As my first post back after a long hiatus from blogging, I knew the first thing I wanted to share about was my late September trip to the home country of one of my best friends, Charlotte. Another friend of mine here in Barcelona, Olivia, and I had been long-wanting to go to The Netherlands (or Holland, you can use them interchangeably though the first is the technically correct name), and see our favorite Dutchie in her element. After finding cheap tickets and a weekend that worked for all of us, we were on our way! We flew from BCN to Amsterdam and spent two nights there, then passed through Haarlem, and trained to The Hague for our last day.
I highly recommend visiting Holland, especially with a Dutch best friend should you ever be so lucky! The people were very friendly (and beautiful), the food was delicious, and one could stroll the winding streets with cute shops for days on end. We visited the last weekend of September, and we had not ideal weather – nearly non-stop rain and substantial winds, but alas that is pretty normal weather there.
Charlotte booked us two nights at The Alfred Hotel, which was an easy enough place to find and a nice walk into the city center. The room was decent and they (like many hotels there) have bikes guests can rent.
Things to do / see:
Van Gogh Museum, stroll around old area, Anne Frank House, Tulip Museum, peruse local farmers’ markets, river boat rides, rent bikes or scooters, Red Light district (no photos!). We got out the first morning before the crowds of tourists and did a 9:30 a.m. tour at the Anne Frank House, which was, needless to say, extremely worthwhile.
Fresh cheese, mushroom, bread and flower heaven at Noodermarkt, right in the plaza in front of Winkel.
Things to eat:
For our first meal in Amsterdam, we stumbled upon Van Dam Brasserie, which was quite tasty. We got an appetizer platter to split and the atmosphere was fun for a Friday night.
Maybe you’re smarter than me and already knew that stroopwafels originated in The Netherlands, regardless these two-layer wafer cookies with caramel filling are delicious and easy to find in any Dutch city. You can delight with a fancy variety at Van Wonderen, and/or you can buy by the bag at any grocery store or gift shop.
For anyone who loves a Spanish croquette as much as I do, allow me to introduce you to the Dutch equivalent, bitterballen. This traditional meat-based snack is breaded and fried to a crispy perfection then normally served with a mustard sauce on the side. I think we had bitterballen at least half a dozen times over the weekend.
If you have a sweet tooth, you must try a slice of famous apple pie with whipped cream at Winkel 43. It does not disappoint and is big enough to share!
Tomato soup at Bar Dó… tasted even better than it looks in this photo!
Below see the best grilled ham & cheese sandwich (bikini in Spain) that I’ve ever eaten at Valerius (near the Alfred Hotel).
Another sweet tooth must – Pepernoten aka PEPPERNUTS aka tiny spice cookies that are popular holiday treats in The Netherlands, Germany & Denmark. Buy them at Van Delft (free samples and oh-so many flavors to choose from).
Nightlife: highly recommend going out in the De Pijp area (cute streets filled with bars and restaurants, lots of outdoor seating… many bars turn into clubs later in the night).
For cute gifts, I’d opt for Delft Blue pottery (the renowned blue & white pottery from Holland). When we went, I picked up several pretty ornaments as Christmas gifts for relatives and they loved them. Another good place to get (cheap) gifts would be HEMA – think of it as a sort of Homegoods/ TJ Max/ Target sort of store native to Holland, definitely a Dutch go-to.
HAARLEM: just an easy, quick train ride away! The original Harlem… did you know that many areas, streets, etc in NYC are Dutch-origin names due to the high-volume of Dutch immigrants there? Me neither!
We trained from Haarlem to The Hague (short ride), for our last leg of the long weekend, where we stayed in Charlotte’s sister’s cute flat (which I somehow managed to leave sans photo). While the Hague is mostly known for being the seat of the Dutch parliament and the home of the U.N. International Court of Justice, it’s also a really nice place to live, mostly residential and with a much more relaxed feeling than Amsterdam.
Things to do/see:
Take the tram from The Hague city center out to Scheveningse Pier and check out the popular local boardwalk & views of the Atlantic ocean. The dunes surrounding the area are beautiful, but don’t walk on them (we nearly got arrested for accidentally trespassing)!
Walk around the cute city center and do some shopping, wining & dining. Doesn’t get better than that! Do note that some store chains in Holland only take Dutch credit cards so always be sure to have cash or another type of payment available.
So if you’re going to Holland soon, don’t forget to pack an umbrella! Also worth noting, Hup! Holland Hup! is their national cheer for the professional soccer team and you’ll probably hear that if you go during World Cup time.
Fun fact: A classic Dutch breakfast is a slice of bread with butter topped with chocolate sprinkles. Yes, that is what I said. Don’t knock it till you try it!