First look at Amsterdam: Canals, Van Gogh Museum and the Royal Palace

Sarah and I were in Amsterdam for only three nights and two full days. With so much to do and so little time, we did our best to pack as much as we could into our brief stay.

We took different flights to Amsterdam, and she arrived hours before I did and checked us in to the hostel. I arrived at the airport late afternoon and found the train to the stop near our hostel (see my last post about transportation!).

It was late by the time I rolled up to Lucky Lake hostel, so Sarah and I decided to stay in that night and just hang out with the other guests. We made a few friends in the hostel’s lobby — mostly Americans, go figure — and enjoyed the night hanging out with them. At some point we took the metro to the next station over in search of wine, and we came back with pre-mixed mojitos. The rest of the night was spent in one of the lounge cabins at the hostel where a group of us chatted, drank and played music until bed.

We rose Tuesday morning and took the metro into the city after a quick breakfast at our hostel. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum. The hostel staff recommended that we book our tickets in advance online so as to avoid the queue at the museum. I’m so happy we did.

We arrived in Amsterdam’s Central Station about an hour before our ticketed museum entrance time, so we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the canals and crowded streets. We even ran into one of Sarah’s friends who she had met at a convention weeks previously. On our way to the museum, we passed one of the IAMSTERDAM signs (there’s another one by the airport, and probably more?) and of course had to snap some photos.

We finally made it to the museum where the line stretched almost all the way around the building. Printed tickets in hand, we strolled right to the front and went in a special side entrance. No waiting!

The Van Gogh Museum (EUR 17) was ah-mazing. He is Sarah’s favorite artist and she therefore had more pre-existing knowledge of Van Gogh than I did, but I was blown away by everything I learned. The museum was oriented such that each floor represented a stage in Van Gogh’s life, from his first painting to his last (though there is controversy over which piece was actually is last). I learned about his conservative up-bringing, his transformation in Paris, his friends and family, and finally his final years spent painting in the insane asylum after he sliced off a bit of his ear. Truly captivating.

Leaving the museum, we headed to a cute café and grabbed a bite as we sat European style (both sitting on the same side of the table, facing the street) and people watched for an more than an hour. We then walked through Dam Square, the main shopping area, and grabbed a few necessities — a new jacket for Sarah and a pair of sunglasses for me. Pleased with our new goodies, we walked around some more, passing the Royal Palace and watching the street performers. We could have taken a tour of the alace but it cost a few euros and we were trying to budget. The outside was pretty though!

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After a little while longer of walking around, we headed back to the hostel. It was a long day full of lots of walking, but we decided that night we would head back into town and visit the Red Light District.

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