Whenever I get back from a trip, I really do feel the need to write down everything we saw and enjoyed before I forget it. We ate at some tasty restaurants, saw some incredible sights, and thoroughly enjoyed becoming familiar with a new city. Overall, Amsterdam was such a blast and whirlwind of fun times.
Where we stayed: Unlike our first trip to Amsterdam, we stayed in an Air B&B in the Oosterparkbuurt area of Amsterdam. It was relatively cheap, we were able to rent two bikes with the flat, and the metro station was only several blocks away. Aaron and I really enjoy living like a local when we travel, and this is the perfect way to do so.
How we got around: Amsterdam is a very walkable (or bikeable) city. Within the Canal Ring are the majority of must-visit sights, and within that area it is extremely easy to get around. We also got a 72 hour pass card that gave us access to the bus, tram, and metro. Biking is always an option (there are several places where you can rent bikes in the city) as is the train if you need to get somewhere fast.
Highlights of Amsterdam: We were on a bit of a budget this trip so we had to prioritize which sights we wanted to pay for. The Rijksmuseum was at the very top of my list and so we spent a good 3.5 hours wandering around the museum. Highlights here include: Van Gogh self portrait, The Night Watch by Rembrandt, and The Milkmaid by Vermeer in addition to a stunning costume collection that included pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, and Cristóbal Balenciaga. The costume exhibit was exquisite and I could have easily spent hours in there if I wasn't so hungry. The Rijksmuseum also boasts one of the largest art history libraries in the world and it's worth it to take a breather and escape into the bookish, peaceful quiet of the multi-story room to gaze at the magnificent architecture and design of this room.
We also stopped into the small courtyard of Beginhof. This square was originally founded in the middle ages as a courtyard for beguines (or sisters who took care of the sick and took a voluntary vow of chastity and poverty, although they could leave the order at any time to marry if they so wished). The last sister died in 1971, but the houses are still inhabited today by only women. There is a request that no photography be taken in the square, so the women who live there can enjoy the peace and quiet and a normal life. Additionally, the square is home to an English Reformed Church that is a member of the Scottish Presbyterian. The church is absolutely beautiful (and because it wouldn't bother anyone, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the steeple).
We also spent hours just walking through the city, stopping into shops and admiring the views. Amsterdam is very picturesque and there are plenty of beautiful sights to be seen by just exploring.
What we missed and want to see next time: The Anne Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, and Amsterdam Museum (although we walked through the courtyard on our way to the Beginhof). Amsterdam has a rich art history and that is still very obvious today with modern art plastering the buildings and exhibitions held inside various stores.
Where we ate: Jacketz Oud-West - A baked potato restaurant that was absolutely delicious. Coffee Bru - a perfect little coffee shop that made delicious pastries and sandwiches (and right next door was a fantastic cheese shop!) Haeje Claes - a traditional Dutch restaurant which we visited our first time in Amsterdam and absolutely loved. Just as tasty the second time around! Our last full meal we ate at Broodje Bert which was ok... The food was good, but the restaurant was a bit dirty and dingy and too small for my taste. We found a pie shop a couple blocks down that served apple pies though, which made up for the ok meal. Also, one must try some of their delicious Belgium waffles, which can be found throughout the city.
All in all, this was a wonderfully successful trip to Amsterdam. The city is very welcoming and friendly and there is plenty to see and do without feeling overwhelmed. I already can't wait to go back. :)