This is my first post on travel (well apart from my travel wish-list, that doesn’t count), and I decided to write about my solo trip to the Netherlands last year. I’m the kind of traveller who just cannot visit too many countries at the same time, I like the whole let’s get into the culture experience.
And so, last year, I took a 8 day trip and saw everything that this tiny, but beautiful Dutch country has to offer.
Day 1: Amsterdam
I arrived in the Dutch capital right in time for lunch. I was feeling all the feels when I landed in Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. This is the first time I was travelling entirely on my own, and I knew I could do this! First things first, I collected my Iamsterdam City Card and my Amsterdam Holland Pass. They are really worth it if you’re going to see everything Amsterdam and Holland has to offer.
Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general is very easy to get around. So all I had to do was to book a ticket from the airport to Centraal Station (the main station located in Amsterdam) and then switch to the metro to my hostel.
Once I checked-in and collected my bearings, I didn’t want to waste any more time. So I took off with my tiny backpack and headed back to Centraal Station. The first thing I did was to take a canal cruise just to get an idea of how the city is-and it was a great introduction. I would definitely recommend this as a way to start off your visit in Amsterdam.
Once I was done with my canal ride, I took the metro to Westermarkt and walked around the area. It was a pretty, sunny day and made for a lovely stroll. I got into a tiny cafe and had my first dutch pancake (strawberries and nutella)! The waiter was Pakistani, and we got into a short conversation in Hindi. It amazes me how wonderfully we get along with our neighbours when we’re abroad, and not watching a cricket match.
While in the area, I visited the Amsterdam Cheese Museum-full of delightfully flavoured cheese (and got some for my grandpa too).
(Centraal Station in Amsterdam)
(Dutch pancakes and tulips)
Day 2: Amsterdam
Today was museum day! At first, I thought it might be a bit of an overdose, but I love museums and so I decided to make the most of my ‘learning’ day. I pushed myself out of bed early and took the tram to Spiegelgracht. The tram stop brings you right in front of Amsterdam’s (and Holland’s) most frequented museum, the Rijksmuseum (pronounced Raiks-museum). The tall, brown building marks the start of the Museumplein, or Museum plaza. The Rijksmuseum is grand and classy. I am not going to tell you more about it because you should go and see it for yourself.
I walked out of Rijksmuseum and straight into the Iamsterdam sign. And of course, I became all touristy and took a picture. A lovely German traveller agreed to take a picture for me.
My next stop was the Van Gogh Museum-and I fell in love with his artwork in that short span of two hours. My favourite by far is Almond Blossom, so much so that I got my mum a phone cover featuring it. She loves it to bits, and points to me!
My last stop in the Museumplein was the Stedelijk Museum . A museum that espouses modern art, it was a fascinating, brief visit. By the time I was done with all three museums it was well past lunchtime, and so I settled for a warm blueberry and cream waffle with a cup of coffee to enjoy the pretty sunshine.
I then hopped on the tram and got off at Spui and visited the Amsterdam Museum-a quick stop to get more on Amsterdam history. I then strolled along the cobble stoned area of Begijnhof and got a look at the not at all spooky Amsterdam Dungeon.
I eventually got along to De Pijp, an area famous for coffee shops, or basically where weed is sold. I walked in, feeling super awkward but thankfully everyone was just into their own thing. Cannabis is sold in tiny packets, but I couldn’t muster the courage to buy some and so I left feeling quite dejected.
I got out of the coffee shop and into Albert Cuypmarkt, a lively, bustling shopping street. I tried my first Stroopwaffel, a gigantic biscuit covered in honey, that’s the basic one, but you can get more creative versions (chocolate, of course and other kinds).
Day 3: Den Haag (The Hague) and Delft (Day trip from Amsterdam)
So the awesome thing about the Netherlands is that you can stay in Amsterdam and take day trips everywhere. It takes you just 2.5 hours to go from the northern most tip of Holland to the southern most. My first day trip was to the Hague and Delft (they’re pretty close to each other).
The Hague makes a short visit. Being a lawyer, I just had to see the Peace Palace, or the International Court of Justice, a majestic building befitting the purpose it serves in upholding the principles of International Humanitarian Law. But the court visit was not before a stroll down Binnenhof, (Hague’s old town) where I saw the Knights’ Hall and the Mauritshuis Museum which houses the famous painting, The Girl with the Pearl Earring.
Delft is tiny! The town is literally just three or four streets. But the canal walk and the sunny afternoon made it a great visit. Sights to see are the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (literally old church and new church) and the Markt and Town Hall. Delft is famous for its blue porcelain, and I got some souvenirs.
(Oostport, walking down Delft and Oude Kerk)
Day 4 : Zaanse Schans and Voldendam
A visit to Holland is not complete without seeing windmills! Day 4 was just that-a delightful day spent at the windmills, and watching how dutch wooden shoes are made.
I also visited Voldendam, or the fishermen’s village. It is a cute, windy sea-side village rife with pungent smells of Dutch seafood cooking. Although it is commercialised, you do see folks wearing the traditional dutch frock and you can even be a clichéd tourist and get your picture clicked in one!
Day 5: Kuekenhof
I visited Holland in the spring (April 2016) when tulips were in full bloom. I spent day 5 in the large grounds of Keukenhof, surveying tulips in every colour and pattern. By the end of it, I had gotten some sort of visual fatigue and I’m pretty sure I dreamt in technicolour that night.
Day 6: Leiden
I took a day trip to the charming college town of Leiden (famous for Leiden University- the courses on tax law and air and space laws are particularly of interest to lawyers). What’s interesting about this place is that it was a locked city-as can be seen from the keys above the arch through which you enter the city.
My day trip to Leiden was, for most part, rainy. But even then, the city (or town) is so breathtaking, that you don’t mind a little bit of chill on your stroll. Interesting tid-bit is that you see key ‘ports’- little facts about Leiden as you take the Leiden walk. I even stopped for some chocolates at Jacob’s. I recommend the dark chocolate coffee filled ones, which caught the fancy of my grandfather. Needless to say, I knew who finished the Jacobs chocolate box at home.
Day 7: Utrecht
Utrecht is home to the pretty Dom Toren, or literally the stupid tower. I reached Utrecht quite early, and was on the first guided tour to see the tower. The guide was quite spunky, although the climb up (400-ish odd steps) made for a good work-out. Apart from the Dom Toren, the Markt makes for a nice stroll and the shopping centre at the Utrecht Centraal station is where I picked up little things for my friends back home. The Centraal Museum is also a good visit if you’re into modern art.
Day 8: Rotterdam and some last minute Amsterdam shopping
My last day trip was to Rotterdam, and honestly there isn’t much to see apart from the Euromast and some nice parks. I got bored by mid-morning so I headed back to Amsterdam. I did some last minute shopping on Kalverstraat and walked about Dam Square enjoying a joint and some frites.
(View from the Euromast)
Author Note: I was along in Amsterdam for Kings Day or Koningsdag in Dutch. It’s a fun day of celebration where everyone dresses up in Orange (signifying the Oranje, the house of the Royal Dutch family). It’s a riot of colour, and its fun to see the entire country descend on Amsterdam, just have fun, have some drinks (Heineken is available like water) and of course, smoke up.
I probably took a pretty long holiday for just one tiny European country-but that’s just how I do things. I mean, I’m on vacation. I’m not the kind who loves 21 day European tours, I like to ease into things, stroll along and just generally laze around.