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The Netherlands / May 1-12, 2019

SUMMARY

This trip was my second time in the Netherlands, but the last time I had only been briefly to Amsterdam, Nordwijk, and Leiden. Since it was my husband's first time to the country, we figured we'd try to see as many cities as possible!

In short, it is a beautiful country with a lot more to offer than meets the eye. It is heaven for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or looking for all-things-organic. They make a great coffee and pour a delicious beer. Their landscapes, small towns, and abundance of flowers will charm you and leave you wanting more. 

Take a look at the wonderful towns of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Keukenhoff (Lisse), The Hague, Delft, Utrecht, Gouda and Rotterdam by clicking on the links in this paragraph. 

OVERALL TIPS

  • Language : Unlike most countries in Europe, the people of this country do not want to be asked first if they speak English (in their mother tongue). They are so incredibly fluent that they do not need that buffering period. I made the mistake of asking a couple of people during our trip if they spoke English and they looked at me like I was insane, saying 'Of course we speak English'. They were very insulted. We looked into why the Dutch are so fluent, and it turns out they do not only start learning English as young children, but they also take half their classes in English in school! So, yeah, don't waste your time on asking 'spreekt u Engels?'

  • Money : Make sure to carry a decent amount of cash on you. Many places we went (big or small) do not accept Visa or Mastercard.  This was even true of a restaurant we went to with a relatively decent total. I noticed, also, that there were not many ATMs around (even in the large and modern city of Rotterdam). So, if you see an ATM, use it and get a good chunk of cash. A couple of times we were in a precarious situation and wish we had that advice beforehand.

  • Weather : Wear, and bring, lots of layers for clothing. Even being there in May, it fluctuated drastically both in terms of temperature and precipitation. The day would begin in the low 40s and sometimes go up to the high 50s or low 60s. The sun would then add an extra swing of ten degrees higher or lower. Imagine feeling 30 degrees one part of the day and feeling 62 in another part of the day. That was our experience! Don't trust the weather forecasts. Just always wear layers and bring an umbrella. 

  • Breakfast : Living in Paris, we are spoiled with bakeries at almost every corner. So you can imagine our disappointment when we could not easily find baked goods in the morning for our breakfast. At times, we just skipped breakfast because of the inconvenience. Next time around, I will scope out a grocery store and just buy something to keep at the place we're staying. 

  • Dinner : Again, we are used to the lifestyle in Paris, so we were a little shocked by their dinner time. We are used to eating dinner some time between 8 and 9:30pm. In The Netherlands, people were eating dinner as early as 6pm! Trying to get into a restaurant at 8pm was sometimes really challenging because all the seats were already taken. Try to get there early if you can!

  • Specifically for Amsterdam : the last time I was in this city, I strolled in and out of museums barely even waiting 5 minutes, so I assumed it would be the same this time. I was very, very wrong. I forgot that I went in November during my trip in 2010, and this time around we went in May which is usually when tourism starts going crazy in Europe. Unfortunately, all tickets were sold out for two solid weeks for the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank Museum, and the Rijksmuseum. Thankfully I had seen the first two myself the first time, but my husband was bummed to miss those. Buy tickets online in advance and save yourself the disappointment!

AMSTERDAM (3 nights)

Restaurants & Bars :

  • Max Amsterdam (Dinner - rijsttafel (rice table), an Indoniesian sampling feast adapted by the Dutch. It will blow your hair back. Included caramelized chicken, vegetable curry,spicy chicken curry, eggplant, sea bass cooked in a banana leaf, and more). Really nice atmosphere with low lighting and good energy

  • Stuyvesant (Lunch - Dutch traditional plates. I had baked cod with Roseval potatoes and a coriander salad). The food was delicious and meticulously presented. The interior was large, open, and well designed.

  • In de Waag (Drinks - I got jasmine tea and afterwards, some port) It's in a gorgeous, historical building

  • Door 47 (Drinks - I had the needle beer) a speakeasy that serves yummy cocktails

  • De Plantage (Lunch - we both had shakshouka with Turkish sausage, labneh, and pita) The restaurant backs up to gardens and is basically a large greenhouse itself with modern furniture and details. The food was delicious and a perfect portion for a lighter lunch. We were very pleased! This is right by the zoo and Botanical Gardens, so much sure to hit it up before or after. 

  • Brouwerij't IJ (Beer and sausage/cheese tray) This place was super cute even in bad weather. But I can imagine how amazing it would be with warmer weather and blue skies. Attached to the brewery is a large windmill.

  • Whiskey Café L&B (Drinks - Green Spot single malt whiskey for me) Large selection of whiskey, packed to the brim with bottles and people! Really cool vibe like you might be in Scotland

  • Rosalia's Menagerie (Drinks - custom cocktails) Probably my favorite cocktail bar in a long time. This was recommended to us after befriending a server at Door 47. He gave us a long list of bars to try and this one was one of them. Amazing staff and service that were friendly and very knowledgable.

  • Eetcafe Roserijn (Lunch - chicken satay with vegetables, salad, and rice) The interior was quaint, and the food was simple but knock-out delicious. It's one of the great shopping streets, so go here if you are out for a day of shopping.  

Attractions & Sights :

  • Dam Square

  • Royal Palace

  • Anne Frank Museum

  • Floating Flower Market

  • Sex Museum

  • Saint Nicolas Basilica

  • Botanical Gardens

  • Maritime Museum

  • Rijksmuseum

  • Moco Museum

  • Van Gosh Museum

  • Stedelijk Museum (we did not have time to go here but a local we talked to highly recommended this museum)

Le Sentier des Ocres

HAARLEM (3 nights)

This was one of my favorite cities during our time in The Netherlands. It was so scenic, it was hard to stop taking pictures. We also stayed above a restaurant that faced a windmill. Also, I have a friend that lives in Haarlem, so he took us out on his boat for a canal ride and quick visit to  the small village of Spaarndam. 

 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • DeDakkas (Dinner - roasted chicken leg with vegetables) Really good, healthy food in a giant greenhouse on a rooftop. They turned the rooftop of a normally boring parking structure into a panoramic view of the entire city. This place was so cool!

  • Toujours (Drinks and snacks - traditional Dutch Bitterballen) This was the perfect place to warm up on a chilly day of walking outside. They have warm blankets and small fires to cuddle up next to. The snacks were so good, we would have eaten here for a meal but since it was French themed and we live in Paris, we just could not do it! Anyone else should go though, it's adorable and has good reviews. 

  • Subliem (Dinner - lobster soup and shrimp toast, roasted duck breast with pesto baked potatoes) Very good food and service. Since we were on a later schedule than the Dutch, we were the only people there. I'm sure if we had dinner earlier than 9:30pm, we would have been in a full restaurant.

  • Jopen Brewery (Beer) Really beautiful brewery in an old church

  • Nolita Pizza Bar (Dinner - picante pizza) Really good pizza and drinks with a very friendly staff. Fresh ingredients and a thin crust gave us were a welcomed break from all the rich food we had been having.

Attractions & Sights :

  • Grote Markt (main market square)

  • Grote Kerk (central cathedral)

  • Streets of Groot Heiligland, Omvalspoort, and Korte Houtstraat

  • Adriaan Windmill

  • Day trip to Keukenhoff in Lisse. It's a massive tulip park that has photo ops at every turn. Definitely a must-see! Buy tickets online in advance. There is a small window of time you can actually see the tulips in bloom. The park itself is open from mid-March to mid-May. 

 
 

THE HAGUE (2 nights)

The Hague is the political seat of the Dutch parliament as well as the U.N.’s International Court of Justice. When you are here, focus on the Binnenhof and the beach. 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • Bierspeciaal Café De Paas (Beer and snacks) A ton of beer to choose from and really nice snack platters to accompany them. They introduced us to 'beer syrup', of which I was suspicious but am now craving. They make a sweet syrup from beer to be dipped in their cheese. Really cozy interior and is located right on the water with outdoor seating.

  • Oceans Beach House (Dinner - surf and turf lobster and steak with a bottle of prosecco) This was one of my favorite experiences during our trip. We had a lovely dinner facing the beach, with a fire right next to us, watching the sunset. All the while sipping on prosecco and carving up a tender steak. The lobster was overcooked but I almost didn't notice because of how awesome everything else was. Funny that their reviews are bad...we had a great time, but I think it was the perfect circumstance.

Attractions & Sights :

  • Elandstraatkerk - amazingly gorgeous church

  • Binnenhof - complex of Parliament and governmental buildings that is so fairytale-like

  • Shopping Passage

  • Scheveningen Beach and Pier

DELFT (side trip from The Hague)

This small town is known for its highly influential rold in the Dutch Golden Age as well as its Delft Blue pottery. This was one of the most scenic towns we visited during our trip. 

 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • De Waag (Lunch - cheese sandwich with tomato soup and croquettes) This used to be the weighing house for trade back in the 1500/1600s and has weathered stone walls and an original weigh scale hanging on the wall. 

  • Cafe de Wijnhaven (Drinks - cappucino, beer) Super cute and cozy, old-fashioned bar

  • Van der Dussen (Dinner - delicious 4-course tasting menu). This restaurant had very good quality food and a relaxed, but sophistacted atmosphere. It was really nice because we sat close to the kitchen that is open to the dining room and we could see some of the action!

Attractions & Sights :

  • City Hall

  • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

  • Oude Kerk (Old Church)

  • Walking around the winding streets and canals. This is one of the best towns to do this in!

 
 

ROTTERDAM (3 nights)

Being a very modern city, it was a sharp contrast to all of the other towns we visited during the trip. Unfortunately, during World War II, most of the historic architecture was destroyed, so they had to completely rebuild which resulted in the very modern city it is today. Although I'm not a huge fan of modern architecture, I can appreciate what this town had to offer - full of restaurants, museums, and things to do around the city. 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • Aloha (Lunch - Aloha Chicken Burger) Really nice restaurant, bar, and brewery located on the water with a beautiful outdoor terrace facing the Erasmus Bridge

  • Bierboutique (Drinks and snacks - I had a beer cocktail that was really good called the Mango Passion and we ate chorizo croquettes) The interior and exterior of this building are so gorgeous! No detail was overlooked, not even in the bathrooms. 

  • Old Dutch (Dinner - lobster bisque for two, Asian-style grilled tuna with sesame soy vinaigrette and crispy Cevenne onion) This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip because it was an upscale restaurant old-school style. Our server even cooked our lobster bisque table-side in front of us. The service was top knotch and the servers are very highly trained. 

  • Umami by Han (Dinner - assortment of streetfood dishes) Located in the Markthall above the Asian Supermarket, we found a jewel of a restaurant serving up Asian style streetfood. It was mouthwatering, very reasonably priced, and faced the inner courtyard of the market. 

Attractions & Sights :

  • Erasmus Bridge

  • Cube Houses (really modern stacked cube residences and businesses)

  • Markthall (covered market and food court with really interesting choices)

  • Grote Kerk

  • The street of Witte de WIthstraat - lots of great bars and restaurants

  • Gnome Statue

  • City Hall

  • Oude Haven

GOUDA (side trip from Rotterdam)

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, this town's claim to fame is their cheese. There's even a museum dedicated to it, which we visited. 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • Casa Chow (Drinks and Snacks - Sticky chicken bao bun and pornstar martini) Although this restaurant seemed to be a chain, it still had really good food and a very interesting menu all comprised of streetfood from the US, Latin America, and Asia. The interior is poppy and adorable, but we sat on the terrace facing the town square while the sun was out. 

Attractions & Sights :

  • City Hall and Market

  • Gouda Cheese Museum

  • Gouda Museum (reflecting on the history of the town)

UTRECHT (side trip from Rotterdam)

An up and coming town that is one of the trendy places to go in Europe right now, Utrecht was everything I hoped it would be. Its most iconic feature is the bell tower in front of its main cathedral. There are many canals, like a lot of Dutch cities, but what makes them unique is the fact that the canals have an inner/lower level that provides a large boardwalk-like area for restaurants and stores that line the entire main canal. Not to mention, there is a very impressive castle and grounds just 30 minutes away. 

Restaurants & Bars :

  • Saafran (Drinks and Snacks - Sticky chicken bao bun and pornstar martini) Although this restaurant seemed to be a chain, it still had really good food and a very interesting menu all comprised of streetfood from the US, Latin America, and Asia. The interior is poppy and adorable, but we sat on the terrace facing the town square while the sun was out. 

  • I advise to go bar hopping here. If it's not too busy, stop at Café Olivier. We went in but it was way too packed, but it was very cute and dynamic inside

Attractions & Sights :

  • St. Martin Cathedral

  • Domtoren (tower in front of cathedral - under construction during our visit)

  • The canals

  • Haar Castle (30-40 minute bus ride from Utrecht but totally worth it)

 
 
 
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