Amsterdam: Koningsdag (King’s Day), windmills, Keukenhof and Dutch snacks
This is the first in a series on a Europe trip that myself and my husband Nick took in 2019. If you’re new to my blog, welcome! You might also like to know that last year I started to limit photography to 50 images per travel post, as many blog posts out there can be overrun with a little too many photos for your 4G connection, and perhaps too many of the same thing 😉
Hey! Here’s my blog post on Amsterdam – finally. Even though it’s been only about eight days since we were there, time goes really slowly when you are travelling so it feels like I haven’t written a blog post for a really long time.
I want to write about the flight as well, but I feel like that is a little dull and perhaps too brief to write about so I might save it for another time. We flew business class from Sydney to Singapore then from Singapore to Amsterdam. I can tell you that travelling from Sydney to anywhere on the other side of the earth (latitudinally or longitudinally) is a bizarre time-travelling experience. Our first flight was in the afternoon for about 8 hours, followed by a 3-hour layover, then a 13-hour flight. Yet when we arrived, the local time in Amsterdam was early the next morning. 🤯 Living in Australia is weird.
Anyway! After the flight we caught a train into town and checked into our hotel immediately, although they didn’t have a room available until later on. We didn’t expect them to (though it would have been nice to get a bit refreshed! I always feel gross getting off a plane), so we were prepared just to take what we needed for the day and return later.
As it usually is travelling to the other side of the world – Americas and Europe – from Australia, it was weird having travelled for almost 24 hours and arriving early in the morning. That meant we had to get as much sleep as possible on the flight. Both Nick and I slept fairly well though I did wake up a few times to use the bathroom. Damn dehydrating cabin air!
Kick-starting with the Museum Quarter
We headed to the Museum Quarter in Amsterdam to visit the Rijks museum, which we booked in advance. We had unfortunately missed out on tickets to the Van Gogh museum and they were completely sold out for a week due to the holiday season. I would have liked to see it, but I don’t feel like we missed out on a lot. Some of the better times we’ve had travelling was exploring the streets and walking around rather than ticking off all the tourist attractions, particularly museums and art galleries.
Exploring Amsterdam: De Pijp, Albert Cuypmarkt, Little Collins cafe
That day we also explored Amsterdam mostly on foot, walking through the neighbourhood of De Pijp. De Pijp is known for being rather hip and being home to many expats. We walked through the famous Albert Cuypmarkt, a street market that sold cheap clothes, as well as famous Dutch delicacies: poffertjes, stroopwaffel, and raw herring! But since it had been 5:00am local time when we last ate, which was on the flight, we went straight for a meal at Little Collins, an Australian (lol) brunch place that had been recommended by a friend I know who lives in Amsterdam, and a video we watched on YouTube. It was good – by Australian snooty brunch standards. 😜 Apparently fancy breakfast and brunch isn’t really a thing in Amsterdam.
After a cheap €1.50 stroopwaffel from the market, we continued to explore the city. Amsterdam is really small and compact. You can get to places quite quickly on foot, even though riding a bicycle is extremely common. I’m not confident riding a bicycle on roads where there is traffic, and people of Amsterdam are very experienced riding their bikes, so we didn’t try.
Anne Frank Huis
We had pre-booked tickets to the Anne Frank House on King’s Day (more on that below), so we got that out of the way first thing in the morning. I highly recommend making time for this if you are in Amsterdam, if there is just one museum/gallery-like attraction that you are going to see. I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was very young, possibly too young to understand historical events, but her story is so impactful.
It’s hard to find the words to describe the Anne Frank House, but the way they have built the experience of walking inside it is really beautiful. I teared up at the end mostly because it was so poignant that the second-to-last room displayed a quote from Anne about how she wanted to be a famous journalist or writer, and moved into the last room, where her diary and its pages were displayed along with videos from people around the world who had read and were influenced by Anne’s writing – and then realising that she died and never knew that her biggest dreams and wishes as a teenager came true, and that this was the impact she had on so many people.
I didn’t take any photos inside the Anne Frank House – it didn’t seem right, and I don’t always take photos of memorials.
Koningsdag – “King’s Day”
So, we just so happened to be in town on the Saturday of Koningsdag – “King’s Day” – a national holiday in the Netherlands to celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. On the day, all the streets of Amsterdam basically turn into a flea market as people try to sell their second-hand clothes and homewares, and people wear orange to celebrate. Most shops are closed, and vehicles are not allowed in the centre of the city, and the trams don’t run in that area either. It’s basically party day for everyone! 🥳🧡
After visiting the Anne Frank House we spent the rest of the day browsing the streets. Some parks were full of stalls and there were children trying to sell their toys as well. The rain was a bit of a bother, though. In the afternoon, the canals filled up with boats full of people celebrating and playing music, and wearing orange of course.
We stopped at Bulls and Dogs for lunch! The servings were a lot smaller than we thought, but damn these are some delicious dogs. 🌭
Eggs Amsterdam at the INK Hotel
This is seriously just like a little commercial break to shout out the INK Hotel for their amazing breakfast. This is the “Eggs Amsterdam” – because we wanted to get an early breakfast most days in Amsterdam, we ate breakfast at our hotel and I ate this every time. It was so good.
Zaanse Schans: Windmills and more
On the Sunday things had definitely quietened down after King’s Day, but the streets still had quite a bit of trash on them. 😆 We used the Sunday to make our way out to Zaanse Schans, a small village about 30 minutes out of Amsterdam that has old windmills. It was a bit of a tourist attraction but there were still some nice views of course, and there wasn’t that big of a crowd.
Then we caught the bus and went to the nearby town of Zaandam and ate some snacks, and checked out the interesting building facade that we’d heard about – other than that, there wasn’t too much to see.
We went to the Foodhallen in De Pijp for dinner and had the famous bitterballen – delicious deep fried meatballs! I took a photo of this canal as it had been raining and yet I couldn’t get over the canal views.
Keukenhof: tulips season!
Monday was the last day we had in Amsterdam before leaving for our next destination. We decided in advance to go to Keukenhof on this day, because it was a weekday and there would likely be less crowds than on the weekend. Keukenhof is a place where many fields and beds of tulips are planted in the one area. The tulip is the national flower of the Netherlands, and the beauty of Keukenhof can only be seen two months of the whole year when the tulips are in bloom. The tulip is my favourite flower, and unfortunately we didn’t get to see Keukenhof on our last trip to Europe because we travelled later in the year.
I found out about Keukenhof from a colleague in 2014. I had bumped into him at Floriade – Australia’s (rather underwhelming in comparison) equivalent of Keukenhof, and he had said to me that it was nothing special compared to what he saw as a teenage boy when he begrudgingly accompanied his parents to Keukenhof. Since finding out about it I’ve been so excited to eventually see it, so I’m really glad we got to this time. ☺️
We paid for a ticket that included admission and transport to and from Lisse (where Keukenhof is held). It was still quite crowded when we were there, but, by my standards, it wasn’t a mosh pit, so it was tolerable. 😆 I had never seen so many tulips in the one spot in my life! Some of the arrangements were really lovely, such as the red and white, the neon combinations, the red and yellow – the combinations of pastel-coloured tulips was my favourite though. Overall, my favourite colour of tulip has to be bright orange. The deep plum colour is also very interesting and not very common.
To end our time in Amsterdam, we had a drink with my XOXO mates Juan, Owen and Ryan, whom I hadn’t seen since September. 🥂
Thanks for tuning into this blog post about our 2019 Europe trip! You can follow the hashtag #cookesEU19 on Twitter or on Instagram – I’ve been keeping my Instagram Stories up to date, with my Twitter posts being summaries and my actual Instagram posts being visual highlights.
🇩🇪 We’ll see you next time for a blog post about Hamburg, Germany!