This is it! Last post on Amsterdam, and I saved the best for last. Hidden gems like Begijnhof and the most notable attraction, The Anne Frank House. In case you missed it, here is Amsterdam, Part 1 and Amsterdam, Part 2 to bring you up to speed…
I am picking up right where I left off, on my fourth day in the city. I made it back from the tulip gardens in Lisse and found myself wandering the city in search of Begijnhof, a 14th century village hidden in the middle of the city. So hidden in fact, I couldn’t find it right away. I circled modern shops and bustling restaurants until I found an alcove that lead to a tiny oasis blanketed in silence and sunshine.
Upon entering the main courtyard, a sense of peace and quiet washed over me. In contrast to the noise of surrounding Amsterdam, Begijnhof features residences, a small courtyard, and a church. Established in 1307, Begijnhof (beh-guy-n-hof) was home to pious women who lived outside of society but never took monastic vows. The sign at the entrance stated no photography but I saw people taking photos so I snuck a few on my phone… shhh, don’t tell.
The beguines were religious lay women who, in contrast to the more publicly visible male clergy, gave their lives to god by serving the sick and poor. They lived outside of society in beguinages, like Begijnhof, that were usually comprised of a cluster of self-sufficient residences around a church, and located close to the schools and hospitals they served. The women were considered independent as they were not bound by religious rules, rarely ever married, and could enter town at will. You can read more about their fascinating history here.
Before heading home, I stopped at Dam Square, a must for a first-timer’s highlight tour. It was very grand and lively as tourists and vendors, AND PIGEONS scurried about. I took my obligatory photo and if you look closely you can see Batman, yes, Batman. This guy stood right in front of the royal palace and I believe it’s his day job because he did not move. In fact, he’s probably there right now. As lovely as it was, I must say the highlight for me was Elton John’s doppleganger asking me where Dam Square was on the tram. I mean, for one, the resemblance was uncanny, and two, I’m always flattered when tourists think I know enough to answer their questions. I don’t, but I’m flattered.
Sidenote: There are so many details of this trip I’m not able to share because if I did, this would read like a novel and ain’t nobody got time for that. But, I have to mention that in this city, there are so many different cultures and languages and ages and it can get chaotic quickly. Transportation was my greatest challenge because truth be told, I hated that f*cking tram. I had to check in and out, not every stop or tram had a ticket vendor, and the vendors on the tram could be unfriendly and also not tell me when, where or how to use the ticket. You are supposed to get on the tram at the font or back, NOT the middle; I learned that the hard way, and I still don’t know the difference between the chime that the ticket worked and the chime for when the ticket has expired. Also, I inadvertently took a free ride from Museumplein to Kinkerstraat and spent the next two hours living in fear that the authorities would come after me for the three bucks and probably my right arm. But the point is, there were a few really sweet people along the way that told me how it goes. People that weren’t my age or religion or nationality and they were kind enough to speak up and help me and point me in the right direction and it was just the most pleasant surprise each time. Probably had a look of sheer panic on my face and they pitied me, but either way, I’m grateful for it.
Day Five | For my last day in Amsterdam, I made a reservation for the Anne Frank House. I truly lucked out because tickets were sold out weeks before my trip but I checked again once I was in Amsterdam and scored a ticket. I had time before my reservation so I walked the swanky Jordaan neighborhood in search of coffee and inspiration. Not surprisingly, I found both.
This was the only day that the weather was less than ideal but I didn’t let it stop me. I sat on a bench along a canal and watched an old man serenade the street from a third-floor window. It was way too early in the day to be drunk, he was singing in…Dutch (?), and it felt like something out of a movie. Definitely provided a chuckle before the rain began to fall and I took shelter in a cafe.
Once it was all clear, I hit the streets, camera in hand. The facades of the canal houses and stores in this neighborhood are classic Amsterdam. Flowers and muted colors coupled with brick and brass fixtures. It was all too much. Also, these people do not believe in curtains so often when passing by, I could see right in their homes, which were gorgeously minimal and modern. #homegoals
Once a working class neighborhood, the Jordaan is a trendy borough known for De Negen Straatjes, or Nine Little Streets, where you can find original shops, nice restaurants, and unique markets. I popped in a few stores for nifty gifties and found the most gorgeously curated collections of mugs, paper goods and coffee accoutrements.
Not gonna lie, staring at the canals never gets old…
I was taken with all the ads I saw around the city. Like a hoarder, I took photos of posters, street signs, banners, and stickers at every turn and stashed them away for inspiration. I love the type and color choices for both of these. The one on the right is for a pop/jazz orchestra and the one on the left I can’t make heads or tails of… Google Translate failed me. But, it’s pretty, no?
I sat outside Westerkerk Church for a little bit and listened to the bells chime before going in for a brief view. Not far from the Anne Frank House, it’s Amsterdam’s largest church and it’s ornate tower is the subject of many photos, as you can see above. Chris actually mentioned something interesting to me: every spring a day is designated in which all the towers in the city are open to the public and free of charge. Turns out I missed it by a few days, but if you’re in Amsterdam around that time and want gorgeous aerial views of the city, check it out.
Here are my thoughts on the Anne Frank House: It was a zoo but the crowds were managed with precision and it left a lasting impact on me. I really did not know what to expect because super popular attractions kind of turn me off, but the experience was surprisingly emotional. Each room is packed with visitors and you kind of follow the herd from space to space, but once you put yourself into the mindset of the family that lived there and see the relics up close, it’s incredibly powerful.
After touring the house, I stopped at the museum’s cafe for coffee and a beautiful view of the canal. It was still overcast and chilly outside so this stop, coupled with a few books I picked up at the gift shop, felt oh so cozy.
In preparation for my flight to Stockholm, I made my way back to my hotel to pick up my things before heading to the airport. I walked through De Hallen again, this time stopping in the Maker Store, a fabulously styled shop with everything from clothing and bags to hot sauce and custom embroidery. Their mission is to make goods that are personal, sustainable, and as local as they are unique. Of course, I wanted to buy the place out but had very limited suitcase space so I just ogled everything in-store…
I grabbed a green juice from a dreamy Viking at Fento for one last pick-me-up before leaving the city. As simple as it is, I love how they used a sticker for branding an otherwise generic cup. Cost effective, versatile and on-brand…. The juice was de-lish too!
So, that’s it for Amsterdam! I had a blast, learned a little Dutch, lived to tell about it! Next stop: Stockholm!