{Guide to Amsterdam}

guidetoamsterdam_2Corey and I lived in Amsterdam for two years from 2011-2013 and I have since returned twice since moving home — in the summer of 2015 and the fall of 2017. It is one of our absolute favorite cities in the world and certainly one of the most picturesque. It pains me that to some, the city is only known for it’s legal marijuana and prositutes because that is such a tiny part of this beautiful city. It has perhaps the most recognizable architecture in the world, is full of history and culture and is a must-visit in Europe.

Even though we haven’t lived in Amsterdam for five years I still often get emails and messages requesting recommendations for where to stay, what to do and where to eat, so I am finally putting all this information in one place so it can be easily accessed! As a bonus I have included recommendations from one of my very best friends who lived in Amsterdam with her husband more recently than us — from 2015 to 2017. She has amazing taste in food and drink and I was able to try many of her recommendations myself when visiting in 2017. They are winners!

STAY:

Hotels in Amsterdam are quite expensive. If you are on a honeymoon or special trip and can splurge I highly recommend The Dylan. It is a luxury boutique hotel in a beautiful area of the city.

We stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam on points and we loved it. The location is perfect right in the nine streets and the hotel design is modern and gorgeous.

If you’re looking for an Airbnb look for places in the Jordaan, Nine Streets, Centrum, Zuid, near Vondelpark or if you want a lively young atmosphere De Pijp is fun!

TO DO:
Anne Frank House (Open daily from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm) – I’d recommend buying tickets ahead of time to avoid standing in line forever! 

Walk around the Nine Streets (one of the city’s most picturesque areas to explore, photo ops at every turn!) – very close to Anne Frank in the Jordaan District

Museumplein (this is where you can take a photo with the iAmsterdam sign if you’re interested) and right by the Van Gogh Museum.

Rent a bike and ride around the city (if you like bikes). It’s truly an experience! (To rent a local-style bike, try Het Zwarte Fietsenplan in the city center on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal http://www.hetzwartefietsenplan.nl/12___centrum-het-zwarte-fietsenplan)

Do a canal boat tour – they only take 1-1.5 hours usually and it’s a great way to see the city and hear some of the history. (I recommend the Canal Hopper for a smaller, more personal boating experience https://www.canal.nl/en/canal-hopper) My best friend lived in Amsterdam for two years and she highly recommended Those Dam Boat Guys!

Walk through the Red Light District. A quick walk, but I feel like everyone should see it as it is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Don’t take photos – very against the rules. You won’t want to anyway…

Stroll (or ride a bike) through Vondelpark (huge and beautiful city park). Stop at one of the outdoor cafes there for a fresh mint tea and just people watch. You should also venture outside of the park, the neighborhoods around the park are beautiful!

Favorite Museums: Rijks, Stedelijk (modern art), Van Gogh & Hermitage

You should try out a “Dutch Brown Cafe” – they are typical, sometimes-divey bars where people gather after work for snack and beer. A big part of the dutch culture – you can read more about them here: . A good one to go to near the Jordaan is Cafe Van Zuylen

Skip the Heineken Experience (Heineken Museum) — it’s cheesy and touristy.  A more fun and authentic Dutch drinking experience can be found here at Wynand Fockink, where you can taste and drink the Dutch flavored liquer jenever!

If you want a fun activity for the day, love to ride bikes and want to see a bit more of the quaintness outside of the city I highly recommended biking out to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s about 14 miles round trip give/take and easy and flat (like all of Holland!). It’s quaint little village that sits right on the water and has beautiful architecture to take in. You can grab a nice waterside lunch at Loetje aan de Amstel and fuel up for your ride back to Amsterdam!

Easy day trips by train: Utrecht, Gouda, The Hague, Haarlem, Antwerp (via Thalys train) and Bruges (via Thalys train).

And a couple more recommendations from my friend Jenna who lived in Amsterdam the last two years and recently returned to Portland:

Albert Cuypmarkt – in de pijp area. Old school market with some occasional hidden gems.  Eat a fresh Stroopwafle ☺. 

Play old school arcade games at Ton Tonhttp://www.tontonclub.nl/

RESTAURANTS:

Dinner:

De Kaas: For a truly special dining experience. Set in a gorgeous greenhouse. Definitely a bit off the beaten path for tourists as it isn’t close to the center of the city, but worth the trek! I blogged about our experience here and you should visit their website, too! Make reservations!

Food Hallen [Indoor Food Market] – This is new since Corey and I returned to Portland, but we were able to visit when we returned. Super cool indoor food hall with lots of different food options: http://www.foodhallen.nl/

Pata Negra – Cash Only. Amazing Spanish Tapas – VERY busy on the weekends, reservations recommended! Fun place to go with a group, but also fun for just two for some sangria and yummy food!

Thai Bird or Thai Bird Snack Bar – Super yummy Thai in Chinatown, very well known. Be prepared to wait in line for the restaurant or just go across the street and get takeout.

Koh-i-Noor – Amazing Indian food! Best in the city that we found – there are two locations — one in the Jordaan and one in the city center.

Casa di David – One of our fav italian spots in the city – small and cosy – our go-to date night spot 🙂

Burger Meester – Cute burger joint with gourmet options, also relatively affordable

Lunch/Brunch:

Café George – pretty affordable, good place for lunch (yummy sandwiches and fries) Also, brunch is fun here.

Buffet van Odette – Great cozy spot for brunch or lunch! Would be a nice place to sit and linger with some work or a book while drinking a cappuccino 🙂

De Laatste Kruimel – This is an unassuming but incredible little
bakery. Great place for pastries on a weekend morning, or we’d go here for cheap (but huge and delicious!) sandwiches on weeknights. The owners are a brother/sister pair who work their butts off and the space is super cute!

Cafe de Jaren – This is a popular spot in Amsterdam. Especially great during the summertime as they have an outdoor patio area that sits right on the Amstel. You can go for a coffee, soup, sandwiches, etc. We lived right around the corner so frequented this place often

Pancakes! Amsterdam – Yummy dutch pancakes in the Jordaan. I highly Recommend the smoked salmon, creme fraiche, guacamole, pine nuts one. To.die.for!

Two For Joy Coffee – DELICIOUS pancakes – almost like home – great place for a lazy weekend morning

Bar Moustache – Small and cute restaurant/bar, good place to grab a glass of wine and appetizers with friends or a nice (but spendy) meal

Greenwoods – One of our favorite spots for brunch/lunch. Affordable, yummy food! We never went for dinner, but they do serve it.

Droog: This is as much something to do as a place to eat and enjoy some coffee. If you are into design, this is a must-visit. Droog is an art gallery, hotel and cafe all fused in one. Definitely worth a walk-through and stop for a cup of coffee. And bonus that it is right off the street we used to live on in Amsterdam (Groenburgwal)!

Lastly, my favorite place for a quick and easy to-go coffee was Coffee Company – so delicious (way better than Starbucks) and all the locations are cute and different! You’ll see them everywhere!

A few more recent restaurant recommendations from my best friend Jenna (I wholly trust her taste in good food and was able to try a few of these, which I denoted with an asterisk, when I did my girls’ trip last fall and they were all amazing!) 

DINNER:

CANIBALE ROYAL: Amazing ribs and just a good food and drink spot.  Can be very busy on weekend but they take reservations.

LA PERLA: If you’re in the Tales and Spirits area, head over to La Perla for pizza. Best in the city, but keep in mind there isn’t great pizza here, they even do take away.

BLEU – Cute and cozy French restaurant in the Jordaan area (close to Ann Frank House and 9 streets shopping).

VAN ‘T SPIT – very simple rotisserie chicken and sides. Cozy, casual, and convenient.

THE DYLAN HOTEL* – nice for tea or wine in a very nice and cozy hotel in the 9 streets area. Have a quiet back garden to escape the chaos.

BRUNCH:

BAKERS AND ROASTERS*: Great brunch spot.

STARING AT JACOBS/KU KITCHEN: more brunch but also does Japanese food in the evenings. Chill neighborhood and vibe.

LITTLE COLLINS: and more brunch.

MOOK – more pancakes. Less traditional and more hipster.

DIGNITA* – great brunch in a cute restaurant.  Motto is eat good, do good. Highly recommend. They have multiple locations.

COFFEE:

LOT SIXTY ONE: Some of the best coffee located right by foodhallen.

COFFEE AND COCONUTS*: cool chill place to grab a coffee, cookie, light lunch and do a little work or browse IG.

CAFFENATION AMSTERDAM – Hipster coffee shop, locally roasted great coffee, cool kid vibes. A place to go to get coffee to stay and hang for a bit. Also their hot chocolate is a chocolate bar melted into steamy milk, looks yummy and cozy when you get caught in the rain.

TREATS:

FRIES: Vlaams Friethuis Vleminckx – Suppose to be the best in town and definitely a dutch must eat.

VAN STAPELE – COOKIES. YUM!

WINKEL 43* – Best Apple Pie around. A sugar cookie crust and fresh whip cream make it the perfect afternoon treat with a cup of mint tea (a dutch favorite made with fresh mint).

DRINKS:

TALES AND SPIRITS: Fun small cocktail shop that knows what it is doing when it comes to mixology.

WATERKANT: Great for a casual beer with a local crowd sitting by a canal.

WINDMILL BAR* (actually known as Brouwerij ‘t IJ if you can pronounce dutch). Note from Liz: We loved biking from our house in the city center to this cute windmill bar! Fun activity for a day!

OEDIPUS TAPROOM: Local beer that is far better than Heineken.

BAR CENTRAAL – perfect for a small bite and natural wines!

GLOU GLOU* – Natural wine bar. Same owners and concepts as Bar Centraal but in different neighborhood. 

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{On Amsterdam.}

The time has come. I knew it would, and I’m actually surprised it took this long… I miss Amsterdam… Real bad. This week it has hit me like a ton of bricks and I must admit tears may have been shed. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love our life here in Portland, but truth be told I think I’m finally just now coming to terms with the huge changes that have happened in our lives the last 5 months. It all happened so fast it felt like we were just riding the wave of excitement. The dust is settling now and I’m looking around and realizing how much has changed. And it’s taking me a second to gather my thoughts and feelings and emotions on how I feel about it all. 

I mean, obviously I’m happy. I’m overjoyed to be home in Portland, thrilled to be in the same city with (most of) our families, and I’m ecstatic to be expecting our first baby (p.s. it’s a girl!). But part of me is mourning the loss of life in Europe. Of everything from being in this little bubble of life with Corey – just me and him figuring out a new continent with no friends or family – to hopping on planes and trains and traveling to some of my most favorite places in the world. I miss little things like fresh squeezed orange juice in every shop and market, I miss big things like the sheer gorgeousness of Amsterdam – where every corner you turn around is more picturesque and truly breathtaking than the last. I miss our apartment and I miss Christmas time in Europe. I miss walking and biking everywhere (yes, even in the cold!). I miss Sunday brunch at Le Pain Quotidien. I miss the great friends we made (and not knowing when I’ll see each of them again is heartbreaking). I’m a nostalgic person in general, and I tend to romanticize the past and long for the future. It’s something I’m very aware of – and even when I would sob for Portland while I sat in our living room in Amsterdam I KNEW that the second we returned here I would be sobbing for Amsterdam. And here I am. Doing just that. 

The most comforting thing that comes to mind is this… Well, there are two things. One, we can always go back. And we will. Our dream is to return when our children (God willing) are school age so they can live and breathe the incredible culture in Europe. But more importantly, this saying: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened. I’m trying to change my perspective and instead of mourning the fact that we’re not there anymore and we are moving on with our lives in so many ways –celebrate the fact that we were so incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to live abroad, grow so close, learn so much and make some of the most amazing memories of our lives. 

You’ll always have a piece of our hearts, Amsterdam…
{Photo © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{We’re Moving! + A Portland Summer List}

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, this is old news… But, we’re moving home to Portland! We always knew we wanted to live in Amsterdam 2-3 years and somewhere along the way it just became clear that two years would be best for us for a mutltitude of reasons. I can’t say enough about the experience of living abroad, especially as a carefree newlywed. We really lived it up and traveled our hearts out, and now it’s time to go home. 

This is a little earlier than we were anticipating to move, but Corey got an amazing job offer back home that he would’ve been crazy to pass up. Luckily I was also able to land a job back home, so things have already started to fall into place. We have plenty to sort out with our move coming up in less than a month… Corey’s finishing grad school this week, my in-laws arrive in Amsterdam tomorrow and I’m off to Italy next week. It’s going to be a crazy few weeks, but I’m excited to soak up every last second here.

As we deal with our mixed emotions of leaving Amsterdam, we are also getting really excited to return to Portland. To get us a bit more excited, we put together a quick sumer bucket list. It’s a work in progress, but so far it’s looking like it’s going to be one super fun summer in the Pacific Northwest! If you’re familiar with the area, I’d love to know… What would you add to the list?



{1} We’re planning a weekend at the Allison Inn & Spa to celebrate our 3-year wedding anniversary in August! It looks incredible and I’m so excited for a weekend of pampering in Oregon wine country!

{2} A trip to the Oregon Coast – always a summer must!


{3} A trip to the Portland Art Museum. We haven’t been in ages and all our museum trips in Europe inspired us to plan a trip to our local art museum.


{4} Go to a Portland Timbers game (our local soccer team) – there’s that European influence again!

{5} Go to the Organic Brewers Fest. We went a couple years ago and had so much fun, we’re looking forward to going again!

{6} Visit Smith Rock State Park. We want to expand our horizons and see new places in Oregon – we’re both natives and have never been to this beautiful state park. 

{7} A vist to David Hill Winery – the place we said “I do”

{8} Go to the Portland State University Farmers Market. A favorite summer weekend activity!

{9} We want to try at least 5 new restaurants in Portland. A lot of great new places have opened in the last two years and we’re excited to give them a try!

{10} Attend an Oregon Zoo Summer Concert. The perfect way to enjoy a beautiful summer night.

{11} Go to Hood River – maybe go for a hike, definitely visit Double Mountain Brewery – who happen to make one of our favorite IPAs 🙂

{12} Participate in the Color Run on September 7th in Portland. I’ve heard so many fun stories about these runs around the U.S. and can’t wait to finally participate in one!

Do you have a summer bucket list? I’d love to see it! Maybe I’d get some good ideas from it 🙂

{image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 {me}, 6, 7 {me}, 8 {me}, 9, 10, 11, 12}

{Weekending}

With a very busy travel itinerary on the horizon, we are soaking up this relaxing weekend at home in Amsterdam. This morning we slept in, spent a lazy morning laying in bed drinking coffee and reading (well, I was lazy, Corey went for a run…), and then headed out for brunch at one of our favorite spots, Le Pain Quotidien. The best part of the morning was running into our good friends Carly and Marcus (who are moving to Portland in a few weeks!) – so brunch for two turned into brunch for four, and it was just perfect! 
Another plus for this wonderful Saturday is that temperatures are back above freezing (for now), so I took advantage and left my big black puffer at home and wore my favorite leather jacket instead. Paired with a cozy sweater and my wedge sneakers, it was the perfect match for a put-together yet casual weekend look, if I do say so myself! What do you think about wedged sneakers? Would you wear them? They’re all the rage here in Europe!
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!
{Leather Jacket: Mom, Sweater: Zara, Scarf: Urban Outfitters (old), Skinny Jeans: Paige Premium Denim, Wedge Sneakers: Nike, Hat: Tie Rack}
 
{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Snow Day!}

Well, remember last week when I said “Hopefully I won’t have anymore snow photos to share with you anytime soon”… I clearly spoke to soon because Sunday morning we woke up to a beautiful blanket of fresh white powder! But seeing as it was Sunday and I didn’t have anywhere to be (more specifically, a train to be on headed towards the office…) I was giddy with excitement. I practically jumped out of bed, threw on 17 layers of clothes and took off for a snowy morning walk with my boys. It was early enough that most of the city was still sleeping, so we had the fresh snow all to ourselves. I loved every minute of it! Now that it’s back to work for the week I am back to hoping it doesn’t snow again… At least until the weekend 🙂
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Winter Weather}

Yesterday I finished reading Luisa Weiss’s “My BerlinKitchen”. I loved the book for so many reasons – for inspiring me to cook more, for making me long for a trip to Paris, New York, Berlin and Italy, but most of all for how much I could relate to her writing. One passage in the entire book really stuck with me, as I happen to be in the middle of one of these merciless winters she writes of – just not in Berlin, but in Amsterdam instead.
It’s not that it’s particularly cold here – although for me it is! – but it’s more that the sun rarely shines. The darkness feels never-ending, waking up in pitch black, leaving the office in pitch-black. And don’t even get me started on how one single snowflake sends the Dutch train system into a tizzy. There will barely be a dusting on the ground and trains get canceled left and right, leaving us stranded in the cold. Winters in Amsterdam are bleak and I feel like I’m on the verge of a meltdown – I need some sun, stat!
Truth be told – Holland is stunning in the snow. And even though I am already tired of it and hoping it doesn’t make any more appearances this winter, I am trying to focus on that beauty instead of the annoyance it causes. Here are a few iPhone photos from this winter in Amsterdam so far. Hopefully I won’t have anymore snow photos to share with you anytime soon 😉

{Our Two Year Wedding Anniversary}

Happy Monday everyone! How are you all doing? It’s been snowing buckets in Amsterdam and it’s been causing all sorts of chaos – with trains and planes – and worst of all.. with me! I guess biking in 23-degree weather was a bit ambitious for me, because this weekend I came down with a nasty bug that has me bed-ridden today. Husband is taking great care of me and it’s not so bad having a beautiful snowy view out the window. I just wish I could go outside and enjoy the wintery white weather!
Speaking of the huz… Corey and I are creeping up on two and a half years of marriage! Now, I know that’s not a super long time, but what I will say is boy does time fly!! I feel like we just celebrated our two-year anniversary, which I realized I never blogged about!
While I wish we could’ve done something extravagant and luxurious to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I was flying out to Portland the next day and work was crazy busy at the time, so we settled on a romantic dinner at a gorgeous restaurant. We got dressed up and headed to De Kas. This place is so awesome. It sits on the edge of a lush city park in Amsterdam and is probably the coolest looking restaurant we’ve ever eaten in. It also happens to be one of those super fancy restaurants that doesn’t really have a menu. Each day the chef has a three-course dinner planned that consists of three small starters, a main course and dessert. The best part is everything is made with local, fresh ingredients grown in the restaurant’s very own nursery.  We decided to fancy things up even more and get the wine pairings with dinner. The whole things was a fun and special experience and the perfect way to celebrate two years of wedded bliss. Here are a few photos from the occasion.
And P.S. Yes, our wedding anniversary was in August and yes I am wearing tights and a blazer… Why? Because there is no summer in Amsterdam. Yeah, I guess you could say I’m bitter about it 🙂

 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Fancy Up Date Night!}

Corey and I love dinner and a movie as much as the next couple, but we’re always looking for fun ways to change up date nights. A couple weekends ago we decided to buy tickets for a beautiful cello show that was playing at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – it’s a stunning venue known for it’s great acoustics. We thought it’d be a fun excuse to get dressed up and do something different. We had a delicious dinner and shared a bottle of red at this cute italian place just blocks from the concert hall. Once arriving for the show, we realized a free glass of wine came with our tickets – score! The fun continued! We finally sat down to enjoy the beautiful music of Amber Doctors on the cello. It was a night to remember! Here are a couple tips for classin’ up your next date night – enjoy!

 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{The Vlog}

Six months later.. I finally post my vlog!
I literally filmed this back in June. 
So a couple of my answers had changed/become irrelevant. 
I tried to edit out all my “ums” and such, but I still look pretty silly on camera..
Please don’t make fun of me… Vlogging clearly isn’t a natural talent over here. 
And I think this video begins and ends my vlogging career.. So enjoy it while it lasts! 😉

P.S. The beginning is supposed to be funny.. Kinda like vlogging outtakes. The way it turned out though I just kind of look like a weirdo. Sorry ’bout that.
P.P.S. I didn’t even come close to answering all the questions in the comments.. I just talked way too much, and I figured nobody wanted to watch a 20 minute vlog. I’d say maybe there will be a part two, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough at least for the foreseeable future!

{Weekend Snaps!}

After last weekend’s debacle I was really looking forward to a chilled out weekend at home in Amsterdam.
And that’s exactly what I got – complete with the most gorgeous, crisp fall days and bright blue skies. I was a happy girl.
This weekend included lots of long walks with the huz and pup.
Exploring different neighborhoods and discovering new places.
Lots of fresh mint tea.
A trip to the Pure Market for fun trinkets and delicious treats with these two.
All in all it was just the weekend I needed!
{Coat: TopShop, Scarf: H&M (old), Jeans: J Brand, Booties: Sam Edelman, Sunglasses: D&G}
 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}