Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Why Everyone Should Visit Amsterdam at Christmas
Forget Bruges. Forget Vienna. Forget Cologne. Forget - dare I say it - Paris. (Okay, maybe not Paris, but, still.)
Amsterdam is the place to be for Christmas (or, more generally, in December). Or any time of the year, for that matter, but it's especially wonderful at Christmas.
1. Christmas trees in every window, pretty shop fronts, and canals lit up like crazy.
2. It's chilled, laid-back, and easy to navigate (save for close calls with bikes whizzing by).
We stayed at the beautiful and very trendy Hoxton Hotel on Herengracht, which is a terrific, central location - right on the canal. Everything (restaurants, boutiques, galleries) was a short 5 - 10 minute walk away and Museumplein could be easily reached on a quick tram ride. Since we were travelling with my parents, it quickly became easy to split up and do our own thing: John wandering off to explore the art galleries, my dad sketching on a bridge, while my mom and I browsed all the shops.
3. There's wonderful food and perfect opportunities for plenty of hot chocolate and pancakes.
We filled up on poffertjes, mini Dutch pancakes (and huge Dutch pancakes) and stocked up on stroopwafels but also enjoyed nourishing, healthy salads at Salad & The City.
We had a fabulous dinner on our first night at Blauw Aan De Wal (nestled in the Red Light District, which I booked just to shock my mother), where we sampled the chef's tasting menu du jour with fresh oysters to start. On our last evening in Amsterdam, we gorged on an Indonesian feast (seriously, the plates seemed neverending!) at Sampurna, which I'd highly recommend.
4. The Light Festival makes for a fabulous canal-side walk or night-time canal cruise.
This year's Amsterdam Light Festival featured over 35 works of art by international artists, designers, and architects. Many of them, like the lace installation in the first photo above, were breathtaking. We took an evening "watercolor cruise" to see all the lights from the comfort of a warm canal boat, but I loved stumbling upon them by chance on our evening walks as well.
5. It's full of fantastic museums and plenty of opportunities for culture vultures.
Highlights included a visit to the Rijksmuseum (which I hadn't been to before, despite previous visits to Amsterdam) and the Rembrandt House Museum. John and I were a bit zombie-fied after all the museum visits, so dropped my parents off at the Van Gogh Museum while we went shopping in the Jordaan.
A few days before we left London for Amsterdam, John's dad mentioned that he was attending a concert at the Concertgebouw. Of course, the concert was actually a piano recital by Evgeny Kissin - one of the world's most renowned concert pianists, and a childhood hero of mine (back when I spent hours practising for piano competitions). I was able to grab last-minute tickets for my family and John - for seats on the stage. It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and my mom (although a bit of a bore for my dad and John, who both fell asleep!) I'd previously seen him perform at the Barbican, when he looked like a tiny speck on stage from where I sat in the nosebleed section.
After we rushed back home to prepare for Christmas, I found myself on autopilot for the rest of the holidays - making sure that everyone was fed and having a good time. But after my parents left and I had time to actually process and reflect on their trip over to Europe, I found myself replaying the moments in Amsterdam in my mind: the warm and cozy atmosphere, the incredible hospitality (everyone was so nice, I was beginning to get a little suspicious!), and the beautiful sights and good food the city had to offer.
I loved it so much, I'm considering making a December trip to Amsterdam an annual event!
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What did you think? We didn't get off to a great start (which I wrote about here), but I've fallen in love with it more with every visit.