Our stops in Amsterdam and Brussels were only a couple days long, but both cities were enjoyable and easily walkable. Amsterdam is also bike-able if you are willing to brave the other crazy cyclists…lots of them. In Amsterdam we stayed at the Movenpick near the city center, which was an easy walk to the main train station. The hotel also offered a free shuttle to the center of town and also had a tram stop across the street which made getting around super easy.
We spent three nights in Amsterdam, which was plenty of time to stroll the canals, visit a piece of history, and also explore the unique yet controversial night life.
The daytime strolls along the canals were quite enjoyable and picturesque. This is a place we would love to come back to in the winter months when people ice skate on the frozen canals.
We spent one morning visiting the Anne Frank house, which was really interesting to see. We walked through the hidden apartment that the Frank family took refuge in for two years during WWII. The line to get in was long, and unfortunately we hadn't bought our tickets online ahead of time, so we patiently waited and had a nice conversation with a cute American elderly couple that were next to us in line. Out of respect, no photos were allowed inside, so I only got one photo of the monument that sits outside in a nearby park.
At night, the city transforms from quiet canals to something rather different. The smell of pot wafts out of the coffee shops, the red light windows light up, and a completely different crowd seems to emerge as the sun goes down. One of the wonderful things of Amsterdam that highlights the night are all of the little food carts and shops that are open for late night munching.
The train ride from Amsterdam to Brussels was short and easy, and the walk to our hotel was only ten minutes and a straight shot from the train station.
Brussels is known for their fries, waffles, chocolate, and Belgian beer. We lucked out with the last of these items because unbeknownst to us, the Brussels beer festival was just starting when we arrived. Although a little crowded, the streets were lively and entertaining to walk through.
We did a three hour walking tour of the city which was a great way to see the main sights and also counter act the damage to our waistlines we would be doing with the food items discussed above. On the tour we got to see the famous Mannequin Pis, some beautiful architecture, and learn about Belgian beer and cuisine.
We also had an interesting experience in the breakfast room at our hotel. As we were serving ourselves at the breakfast buffet, an older woman tripped and fell directly into a small Asian lady taking them both down in the middle of the breakfast room. They both hit pretty hard and were knocked out cold. They were immediately swarmed with other guests checking to see if they were ok. Fortunately after about half an hour of shenanigans, the older woman walked away with a very large bump on her forehead and the Asian lady with a make shift ice pack on her head. Somehow in all of the chaos we also lost our table to an old man wearing a safari like vest that just strolled right into the restaurant past the hostess and made himself comfortable at our table while we were getting our breakfast. He also refused to move when asked, so we ended up having to move all of our stuff and eat on the other side of the restaurant.
These two cities were both a fun and relaxing way to prepare ourselves for our next bucket list destination…Russia!