4 Days in Amsterdam & Beyond
By Kelly Cronin
We’re giving you an inside look at our romantic summer getaway to Amsterdam and the Netherlands. A beautiful city year round, we’re delving into what makes Amsterdam a perfect summer city escape. Most summer vacations include trips to island destinations, sandy beaches and blue waters. Since I live in paradise (if you’ve been to the French Riviera in summer you know I am not exaggerating), I thought a city trip away from the overcrowded beach bars would be the perfect romantic getaway. Here’s how we spent four days in the Netherlands for our summer getaway to Amsterdam:
Before going directly to Amsterdam, we drove a bit past the bustling canal city to take a day exploring a small nearby city. Haarlem is a smaller, less touristy version of Amsterdam while still holding the unique Holland charm with plenty of canals and bridges adorned in flowers. We started off by slowly walking through the streets (we like to take turns picking directions based on which streets look “cutest”) and taking lots of photos of the canals. The main river has a windmill that you can actually climb to the top of to get an adorable view of the city.
We stopped for lunch in the central market plaza where we shared a platter of Netherland specialties including some amazing fried cheese rolls with authentic dutch cheese at one of the many sidewalk cafés. This plaza is also home to the St. Bavo Church, where both Bach and Mozart had played in this magnificent architecture. If you’re looking for a different church experience, Jopen is a brewery in Haarlem that is actually in the center of an old church! (We had to skip since we were driving, but I will definitely come back to do this someday!) After a full day in Haarlem, we head into Amsterdam to check-in to our Airbnb and start exploring. From the central station, we walked among the canals for some souvenir shopping and pictures, finally settling down for dinner and drinks.
My favorite part of Amsterdam is exploring the endless (I mean ENDLESS) winding streets and canals and bridges with adorable cobblestone and dutch architecture. We spent the morning going on a whim and choosing our directions based on which streets looked the cutest (which proved harder than it sounds), spending a long time deciding which flower seeds to buy at Bloemenmarkt.
In the afternoon, we went over to the Heineken Experience at the Heineken Brewery. I would highly recommend this tour, which includes a self-guided tour, with presentations along the way, of the original brewery. By the end of the experience, you’ll have the chance to personalize your own bottles of beer, which was the perfect souvenir! There’s also a really fun game experience area, free photo-booth, karaoke video and more, all followed by two complimentary beers in the bar. It’s fair to say we ended up having more fun than we anticipated, possibly thanks to the three beers, for eighteen euros per person.
On our final day in Amsterdam, we decided to see the city by bike! I was hesitant at first after hearing so many horror stories of the bikers in Amsterdam, but as long as you keep up with traffic and follow the signs, you’ll be fine. We brought our backs with us, but there are plenty of places on every street to rent bikes that come in all sorts of colors and sizes. We headed in for lunch at Garlic Queen – an all garlic restaurant! We are both huge fans of garlic, so I found this place ahead of time and made sure we found time to go. The menu has everything from baked garlic (my new favorite thing in the world) to garlic ice cream and even garlic beer and wine to drink. Luckily we were both indulging in the garlic, so there was no need to be embarrassed or hold back a kiss.
After devouring some breath mints, we got back on our bikes and headed to Vondelpark. The largest city park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark is a quiet sanctuary from the bustling city. We loved riding through this green paradise, exploring many fountains and admiring the beautiful rose garden. Vondelpark is also right near the Van Gogh Museum, which has an incredible sunflower maze as part of the entrance to the museum. (This is on the top of my list for next time!) We unfortunately had to pack up and drive west to our next destination: Wijk aan Zee.
After a night of camping at an adorable campsite in Wijk aan Zee, we walked down to the enormous sand dunes to get to the beach. Although it was windier and colder than I was expecting, we got to relax in the sunshine after walking through the trails in the dunes with orange and green rolling hills.
Before heading back to Germany, we drove a little south to the more populated town Zandvoort. We explored the small main streets before stopping in a small café for an amazingly inexpensive brunch. We could then walk down to the beach, which had a few resorts and bars, as well as kite surfers galore. The big waves make this a popular surfing spot, although a wetsuit is definitely a must. We dipped our toes in the water and soaked up the sun before hopping back in the car and heading home.