After a quick stop in Brussels, we arrived in Amsterdam just after sunset and headed directly to our houseboat rental to check in. The boat was located in the Plantage district in a quiet neighborhood that wasn’t too far from the excitement or main tourist sights. The boat’s owners were very welcoming and provided us with coffee, bread and eggs for breakfast as well as a small Amsterdam travel guide and a bottle of wine. They also took the time to map out the closest grocery stores and local hotspots, which was more than we expected.
We unloaded our belongings and settled in to the cozy boat which was to be our home for the next 4 days. Then we set out to find some food and take in the magic of the city at night. The canals were glowing with reflections from nearby houses and boats and the stillness of the neighborhood added to the ambiance.
When we woke up the next day in our houseboat, I couldn’t help but be thankful. What started as a struggle to find a hotel in a overbooked city turned into the most amazing opportunity. It brought the whole experience of Amsterdam to life and gave us a small peek into what life might really be like in Amsterdam – which is so much more than what you can get from a hotel.
So after several attempts at getting the Nespresso machine to work, we had our coffee and breakfast and headed out for some sightseeing. Our boat was just near the famous Skinny Bridge – Magere Brug so we got to cross it each time we left the boat.
We decided to start the day with a canal tour so we could get an idea of where everything was located within the city. It only sort of worked because we were still a little disoriented every now and again during our stay, but we got to see Amsterdam from a very different perspective and we got to relax and enjoy the sunny day.
After the tour, we stopped for lunch in De Pijp at a counter service wok restaurant where I had the most amazing udon noodle wok with peanut satay sauce. I’ve already successfully recreated it since we got back and will be posting the recipe soon. Normally I would seek out local cuisine, but it proved rather difficult to find authentic Dutch cuisine. According to my guide book and several other sources, Amsterdam’s culture has strong Indonesian and Surinamese – as well as other international – influences so I didn’t feel so bad eating whatever looked good.
Then we walked toward the city center checking out the Bloemenmarkt – floating flower market and the Red Light District along the way. The Bloemenmarkt was a little bit disappointing considering there were barely any flowers and it had a bit of a “tacky tourist” vibe. The rest of the city center was a maze of canals and sidewalk cafes. We stopped at least twice for coffee and/or beer. The Red Light District was really intriguing – leading to lots of wondering and googling about the goings-on in the area.
Right around the corner from the red lights was Oude Kerk, which was easily the most unique European church I’ve seen to date – walls decked out in colored paintings and golden accents.
After all the walking and sightseeing, we stopped at the grocery store to get something quick to make for dinner. I was so amazed by the grocery stores in Amsterdam – lot of prepared foods, tons of great looking produce and even free coffee. I wanted to stay there forever just for the grocery shopping.
The day had been really windy, and on our way home from the grocery store we saw these two little ducks waddling around the city – probably unable to fly because of the wind.
After dinner we hung out on the boat for a while before we headed back to see the Red Light District at night – just to satisfy our curiosities. There was a major difference between night and day in the district, and I was surprised by the fact that the pubs in the area weren’t overrun with tourists and prices were relatively low – far from what I had expected.
Then we strolled around town and stopped for drinks at Rembrandtplein – where the day’s crazy wind had completely knocked over one of Amsterdam’s many overflowing bike racks.
Want to see more of our trip? Check out Houseboating in Amsterdam: Part 2 & Dutch Tulips.
Published: April 26, 2013. Updated: April 7, 2022.
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