Over Memorial Day weekend we took a trip to the Netherlands. The highlight of our trip was definitely our visit to Zaanse Schans, a windmill village just outside of Amsterdam, but Amsterdam did have some nice areas as well! Overall, Amsterdam was not my favorite city, but not my least favorite city either. I’d give it a 7 out of 10. The reason is because we had too much downtime for our liking. We are so used to being on the go on our trips that not having a plan screwed us up! We had originally planned to spend some time at Kuekenhof Gardens, but it closed 3 days before we arrived! We were unaware of this before we inquired about tickets there, so it is my fault that I wasn’t better prepared.

Our first stop while in Amsterdam was at the Anne Frank House. Ever since I read the book in 8th grade I have wanted to see the place where she and her family hid. I purchased us tickets in advance for the first time slot of the day and I am so glad that I did! We were first in line and along with a few other people were let in the museum at opening. Somehow, Stefan and I lost the rest of our group while touring, so most of the museum and secret annex we were able to see just the two of us, which I feel was more special. I highly recommend purchasing your tickets as soon as they go on sale. Tickets go on sale two months in advance and often sell out within hours. You are only allowed inside with a ticket for a specific time slot between the hours of 9 am and 3:30 pm daily. After 3:30 you may line up and buy a ticket for the remainder of the day. However, when we left the museum at 10 people were already lined up to purchase a ticket at 3:30! Just buy them in advance and save yourself an entire day of waiting in line because I was told by an employee that many people who wait in line for hours don’t even get to go in.

I only have 3 photos from our time here. You aren’t supposed to take pictures of the secret annex because they want to preserve it. I took a few pictures of some things (without flash) that an employee told me he would pretend not to see. Above is a picture of the ground level where the offices for Otto Frank’s business were located.

This was actually the least steep staircase we had to climb to get to the secret annex. We climbed, I think, 3 flights of steep stairs.

And here is the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex. If you want to see more photos of the secret annex you can see them here. Stefan and I both agree that seeing the hiding place has been one of the more memorable things we have seen while in Europe. We got to see Anne’s room where she hung up pictures out of magazines, and their (Anne and Margot’s) growth chart, and even her original diary. If you ever go to Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House should be a the very top of your list!

Next we took a canal cruise. It was really nice to just relax on a boat and look at all the narrow houses.

Of course Amsterdam has the famous leaning houses.

We also learned about the house boats. Currently no new houseboats are allowed on the canals, and the house boats first showed up due to a housing shortage years ago.

This is hard to see because I took it through a window, but do you see how skinny that house is? It is barely wider than the front door! We were told that houses in Amsterdam were built long and skinny because you were taxed by how wide your house was! You showed off your wealth based on how wide you could make your house!

Also, those hooks at the top of most houses? That is how they get furniture up to the top floors!

After our canal cruise we spent some time walking through “Little Venice”. In this area the houses seem to come straight up out of the canal like they do in Venice!

And of course, while looking for an actual coffee shop you will probably not find any coffee. Both marijuana and prostitution are legal in the Netherlands. They know what they are famous for and they market it!

And of course we made our way to the Red Light District.

It quite literally what you think of. When the girls are available they will be in the windows in lingerie advertising themselves. When they aren’t working the red light is off. When they are occupied the curtain is closed. It wasn’t as raunchy as I thought, but still a shock to see. The windows are only not occupied between 6-8 am. Any other time day or night you will see women (and men) in the windows.

Our second day in Amsterdam we made our way over to the floating flower market. We were a little too late in the season to see a bunch of fresh tulips, but we saw lots of bulbs and wooden tulips for sale.

We also made our way to Dam Square to see the Royal Palace. Honestly, it had to be the most disappointing Royal residence I’ve ever seen.  I’m sure it is beautiful on the inside, but the outside left much to be desired.

We also made our way to a wax museum. Mostly because it was air conditioned, unlike every restaurant, store, and museum we had been in that day.

And we spent lots of time looking at and getting out of the way of bicycles. People always tell you “watch out for bikes” when you go to Amsterdam. This is not sufficient enough warning. The bicycles are everywhere. They will run you over. They rule the road. It’s insane.

And lastly, we made our way to the I Amsterdam sign. Definitely go to the sign at the airport because it is so much less crowded! There are two of these. Exact same, but the one out in the city center is a mad house. You can barely even see the sign through the crowd of people. At the airport you’ll only see a few other people 🙂

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