You see that white house boat across the river? That was our home for the three days we were in Amsterdam. Already on our trip, we had lucked out with two boutique hotels, that were slightly off the beaten path while still being close to city-center, and that we could book with travel points. It was great! But Amsterdam was unlike Prague and Lisbon when it came to booking accommodations.
When I look for a place to stay, I have an order of operations in terms of where to look first. I always try to get a measure of the average hotel cost compared to a vacation rental. But most of the hotels that were available to book with points were part of a big chain, had the same food that I could at anyone of their other locations, and they were much farther from the central area that we wanted to be. I moved my search to Airbnb. I think ideally, I'd like to say I always prefer Airbnb but it always comes down to cost for me and they don't offer loyalty points.
We ended up staying on a houseboat in the Weesperzijde neighborhood of Amsterdam. Though we know not everyone in Amsterdam lives on a houseboat, it felt like a very local experience to be had. Every day we'd go out and explore the streets and canals of the city and every night we'd be rocked to sleep by the gentle wake of passing boats out enjoying the late summer sun
Highlights of Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
Like many others, I grew up seeing his paintings as prints in a book or as a poster in my public school art class. And while those images are impressive enough, they don't come close to doing justice to the paintings themselves. On a two-dimensional surface, you cannot appreciate the three-dimensionality that Van Gogh painted with. Layers close to an inch thick created ridges on the canvas, casting shadows onto the painting where they otherwise wouldn't exist.
I learned a lot about Van Gogh, but perhaps my favorite thought is one that I had while walking through his self-portrait gallery. Over the course of two years, Van Gogh created nearly thirty self-portraits all in varying styles. That's, on average, two a month. I think he would've enjoyed Instagram and been a selfie king.
In any case, this was certainly one of my most treasured experiences in Amsterdam. If you're visiting make sure to book tickets online ahead of time. You cannot buy tickets at the museum.
If you're an art lover, go early and plan to spend some time here. Reese and I visited and thought we were walking through at a decent pace, but still ended up spending four and a half hours here. While the prized piece is Rembrandt's Night's Watch (which is pretty spectacular, but I love Rembrandt), Rijksmuseum has an extensive collection. From paintings to carved weapons to antique furniture with intricate inlays to books (they have their own impressive library), there's something for everyone.
And while we had two great days looking at beautiful art in hanging on museum walls, my favorite part of Amsterdam was the city itself. Every time someone has asked what I enjoyed most, I can't put my finger on any one experience or moment. It's a city that will forever charm me with its buildings of all shapes, colors, and leanings; forever beckon me to wander along the edges of the canals, marveling at the cars parallel parked without any guard rail between the wheels and the water (or houseboat) below; forever provide an abundance of captivating doors to photograph.
I'm not saying it was my favorite stop of the trip, but I can't say that it wasn't either.