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.

Amsterdam
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

Amsterdam

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!

Amsterdam

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. Definitely agree that not every place you visit will be amazing for you. That said, Amsterdam is a place I’d love to visit! Glad it was a bit better the second time around for you.

      I would definitely say go to Amsterdam! Plenty of people love it, and if it’s a place you’d love to visit, go for it!

    I can relate a lot to this. I went to Amsterdam a little over three years ago, and for some reason, I didn’t feel like I really connected with the city. Perhaps my expectations were too high after hearing so many people rave about the place. Or perhaps it was the cold and rainy weather that made the experience seem so… dull.

    I’ve been to a few other cities in The Netherlands, though, and I absolutely fell in love with Utrecht. It’s a small, student town, but with its picturesque canals, windmills, Gothic cathedral, and bicycles, it seemed to fit all those romantic notions one has of Holland – and it felt a lot more authentic, too!

      The weather can totally influence how you feel about a place, in my experience. But I’ve heard the same about Utrecht! Almost everyone raves about it. I definitely need to get there someday.

    I’m going to echo the folks saying Berlin. I visited for the first time this summer and expected to love it because everyone told me I would. But we definitely didn’t click. I would like to go back and give it a second chance, but I have a feeling that Berlin will never be one of my places, either. But that’s okay, because I have Paris and Budapest and Lisbon and Dublin and … Amsterdam ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hmmm I wonder if there’s some strange law of the universe that says you can love either Amsterdam or Berlin but not both?!?

    This is the one thing that scares me about travel, not loving a place. You want to, because you spend so much time and money planning your trip, but like you said, different people are going to love different places for different reasons – it’s inevitable. I think it’s great though you gave it a second chance. Most people after their first try would steer clear, but you gave it an honest go which is important!

      I agree – it’s a bummer when you don’t love a place – especially if you were expecting to, or if it’s a place you’ve been looking forward to going to for a long time! But that’s a risk you have to take with traveling, I suppose!

    You know what? I think that part of why you don’t like Amsterdam right now is because you stayed in the centre. I *hate* that part too. It’s dirty, overcrowded with frat boys, and a little too edgy for my taste. I much prefer hanging out in the Jordaan and De Pijp areas, where there are plenty of young local families, coffee shops, thrift shops, and nice restaurants. This is the real Amsterdam! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Could be! I dunno, though – I stayed outside of the center on my first trip there, and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference! It’s just not a city for me. But I do definitely need to visit some other cities in the Netherlands!

    Paris is one such city for me. I’ve been there twice, but I didn’t love it while my friends (and everyone else in the world) RAVE about it. This may be because I didn’t know how to appreciate Paris though, so I think I’m going to give it a third chance. This time (whenever that is) I’m going to follow your footsteps and enjoy it on my own terms ๐Ÿ™‚

      I liked Paris, but I probably wouldn’t name it as one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m sure I’ll go back someday, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

    It happens. Just like we don’t connect with every person, we won’t connect with every place. At least you know that you gave it a good shot and that now you can go back to places that you did fall in love with ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, exactly! There are plenty of places that I DO love to go back to – and of course plenty of new places to “meet,” too!

    Thank you! After years of reading travel blogs I think this is the first time I’ve heard someone give permission to voice an opinion like this. I’ve been to Amsterdam, hit the tourist spots, wandered, took boat tours and thought it was OK, but if I never make it back, I won’t lose sleep. Too many other amazing places in the world that make your heart sing!
    Hugs through the web.

      Like I said, it’s totally okay to not love every place you visit. It’s kind of a bummer, sure, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it! In fact, I think it would be weird if everyone loved every single place they visited.

    I actually didn’t expect to like Amsterdam and I did! I definitely didn’t click with Dubai though…

      I’ve had that happen, too! I didn’t have high hopes for Barcelona, for example, and I ended up LOVING it!

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, so hi! I love it when bloggers don’t just talk about the places that are soooo amazing, cause nobody loves every place. I haven’t traveled that much yet but I’ll be interested to find out what that place is for me

      Hi! I tend to be able to find the positive in most places I visit, but there are plenty of places that I just haven’t connected with on my travels. And that’s okay!

    This is great, and I love how you gave Amsterdam a second chance. You figured out what you did wrong the first time, and changed what you needed to have a better trip. Even if you didn’t love Amsterdam you can say you tried, and you can appreciate the city, even if you don’t love it.

    I felt the same way about Ottawa, on paper it has everything I like in a destination, but it just didn’t click with me. I did visit the city a second time (after a not so great first visit) and had a better time, but like you said it’ll never be one of “my places,” and that’s okay. There are a lot of other places out in the world for us to fall in love with.

      Yes, there are SO many other places in the world to love! I may not ever love Amsterdam, but going back was good – I won’t have to wonder “what if” any more!

    Thank you! My husband and I were not impressed at all by Amsterdam (admittedly on a 24 hour layover) and everyone acts like we’re crazy. I would give it a second chance, but it just seemed dirty and I didn’t see the charm.

      Haha, well you’re not crazy! Not everyone has to love every place they visit. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Berlin was that city for me too actually. I think it had a lot to do with the weather and the people I was with but I didn’t love it the way so many of my friends do. However, I am VERY interested in giving it a second chance. It was over 10 years ago and I have changed a lot since then and so has my travel taste.

      I think it definitely has changed a lot in the last 10 years – I’d be interested to see what you think of it if you do decide to give it a second chance!

    I had the same experience with Berlin. On my first (and so far only) visit, I just didn’t get it. Everyone raved about Berlin, but I couldn’t see it; the city and I just didn’t click — I was sick, so maybe the flu was to blame. I hope to have the chance to revisit Berlin soon to find out it actually is me, not Berlin.

      I personally loved Berlin, but that just goes to show that different people have different experiences! I’m all about giving places a second try, though, so I would definitely say give a go sometime in Berlin!

    Great post, and I have to admit I’m with you on this. As much as I enjoyed wandering the city on foot while stuffing my face with pastries, and the architecture was beautiful, I’ve never felt the need to rush back. It was like, not love.

      Same here – like, not love. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m glad that I’ve been to Amsterdam, but I also won’t be hurrying back anytime soon.

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