The Netherlands instantly charmed me. Amsterdam is a marvel! Surprisingly accessible by foot, I felt I could have walked through the canals of Amsterdam for weeks and been completely delighted. Smaller towns and cities around Amsterdam (Den Haag, Delft, Haarlem, and Utrecht) were even more charming. It's hard to completely describe, but I felt that the country overall has a quiet pride and easy-going charm that make visiting as relaxing as a Caribbean vacation that won't give you a sunburn. Train access is fast, clean, and reliable. Yummy beer and a side of French fries at every meal. And then there's that tasteful dance of the old world architecture and art with modern technology and creature comforts. On the pricey end of a vacation, but one that won't disappoint.
When we went: May 24th-June 1st
Where we went: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Delft, Gouda, Haarlem, Kinderdijk, Utrecht
How we moved: mostly by train, car transport to Kinderdijk and Delft
What we loved:
1) Beer and Brown Cafes: Mostly Belgian varities and Dutch favorties. Drinking in brown cafes that have been around since the 18th century give add nostaligia and coziness to tasty beers.
Personal Fave: Cafe 't Smalle, Nestled Canalside for sunny outdoor seating, In Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam
2) Art Museums
The Dutch are freaking amazing painters! Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Vermeer, just to name the most influencial. And the buildings that house the paintings match their grandeur. Worth a flight across the Atlantic just to see these great artists all in one place. Bring your phone and download a free walking tour and get lost in the magic.
My picks: Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)-big enough not to feel crowded, this musuem made me feel like I had gone back in time with its life like Golden Age portraits of gentlemen of old. Rembrandt's The Night Watch holds the prize for fame, but my favorite is Vermeer's The Milkmaid.
Mauritshuis (Den Haag)-A smaller museum in an old palace with an incredible collection of masterpieces including The Girl with the Pearl Earing (Vermeer) and numerous Rembrandt self-portraits that show his evolution as a painter.
Patrick's favorite: The Van Gogh Musuem (Amsterdam)-Completely amazing collection. But very crowded which makes admiring them difficult. Try very early in the morning and get a pass to enter at a specific time so you don't have to wait in line.
3) Sweet Treats
Streetmade Stroopwaffels, Pofferjies, Pancakes, oh my! Eat your way through a country that puts chocolate sprinkles on their toast in the morning.
4) Just Hanging Out
Like I said, The Netherlands has a super laid-back vibe which makes wandering around big cities and small towns endlessly enjoyable. It's also by far the easiest country to get around in that I have ever visited. Linger longer than you think you need to in Amsterdam and hop on a train to enjoy the charm of life outside the big city. Don't rush through small neighborhoods and dip into magical alleyways. Relax at an outdoor cafe for a few hours to people watch. Just hang out, soak it in, and leave feeling surprisingly at ease.
What I probably wouldn't do again: Anne Frank house, some people are really into this attraction, but I just found it to be way too crowded and not that interesting.
What I would definitely do again: Kinderdjik windmills were pretty amazing, reserve it for a nice sunny day
What I wish I had done: Amsterdam Canal Boat tour (there's always next time)