Instead of flying thousands of miles back home for Christmas, which would have been lovely, we decided to fly just a few hundred to Amsterdam. (for 35 EUR no less!)
Everything that I had heard about Amsterdam was true and then some. And despite the blustery December weather, this city was an absolute dream. I’m actually sitting here with a minor case of vacation blues as I edit the photos.
We flew via easyJet into Schipol Airport and found our way to the trains that would take us into the city/Central Station. From Central Station, we hopped on the tram line that would drop us off near the hotel.
I had hoped for an airbnb or hostel for the lax attitude, but I think due to the time of year, everything was pretty expensive. Central Guest Rooms wound up being the best price for location and amenities. It was also located next door to a cafe, La Pureté, which practically fueled our trip. You can smell the espresso as soon as you leave your room.
As soon as we dropped the bags in the room, we set out.
It was cold and we were starving, so we walked into a bar for beer, boudin balls, po’boys, and Fireball shots.
Just like in Toulouse, the streets were lined with lights. The canals were lit up too as part of the 4th annual Light Festival. A whole host of international artists contributed different light designs. By now, all the Christmas cheer, or more likely the Fireball, was making me feel warm and fuzzy.
On that first night, we just walked all over. We passed under the Rijksmuseum atrium, around the Museumplein ice skating rink, and through a couple Christmas markets.
Something interesting we also passed by was the Tuschinski Theater. This art deco behemoth was built in 1921 and the interior has been restored to it’s original glory. You can still watch new English and Dutch movies here.
From there, we walked to the Jordaan area to find a place called Sound Garden. It’s a bar that we had heard good things about, mostly because of the music. Cheap beer and pinball were other bonuses.
The next day, we started with the Stedelijk Museum – modern art, contemporary art, and design.
Wanting to rest our feet and get out of the cold, we got lunch and then hopped on a canal boat.
This building is the Kattenkabinet, a museum solely devoted to works depicting cats. They have pieces by Picasso, Rembrandt, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The more I read about this off beat museum, the more I fell in love. The founder built the museum in memory of his tom cat, named after American banker, J.P. Morgan (what?) and scenes from Ocean’s 12 were filmed here.
After the canal ride, we went to find another recommended bar, Butcher’s Tears. This brewery is located in Amsterdam-Zuid and had really good, really cheap beer.
That night we got Italian food and took a bottle of wine back to the room. It was Christmas Eve and that meant the next day, one of my dreams was going to come true – we had tickets to see Swan Lake!!
This was no regular Swan Lake. It was called the largest in the world due to the fact that they had choreographed 48 swans, not the usual 16. It was also going to be danced by the Shanghai Ballet.
On our way to the theater, we stopped by the floating flower markets where bulbs and all kinds of colorful things are sold…
…and got drinks at a restaurant near the theater before the show. Dan accidentally ordered raw sausage here.
Swan Lake was so beautiful and epic! Watching 48 dancers in synchronous movement while Odette did jaw-dropping pirouettes gave me goosebumps. It was a perfect way to spend Christmas Day.
The owner of our hotel suggested we go to the top of the Doubletree, the tallest building in Amsterdam, for drinks with a view at their Sky Lounge. At first, I was skeptical because the Doubletree?…but the view was really nice. Drinks in the lounge were pricey (15 EUR each) so we ordered the most bang for our buck. Long Islands.
And I don’t know about you, but whenever I start a night with Long Islands, it’s usually a fun ride!
We ditched the Sky Lounge after a round and tried to check out a bar called Bitterzoet which had looked really fun, but they were closed. We spotted a bar called The Doors and gladly changed directions. Greeting us inside was a giant Jim and ok drinks.
At this point, I’m drunk enough to suggest karaoke. I found a place and when we entered, I knew this was going to be weird. It’s like if the Mos Eisley cantina was an asian karaoke bar in Amsterdam. There was a group of guys aggressively playing Yahtzee at the bar, a girl was mournfully singing “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and everyone was talking and no one was listening and you sang in your chair? I put a song on the list for good measure, but we decided to cut our losses and keep bar hopping.
We ended the night at Club NYX. This place reminded me of going out in Berlin. The dancing was fun and there were three floors to explore. There’s even a DJ in the bathroom! This day was totally packed and such a bizarrely awesome Christmas.
In the morning, we strolled along 9 Streets window shopping and nursing hangovers. The 9 Streets are a really lovely quarter full of vintage stores, shops, and cafes. It was fun to just mosey up and down each one.
Perfectly tucked away in the middle of the city, is a tiny walled courtyard called The Begijnhof. It was where a group of lay religious women lived in community, but unlike nuns, they did not take vows and could come and go as they pleased. We stumbled upon it while taking a wrong turn. It’s free to enter and a lovely place to avoid the bustle for a few minutes.
To round out this day, we got Thai food so good that I am still missing the leftovers I had to leave behind in our hotel mini fridge. Sawadee Ka for the win.
The last day in Amsterdam was carefree. We had a late flight which meant we could take it easy getting out of there. We had yet to try dutch pancakes, so we went back to 9 Streets to the cutest little place aptly named Pancakes! Amsterdam.
Then, we spent several hours in Rijksmuseum and after a few road beers/Irish coffee at a cafe in Rembrandt Square, we headed to the airport.
I’ve never spent a Christmas away from home and even though the gloomy weather and post xmas blues had me a little down, it was an amazing trip that I felt so lucky to be on with Daniel.