Last month I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam for work (my dream!) to attend the International AIDS Conference. It was amazing to hear from people all around the world - doctors, people living with HIV, scientists, activists and even celebrities. Prince Harry, Elton John and Ndaba Mandela announced a $1B donation and start of their new project Menstar where they'll encourage men in Africa to use affordable at-home HIV tests. Charlize Theron was also there as a native South African and HIV/AIDS activist. I was fangirling so hard!!! Also Prince Harry is even more dreamy in person....
Amsterdam is a remarkable city and I was lucky to be there for about 10 days. By the end, I was walking the streets and canals with confidence and with my map (or let's be real, phone) in my pocket. It also helped that everyone actually thought I was Dutch! So I just pretended to fit in and be a local (except for the fact that I can't speak Dutch).
We stayed at the Pulitzer which no-joke is my favorite hotel I've ever stayed at. It's a boutique hotel that was transformed from 25 old canal houses. My room used to be a brewery in the 1600s so there was a plaque calling it "The Brewery" and with a story on its history. The decor was stunning with lots of velvet, boho coloring, modern touches and over 500 paintings throughout. I took lots of photos for future house inspo. If you're traveling to Amsterdam, I highly recommend staying there (even though it's a bit pricey), or at least visiting one of their bars/restaurants.
After the conference, I added on some personal vacation to explore Amsterdam and a bit more of Europe. It'd been five years since I've been to western Europe and I didn't realize how much I missed it. Plus Garner was able to join for a few days which made it even better. <3
Some of my favorite parts of Amsterdam I'd recommend:
I visited the house/museum five years ago and it's changed a lot since then. It's bigger and more elaborate, but still has you walking away sad and questioning life. It's an amazing experience and a MUST if you're in the area - just make sure you buy your tickets a few months in advance.
2) Rijksmuseum and/or Van Gogh museums
Both museums are gorgeous and full of famous paintings that have me wishing I paid more attention in my Dutch art history class. Definitely worth checking out at least one of them if you have time.
This is another MUST. I took three canal boat tours during my time in Amsterdam because it's the best way to see the city and learn about the history. I highly recommend Classic Canal Cruises as you get to ride on a nearly 100-year-old boat that's electric (what!) while sipping a glass of wine. The tour guide is also very knowledgeable and I learned new facts about the city each time.
4) Shop City Centre or the Nine Streets Neighborhood
There are many beautiful shops in Amsterdam. My sister Claire and I loved going in all the boutiques. Some of our favorites are Sissy Boy, COS (the higher-end H&M) and many other smaller shops along Reestraat (one of the nine streets).
5) Sky Lounge
Claire and I went here on a sunny afternoon. It's literally a lounge in the sky overlooking the city. It's right by the train station so it'd be a perfect stop for a few drinks when you first arrive or before you leave town.
This was what Garner was most excited about. Vondelpark is the Golden Gate Park of Amsterdam. It's 120 acres, full of beautiful statues and is the best spot for people watching. We grabbed some yummy croissants (when I envision Europe, it's me eating loads of croissants and champagne) and picnicked next to a man playing the violin. It was a gorgeous afternoon and even better people watching since it was Pride weekend! We then headed to the canal where the Pride parade was taking place - it was incredible seeing all the creative floats/boats sailing past.
This is a maybe for me. Garner really wanted to go and he enjoyed it. But if you've been to breweries before, I would maybe skip it. You learn how beer is made, there's some 4D stuff, rooms with sports/sponsorship memorabilia and you get a few beers at the end. My coworker put it best: It's like a frat party where you're watching lots of 19-year-olds have their first beer. But Garner loved it so I was happy :)
What's your favorite European city? I'll be posting more soon on London, Belgium and my old study abroad location, Maastricht! Stay tuned....