Amsterdam

I’m back from Amsterdam! And it turns out I went at one of the best times of the year.
Amsterdam in the winter is beautiful, albeit cold. The patron saint of the city is St. Nicholas (in case you didn’t know, that’s the man behind the story of Santa Claus.) And they definitely go all-out for the Christmas season. Many of the shops and cafés are decorated beautifully with fairy lights, some with a more Seasonal theme than others, but all fully embracing a warming and festive spirit.
I managed to make it there in time for the lights festival: The city and canals are temporarily illuminated by intricately designed light displays, many of which are installations designed by artists. There’s even a canal boat tour specifically for viewing the lights, where you can plug in some headphones and hear the stories behind the artwork as you pass them by. (In my photos above I included one light display, Souvenir by Eric Kessels)
The food in Amsterdam is delicious, particularly if you’re a fan of fresh bread and various cheeses – most of the restaurants are steakhouses or serve pub grub including burgers/pizza/pasta, and although there are some sushi bars and Japanese grills they are slightly more expensive if you’re on a budget. The food is perfect for cold weather comfort-eating, but we did struggle for variety and fruit/veg portions. If you are planning a visit soon, I suggest bringing some dried fruit!
The museums are fantastic, if a bit pricey: Rijksmuseum, full of artwork, sculptures and culture; Bodyworlds, a museum of anatomy, hosting dozens of real preserved human specimens; The Secret Church of Our Lord in the Attic, a historic hidden church; and the Van Gogh museum, hosting hundreds of works by the artist himself. All of these are worth visiting, as well as the historic home of Anne Frank.
You can usually find discount vouchers at your hotel or one of many attraction booking shops around the city, you can also do money saving deals when you buy tickets for more than one attraction at a time, which is worth the effort.
Amsterdam is architecturally one of the prettiest places I’ve visited. The canal houses and boats are for the most part decorated intricately, and if you’re nosy like me and enjoy looking through windows in the evening you can see that design, art and creativity are at the core values of many residents. Amsterdam is crawling with live music, book markets, galleries, the world famous flower market packed with nature, and plenty of street art; providing a rich culture and liveliness to an already active city of cyclists and pedestrians. The city also has a cosiness to it, with cafes and bars on every corner, usually full by lunch time (it’s common to see people out having a beer with lunch even on weekdays) and despite this, it remains a fairly calm and serene atmosphere up until later in the evenings.

If I were to go again I’d like to visit in summer and do some cycling, It’s generally cheaper (and more comfortable in cold winters) to get the tram around the city, but there are some fantastic cycle routes around Old Holland for those who enjoy a more active approach, and I’d love to check those out.

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