Amsterdam Travel Diary
Okay guys, it took me 4 1/2 months BUT our Amsterdam Travel Diary is finally here! After our wedding, we spent the weekend recovering and packing and then left bright and early Tuesday morning for LAX where we boarded our the first leg of our flight to Reykjavic, Iceland and then over to Amsterdam for the first 5 days (technically 4 - we didn't get to our AirBNB until like 10 pm on the first night) of our 14 day honeymoon. When we first stepped off the train we were right downtown, just outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The sun was just beginning to set low in the sky - they're on about 20 hours of daylight over there in late June. We found our way to our AirBNB, not far from downtown but worth jumping on the metro. We checked in - our host was awesome and even had warm beer waiting for us - which apparently is how they prefer to drink beer in Europe. I had no idea...and my Dad is a US beer company executive! 😝
Since the sun wasn't due to set until around midnight, we were wide awake when we hit the AirBNB. Plus, we were just SUPER excited to be in Amsterdam! We used the HappyCow app a couple times during our trip to find vegan food, but mostly just used the incredible lost of recommendations you guys sent us on social media. I collected them all on a list and then starred all the places on Google Maps, so that as we were walking around cities I could see how close we were to our recommended places at all time! PRO TIP: You can download maps for offline use on Google Maps, so before our trip I downloaded maps for all of the cities we were visiting (Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London) and then used them offline and without burning up data overseas while we walked and traveled through the cities. Since your GPS works without needing data, you'll even see where YOU are on the maps. Very convenient!
Anyway, after we arrived we went to a HappyCow recommended, vegan restaurant near us called Mezebar Bodrum that served a sort of Greek-inspired tapas that was truly phenomenal. The first real food we'd had in hours, sure, but we went back again and I can confirm that is truly wonderful. The owners were sweet and accommodating and gave us awesome recommendations of stuff to see all over the city, plus they literally served us dinner at like midnight. The best introduction to this super friendly city! After we ate we found a 'coffee shop' and tried our first joint in Amsterdam. We didn't really understand why it made us feel SO weird until later, when we figured out that spliffs in Europe are usually rolled with tobacco. For a California girl used to a regular old joint, it was an unpleasant surprise and a serious head rush. Ick. We walked it off around the general area of our 'home' for the week before calling it a night. We were staying in a cute 1 bedroom overlooking the East side of Rembrandt Park. It was a huge, beautiful green space not far from the more famous Vondelpark. The parks and green spaces like the Bos quickly became our favorite part of being in the Netherlands. That and all of the friendly, off-leash dog culture! So many chill dogs, it was truly amazing.
Day two we started early, grabbing bagel sandwiches at the Bagels & Beans nearest us. I got hummus and veggies - a welcome meal after all the traveling. They are a chain, so we were able to find them all over the city. Perfect in a pinch! (I did bring probiotics with me while traveling to help with my crazy wonky digestion - more on how I pack for trips in an upcoming post!) After food we walked the city - over 17 miles the first day we were there! I came back with THE best, strongest booty I've ever had. It was awesome. We perused the canals and hit up the Van Gogh Museum area, including the Park Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sign is. There were also a bunch of small eateries, touristy shops, and plenty of people tripping on mushrooms in the park. We also stumbled upon some super cool Banksy and Salvador Dali exhibits at the Moco Museum, just across the park. We even found some kombucha at a small grocery store! It wasn't quite the 'booch we're used to, but it was cool to try different flavors and brands. We tried to get one or two different brands in each country and definitely ended up finding our favorite brand, Jarr, while we were in London. The whole 'I Amsterdam' area was super cool and busy with locals and tourists, and we stopped for lunch after seeing a big sign advertising vegan hemp burgers. It was delicious, and awesome to see so many plant-based options in Amsterdam. I totally fell in love with that area, and we ended up walking through it again on day 3, too!
Because of my soy and dairy allergy and dietary restrictions, we ended up eating a LOT of bread. This was no problem since I LOVE bread, but I did start craving fresh veggies at every meal pretty hard early on into our trip. Luckily for Alex, a baguette a day is literally what he wishes he could eat everyday. Luckily for me, we walked 11 more miles on day two, so I could deal with the bread intake. And of course the freshly baked bread from real neighborhood bakeries was SO much more satisfying than the grocery store crap we have here in the States. That said, we were super excited to find Maoz Vegetarian (last picture in this post), basically the Chipotle of falafel in Europe. It was so convenient and easy to make your own pita pocket stuffed with things you actually liked, and nearly everything was soy-free. Score!
The 2nd night in town we ventured over to the famed Red Light District, or De Wallen. We found it near the Hash, Marijuana + Hemp Museum, among other coffee shops, boutiques, cheese counters and tourist trinket shops. It sure was something! The dark, thin alleyways were lit up so that you could see them before you arrived. After turning down the alley you are immediately greeted on both sides by matching glass doors, spanning the length of the alleyways. Each has a woman in the window, usually wearing a small amount of lingerie or waggling her finger at you as you pass by. It's kind of crazy to see, but in a country with legal prostitution and brothels, its certainly not out of the ordinary. Rumor has it that the woman are actually generally quite respected and have close relationships with city police. We saw that in action, with friendly ladies chatting up the local police patrolling the area, offering them a drink or letting them in to chat. It was a very professional way of doing things, really, and was wonderful to see the women so in charge of their space and presumably their bodies. As a couple we were smiled at a lot but I think they generally knew we were tourists just talking a look; we did see a few people enter the rooms and quickly shut the door behind them, but for the most part, everyone around were curious tourists, too. We even found a few tobacco-free joints in that area, and enjoyed those for the rest of our stay in the area.
Day three we decided to trek like locals and rent bicycles! That's how most of the population gets around in Amsterdam, and it felt only right that we participate while we were in town. We started early in the morning, trekking nearly 6 miles over to the Amsterdam Bos, a huge green space of over 2,500 acres with a full forest, rowing lake, and even a few small restaurant snuggled inside. It's over three times the size of Central Park!
That was probably my favorite part of Amsterdam - the incredible swaths of bright green space. Not overly manicured, but full of people enjoying it. I wish we had more spaces like that here! We spent hours biking around, watching a rowing race, stopping at small cafes for rolls and fresh fruit, and just straight up loving being on our Honeymoon. For a late lunch we headed from the Bos back toward a place I'd been recommended on instagram called De FoodHallen, which was basically this amazingly designed old warehouse that has been converted into a community space for restaurants. There were at least 12 small cafes and restaurants in the space, and a bunch of long, community style tables in the center. Alex ordered a veggie temaki roll from Meneer Temaki and LOVED it, and I found and fell in love with a small Mexican place call Fento. They made killer jackfruit nachos and homemade iced teas, and I was really impressed that there was such good Mexican food in the middle of Amsterdam! Turns out Fento is owned by someone from LA who moved to Amsterdam and opened up this place - which is probably why it tasted to authentic and good to us. I totally LOVED it and highly recommend stopping by! After lunch we headed back to the AirBNB for a nap - those long days were killing us! - and then back out to a small, local hole-in-the-wall Indian spot for some chickpea curry for dinner. We returned our bikes and headed home. Renting bikes are enjoying the city really is a must-do while you're in the area, but know that the bike traffic moves fast and waits for no-one. Know where you're going before you start biking so you stay out of the locals way!
On day four we walked all over the city one last time, hitting up all of the favorite spots we'd accrued over the previous 3 days. We went all the way across town on foot to get to Dophert, a restaurant we'd heard literally rave reviews about. It was pretty good, and a super cute spot - plus the staff was incredibly friendly. That said, like most of the places we visited on our trip, the soy-free options were abysmal, and the portions were pretty small. But Alex really liked his Fried Seitan Sandwich, and we ended up loving walking around that part of the city, so it was totally worth the visit. I even found and made Alex take my picture in front of 'St. Peterhalsteeg' street sign! We finished off our last day walking the canals and stopping by the Vegabond vegan grocer. They didn't have a ton of options for on-the-go eating, but had some great groceries to take back to the AirBNB and a quality selection of kombucha, too. That night we hit up Mezebar Bodrum one more time and crashed hard, and were up early the next day for our train trip to Brussels! Hopefully I'll get it together and have THAT travel diary up next week! 😝 Until then, check out the resources below to help plan your trip, and check out our IG posts from the trip for more on what we ate + saw!
IG Photo Links:
Ask the locals! Seriously - they know.