Amsterdam is a culturally beautiful and historic city. This was the 2nd city during our May 2014 tour, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us. I forgot to pack rain-ready outfits for both of us, so we didn’t get to experience everything we had planned, but for more tips on Amsterdam, check out one of my favorite blogs The Points Guy’s review on Amsterdam.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
We reached Amsterdam by THALYS train after pricing out a few different options. As with anything, these tickets are significantly cheaper when you book ahead of time so plan your trip in advance (meaning about 2 months). Thalys also offers a ticketless option in which a QR code is sent to your phone for check-in. I love paperless travel, that way I don’t need to be carrying around a travel folder everywhere we go. Though I always make sure to print all reservations before leaving for an international trip, just as a safety net to keep in my checked luggage.
There are 3 classes of seats on Thalys: economy, comfort 2 and comfort 1. In our case, the comfort 2 level was about $2 more and offered outlet plugins, free wifi, and bigger seats. The 3 hour ride FLEW by with the wifi offered on the train; I uploaded so many Paris photos and answered all my work emails!
The only non-optimal part of the Thalys trip was the luggage situation. Passengers are not necessarily seated next to their luggage, which is easily accessible to anyone else boarding or leaving the train. The storage location made me nervous with every stop that someone may accidentally take our suitcases and we would lose our belongings! Also, some may complain about the baggage limit for the train- a 70 lb large bag and one carry-on. The baggage limit wasn’t a problem for us, and if you are a classic over-packer, make sure you check out my post how to pack traveling shoes. Overall Thalys was a great option for us. Service was quick, cost effective, comfortable, and very convenient with the use of WIFI.
Once we exited the Amsterdam Train Station, we took an Uber to the hotel. Uber in Europe rocks, by the way, the black Mercedes feel very VIP for a better price than most taxis. Other than arrival and departure though, Amsterdam is a very walk-able and bike friendly city. Make sure you check with your hotel concierge for the best bike rentals around town.
PHRASES TO KNOW:
Though the official language of Amsterdam is Dutch, most locals are also fluent in English; which is very helpful. Still, I like to look up a little bit of the local dialect to show that we respect their culture. The Dutch speakers may giggle, but they usually enjoy that you tried.
Thank you– dankjewel
Where is the restroom?- waar is het toilet
WHERE WE STAYED:
We arranged the hotel reservation through SPG points. We have a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card that we charge all of our daily bills on (and pay off weekly!) to earn these points. The best part about the card is that we can choose to use the points on hotels OR flights. As always, I have to mention my disclaimer that credit cards are not meant for everyone, and need to be used responsibly in order for the card to have benefits. For more information on what you can do with credit card points, refer to my $5 flight blog post.
SPG has a special relationship with The Luxury Collection hotels, which is where we booked our Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam reservation. The hotel was a great location, very walkable, clean, and historic. The Pulitzer is actually a collection of 17th and 18th century canal houses converted into a hotel, which make for a very creative and beautiful hotel grounds. The concierge is available 24 hours a day to give you advice on where to rent bikes, the best places to eat, and where to shop, though the hotel is beautiful enough to enjoy quiet nights in. Plus hotel guests get complimentary access to the gym, and garden.
ACTIVITIES TO DO IN AMSTERDAM:
Since the weather was not quite what we would have preferred, we didn’t take full advantage of all the city has to offer; and I 100% regret this. It was a good lesson in traveling, considering the world is so huge, I don’t know when we will be headed back to the city, and we should have pressed through the weather to experience it!
WALK AROUND THE CITY:
There is so much more to admire in Amsterdam then the tourist maps point out, sometimes we have the greatest time just walking around and viewing architecture of all the historical buildings. We walked up and down the streets stopping in small pubs and admiring the scenery.
With origins as a 12th century fishing village, Amsterdam is known for the beautiful canals which later lead to economically successful shipping ports. Since the weather was so dreary the entire time, we didn’t end up doing the boat canal tour, but I regret that decision! Look how beautiful the canals are even on a rainy day:
The famous Red Light District has become a huge tourist attraction that brings thousands to the city. For obvious reasons, make sure to leave the kids behind, and be open minded. I enjoyed learning about the history of the area, but at night time, the streets become a huge frat-like party so make sure you are not alone.
SHOPPING IN DE NEGEN STRAATJES:
The Nine Streets is a really unique shopping area with several small boutiques. Visitors can score souvenirs, and admire the beautiful architecture of the streets. I found my favorite pair of splurge boots here :).
ANNE FRANK HUIS:
The famous Anne Frank House is located in Amsterdam, but tours sell out fast. So make sure to plan ahead of time, or show up early for reservations. Highly recommended for those history buff tourists.