parts of Amsterdam because your able to see stunning windmills and take so many gorgeous photos! There are several tours that go from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, although my friend and I just bought train tickets and went ourselves, which I thought was definitely nicer.
- EAT AT WINKEL. This has got to be the best apple cake I have ever eaten in my life. My bestie Emily who was with me did some research and its apparently the best place for apple cake, so you actually can't miss this. I have since been craving it so much I've tried looking up copycat recipes!
- EAT AT PANCAKES AMSTERDAM. The pancakes are stunning, and delicious. They have pretty much every flavour and combination available, so if you're going to have pancakes only once, this is where you go. The flavour I had was seasonal - pumpkin and coat cheese with rocket. SO GOOD!
- GO SHOPPING at Laundry Industry. I LOVE going local when I'm abroad and buying things that everyone won't be wearing the next day (aka my beloved ZARA). But I will admit I happened upon this shop accidentally. I was in search for yet another coat (my current, pricy weakness) and I passed by this concept store. The owners are SO nice, they've been designing for this Dutch brand for so many years and honestly have such a beautiful collection of coats and street wear. I walked out with 2 coats and more unnecessary but amazing things. Luckily my daughter slept through all the 3 times I went in so I was able to enjoy trying things on <3.
- Go without an umbrella. Even if you think you can get away with sharing one, you can't.
- Waste time in cues at the museums. Book everything a day early online, it saves so much time to then explore other things.
- Don't spend a lot of time shopping in stores that you have access to. Its such a pretty city, opt to walk by the historical buildings or the glittering canals at night instead of in the heavy populated shopping areas.
I did not actively seek to walk through the red light district with my stroller. But it happened haha. It is actually a very casual part of the city and its not hard to stumble upon it. I definitely don't like the glamorisation of prostitution, so its not something that I wanted to be amazed by - and I wasn't. But I guess you can see why so many tourists flock from all over the world to walk down this street, I find it a little sad.
The smell of weed all over everywhere also gets to me, its not that I'm a prude mother, its just that for me it detracts from the beauty of a place. Anyway, for someone like myself I found it a bit of a set-back. I think also because of the glamourised weed angle, it attracts tourists YEAR ROUND. I was speaking to a local about it and he did mention his frustration at having mostly student tourists ALL YEAR ROUND getting overly hyped about weed and prostitution. A definite let down for someone who loves travelling off season specifically because you have less tourists. Amsterdam is bustling with tourists always, and while tourism peaks in the spring when the tulips come out, and in the summer when its warm enough to swim in the water, its almost just as high in the cold bleaker months.