How to fall in love with Amsterdam on a winter day
Amsterdam is such a unique city that it is possible to fall in love with it in just a single day — even if the day we’re talking about is a cold one in the dead of winter. If you don’t believe me, just wait and I will give you a few tips for spending a lovely winter day in this amazing place.
If you’re lucky and snow has covered the ground, you’ll experience love at fist sight the instant you get out of the house. When the canals are frozen as well, there is no escape for your heart — it is such an impressive thing to see! Anyway, a tasty breakfast and a good coffee or tea is always a good start for the day, so begin your journey by heading to one of the small cafés that offers “ontbijt” (the word for breakfast in Dutch). Some of the most popular for their breakfast are: De Bakkerswinkel, Coffee Company, Letting, Gartine or Winkel 43 for the famous apple pie, but don’t hesitate to try others, if they appeal to your tastes.
After breakfast, explore for an hour or more the city’s most treasured beauty: have a long walk through the “world heritage” city centre, along the canal belt. You may even be tempted to try a more traditional mode of transportation and hire a horse-drawn carriage. Experiencing the city centre on foot or from the carriage is great, but more fun can be had by taking one of the many canal cruises on offer and admiring the old buildings from the water. If you like skating, head to one of the open-air skating rinks, like the one situated in Museumplein. After all the effort, a hot chocolate outside and some waffles or oliebollen (Dutch donuts) will be a welcome reward! A Dutch pancake would not be a bad treat either.
If you feel like it, visit a museum in the afternoon — there are many to choose from and it is also a good way to keep warm. You may also head towards a park and take a romantic walk (maybe even add a love-lock to the bridge in Vondelpark, why not?). If shopping is more to your liking, the Museumplein area as well as De 9 Straatjes offer many enticing options through a miriad of delightful little shops. Going from one place to another can be quite exhausting on foot, so why not try a bike? Dutch locals and expats living in Amsterdam still ride their bikes during winter (yes, even through heavy blizzards), but be careful — if the roads are covered with snow or ice, it might be better to skip the activity unless you’re into extreme sports; otherwise, you may end the day short with a few bruises.
Night time arrives quite early during the northern winters, limiting the amount of activities one can enjoy outside after four-five in the afternoon — except maybe for a walk to admire the city ligths. Choose a place for dinner but remember to keep away from the well known touristic areas like Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, where most of the restaurants can be considered “tourist traps”, with poor service and expensive food. For better options try searching for a restaurant on Haarlemmerstraat, Nieuwmarkt, Utrechtsestraat, among the aforementioned Nine Streets (De 9 Straatjes) area, on Reguliersdwarsstraat or in the Pijp. After dinner, my choice would be to end a perfect day with a short walk home to my warm, invigting bed. But if you’re full of energy and don’t care about going to bed, I’d recommend finding a nice pub and trying out the beer variety — Belgian beer especially, but also some excellent Dutch beers are waiting for you to discover them.
After such a day, I think almost everyone would head home for a good night’s sleep — although the night life in Amsterdam is anything but boring, and if you want to give it a try you only need to use your imagination.