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A Quick Guide to Amsterdam

I fell in love with Amsterdam as soon as I stepped out of Centraal Station. The city is picture perfect all around. The beautiful, and sometimes crooked, brick houses and canals are incredibly charming. Amsterdam is not just instagrammable though, it’s also a really cool place to explore. The thing that I thought was really cool about Amsterdam was that there were all kinds of tourists, all there for many different reasons. Amsterdam has raunchy attractions for the more rambunctious traveler like the Red Light District, Head shops, and Cannabis Coffee Shops but also has incredible museums like the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam combines the beauty of its 17th-century architecture with plenty of best museums and art galleries in the world. Dutch culture is also incredibly laidback, making Amsterdam one of the most offbeat and appealing cities in the world. 

Things to do.

things to do in amsterdam

This biographical museum is dedicated to telling the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl growing up in Amsterdam during WWII and fell victim to the Holocaust. The museum is housed in the townhome where Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne recorded her experience in her now publicized and widely read the diary, The Diary of Anne Frank. I suggest buying your tickets well in advance, like two months in advance, online. You will have to book a particular time to visit the museum.

As per the name, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, a well-known Dutch artist. Here you can view his most famous works like; SunflowersAlmond Blossoms, and The Bedroom.

If you want to really learn about art and history in the Netherlands pay a visit to Rijksmuseum. Considered one of the best museums in the world, this is sure to be something you put on your list.

Biking.

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A common phrase I heard thrown around is that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people. I say when in Amsterdam, do as the locals do. Rent a bike and explore the city. Just watch out, many locals do not have patience for amateur bikers clogging the streets.

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Just a short day trip from Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens attracts millions of people when its tulips are in bloom. The best time to see the tulips is in April-May. 

Red Light District.

The Red Light district possesses some of the city’s most rambunctious nightlife. It is home to a legal and regulated prostitution industry and a variety of sex shows, sex, and head shops. The streets are lined with glowing red windows indicating where an available sex worker is. In the evening, locals and tourists alike roam the streets, all visiting the Red Light district for different reasons. Some are looking for a good club to grab a drink, some are on their way to smoke at a local coffee shop, and others are there, for whatever reason, to take a peek at the ladies in the windows. The sex workers in the Red Light district act as their own boss. They pay rent for space where they conduct their business and set their own prices and standards for customers. The legalization of prostitution in the Red Light is one of the ways the Dutch are attempting to deter human trafficking in Europe.

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Canals.

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A system of gorgeous canals span the entire city of Amsterdam. There are plenty of canal tours throughout the city. I personally recommend an open top classic boat.

Cannabis Coffee Shops.

Legal marijuana is a huge industry in the Netherlands. Marijuana is sold only in licensed coffee shops. The coffee shops are easy to find despite there being a law against advertising in the shop windows. The shops typically have several strain options and the choice to buy by the gram or as a pre-rolled joint (pure or with tobacco). The vibe in many of these shops is very relaxed, for obvious reasons and many have snacks to help with your munchies.

Jolly Joker Amsterdam
Jolly Joker Coffee Shop Amsterdam

When to go.

Because of the tulips fields, I recommend visiting in April-May while the flowers are in bloom. The weather is best in the summer months but can be crowded. Even if you go in May-June, still expect some chilly days.

Where to stay.

As always I recommend getting a hostel when traveling solo. Hostel prices can vary depending on the time of year. I found most were about $35-50 a night.

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

Recap: My Trip to Europe (Part 1)

recap my trip to europe

There's no way I can sum up this amazing nine day, four city trip into one post, so I'm going to do two. I'll try to give you all a simple breakdown of what I ended up doing, places I stayed, and things I can recommend trying. Have any recommendations for other things to do in these cities? Share them in the comments below.

Day 1 - Amsterdam

AmsterdamAGingerAway

Flight
Lufthansa
Duration Approx: 10.5hrs
What did I think? : Happy to report Lufthansa was a great airline to fly with. The seats were comfortable and each passenger had a touch screen that had a wide array of movies, audio books, games, and music to choose from. Bonus: Bottomless wine on the flight. Cons: The meal was not good.

Hostel
St. Christopher's at the Winston
Stay: 1 Night
Cost: $54.89
What did I think? : This hostel was great because it featured a smoking room for travelers needing a place to smoke the local cannabis Amsterdam is known for. The bar/restaurant, Belushi's, also had a discount for hostel guests. I also liked this hostel because there were lots of smaller dorms. Smaller dorms, with 6-8 people, I believe are ideal because they are less overwhelming than larger dorms and I find people tend to speak up more if there aren't too many people around.

Food:
Amsterdam has a lot of American food options. The Red Light district is home to a variety of restaurants, much appreciated by tourists looking to satisfy their cannabis-induced munchies. Many customers walked the street with their food. I saw very few that would stop in to eat food that could be eaten to-go. I  mostly saw Fry stands and New York Style pizza.

 

Fries Amsterdam

What did I do?

Coffee Shop
Legalized marijuana is one of the things Amsterdam is most well known for. The Cannabis industry appears to be extremely lucrative. Coffee Shops, where marijuana can be sold and consumed in Amsterdam can get crowded, especially if you go to more well-known ones, like the Bulldog. I purchased my pot there but then ended up taking it back to my hostel to smoke it on the patio.

Dance/Music Festival in North Holland
How I found/ended up at this concert/festival/party/not too sure what to call it, on the distant outskirts of Amsterdam is a long story meant for another time. Ruigoord is a small village-like place in North Holland. Ruigoord is a short walk down a path from a main road in the dutch countryside. In the middle of this small 'village', there is an old church turned into a concert/event venue which just so happens to host a rave-like party the last Saturday of every month. Luckily, It was the last Saturday of the month when my hostel friends and I stumbled upon this place. $20 dollars got us wristbands that allowed us into the party on the inside. Outside the church were scattered bonfires and locals enjoying each others company. The dancing and conversations lasted until sunrise, at which point, my hostel friends and I decided to call an Uber back to the city center.

Day 2 - Dortmund

MayDay Dortmund

Train
Deutsche Bahn
Amsterdam - > Duisburg 2hrs
Duisburg - > Dortmund 36mins
What did I think? : Typical train ride. There is no service for drinks or food, which I wasn't really expecting anyway since the train is long and short service between stops. The train wasn't crowded at all either giving me plenty of space to stretch out for a nap.

Hostel
A&O Dortmund Hauptbahnhof
Stay: 1 Night
Cost: $95.99 (included ticket to MAYDAY Dortmund)
What did I think? : A Good quality hostel. Had good facilities and a nice common room and bar on the first floor. There were a lot of rooms and honestly not too many people staying there. I was glad it wasn't crowded but not super thrilled about not having any roommates. No joke, I had a 6-bed room all to myself. It was great for privacy but I was really hoping to meet some people that were also going to MAYDAY Dortmund in my hostel.  The common room wasn't filled with lots of guests either so I ended up just heading over to MAYDAY alone. 

 

#travelblog #instatravel #instatraveling #travelblogger #girlslovetravel #festivaltravel #dortmund

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What did I do?
MAYDAY Dortmund
MAYDAY is a music festival that happens every year around May 1st. The line-up featured some extremely popular European techno artists like Chris Liebing and Neelix. 
It wasn't too hard to find people to hang out with once there. The venue had several performances going on at once and had areas to eat, shop, or get your face painted. I just sat down to eat a pretzel and was able to strike up a conversation with another woman my age who asked me to join her group. I ended up hanging out with those people until about 8 am when I decided to go back to my hostel for a quick nap before my journey to Brussels. 

Day 3 - Brussels

Bus
FlixBus
Duration: Approx 5 hours
Cost: 20,26€
What did I think? : I would definitely use FlixBus again. the bus was clean and on time. The driver was nice and the bus wasn't crowded so I had room to stretch out to sleep. Which is what I did for the entire journey. Thankfully, a woman woke me up when we arrived in Brussels.

Hostel
Brussels 2GO4 Quality Hostel at Grand Place
Cost: $24.85
What did I think? : The hostel was in a great location, on a small side street right next to Grand Place. This made it easy for me to drop my stuff and head out to do some sightseeing. There was a newly updated kitchen for hostelers to cook and eat their own food as well as a quaint lounge area. The rooms felt spacious though the hostel was at fully capacity. I would definitely stay here again. Unfortunately, I only planned less than a day in Brussels or I would have been able to meet more friends and make myself comfortable there.

What did I do? 
Walked Around/SANDEMANs tour
In the late evening, I took a long sightseeing stroll just to get a feel for the city. I basically just walked around and strolled into a few souvenir shops and took pictures of the beautiful buildings.  I ate at Pizza Hut, which is not unique or exciting in the least, but it hit the spot. Technically, I did my SANDEMANs free walking tour the morning of Day 4 but feel like I should dedicate my writing for that day to Paris as that's where I was most of that day.I felt like I was able to see several main attractions like Mannequin Pis and the shops and buildings around Grand Place. I made sure to also stop by the Godiva store to pick up some Belgian chocolate for my mom.  

Made it to #brussels #grandplacebrussels #bruxelles #solotrip #backpackingeurope #femalebackpacker #followmyjourney

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What I’m doing in Amsterdam, Dortmund, Brussels, and Paris

I'm heading to Europe... What should I Do???

In one day, I will be boarding my first flight to Europe. I will be traveling to Amsterdam, Dortmund, Brussels, Paris, and then back to Amsterdam. While, I know where/when I'll be in each city I haven't really sat down to figure out what I'll do while I'm there. Once I'm there, I plan on playing each day by ear but figured it would be best to compile a list of things I'm interested in doing and how much they will probably cost. This way I can easily plan my day each morning. Currently, I only have concert planned to go to and SANDEMANs Free Walking Tours scheduled in Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas of what you can do on your own European adventure.

Why am I going to Dortmund, Germany?

MAYDAY Festival

The reason I'm traveling to this more obscure german town is because there is an annual electronic dance music (EDM) festival on April 30th. I will be landing in Amsterdam but have to take the train the next day to Dortmund. The festival, MAYDAY Dortmund, is housed in the city's Westfalenhallen concert venue. This event is held every year in late April/early May. Not for the weak at heart, this event will go from 7:00pm till about 9:00am the next morning.  So, I'm sure I'll be a zombie the next day. 

I'm big on EDM and music festivals. After booking my ticket to Amsterdam I did a search on Festicket to see if there were any festivals going on while I am there and luckily enough MAYDAY is happening, is only a 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, and happens to be a quite affordable. My package (ticket and hostel) only cost me $95 USD. 

 

What I'm gonna do in Brussels...

Sandeman's Free Walking Tour (In Paris and Amsterdam as well)

I actually don't have much time planned in Brussels. I will be arriving in the late afternoon via bus and will be leaving about 24 hours later to take a train to Paris.  Luckily, I was able to schedule a free walking tour thru SANDEMANs. SANDEMANs is a free tour company that does walking tours of many European cities. Simply sign up online for a free walking tour in the city of your choosing. I have already signed up for my tours in Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris.

Visit the Godiva Store...

I'm not a huge gourmet chocolate lover, but my mother sure is. Godiva is her favorite, I'm always sure to stop by my local shop for her Christmas and birthday gifts. Since my mom isn't coming with me on this trip, I'm going to be sure to bring her back her favorite Belgian chocolate from their flagship shop on Grand Place, which opened in 1926. If you're a Belgian chocolate lover, like my mom this might be up your alley.

Eat some Belgian Fries...

belgianfries

Now, let me just get this out of the way. I LOVE FRIES! Belgium is known from being the origin of frites(fries). So, I'm super excited to go to a local friterie (a place that sells fast food particularly, fries) to order one on my favorite foods. I'm not much of a foodie so this is about as excited as I get for a local dish. Here is a list I found of the best friteries in Brussels.

Things to do in Paris...

Balloon Generali...

With the Hot-Air-Balloon being a French invention I thought, there could be no better way to get a great view of the city. Balloon Generali is the worlds largest hot-air-balloon and is located in Parc André-Citroën in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. The Balloon operates everyday from 9am to 8pm and is first come first serve. I will be trying to go early in the morning to avoid a long wait. And the best part is, this experience is only 12 Euros person.

Have a Parisan Picnic...

Now, I have heard some conflicting things about whether or not it is illegal to consume alcohol in public in Paris. I've found that I basically just depends on where you are. I'm going to ask the staff at my hostel if they can give me some guidance. Once I figure that out, I plan to bring some wine and a baguette to a local park or by a river for a quiet picnic. Sounds instagram worthy, right?

Visit bouquinistes along the River Seine...

Bouquinistes (used book sellers) are a fixture in Paris. These sellers line the River Seine and the area around Notre-Dame. The River Seine is often referred to as the river between two book shelves. Might be a good place for a walk and to find souvenirs. 

Try Berthillon ice-cream...

Located on Île Saint-Louis, Berthillon is home to world famous Parisian ice cream (glacier in french). I hear the line can get long so, depending on what it looks like that day I may or may not get some of this ice cream, but it's definitely on my list. If I have to I can always buy a tub of it from a local store and take it back to my hostel for later. 

Wander around Montmartre

Montmartre is one of the trendier neighborhoods in Paris. This picturesque hilltop neighborhood boasts great restaurants, local art scenes, and cobblestone streets. This part of Paris will likely be a great place to wander and explore.

Pleasure Cruise on the River Seine...

While exploring my hostel's website I discovered that they offer tours as well. After looking through my options, I decided to take the Pleasure Cruise (18 euros). This cruise comes with a with a glass of champagne, a spirit or a fresh made authentic French crèpe with a beverage. The cruise tour will begin near the Eiffel Tower and will end toward the city center. This cruise also comes with audio guides in multiple languages. When traveling you might want to look and see if your accommodation offers tours or other special perks as well. You can often find some good deals this way. I'm excited about this cruise because it's possible other people from my hostel will be joining me, which will help me try to make a few friends while there.

What I am doing in Amsterdam...

Checking out the local coffeeshops...

Amsterdam is home to over 200 coffee shops, not to be confused with a cafe. Coffee shops in Amsterdam are where you can buy your weed. As this is one of the main reasons I'm visiting Amsterdam, I'm beyond excited. These coffee shops are where weed can be legally sold and consumed in the city, a true pothead paradise. Here is a list I found of the most famous Coffee shops in Amsterdam. 

Visiting the NDSM Wharf...

While researching off-beat things to to in Amsterdam I came across the NDSM Wharf. NDSM stands for Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company) and wharf means a structure on the shore of a harbor where ships dock. Basically, this thing is an old shipbuilding facility located in Noord, just a 15 minute free ferry ride across the River IJ. The space has been converted by local artists into a cultural hub. Seems like a cool place to check out and I wouldn't mind taking a free ferry to get there.

Taking a cruise...

Amsterdam is known for it's beautiful canals that connect throughout the entire city. The city has so many cruises to offer; theres a pizza cruise, and cheese and wine cruise. I'm cheap so I'm going with the 1 hour cruise thats about 18 euros.

Biking the Dutch Tulip Fields...

My last day in the Netherlands I plan to visit the famous dutch tulip fields and go to the Keukenhof. April and early may are when the flowers are in bloom. I'm thankful my trip happened to coincide with this gorgeous display of flowers. A roundtrip bus ticket and entrance to Keukenhof is 29 euros. There are apparently several bike rental locations near Keukenhof, once there I plan to rent a bike and enjoy the scenery.  Bike rental is 10 euros with this company. They even have route planned out for tourists. (Note: you cannot bike in Keukenhof, only on the roads around the tulip fields.)

Have any suggestions for things I should do? Comment below>>>

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