Giving Amsterdam a Second Chance

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I first visited Amsterdam in the summer of 2013.

I spent about three days in the city, in between beautiful Bruges and funky Berlin. I checked all the touristy things off my list – I went on a bike tour, took a canal cruise, went to a museum, visited the Anne Frank house, and even tried a space cake with some backpacker friends. The weather was perfect, and the city was decked out in colorful flowers that made every photo look good.

From my first trip to Amsterdam

And yet, despite everything, there was just something about Amsterdam that didn't “click” with me. It was a beautiful city, to be sure. But there was just no chemistry between us; I didn't fall in love.

I wrote a break-up letter to Amsterdam after I left, saying that it was probably just me and perhaps we were better off just staying friends.

Amsterdam train station

Afterwards, of course, plenty of people told me that I needed to give Amsterdam a second try. So many people LOVE this city, and I received a ton of tips and suggestions that I filed away in my brain just in case I decided to give it another go someday.

So when I found myself back in Amsterdam just before Christmas in 2015, I vowed to forget everything that kept me from falling in love the first time and give the city a second chance.

Amsterdam Royal Palace

I did this in a few different ways.

Good location

First, I stayed in a better location. For this second trip to Amsterdam, I didn't want to be too far out of the city center. I wanted to avoid bikes and trams and use my feet to get around. I ended up staying at the historic Radisson Blu Amsterdam, which is smack dab in the middle of the city's UNESCO-recognized center.

Radisson Blu Amsterdam

The hotel has really cute Dutch-themed rooms with comfortable beds and a delicious breakfast spread. There's also an old church that's been transformed into a cozy bar that the hotel lobby has been built around. Not only is this a cool feature, but it's the perfect spot to grab a light dinner and relax in the evening, too.

Being in a central location definitely did make getting around Amsterdam easier, even if I frequently found myself getting lost since so many of the canals look similar.

Citywide festival

I've heard people rave about being in Amsterdam during major events, so I was excited to learn that the city was having its annual winter Light Festival when I was there. (Yes, I know it's a far cry from King's Day, but it was something.) This themed festival consists of a variety of works of visual art scattered around the city that use light in fun and innovative ways.

Amsterdam winter Light Festival

Amsterdam winter Light Festival

Wanting to get a full taste of the festival, I booked a nighttime canal cruise that floated past some of the cooler light displays.

Visiting around the holidays

I was in Amsterdam before my Christmas market river cruise with Viking River Cruises, meaning that Christmas preparations were in full swing in the city. There were twinkle lights and Christmas trees everywhere, and I even stumbled upon a very small Christmas market.

Amsterdam at Christmas

Christmas in Amsterdam

I'm a firm believer that certain places are just inherently more magical around the holidays, and this is especially true of cities in Europe.

Simply wandering

Lastly, I avoided the typical touristy spots in the city as best I could. No Red Light District or coffee shops or tulip museum for me. Instead, I spent my free time in Amsterdam simply wandering along canals, admiring decorated house boats and all the unique boutiques. I did some window shopping along “the Nine Streets” and stopped in to cafes that looked cool.

Amsterdam canal


While all of this DID help me appreciate the city in a new way, I have a confession:

I still don't love Amsterdam.

I WANT to love Amsterdam because it's truly a gorgeous city to visit. But there's just something there that doesn't click with me; something that doesn't make me immediately want to return after I leave, or make me want to recommend the city to all my traveling friends.

But you know what? It's okay.

As travelers, we don't HAVE to love every place we visit, and different people will love different places for different reasons. For me, Amsterdam just isn't one of my “places.” It probably will never be a place I gush over, even if it IS that place for other people I know.

And I'm perfectly fine with that. Imagine how incredibly boring travel would be if everyone loved all the same places!


So, Amsterdam, we gave it a good go. I'm sure you'll be the perfect match for someone else. But as for you and I, I think it's best that we just stay friends.

Is there a city you've visited and just never really connected with?



Big thanks to Radisson Blu for hosting me in Amsterdam. Having a good place to rest my head definitely helped enhance the trip, and I wouldn't hesitate to book this hotel again! (And, as always, these opinions are 100% my own, regardless of who is footing the bill.)

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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74 Comments on “Giving Amsterdam a Second Chance

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  1. I’m totally in love with you and your blog, so I have to admit I was a little sad to see that the only posts about the Netherlands (my home country) are about not having a ‘click’ with Amsterdam! 😉 Totally get you, though. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be! If I may give you a little tip; visit Utrecht, Gouda, Nijmegen or Groningen the next time you’re in our little country. Maybe they’re more your thing! Once again, love your stuff and thank you for creating all this awesome content.

      Yes I definitely need to give other parts of the Netherlands a chance!!

    I get this. Even though Amsterdam is my personal “soul city,” the place I would live out my life if I could afford it, I completely understand that not every place suits every person. I had the same reaction to Stockholm. It just did not sing to me. I liked it all right. But I didn’t love it. It did whisper to me a little louder when I spent time wandering around Gamla Stan. I’d be willing to give it a second chance, but there are other places I’ll visit first. But Amsterdam! My three visits in the last three years has not been nearly enough. I’m sure it helps that I have good friends there, people I often hang out with.

      I think knowing people in a city always helps you go a little deeper and connect with it more. I’ve been to Amsterdam twice and still don’t love it – but I do think it’s a beautiful city!

    Hi, perhaps some Amsterdammers would actually enjoy this post, because lately, they are often complaining that there are too many tourists in their streets. 😉 I can imagine that, although it may be a luxury problem: when I visit it (I live in another Dutch city), I am often amazed how crowded it. Spreading of tourism around the country could be a good idea.

    There’s one big Dutch secret. Rotterdam is by far the coolest city in Holland.

    I have not been to Amsterdam yet, but plan to go one day. The first city I did not like on a second visit was Paris. Beautiful to look at, but the rudeness of the French was a turn off. I would go back however, especially to visit Montmartre once more. London, I hope to never return. Too crowded, felt like an American City with double decker busses. I loved Prague, magical at night, and the Charles Bridge in the morning at sunrise was amazing. I think a lot of Americans only travel abroad a few time in their life and Paris and London are probably a first choice for many. I hightly recommend Spain to people. Cities I loved and would return anytime…Barcelona, Sevilla, Kyoto, Krakow, Budapest, Florence, Rome, Prague, Bath, Dublin, Galway. Even in Avignon, the French were just rude. Especially Sevilla and Kyoto, true love. There is nothing like your first impressions of anywhere, it is just not quite the same on the second try. But London, no thanks.

    The festival lights are so pretty! I felt a bit this way about Prague, it was so stunning and picturesque but I was there of a weekend and found the throngs of tourists difficult to handle, and it difficult to connect with the city in light of how many tourists there were. I still enjoyed it and I saw a lot, but I don’t know that I felt a lot of atmosphere.

      I felt kind of similarly about Prague! I also didn’t have the greatest weather there, though, so I know that didn’t help. I’ll definitely go back and give it a second chance someday, though.

    I have exactly the same thoughts about Amsterdam! Been there few times, liked it but didn’t love it, we just didn’t click. I prefer so many other places in the Netherlands over Amsterdam, probably because I didn’t expect them to be that great! Have you visited other cities there too?

    There’re couple of cities I didn’t connect with: Barcelona, Paris or London to name just few. But that’s ok, we don’t have to love every single destination we visit!

      Other than the windmills at Kinderdijk, no, I haven’t been anywhere else in the Netherlands! I definitely need to, though – I have a feeling I would probably enjoy other cities more!

    To be honest I had similar feelings about Amsterdam for my first couple of days. It wasn’t until I was about three days in that it really clicked. I really wish I hadn’t stayed in the Red Light District though, I think I would have had such a better time if I was staying near the Rijksmuseum- there were so many cute coffee shops and cafes around there.

    Amsterdam’s saving grace for me was the Rijksmuseum. I absolutely love Danish art and I spent a whole day there. It was amazing. But it still doesn’t make me say wow in the same ways cities like Lisbon and Budapest have done for me.

    But it’s not a city I hate either- I’d absolutely never go back to Cologne. We just did not click, even though the beautiful Christmas markets were on at the time.

      It’s always so interesting to see how different people connect (or don’t) with certain cities! I stayed near the Rijksmuseum on my first trip to Amsterdam, but since I’m not a big art museum fan, it didn’t make much of a difference for me! (Conversely, I LOVED Cologne at Christmas time!)

    For me, the place I didn’t “click” was Edinburgh, but I think it was for external reasons rather than the city itself. We were there during the fringe festival and it was super crowded, trash was all over the street from all the performance flyers being handed out, and we had just come from the Lake District which was peaceful countryside. I also hadn’t planned much ahead of time for Edinburgh, so we ended up not doing much of anything. I want to go back some day in a less crowded season and give it a second chance!

      I loved Edinburgh during the Festival, but I can definitely understand the shock of coming in to that after the quiet Lake District! I would definitely recommend trying again sometime, though – maybe earlier in the summer before the Festival starts up. It’s such a pretty city!

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