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 😉

A view of a canal in Amsterdam, seen from a perpendicular bridge. There are a couple of canal boats and there are some trees visible in frame
A common view in Amsterdam: canals!

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!

A woman in a light blue sweater leaning back against the railing of a bridge with a canal below it
That’s me – but look at all the bikes in the background… the people of Amsterdam ride a lot on bikes.

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.

An old museum building with two towers making up part of the front facade. There are tourists walking around in the foreground
We pre-booked tickets to the Rijks museum and went there first
A historic-looking library seen from an indoor balcony. Many books line the walls and the decor is brown and antique. The books line many shelves all the way down the walls
The beautiful library inside the Rijks museum
The cross-section view of an old dollhouse showing several rooms, all with small furniture replicas
These dollhouses were not toys, but were created and put together by the wealthy as display pieces

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.

A street market seen from the middle, with stalls lining the sides. The market is not that busy but there are some people walking through it
The Albert Cuypmarket in the neighbourhood of De Pijp

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.

A man in a blue jacket smiling; he’s holding a round flat Dutch stroopwaffel on a napkin
Happy Nick with a stroopwaffel
A woman in a light blue sweater smoking; she’s holding a round flat Dutch stroopwaffel on a napkin
Happy Georgie with a stroopwaffel

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.

The front of the Anne Frank House – a dark, subtle building with tinted glass windows. Some people stand around its entrance
I highly recommend the Anne Frank House – one of the best and most educating museums I’ve been to.

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! 🥳🧡

A man in a dark jacket and dark hair, and a woman in an orange turtleneck sweater, smiling for a selfie
People wear orange for King’s Day – I had packed my orange sweater

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.

A close up of a paper tray of poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes) doused with powdered sugar
Real actual poffertjes! I have tried these at a market in Sydney but they’re not as amazing!
A street market on the side of a canal. It’s relatively busy with people setting up
The crowds only just starting for Koningsdag
A tower as seen from street level and visible between two buildings in the foreground
I don’t remember what this tower was called but I love the perspective of this shot
The entrance of a small park that is busy with people, some selling second hand goods and toys in stalls on the sides of the path
The entire city basically turns into a giant flea market!
A canal river as seen from a perpendicular bridge. There are several bits of people wearing orange and celebrating, and the banks are also filled with people wearing orange
The canals starting to fill with boats full of people celebrating Koningsdag (it got busier than this!)

We stopped at Bulls and Dogs for lunch! The servings were a lot smaller than we thought, but damn these are some delicious dogs. 🌭

A small hot dog with mustard sauce and sprinkled herbs on a serving board
Delicious hot dog!

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.

A white plate with fried eggs, cheese and ham toasted on it.
“Eggs Amsterdam” – no idea if this is actually a specialty in Amsterdam!

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.

A man and woman taking a selfie in front of a river with Dutch windmills in the background. It is a very cloudy day
It was really, really cloudy – all my photos look grey and dull!
A woman in a blue sweater and black patterned skirt under an hedge arch of red and yellow coloured leaves. In the background is a small green garden maze.
This was probably a bright moment though 😉
A small village with cottage houses and a windmill in the distance, as seen over a small dark-coloured moat of water. The sky is very cloudy and very grey.
Zaanse Schans had a lot of little shops of souvenirs and snacks
A couple of windmills seen over a dirty moat, in a small village. The sky is very cloudy and grey.
It was a lovely little village, you could pay to see demonstrations in the windmills but we didn’t bother.
Several windmills spread out across land, seen from the opposite side of a river
Did I say cloudy?

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.

A woman in a blue sweater eating a deep-fried sausage out of a paper bag. In the background is an outdoor shopping mall
At Febo, you buy snacks from an automated machine – and they include fried cheese, croquettes, and sausages
An interestingly-architectured building resembling little houses put together, in colours of green, blue, and blue-grey. The sky is very grey.
Zaandam houses – there wasn’t really a lot here to see, just this cool building facade

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.

A canal in Amsterdam, seen from a bridge. The canal extends further away into the distance. Many canal boats are stationary on the sides of the canal.
Amsterdam on a dreary day is still lovely to look at
Dutch bitterballen in a cardboard tray with sauce in a small compartment of the tray. A man is holding the tray in his hand
Bitterballen are a meat-based snack that sort of taste like eating a soft meat pie in a breadcrumb ball.

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.

A woman with dark hair, wearing a blue sweater, facing away from the camera and looking out over a small river and towards fields of red, yellow and pink tulips
Me looking out to the tulip fields ☺️
Wide, bright fields of tulips in red, and yellow, seen from a distance. The sky is blue with some small clouds
Tulip fields outside of Keukenhof itself
The inside of a park with many rows of tulips planted, in the foreground red and pink, and in the background purple, red, and pink. There are trees in the background and many people observing the tulips
So many bright tulips and we’d barely started walking through!
A high vantage view of a crowd of people scattered in the open walkable area of a park. In the distance some arrangements of tulips can be seen, and the trees in the park are very green apart from one dark red one in the centre. It is a relatively sunny day
There were crowds – but at least, like I say – it was not like a mosh pit 😆

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. ☺️

A landscape-orientation view of peach-coloured tulips planted in rows, taken close-up and at eye level
This is such a beautiful colour 🍑
Orange-red coloured tulips at eye level, with their stems visible. The sky in the background is blue and relatively clear.
I love the tulips with feathered petals
Bright orange tulips at eye level, with the tulips taking up much of the frame. Trees can be seen in the background.
Bright orange 🧡
A woman wearing a blue sweater crouching behind several rows of planted orange tulips.
This is my favourite colour of tulip
A man and woman smiling and taking a selfie in front of a river with several leafy debris in it. On the banks of the water are rows of planted tulips in bright colours.
Selfie on such a nice day!
A woman in a light blue sweater and black patterned skirt standing on a square-paved stone path between two rows of tulips that are all pastel pink, orange, and yellow in colour
So I don’t normally wear light colours like this blue sweater I’ve been wearing all the time, but I honestly thought I matched this pastel-like arrangement of tulips 😍
A woman wearing a light blue sweater, holding a napkin with a bun filled with raw herring and onion. She is looking down slightly at the bun with a small smile
I look slightly disappointed in this raw herring bun 😂 This is a popular/famous “delicacy” in Amsterdam
A garden with green lawns and paved walkways. There are a number of pink and red tulips planted, and tall trees with long trunks in the background.
Some areas of Keukenhof seemed greener than others
A wide river showing clear reflections. There are trees, small bushes, and tulip arrangements across the sides of the river. The sky is blue with a few clouds and it is a sunny day.
I just love how the reflection is so clear here
Long rows of red tulips stretching from the bottom right of frame to the top left of frame. The garden they are planted in is lush and green.
Amazing rows of red tulips!
A man dressed in dark blue with his hands in his pockets, standing in a garden with a makeshift dirt path. There are many trees with tall trunks in the garden.
I like to randomly take photos of Nick when I catch a good pose/look
A small wooden curved bridge running over a small body of water. There are red and purple-leaved bushes visible around the bridge.
Small man-made bridge – took a photo because why not!

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.

Dark purple and light pink tulips planted together in a beautiful arrangement
Beautiful colours of tulips planted together
A very green garden with many plantations of neon-coloured tulips in red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. There are some people walking around observing the tulips
Neon tulips always look good together
An arrangement of flowers in the foreground, in front of several small water fountains leading into the background, all sitting on a green lawn bordered by short stone walls
I love the colours in this one

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!

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You took so many beautiful photos, Georgie! Those tulips are so colorful. I’ve heard a lot about how awesome Amsterdam is, and I always think of the movie “Fault in our Stars” (hehe). It looks like the first part of your trip has been stunning and I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of your posts. :)

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