Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Sweet Summertime Reads Roadtrip! Each Wednesday this summer I'll be taking you on a virtual roadtrip to various places on the map and hopefully introduce you to some new reads along the way as well. This week you'll need your passport as we cross the pond to The Netherlands with Judith from Paper Riot. Sit back and soak up the European culture as Judith shows us around Amsterdam.
photo credit: Judith
Hi! Welcome to Amsterdam. I know this is a big leap from our last road trip stop in the US, but just roll with it. I don’t actually live in Amsterdam, but only half an hour by train away is still pretty close. Besides, my mom took me here since I was two years old, and I’ve spent most of the last three years going to college here, so I think I still have a pretty good idea of what the city looks like. I spent a long time debating which spots I wanted to feature in this post, but eventually decided on my favorite places in Amsterdam, and I also tried to stick to spots you might not find in every tourist guide – and some places that you will find in there. I hope you enjoy this non-official guide to Amsterdam!
Central Station is where we start our journey, because this is where you arrive as soon as you get to the center of Amsterdam. The first thing to know is that we get everywhere by bike – though I prefer walking, and when I’m feeling lazy, taking the tram or the metro. I personally love Central Station, because it looks so beautiful and there’s so many different types of people to see. From CS we immediately turn left and head to see one of my favorite bookish spots: the Amsterdam Public Library. It’s white and spacious and has a very modern set-up, and while I like old, dusty libraries as much as the next bookish person does, I actually love the open space. It’s very calming. I especially like the building because it has a La Place (a lunch place) at the very top floor and a Vapiano (an Italian restaurant with a buffet) just outside the door. Perfect to spend an entire (rainy) day.
You must be exhausted from your journey, so I think it’s time for a drink, preferably near the water. In front of Central Station is the city, but right behind it is a large canal, the IJ, with two of my favorite spots to relax in the entire city. The first, Hannekes Boom is just next to the Public Library we just visited, and as you can see, it’s a great spot to spend those rare couple of summer days. There’s a roof terrace, but the picnic tables right next to the water is where it’s at. Even though it’s in a pretty industrial looking area, I always feel like I’m on vacation while I’m there. On the other side of the canal, which you can cross with a free, three minute boat trip, is the Wilhelmina-Dok, a bright orange building with a terrace on the water. They also have picnic tables, but my favorites are the benches just at the edge of the water. Both are great spots to spend a lovely summer afternoon with friends.
photo credit: Judith
After our lovely drinks, it’s time to get something to eat. I’m not mentioning places to have dinner in this post, because I can go on and on about those, but there’s definitely enough room for snacks. While the best ice cream in Amsterdam (in my opinion) is served at Venetië, where they make real Italian gelato, I usually visit this adorable little ice cream shop called Sugar ‘N Ice, which is just a few steps away from my university (I know, so tempting). I especially like this place because of their combinations of ice cream and poffertjes (a Dutch specialty that basically looks like mini pancakes but more delicious) or Belgian waffles. Poffertjes + ice cream is my personal favorite. It’s delicious! And if you’re looking for something salty instead of sweet, you must try the home made fries served at Frietsteeg, which – again, in my opinion – sells the best fries in Amsterdam. It’s a tiny place hidden in an alley, but trust me, you don’t want to miss this.
photo credit: Judith || source
Okay, okay, I’ve been teasing you. Now it’s finally time for me to take you book shopping. All you international people are probably going to be very disappointed with the number of English books and bookstores available here, but you can feel sorry for me later. Because the two bookstores I regularly go to (that happen to be just around the corner from my university as well – it’s like the universe WANTS me to fail at book buying bans) are really the only just-English bookstores we have. Still, they’re pretty fabulous. Waterstone’s is a UK bookstore located in a tall, gorgeous building in Amsterdam’s most popular shopping street, the Kalverstraat. Though I’m not a fan of this street in general (it’s too small and too crowded for my taste), this building is gorgeous. I love going to Waterstone’s just to stroke the lines of classics they have over there. The American Book Center is my favorite, though, because they sometimes have amazing discounts. I also just generally like American (hard)covers more. But I visit both stores on a weekly basis, because BOOKS.
source || photo credit: Judith
Of course, now that we’ve purchased some books, it’s time to relax. There are many, many parks in Amsterdam and unfortunately, I haven’t had time to check them all out, but my second favorite (my very favorite will be mentioned below) is the Westerpark immediately (or well, ten minutes) to the right of the Central Station, which is a great place if you want to work on your tan, because there are huge lawns and not so many trees. But while the parks are great, I highly suggest you to ditch those and just wander around the “grachten” (canals), because that is where it’s at. Hundreds of bridges with thousands of bikes attached to them, and even more boats lining the water. Sometimes there are little piers, more often you’ll find countless of benches, or you can just sit on the edge and pretend your feet are cooling off in the water. (You won’t actually be doing this because a, the grachten are too high for you to reach the water, and b, the water is disgusting. But it’s the thought that counts.) You also MUST take a boat trip and view Amsterdam from a different point. I’ve taken many boat trips, and I can never get enough.
That was it for my favorite places in Amsterdam. Now, let’s get to the books! If you want to visit one of the places mentioned in the few YA books about the city, I’ve got you covered as well. Here are three of the most famous books that (partly) take place in Amsterdam and mention some important places. (Other books that feature Amsterdam are 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, but I don’t think there were really memorable places in those.)
My favorite book that visits Amsterdam is Just One Day by Gayle Forman, which has travel! and character growth! and learning to love yourself! but I’m not going to go into that at the moment. The most memorable place Allyson visits in Amsterdam is the Flower Market, which happens to be one of the most touristy places in Amsterdam. I usually avoid it, because it’s insanely busy, but I do think it’s nice, this whole street lined with little flower stands that sell the most outrageous souvenirs. Of course, the stands are on the water, because this is the Netherlands and that is how we do things.
photo credit: Judith
I couldn’t make this list without mentioning The Fault in our Stars by John Green, in which the Amsterdam scenes were my favorites. Of course, the most memorable spot in the book is the Anne Frank House, which I’ve actually never been to. I suppose I should go one day, but I guess it’s one of those touristy things you don’t usually visit when living here. Or maybe it’s just because the lines are always insane, and I’d rather not spend four hours waiting to visit a house. Regardless, I think it’s one of the things you should definitely try to see when you’re here.
photo credit: Judith
Hey, I told you we’d get to my favorite park. The scene in Just One Year by Gayle Forman where Willem performs in the Shakespeare play in a park? That takes place in the Vondelpark, which I think is to us what Central Park is to New York. It’s one of my favorite places in Amsterdam, mostly because it’s just very relaxed and it’s great if you like watching people, or taking a break to read. It’s filled with street artists and tourists and people of all ages, and I just love it. Best of all? It’s right next to Museumplein, where three of our main museums are (the Rijksmuseum – which I’ve never been to, the Stedelijk museum – which is my favorite, and the Van Gogh museum – which I visited with Gaby), so you can take a break in between watching art. It’s perfect.
Thank you so much for wandering around Amsterdam with me and I really hope to see you here one day. If you’re ever here, please let me know so we can go touring and book shopping together!
Amsterdam has been on my list of places to see in Europe, and after Judith's virtual tour, I'm definitely moving it up that list. I love how this city showcases its beauty through canals and parks, yet keeps it urban with the city landscape as well. I'll definitely need Judith's help interpreting the Dutch and showing me around while I'm there. Thank you for this lovely roadtrip stop!
Just a reminder that my giveaway for some of my favorite YA summery contemps is still going on. Click the image below to enter -- ends at the end of this month! Next week we're heading back state side to visit one of my favorite cities, Chicago, with Tara!