A trip to Amsterdam from Stuttgart is usually cheap with several direct flights on smaller airlines. This weekend in early August however, was the first holiday for students in Germany to go on break for the summer, and unbeknownst to us, it was also Amsterdam Gay Pride Week. Needless to say, flights were pricey and hotel options were slim, but it was worth it to be there as family and friends were flying in to start their own summer European adventure with Amsterdam as their first stop.
The cheapest option during this peak travel time was to take the 90 minute train from the main station in Stuttgart and fly out of Frankfurt. The process was really easy so we will definitely do that again as another travel option in future. We brought my new favorite book on the train to read up on things to do in Amsterdam in a weekend, The New York Times: 36 Hours 125 Weekends in Europe.
We stayed in the east side of the city which was fine for the limited choices we had. We found the best package through American Express travel. There are multiple trains to get around everywhere, and the east side is within walking distance to town in 15-20 min. The hotel was an old hospital turned to modern loft style rooms. We did not know it was an old hospital when we booked. It didn’t give us any creepy vibes being there as everything was renovated, but knowing what it was before did. Regardless, we likely won’t stay there again. Next time we will definitely go on the west side where more boutiques, bars and markets are.
Not knowing anything in Amsterdam, in addition to my new book, we found a new free map app called Bobbypin that allowed us to pin all the places we researched to see how was best to set our daily plan, including notes with each pin.
Standard travel practice for us runs in priority as follows:
- where is the local beer? (or wine if applicable)
- where is the best local food?
- where can I shop and see pretty city things at the same time?
It being Gay Pride Week with a big parade on Saturday, it was hard to see what the city must really look like on a normal visit. The streets and the waterways were filled with people in pink and glitter upon our arrival (awesome!). Renting a bike this weekend was also unfortunately out of the question as it would have been dangerous for us to learn to bike through the streets of Amsterdam with all the crowds of people, plus take pictures at the same time. Number one thing to do when we go next time is rent a bike.
We walked everywhere, even navigating home late night without cell service or a correct map. Landmark signs through the city are a lifesaver.
Along with all the Gay Pride festivities and boat parade, there is a Saturday market, Waterlooplein Market, with great souvenir shopper prices. There were antique markets on Sunday too near my favorite area of Prinsengracht where our brunch stop for local Dutch pancakes, called Pancakes Amsterdam was. It was small, not an eggs and bacon kind of place, but the thin pancakes are huge in savory or sweet options. The fresh brewed mint leaf tea was the favorite of the morning after a long night before.
Similar recipe for Dutch pancakes click here.
The least favorite area for shopping because it was only the commercial stores like H&M etc. was the Jordaan area, but still a good walk around.
Cheese shops are everywhere in Amsterdam too. Who knew!
The boat tour was a good thing to do. It was about 15 euro per person for an hour-long boat tour of the canals leaving from the ports near the main train station. Get the tickets online or at the hotel for the best price. Our boat company was called Lovers, but there are a ton that operate all the same. Private boat tours were much more at 350+ per hour.
It is huge. I pictured one street or so but it runs across the canals in an entire section of the city filled with semi-attractive girls posing in lingerie behind glass doors at eye-level. There are popup red flashing lights in the street that warn you are entering the area. There are tons of shows too which run about 40 euro per person.
Also in this area is where to find the smoke shops and bars. Hence the vast amount of fast (er) food selections too, lines of burger, fries and pizza joints at every corner. Amsterdam has tons of food and beer options around, you just have to find them past all the fast food stuff. We learned Amsterdam has apparently adopted BBQ ribs as popular local food choice now.
We stuck to beer as usual and scouted out all the local breweries as we made our sightseeing tour walking through the city.
In Der Wildman was our first choice with Beer Temple as runner up. Both places had helpful bartenders and weren’t crowded with a big menu of local, Belgian and international beers. Of all the breweries on our list, we hit them all except for the brewery/distillery called Proeflokaal Wynand Fockink because it was super crowded when we walked by. We decided with five people it was best to skip it this trip. It’s on our pinned map for next time though. We will definitely be back.
Italy is next but stay tuned for Belgium in October 🙂