This past May Heather and I took Easton on his very first international trip across the sea to Amsterdam. While I am very much a planning type of person, this trip was a 4am, spur of the moment decision back in December. We were up with Easton, barely two months old at the time, and I checked into Facebook. And the buzz on my photography boards was all about how cheap tickets to Europe were at the moment.
So, of course, being the traveler at heart, I had to explore. And what did a find? Round trip tickets to Amsterdam in May 2017 for only $440 round trip. Add on a lap infant (which was only $70) and our entire family could fly to Europe in the spring for less than $1000.
It took about 3 hours for us to pull the plug (we decided to get some more sleep and make sure it was still what we wanted), but the very next day I added a travel guide to my Amazon shopping cart and we started planning our first transcontinental trip together.
Before we knew it, we were touching down in the Netherlands, navigating the public transportation system with a baby and four bags in tow, and settling into our modern, eclectic, air bnb right on the canal.
Check out some of my favorite Amsterdam Travel Photos below and then continue reading at the bottom for my recommendations in this fantastic city!
The above view was taken out the window of our eclectic canal-side Air BnB. It was a beautiful, designer apartment in the heart of the Oud West neighborhood and the perfect home base for our daily explorations. The below stairs, used to get to the apartment, were located in a dark, narrow hallway and were super steep. Lugging a suitcase and a baby up these stairs after an overnight flight was a real challenge!But then, this!
Our first day in Amsterdam, I explored the Keukenhof Gardens for a styled wedding session with Stephanie and Jayson. Then afterwards Heather, Easton, and I did our own exploration among the flowers. Only open about 8-12 weeks a year, the gardens get really crowded fast so I’d recommend going early in the morning.The next day we boarded an open air boat for a chilly, canal tour.Then it was time for a pancake break!
Though you couldn’t take photos in the Anne Frank house, it is definitely a must see stop!The Oud West neighborhood is close to the main park in Amsterdam (think Central Park in New York City), Vondelpark. I got out three times for beautiful morning runs through the spring trees.
The BEST apple pie I’ve ever had was from Winkel in the Jordaan neighborhood. Don’t ask questions. Just go.Bikes were plentiful in Amsterdam and everyone had one. To see them in action, check out Sarah and Mike’s couple’s session!We spent a full day exploring the Rijksmuseum and surrounding grounds.
On our final day we checked out the Van Gogh Museum, also a must see.On our final night, we had apple pie and beer by the canal at a restaurant right outside our air BnB. The perfect end to such an amazing week.If you’ve made it this far, here are a few more travel tips and hints from our week long itinerary. If you want some perspective from an American ex-pat, living and loving Amsterdam, reach out to Sarah from Lust Til Dawn (Formerly Tales from a Fork). You’ll find in depth travel advice and fun tips on her blog.
Keukenhof Gardens – As I said above, plan to hit up the gardens early to avoid the rush of tourists. It might still be chilly early in the day, but its worth it to have less people to navigate around. The gardens are huge and you could easily spend hours wandering around. There are several cafes on sight, but you can also bring in your own food and picnic on the grounds. You can rent a car and drive to the gardens (and possibly stop at the fields of tulips you pass along the way), or you can easily catch a bus to the gardens from the Amsterdam airport. The gardens are only open about 8 weeks a year so if you want to see them, plan your trip around the blooming schedule!
Canal Tour – If you want to do a canal tour I’d recommend an open air tour. We used Blue Sky Boat Canal Tours because they operate small crafts that can navigate all of the canals, even the smaller, more narrow ones. We booked our tickets in advance (several months in advance), but I would recommend waiting until you get to Amsterdam to book. We chose a morning tour, but the weather would have been much nicer had we gone later in the day. Especially in the spring, the weather could go either way, so I would wait until closer to your timeframe to pick the day with the best weather. The tours are a great way to get insight into your host city!
Pancakes – Pancakes are a thing in Amsterdam so definitely build in time to eat some. They’re thin (more like crepes) and can be made with both savory and sweet components. We visited Pancakes Amsterdam at the City Center location. Be prepared to wait as the restaurant is super small and tight, but clearly a local favorite.
Anne Frank House – Definitely plan a visit to this iconic historic site in Amsterdam, but make sure to get your tickets in advance as they sell out daily. You can’t take photos inside and the stairs are steep. Be prepared to be in tight, quiet spaces for a couple of hours. The audio tour comes with your tickets and is the main interpretation for the museum. The visit is somber and thought-provoking and its helpful if you have a sense of the history of the Anne Frank Diaries and Jewish persecution during WWII before you go.
Oud West Neighborhood – There are tons of awesome neighborhoods to stay in, so pick one based on your preferences. We chose to stay farther from the city center, closer to Vondelpark and some of the museums. Public transportation is awesome so don’t be afraid to stay farther from some of the sights. Amsterdam is also very walkable and very bike friendly so there are plenty of ways to get around no matter where you choose to stay. Uber is also plentiful and is an easy way to get around the city.
Winkel 43 – best. apple. pie. ever. That’s all you need to know. Go there. Now if you can.
Rijksmuseum – I like to visit local history museums any time I visit a new city so we made a point to head to the Rijksmuseum early in our trip. Tickets are only good once, but there is no set date so you can buy tickets in advance and then visit when you’re ready. If you like museums its easy to spend all day at the Rijksmuseum and still not see everything. The Rijksmuseum building is also fantastically beautiful and you can eat at the restaurant or visit the gift shop from the main atrium without paying to enter the museum.
Van Gogh Museum – The Van Gogh Museum is also a must see if you like art and the plethora of Van Gogh paintings on display give a beautiful insight into the full life and career of this iconic artist. It’s easy to spend hours here as well, so be prepared to be on your feet. You can’t take backpacks into the galleries, but they did have strollers you could borrow, which was a lifesaver for us!
Food – There is lots of good food in Amsterdam, in just about every genre, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something you like. For the cheapest options, I would suggest heading to the local Albert Heijn grocery store. You can pick up fresh pre-made options, local produce, dry goods, and wine/ beer. We found that after a day of exploring the city, all we wanted to do was grab something easy and fast and cook back at our apartment.