Spring in Holland
From the time we are small children, most of us associate tulips and wooden shoes with Holland. For the tulips alone Holland is worth visiting. But there is SO much more to make a trip to Holland worthwhile!
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. Different than almost any city you will ever see, with few buildings taller than 4 stories. The buildings are lined up along the canals, and the architecture is so quaint and stunning in its simplicity.
We tied a 5 night stay in Amsterdam into another trip we had planned to West Africa. Two VERY different places, two very different experiences, believe me! But, we decided that on the way to our West African cruise we would take some time to “stop and smell the flowers.” So, that is exactly what we did!
We had a flight that would get us into Amsterdam in the early morning hours. Our hotel was The Grand Amsterdam Hotel. When we arrived they accommodated us checking into our room by mid-morning, so that we could get settled before starting our sight-seeing. What a fabulous, and history rich hotel! It was a convent in the 15th century, then housed royalty for a period of time before becoming City Hall for nearly a century.
From the minute you pull through the entry gate you feel the elegance and attention to detail. The hotel is built around a courtyard, and in the middle of the courtyard is an antique cart, which was laden with tulips. Throughout the hotel were beautiful flower arrangements, cozy little sitting areas, terraces and gardens to enjoy, a lovely restaurant to enjoy breakfast or lunch and so much more.
Since there was so much rich history in our hotel alone, we took a tour of the hotel one morning with one of the hotel employees. We got to see so much more of the hotel than we would have been able to without the tour! It was well worth our time! We got to see a small “chapel” with some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you have ever seen! Everything in the room was designed to continue the stories from the bible which were symbolized in the windows.
The whole hotel recently went through a freshening up, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Amsterdam. There wasn’t a detail overlooked in the whole hotel. The Grand Amsterdam is only blocks from The Red Light District. Don’t let this little fact concern you however! In America we would assume The Red Light District to be seedy and dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth! Soon after our return from Amsterdam I wrote an article on their Red Light District. I invite you to check it out here if you missed it!
Live and Let Live!
The whole city of Amsterdam has the basic attitude that what you do is your business, what I do is my business. There is very little crime, (beyond bicycle thefts- they are rampant!) and I felt very safe the whole time we were there. We were actually told that Holland has closed down a number of their prisons, because crime is so low there.
Pots of flowers are throughout the city, in plant boxes across canals and in large containers along the streets. It is just beautiful!
It’s funny, isn’t it that the first thing EVERYONE seems to ask about the beautiful city of Amsterdam is if you went to the Red Light District…….. That says a little something about Americans! To answer the question, Yes, of course we checked out the Red Light District, our first day there. It is very interesting, to say the least. My favorite part of the area was a dress shop I saw the first evening, which carried beautiful “vintage style” clothing, most specifically, the 50’s type of swing dresses that I love to dance in. Let’s just say, after we visited there the next day, another suitcase had to be implemented for the rest of the trip!
Playing Tourist in Amsterdam
You will find Amsterdam has a little something for everyone! There are numerous fascinating museums, including the famous Anne Frank house, the Van Gogh Museum , Rijksmuseum, and many more. We were unable to get into the Anne Frank house. It is very small, and tickets were sold out nearly 4 months before our trip for the time we were there! I was really disappointed! So my big tip for you, if you plan to go to Amsterdam, get your ticket FAR in advance!
There are a number of companies that do boat tours through the canals. It is well worthwhile to take one of them. You get to see the lovely architecture that Amsterdam is so famous for, you go right by the Anne Frank house and many of the other attractions you wouldn’t want to miss, and can’t cover by foot. The one we took stopped a few times and let you get off and take photos.
Dam Square is another famous site in Amsterdam and it houses the Royal Palace, still in use today. Free Walking Tours are available, but you need to try to book early, or you may not be accommodated. There is quite a lot to see around the square, so it is well worthwhile!
What many people aren’t aware of in Amsterdam is how many BIKES there are everywhere! There are actually many more bikes than there are people in Amsterdam, and there are multilevel parking structures throughout the city where only bikes are parked! It’s quite a site to see so many bikes in one place!
When we think of Holland, one of the first things most everyone thinks of is Tulips! As I said, there are flowers throughout the city, but if you REALLY want to see masses of tulips and spring bulb flowers, you’ll need to take a little trip outside the city.
Two fabulous places are the Flower Auctions or the Keukenhof Gardens. Don’t even THINK of visiting without going to Keukenhof if it is in season! It is EVERYTHING you would expect, and then some! I could literally post hundreds of photos of the different flowers we got to experience while we were there!
Explaining Keukenhof is nearly impossible. Every year they plant more than 7 MILLION bulbs, and the flower beds are laid out differently each and every year. There are over 800 different types of tulips alone in the gardens. Who could imagine that tulips could come in so man different shapes, sizes, colors and textures? There are, in addition to the flowerbeds, buildings that house new species of tulips, and specialty flowers,–such as Orchids. Keukenhof is truly spectacular, to say the least.
Another lovely day trip, which I would highly recommend to anyone is to go to “Old Holland.” The small villages of Marken and Volendam are quaint and charming, and give you a real taste of what it might have been like many years ago, with the windmills, cheese factories and wooden shoes still being made by hand. My only complaint with the tour we took is there just wasn’t enough time to take in all of the villages, and what they had to offer! I truly wished I could have set our own pace to see the different lifestyle that is still a part of Old Holland.
Though we had 5 days in Amsterdam, we didn’t begin to see and do all that the area offered. It would be easy to stay for a month and feel as though it wasn’t long enough. I hardly touch the tip of the iceberg in this little article about Amsterdam. I could post enough photos, and give you so much more information that you would be reading for days!
I didn’t even discuss some of the fabulous food we had while we were there! One evening we were just out strolling and stumbled upon a lovely restaurant in an alleyway. It turned out to be a “locals favorite” and was both delicious and charming! There is just too much that is fabulous about this city!
If you plan to take a trip to Amsterdam, check out this article about 50 things to see while you are there. They are all well worthwhile!