I do not usually post trip reports, but I feel that Amsterdam deserves one :)
We returned from a 4 nights stay few days ago. Our trip was perfect and the weather was also good (sunny one day, a little chilly the other 3 but no rain which was a pleasant surprise).
I feel like we did a lot considering the amount of time we spent in the city. I hope other people will find this trip report useful.
I was thrilled when we landed at the Schiphol airport and knew that I was walking on ground that was in fact 4 meters below the sea level. I could not wait to hop on the train, get to the hotel (we stayed at A-Train Hotel - perfect location wise and very clean) and start exploring the city.
One thing that caught me by surprise in Amsterdam was the number of bikes one will see in the city. I knew people like to bike, but I never expected that many bikes. I learned during the guided tour we took that Amsterdam has literally 700.000 people and 1 million bikes! And the number of bikes is twice the number of cars people own!
We arrived at the hotel on Wed around 1pm in the afternoon. The room was ready and after checking in, taking a shower and changing clothes, we were ready to start exploring the city (ignoring the jet lag).
We walked a lot during this trip and there were times at night when my legs were so tired I could barely feel them anymore. We did not spent too much time visiting museums since lines were long and we did not feel like spending time waiting on line. We did go to Anne Frank house (the wait time was 45 minutes), but skipped the Van Gogh museum since the line was huge and the estimated time to get inside the museum was between 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs. So if you want to go to museums, get ready to spend a lot of time waiting in line.
Walking is indeed the best way to see the city. You miss a lot by not exploring the streets on foot. And getting lost is part of the fun!
So here is the breakdown on our short stay in Amsterdam:
Wed afternoon: walked from the hotel to Leidseplein square along the Singel Street towards the Leidsestraat, passing the Flower Market and stopping for few pictures there; had dinner on a terrace in Leidsestraat square and walked back to the hotel taking Nieuwezuds Voorburgwal from the Flower Market and passing by the History Museum, the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk. It was almost 9pm by the time we reached the hotel and we werer very tired.
Thu: did a very long Jordaan walk from the hotel to Brouwersgracht to Rozengrachfor to Leidsegracht. If you consider doing this walk, get ready for a lot of walking and have your camera handy. This walk will easily take a whole day and most likely you will get lost on the tiny and charming streets if you are like me and change your route when you see a street you like to explore, an interesting looking building, etc. Have a good map with you and look at it from time to time.
Fri: walked to Dam square and spent some time exploring the tourist stores on Damrak street while getting there and bought some souvenirs from inside the Magna Plaza shopping mall.Went to Muntplain and bought a tulip vase from the Royal Delft store located right under the tower. Dropped off the purchases at the hotel and took a 1 hour long sightseeing cruise. It was after 9pm by the time we got back to the hotel.
Sat: took a fantastic 8 hours long organized tour that took us to the following places: a tulip farm located 1 hour North of Amsterdam, the "enclosing dyke" where we could see the North Sea and the lake, the town of Medemblik where we had lunch, walked around the town for 1 hour and visited a fully working wind mill, and Zaanse Schans. The tour was very well organized and I highly recommend it. I personally went to bed that night with a huge smile on my face. The short vacation in Amsterdam was perfect!
Sun: woke up early in the morning to catch the 10am flight to Chicago.
I am pretty sure that we missed a lot of other things we could have done and see in the city, but for the time spent there I feel that we covered quite a lot.
I highly recommend going to Amsterdam for a short break and definitely take a tour to go outside the city. We did not have a lot of time and we thought that an organized tour that took us outside the city was the most effective way to see a lot in a short time.