Over time, the list of places I’ve been to has grown—just like everyone else. Right now I’m sitting at Rome, Venice, Florence, Switzerland, France, Ireland and the Netherlands. I’m incredibly grateful for every opportunity I was given to go to these places, I want to make that clear to begin with. When you first go abroad, the list of places to visit is pretty much endless; and, that’s so exciting. However, after having taken all of these trips thus far, I thought I had to make one recommendation for any future abroad students. No matter who you are, what you’re into or where you’ve been, you have to go to this one city before you leave your semester abroad: Amsterdam.
When my best friend and I were in Switzerland we had begun looking into our next few trips and someone close to us had recommended Amsterdam. We hadn’t thought much about it, honestly. When you start planning, certain trips become more important than others—naturally. Paris, London, Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, Barcelona, etc., are all pretty big destinations you almost have to go to when you study in Europe. All great places, and I’d highly recommend all of them, but when someone mentioned Amsterdam, my interest peaked. Amsterdam wasn’t a trip that was particularly on my radar or list of must-see cities. The Netherlands had never really seemed all that interesting, to be frank—but boy was I wrong. Amsterdam is known for a lot of things, some I won’t mention, but the city’s scenery and appearance, and food, was persuasive enough to book our flight nearly immediately.
We left on a Thursday right after our classes and did our usual—as mentioned stressful—weekly routine of uber, train then plane. Although this time we somehow managed to get on the wrong train that was actually not going anywhere near Malpensa Airport, but that’s not too necessary for the story. We hopped on the plane and about an hour and a half later we were in the Netherlands.
First, might I add, this airport was the coolest airport I’d ever been in. It’s the little things that count, I guess. We hopped in the Uber and headed towards the city; about a 20-minute drive, which compared to Milan is a breeze. We got to our hotel and immediately went out. Like many cities in Europe, Amsterdam is filled with beautiful canals embedded into the city. At night they light up from the restaurants and bars above them filled with people laughing, drinking and talking. There was never a quiet moment while we were there, something I’ve grown to love about Europe and its people-focused culture. We got some drinks, talked to some locals and headed back to our hotel to catch some shut eye before our next day.
Side note: when I tell you that bed was the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept on in my entire life, I would not be exaggerating. If you have the funds, or are with your family, I highly recommend staying in the Marriott in downtown Amsterdam—the bed alone will change your life.
The first full day we were there was spent mostly on a boat, eating and walking through the streets, dodging the millions of bikers passing by. I had always been told about how many people bike instead of drive in Amsterdam, but it was nothing compared to what I actually witnessed. The city made mini streets and stop lights for them nearly everywhere, getting hit by a bike was more likely than an actual car. Anyways, that morning we got dressed and headed to the cutest brunch spot, Ted’s. They had the traditional American-like breakfast we were all craving as well as some crazy others like their bacon, egg, cheese and hot cheetos bagel—obviously we had to try it and of course we loved it. The place resembled a cafè in my hometown which resulted in me immediately falling in love with the place. While being abroad, things that resemble or feel like pieces of home start to become much more important and comforting. That’s kind of what this entire trip felt like.
Afterwards we headed to our boat tour we had booked. For about $30 we had 75 minutes on a beautiful boat through the canals where they served wine, Dutch cheese and numerous anecdotes about the city. About half way through the tour, two older couples sitting beside me and my friends leaned over and started the traditional conversation locals tend to ask us: where we’re from and why we’re here. We answered with our traditional responses but eventually dove head first into learning about each other’s towns and cultures and how they compare. Since coming to Europe, I’ve grown to love the outgoing personalities and tendencies people have to start a conversation with a stranger. The random conversations I’ve picked up along the way have tended to make my trips and experiences 10 times more genuine.
Afterwards we walked around aimlessly and stumbled upon some of the most beautiful buildings and areas within the city. We grabbed some dinner at the famous Rotisserie Amsterdam, amazing food again, and headed back to the hotel after a few drinks with friends.
Our Saturday resembled our Friday. We didn’t have much planned but still managed to see more than expected. It seemed like no matter the corner we turned or the places we ate at or the people we spoke to, I was falling in love with Amsterdam more and more. My friends and I have learned over the past three months that our trip of preference consists of a pretty loose plan with preconceived notions of activities or restaurants to try, without much of a time constraint. I’ve learned that as a traveler I like to leave it up to the moment to decide what seems like the best option—and it’s seemed to work out pretty well in my favor.
Another restaurant I could not recommend more is the Pancake Bakery. It looks like a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant but is acclaimed for its breakfast food by many locals. I think between my two friends and I, we ordered about half of the menu. The waiter himself kept doubting us and questioning our choices, but we wanted to try everything possible. I’d highly recommend doing the same.
Like I said, Saturday was pretty relaxed. Nothing to write home about as for what we did but more so about what we saw and how we felt. Amsterdam looked like no other city I’d ever visited. All of the buildings were skinny and tall, even crooked from the water it all rested on. The streets were cobblestone and filled with bikes and people at all times. The city was congested with visitors and locals, but somehow none of it felt overwhelming like the traditional busy city would. It felt as if everyone in that city was always happy and at peace; no stress or worry. Any city that gives off that vibe resonates with its visitors strongly. For 72 hours straight, my friends and I had no worry, no stress and no rush. No doubt that was a large reason behind why we loved this city so much.
By far, Sunday was my favorite day of the trip—and possibly abroad. My best friend and I woke up in our cloud beds for the last time and slowly got ready to check out of our hotel, dreading having to leave. After dropping our bags at the concierge we got breakfast at Flo’s deli just down the street from our hotel, although everything is technically down the street from one another because of the walkability. I haven’t had a bagel since being abroad, I haven’t been able to find any; so, for 35 minutes, Flo’s deli gave me an extra piece of home. For a moment, I was in Chicago on a Sunday eating a bagel with my best friend.
Afterwards we walked around, shopped a bit, grabbed some Stroopwafels and went to Vondelpark to hang out in some greenery. It was full of people, dogs, runners and non-city-like life. It’s cheesy, I know, but when I was sitting in that park with my best friend, people watching the locals and tourists of Amsterdam, I felt the deepest feeling of happiness. I never wanted to leave. I love Italy and Milan specifically, however it’s never given me the same inner happiness that Amsterdam did.
I’ve loved trips before, Interlaken, Switzerland is also up there, and I can’t wait for the few I still have left before going home in a little over a month. However more goes into a place or a trip than just it being fun for it to become my favorite place in the world, and probably my favorite trip of my life. The feeling Amsterdam gave me, and my friends as well, was the most calming, homey and happy feeling I’ve felt since arriving in Europe. Even though I wasn’t “home,” meaning my temporary home in Milan, and Amsterdam was still a new place to me, it didn’t feel like either of those things. For a moment, Sunday, I heavily considered canceling my flight and staying another day, but classes the next day argued otherwise.
Our flight that night left at 9 p.m. and, unfortunately, we were on it. If I had another weekend free during the rest of my time in Europe I would 100 percent be going back to Amsterdam. It’s worth every single penny and every minute spent traveling. If you choose to go anywhere in your time traveling the world while abroad, go. I promise you will not regret it.
I’ll be back, Amsterdam.
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<p>Hello, my name’s Gracie Weinstein and I am a junior studying political science and journalism. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved to write and have always tried to use my writing to tell stories with others about some of the best, or maybe worst, experiences in my life. I believe in the power of words and the ability it has to connect strangers with one another through their experiences, whether they are shared experiences or not. Writing humanizes people, and helps others relate to them — it cuts down on barriers such as physical appearances (how one’s life looks) and allows for strangers to understand each other. Whether or not those who read my work or see my posts have themselves studied abroad or plan to study abroad, documenting each scary, fun, jaw-dropping, or brand new experience I encounter is so special to share with them. I am very much looking forward to sharing my next few months abroad with others, and hopefully inspire them to make the same decision that I did. Ciao!</p>