We had two full days to enjoy and explore the fun and quirky city of Amsterdam. There is so much to see and do in this canal city. When we were here a couple of weeks earlier, we only spent one night. We walked around and took trams and buses to get from point A to point B during our limited explorations. This time I thought it would be more exciting and a whole lot more fun for the girls to experience Amsterdam on a bicycle instead. Literally, everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam to get around, young and old alike. It is an integral part of their culture, and I didn’t want Errin and Grace to miss out on that unique aspect.
After a satisfying breakfast at the Vondelpark Hostel, we headed outside and entered Vondelpark from the convenient access gate at the hostel’s doorstep. Although the hostel has lots of bikes to rent to their guests, unfortunately, they had run out, so they referred us to another rental place close by called Black Bikes. They had plenty, and soon, we were on our way!
To get used to our new mode of transportation and to become accustomed to the rules of the road locally, we rode back to Vondelpark with its extensive configuration of bike and footpaths in a vast park setting. Doing so really helped the girls get used to all of the other bike traffic zipping in and out, the designated bike lanes in the streets along the way, etc.
I always enjoy a pedal around Vondelpark. It’s such a beautiful park filled with ponds, statues, pavilions, fountains, wildlife, and a wide variety of interesting people to watch.
After getting used to the bicycles and enjoying the park, we headed out into the streets and decided to go across town a ways to find the Anne Frank house. We had a good ride, but unfortunately, we didn’t realize we had to buy our tickets online to enter. Since we didn’t have access to any Wifi, we decided we would have to return another time. Still, we got a picture of the statue and the building and front door of where she lived for starters.
For lunch, we found a street vendor selling delicious sausages. We had found gluten-free hot dog buns in the supermarket for Grace, and she had said she wanted to find a street vendor who sells the sausages. The street vendors do not generally carry gluten-free buns, so we were prepared. Our luck would have it that we actually found one and enjoyed every delicious bite! She was enjoying it so much I almost didn’t get a picture of her and her precious hot dog before she devoured it! They were so yummy!
Our next stop was the Friendship Amsterdam loading dock, where we could cruise around the canals to experience the next busiest mode of transportation in Amsterdam – boats!
We had purchased some discount tickets from the hostel. I was rather impressed when we arrived at our destination. The last time I had bought canal cruise tickets from the hostel, they were affiliated with a different tour company, which was (how can I say this nicely?) somewhat ‘typical touristy type’ with seating for about 50 or more.
This experience was a step or two above! While we waited for our designated tour boat to arrive in a few minutes, they sat us inside their other boat reserved for special occasions like weddings, big private parties, etc. It was quite comfortable and served as an elegant waiting room at that. They even provided snacks!
Not long afterward, our boat pulled up to the moorings. It looked like a whole lot of fun too! Since we were the first to board, we got our pick of the seats also! Guess where we headed? Yep, that’s right – up on the comfy looking bow.
The cruise was about an hour-long, and it wound its way through the various canals in a circuitous route filled with all sorts of beautiful and picturesque architectural specimens along the way.
About 3/4 of the way along our route, I noticed the expression of the woman that was serving us beverages and snacks in the photo below. I also saw the ominous dark clouds just above the skipper’s head gathering together and looking slightly menacing.
Thank goodness for bridges! We hunkered under this one for quite a while. The deluge of rain that released from those clouds looming overhead was impressive and I was thankful we had shelter from the pelter.
After quite a long wait for the rain to subside, we were on our way once again and equipped with handy umbrellas. It was still raining slightly on that open deck, so they took us the quickest way back to our starting point before it started on its second onslaught.
There were still some fascinating buildings, canals, bridges, and houseboats to be admired along the way, even though it was a bit rushed.
That was fun, but we were wet, and the afternoon was turning into evening, so we unlocked our stowed bicycles once again and rode back to the hostel to change into dry duds. Upon entering, we noticed a lovely smell emanating from the kitchen, and the ‘Chef’s Special’ marquee announced that they had some hot homemade tomato soup. I promptly ordered 3 servings for us while we warmed up and relaxed in the hostel’s cozy surroundings after a day’s adventures.
The morning light greeted us with a bright blue and sparkling sky. The hostel had some bikes available onsite so it wasn’t long after a hearty breakfast that we were on our bikes and headed out for more adventures.
Unlike the Anne Frank museum the day before, I did know that I had to buy entrance tickets to the Van Gogh Museum online ahead of time if we wanted to get in. In fact, I had purchased the tickets before we had even left home! The museum is just a few blocks from Vondelpark, so it didn’t take us long to get there in time for our designated tour time. We hung around outside until the appointed time and enjoyed the activity in the plaza surrounding it. There were even classical musicians serenading the crowd while we waited. It was lovely.
The museum does not allow any photography of the artwork once you’re inside, so I’m sorry, but I do not have any pictures to share with you. It is a fantastic museum about an incredible artist that is a must-see when you’re there. Just be sure to get your tickets online ahead of time to do so!
After a couple of hours touring through that huge museum, we headed on our bikes to the Bloomenmarkt, which is an outdoor, year-round flower market. They have every sort of bulb you might want and then some! There was a collection of Calla-Lillies I would love to have in my garden at home – at least one of each variety and color!
At the end of the lane of the flower market, we spied a little cheese museum, so we popped in there to check it out, and the yummy samples of Dutch cheese.
Instead of walking back down the lane and through the crowded and busy flower market, we crossed the canal and walked back to our parked bicycles in the direction of the Munttoren Tower with the clock. It has a pedestrian passageway under the tower that was originally part of the medieval city wall and where the city gate was long ago.
According to the ‘Amsterdam Welcome’ website: “The Dutch word ‘munt’ means ‘coin.’ Inside the tower, 36 bells were cast in 1651. The whole process of installing the bells in the tower was very complicated. Some of the bells weren’t even meant for this tower! But they ended up there, and they are still used today. Every 15 minutes, a happy jingle comes from the tower, so you will always know the exact time when you are in the neighborhood.” It is lovely to hear the bells chime too. I particularly enjoy them.
Occupying the building the tower projects from is the Heinen Delft Blue shop. It holds exquisite pieces of the famous Delft Blue pottery to drool over and admire.
We also found this bakery with all manner of yummy treats tempting our every step.
We realized just how hungry we really were about this time, so we decided to pass on the temptations and instead ride over to the botanical gardens nearby. I knew of a beautiful quiet spot away from the crowds that we could enjoy our picnic lunch at. We even had a few guests join us!
After lunch of ham and swiss cheese sandwiches and a couple of our new favorite snack – Stroop waffles, we rode a short distance to the zoo! A surprise I knew Grace would enjoy immensely because she loves animals so much.
It’s really quite a pleasant zoo with a wide variety of animals scattered in various sections of the well-kept grounds. A nice little green space and oasis in the middle of the city too.
There were birds…
Some adorable small mammals…
Some more birds…
A few reptiles and tortoises…
A shining star in the Seal Show…
Awww, a baby elephant!
A very tall giraffe…
Some adorable and curious meerkats… and a pair of dueling rams! They had it all!
We strolled back to the entrance enjoying the colorful flower beds along the main promenade, passing the motionless camel on the way back through. He hadn’t moved an inch since we went past him earlier!
It had been yet another full day of beautiful sights. We were ready to relax with a couple of made-to-order lattes back at the hostel and enjoy our last evening chilling out in Amsterdam after touring all over on bicycles for two days.
We also had some packing to do because, in the morning, we would be headed back to Schipol Airport to catch a flight back to Aberdeen, Scotland. It was hard to believe we had come to the end of our 3 solid weeks on the European continent, exploring The Netherlands, Germany, and France. It felt like it had just flown by!
We still had a couple more weeks left of our vacation together once we got back to Scotland, and those tales are yet to come. Stay tuned for more adventures and escapades back in Scotland!