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When I had my first assignment oversea late last year, I flew to Amsterdam a few times, but I didn’t see much of Amsterdam. Most of the time, I stayed in another small city, a nice college town, about half hour train ride from Amsterdam airport. I guess early on, I thought I would have plenty of chances to see Amsterdam, but I ended up only spending one weekend walking around in Amsterdam; for most other weekends while I was away from home, I visited other European cities.

Day One:
Stedelijk Museum, Central Library, De Wallen, Zuiderkerk, Waterlooplein and Stopera, Flower Market, Dam Square

12:30pm Restaurant 11 in Stedelijk Museum
11 Restaurant/Bar/Club
Unlike most other trips I have, I had a late start this time. I got on the train to Amsterdam a little bit after 10am, and by the time I stepped out of Amsterdam Central train station, it was almost 11am. And because I didn’t do enough research ahead of time, I was actually debating with myself where to go while standing outside of the station. So I decided to get lunch in a nearby museum called Stedelijk Museum (mostly modern art). The museum is actually in their temporary location as their actual building is under major renovation. This temporary building used to be a post office built in the 60s, so it fits the modern art quite nicely. There is a restaurant/bar/club establishment called 11, on the top floor (11th floor). When I got out of the elevator, I thought it was a mistake; it looked like a run-down back door entrance to some night club that is closed for day time. I double-checked with my book, and it say they do open for lunch. So I pushed the door open a bit (not so much as a door handle), I peeked inside, and I saw a empty dance floor. Then I thought, ok, if I can’t have lunch here, I can at least take some pictures from windows looking out from the top floor. As I walked in, then I realized there was indeed a restaurant at the far end of the dancing hall, with dining tables and a bar. It was pretty quiet with only a handful of people (I guess it was still early for lunch) The food was not bad, and the place is kinda interesting. I guess it is a cool place to be after dark.

1:30pm Central Library
Wine Bar in Central Library
In a way I wish I didn’t find the restaurant, because there is a even better place for lunch next door. It is the brand new Amsterdam Central Library (I actually recognized the word library in Dutch). They have a nice cafeteria (and a wine bar!) on their top floor. They also have balcony there to get a good view of Amsterdam. The library is huge, and their decor is interesting; at first I was wondering why all their books have this white and orange colors on the binding. Looking closer, it was actually the orange and white LEDs that were installed in between the shelves. (LED is definitely the future of interior design.)

2:00pm Oude Kerk (Old Church) and De Waag (Weigh House) in De Wallen
De Waag (Weigh House) - where executions were held
By the time I left the library, it was almost 2pm, and I still hadn’t start any sightseeing. There are a few walking tours described in my travel guides, and one advises that day time is best time to walk in the red light district (safer because less drunk people in daytime.) It also advises not to make eye contact with the people behind the window. So following those advices, it was not a bad visit; it was still quiet, and the area is kinda pretty with the 16th-century canals and houses. There is an old church right in the middle of all this, and apparently it is still in use; but it is bizarrely out of place. Near the end of the walk in this area, there is a building called De Waag, literally Weigh House, where they used to weigh people accused of being a witch. (And they get executed if they failed the weigh test) Some interesting history behind this building.

3:00pm Zuiderkerk (South Church)
Government office exhibits city planning
Following the walking tour in Lonely Planet, I stopped by this church called South Church in a neighborhood where Rembrandt used to live. While the church is not a major attraction, it is interesting to see how the city is using it as office and for displaying exhibits.

3:30pm Waterlooplein and Stopera
Stopera = Opera House + City Hall
Not far from the South Church, there is a big building complex called Stopera, literally City Hall and Opera house. It is also next to a popular market square Waterlooplein, where I had my first Dutch Fries with Mayonnaise (It was quite good)

4:00pm Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) and Kalverstraat (Calves Street)
Floating Flower Market
The Floating Flower Market sounds more interesting than what it is. While it is true that all stores are “floating” on water, but all of them are securely attached to the canal bank, so you don’t really feel floating. In fact, from the front, they look just like any other store on the ground.

5:30pm Dam Square
The Dam Square
Finishing off the walking tour, I walked by a shopping street called Kalverstraat (Calves Street), and then reached Dam Square, Amsterdam’s city center. Understandably it is the main hangout for tourists and locals.

6:00pm Dinner at d’Vijff Vlieghen
d'Vijff Vlieghen
I made a stop at this restaurant before getting to the Dam. Although it was still early for dinner, I was ready to eat, but the restaurant is not open for dinner yet. They said the night was fully booked, but they said they could accommodate me around 6pm, the time when they start serving dinner. The restaurant is a bit tourisy, and kinda expensive with the chef’s menu, but it’s all good. Some of the courses were uniquely Dutch (Pancake and Croquette) and its Dutch Interior looks very nice.

Day Two:
Jordaan Neighborhood, Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House

A friend of mine mentioned to me that he knows someone running a Chinese church service in Amsterdam, and I did find some info online. So the next day I got up earlier, and made it to the location where I thought the church service would be shortly after 9am. But there was no one there. So I walked around in that area, which is residential in the outskirts of Amsterdam. After waiting for a while, a car pulled up in front of the place. I went up to the woman, who was unloading stuff from her car, and asked her if there is a Chinese church service. She said they no longer meet here, and offered to help me to contact the pastor. Since it would have been too late anyway, I declined and thanked her. So I ended up with a little more time to do some more sightseeing that day.

11:00am Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal) and Westerkerk (West Church)
Following another walk from a travel guide, I walked to a neighborhood called Jordaan. It is a much nicer looking area, more an upper class neighborhood. The weather was beautiful, a good change from the morning and the day before. There are a few nice churches in this area, but the biggest attraction in this area is the Anne Frank Museum. There was a long line up when I got there, so I decided to come back later on that day, hoping for less people by then. Supposed there are some good restaurants for lunch, but they don’t open on Sundays. I ended up going to a Dutch Pancake house. Not counting the little one I had the night before, this is the only time I had Dutch Pancake in Netherlands (because it’s really quite similar to pizza, except it’s in crepe)

1:30pm Vondelpark
Continuing on the walk, I passed by some more residential area, and a nice big park called Vondelpark, kinda like Amsterdam’s Central Park. It was cold and wet when I was there, but I’m sure it’s nice to visit this park in warmer seasons.

2:00pm Van Gogh Museum
Posters Counter at Van Gogh Museum
Museumplein marks the end of my walk (in this one direction anyway.) It is really a big area with 4 museums. Of the four, one is for modern art (it was under renovation and had relocated at the temporary location where I had lunch the day before); one is the National Museum for more traditional art (also under renovation, but kept one small area to display the best of its collection); the third one is the Diamond Museum; and the last one is the Van Gogh Museum, the only one I visited on this day (although I did have a chance to visit the National Museum a couple months later.) Van Gogh Museum building itself is not too interesting, but the paintings were impressive. They also have tons of information about Van Gogh in audio guide and on display. It’s too bad photography is not allowed there.

4:30pm Anne Frank House
Long Line-up at Anne Frank Museum
After the Van Gogh Museum, I went back pretty much the same way, to visit the Anne Frank Museum. Before going to Amsterdam, I had no idea who Anne Frank Museum. When I told my barber, who is Jewish originally from London, that I was going to Amsterdam, he asked me if I was going to visit Anne Frank Museum. That is the first time I heard of it. Actually, I probably have heard of the book that is a compilation of diaries of this little Jewish girl in WWII. I just didn’t know it was taken place in Amsterdam. It was certainly an unique experience, and well worth a visit.

6:00pm Chinatown
Nam Kee BBQ
After another long day of sightseeing, I wasn’t in the mood of spending a couple hours in a typical restaurant. So I tried one of the Chinese restaurants in the Chinatown, which is basically on this one street. It’s not big, but I’ve seen smaller Chinatown, so it’s not too bad. I had Wonton and BBQ pork in noodle soup at this Nam Kee BBQ. It was quite good. I actually came back to this same place a couple more times after.

At that time, I thought I would come back to Amsterdam for more weekends; little did I know that I would start a blitz of visiting other cities in Europe.

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