Amsterdam is one of the greatest cities in Europe, so we would certainly need more than 24 hours to do everything there is to do there. But every perfect travel itinerary needs to be taken one day at a time, and this day is jam-packed with goodies. We’ll spend the morning soaking up culture and madness at the Van Gogh Museum, we’ll feast on Indonesian treats for lunch, we’ll soak up natural beauty in Vondelpark, and chase that with some of the finest brew Amsterdam has to offer. Laten we gaan!
Morning: Van Gogh Museum
Address: Museumplein 6
Hours: 9-6 Daily, Open Until 10 PM Friday
Price: 17 Euros
Pop quiz, hot shot. What do you know about Vincent Van Gogh? Sure, we all know that the man suffered from mental illness and cut off part of his ear. We know that Don McLean wrote a really depressing song about him. You might know that though he was born in The Netherlands, he did most of his painting in France. But did you know that he studied Japanese art? Did you know he once worked as an assistant to a Methodist minister? And most importantly, did you know that his last name should be pronounced Hoch as if it rhymed with the Loch in Loch Ness?
Well you can learn all this and so much more at the world’s foremost museum dedicated to the world’s most famous earring-loss sufferer in history. Allow me to share with you just
three fun facts about vincent van gogh, if anything about van gogh can be said to be fun, which probably it can’t
(Photography is not allowed in the Van Gogh Museum except in certain very restricted areas, but the Museum can’t stop the Public Domain! So all the images I have used here belong to old PD.)
1) One of Van Gogh’s favorite subjects to paint was flowers. He is most well known for his dazzling golden sunflowers, but I preferred these delicate almond blossoms that he painted in the Japanese style.
In Japan,the art of flower arranging is very important, and you can see some of that influence in the composition of the flowers in Van Gogh’s still lifes. Of course, because it’s Van Gogh, the brushstrokes are a little more intense and the branches more twisted than you would expect to find in Japanese art.
2) Another subject Van Gogh was famous for painting was…Van Gogh himself. I find it interesting that an artist who so famously suffered from depression and ended up taking his own life was so fascinated by capturing his own tormented image. I wonder if the self-portrait was his own way of trying to work out his demons. Maybe if he’d just tried smiling or something in one of his paintings…I’m sure it couldn’t have hurt! A smile is like a sunflower for your face.
3) Finally, Van Gogh was also well known for painting exteriors in his adopted home of Arles, in Provence. I found this painting, “The Yellow House”, very striking because the buildings and their colors look so quaint and cheerful, but then you have this giant blue sky that looks like it’s going to fall on all your heads. Most people go to Provence and see incredible natural beauty, but Van Gogh went there and found an impending apocalypse.
24 Hours Treasure: My favorite painting in the museum is this very disturbing “Wheatfield With Crows”. It looks like the poster for an Impressionist Horror Movie. I can only assume that the waves of wheat are parting so that an evil scarecrow can rise from them and crush the peasants in the surrounding countryside.
PS. If you look at this painting in the right way, the two white balls look like creepy eyes in a demented face. Pleasant nightmares!
Lunch: Sama Sebo
Address: Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat 27
Because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, Indonesian food is extremely popular in The Netherlands. The most famous type of Indonesian meal is the elaborate rijsttafel, which consists of many delicious dishes presented in small servings, one right after the other. My first time in Amsterdam as a child, I ate a twenty course rijsttafel, but it is possible to have a thirty or even forty course Indonesian feast in Amsterdam.
The only problem for a solo traveler is that it’s hard to find rijsttafel for one! But I compromised by heading to Indonesian restaurant Sama Sebo for their Nasi Goreng lunch special. That way I could try lots of little Indonesian dishes on one plate, even as a solo diner.
My lunch special came with: fried rice, beef in coconut sauce, a spicy bean sprout salad, spicy fried tempe, sweet and sour pickle, spicy green beans, chicken satay (with peanut sauce), a crisp little chicken leg, and a fried banana for dessert. It was a veritable feast, especially if you love peanuts and spicy food, which I absolutely do. The only times I have ever eaten Indonesian food have been in Amsterdam, and I think it’s a cuisine that should be more well known throughout the world.
Early Afternoon: Vondelpark
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s biggest park and a wonderful place to spend a sunny day in Amsterdam. You can stroll about and check out the lakes, fountains, rose gardens, etc. If you’re a solo traveler, bring a book so you can get some good reading/relaxation in.
24 Hour Tip: These gushing fountains are quite lovely, but there are some other gushing fountains in Vondelpark that are not quite as picturesque. That’s right; I’m talking about the public urinals. Dutch men are not known for their shyness and you can find a few urinals right out in the open, with only a partial wall in place to conceal the peeing one. So be careful where you look, or you might just find yourself with a front row seat to Amsterdam’s least popular peep show.
24 Hour Treasure: My favorite thing in the park was the stunning array of colorful flowers. I recommend going on a flower scavenger hunt to see how many colors you can find. I got purple,
and yellow. Now get out there and see how many you can find!
Fun Fact: This sculpture in Vondelpark, called “The Fish” was actually done by Pablo Picasso. Apparently, this is what Picasso thinks a fish looks like. Oh Picasso! Never change!
Late Afternoon: The Original Amsterdam Beer Tour
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday at 4:30
I’d had a lot of fun on the Urban Adventures snack tour I had taken the day before in Amsterdam, so I was really excited to take their beer tour on the following day. I once again had Sean as my guide, but this time we were joined by a family of four ladies. So it was almost like getting to experience a bachelorette party in Amsterdam, only with much less debauchery than normal. I’m having four drinks on a beer tour doesn’t make one an expert of the Dutch bar scene, but let’s pretend that it does because I’m going to share with you…
the approximately top five places to drink in amsterdam
1) Beer Temple. The Dutch have long been well known for beer, with Heineken probably being their most famous export. But we started our tour at Beer Temple, which Sean said was the first craft beer bar in Amsterdam. Sean also kicked off the tour by doing a kind of magic trick. We all told us about the kind of beers we liked, and he ordered a different one for each of us.
I said I liked craft beers, so I got an American IPA from Denmark called Wookiee. It was pleasingly hoppy and flavorful. I like a beer that has so much taste, it gives me the illusion that I am eating something. But the other ladies on the tour didn’t like such a strong beer, so they were able to get something a little less pungent. And a good time was had by all.
2) Bier Fabrick. Our next stop was at a place that brews its own beer. Sean says that the Dutch don’t really like a lot of options or change when it comes to their food. They like to pick one thing and stick to it. So it makes sense that this place only serves three beers: a red ale called Rosso, a Dark Porter called Nero, and a Pilsner called Puur. I ordered the Nero because I am half Irish and I love a nice dark beer. Once again, I want the illusion that I am eating something!
The beer was delicious, but my favorite thing about this place is that the beer came with peanuts in the shell and it’s tradition here that you throw your peanut shells on the floor. They think it makes you feel more at home. I feel a little bit better about my cleaning habits if Dutch people are just going around dropping peanut shells on the floors of their homes! That doesn’t seem very sanitary.
3) Wynand Fockink. This bar which, no joke, has been around since 1670 was probably my favorite stop on the tour. They are famous here for having about a million different flavors of classic Dutch liqueur, jenever. Because there are so many different flavors, they can mix any drink for you that you like, using nothing but the power of their strange liqueurs. Want something that tastes exactly like a fake Irish Coffee? A White Russian? A Cuba Libre? They can create the illusion of all these things and more.
I asked for something sweet, so I got a gorgeous dark purple concoction that kind of reminded me of cassis. It’s always full right to the brim, so you need to bring your face down to the bar and sip some off before you are able to lift the glass off the table.
24 Hour Tip: The drink here is not included with the price of the tour, but the shots only cost like three Euros, so it’s definitely worth it. Just make sure to have some cash on you and you’ll be fine.
4) Brouwerij de Prael. This last stop was also a place that makes its own booze, but one thing that makes it unique is that they specialize in Belgian style beers. However, as much as I loved my Belgian sour, I was even more impressed by the pub’s social conscience. They are dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people who face obstacles entering the job market. I like to support businesses that try to make a difference in their community.
We also got a yummy snack, bitterballen, which are warm and filling fried breaded meatballs. Apparently bitterballen are the classic Dutch bar snack. Well, no one ever accused Dutch food of being low-cal! Because this is a pub, a little beer is mixed into the batter of the bitterballen here. (Bitterballen beer batter is quite the tongue twister, FYI.)
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 236
After three beers and a shot, you’re going to want to eat something more to soak up all that booze. I suggest walking just a few short blocks to Ramen-Ya, a hopping cazh Japanese joint in the Red Light District. Despite the location, there’s nothing seedy about this place, just some good, old-fashioned, wholesome noodles. I opted for a thick ramen with pork a-plenty, but there were lots of veg-only choice for the meat shunners among us.
I loved this ramen; it really is the perfect drunk food. There is so much umami flavor between the pork and the broth, but then you get the saltiness from the seaweed and the soy sauce too. The noodles tasted very fresh as well. I could almost imagine I was back in Japan.
I also ordered my favorite Japanese soda, Ramune, but I forgot how to open it and flew into a panic. I had progressed to the point of trying to open the bottle with my teeth when the kind waitress came by and showed me how to use the cap to open the bottle. Never drink Ramune when you are tipsy is the moral of this story.
And That’s How to Have a Perfect Day in Amsterdam!
What would you do with one day in Amsterdam? Do you think you could eat 40 courses in one meal? And if you were going to name a beer after a Star Wars character, would you pick Chewbacca or someone cooler? Please leave your thoughts below!
My next travel goal is to visit all 50 states (and DC) in five years! If you want to contact me, I am available at email@example.com!
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