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. I’ve read a number of similar blog posts about Amsterdam and we had a similar experience when we were there but we were horribly jet lagged. I’d like to go back, but it’s not at the top of the list.

      Jet lag can certainly make a difference in how you experience a city! But that perhaps wasn’t the only thing affecting your time in Amsterdam. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you for being so honest! I felt exactly like this about Dubrovnik. I really wanted to love the city but in reality I just didn’t click with it and couldn’t wait to move on and explore something else.

      And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! Hopefully wherever you went after Dubrovnik treated you a bit better. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ‘Glad you gave Amsterdam a second chance. Its such a lovely city as long as you move further away from the red-light district and into the suburb. And also, the river is gorgeous!
    Is there a city I’ve visited and just never really connected with? Yep! Singapore! I didn’t like it at all. Looking back, I think it was because it was at the end of my first around-the-world-GAP-year-travel and I had just left Bangkok, HongKong and Indonesia in the late 90’s so imagine my shock when I landed in Singapore and everything was just so clean. And organised. And efficient! I felt as if I was in the Asian version of Switzerland. I live in Germany…! Oh, and everyone I bumped into was British…!

      Haha, I can imagine the shock! I haven’t been to Singapore, but I can definitely picture how much different it must be than a city like Bangkok!

    You are totally right some people told me that they don’t like Amsterdam but others told me that they love it

      It definitely seems to be a place that divides people’s opinions.

    I absolutely loved this post. Most of the time when I read about people going back to places they previously didn’t love, it always ends with something along the lines of “oops I was wrong, everyone who said I was wrong is correct, my bad”.
    It is very refreshing to see you sticking to your first impression. If you don’t love it, you just don’t love it. No big deal.
    http://Www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

      Nope, no big deal at all, and I’ll never lie about how I feel about a place!

    Vienna! I wrote a similar post to your break-up letter with Amsterdam upon returning from Vienna – Maybe It was Me. Like you did with Amsterdam, I will give Vienna another chance someday. I just need a bit more separation…

      I think we all have those places – it’s kind of inevitable when you travel so much! Hopefully Vienna treats you better the second time around!

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I’m a Dutch woman living in Naarden, about 30 minutes away from Amsterdam, and I rarely visit it because I think it’s such a dirty city. I only go to Amsterdam when I have guests from out of town, and I understand why they all love it so much. There are wonderful museums and ….. Nope, that’s it. The museums are the only things I like about Amsterdam, and I’m always happy when I’m back home in my small picturesque town. I hope you’ll come back to the Netherlands some day and visit other parts of my country. Safe travels!

      Maybe that’s my problem – I’m not a huge museum person (especially art museums), so perhaps that’s another reason why I’ve never connected with Amsterdam!

    I’ve only been a few times, but during those visits I didn’t fall in love with the city either. That’s mostly because my heart is with Rotterdam. Rotterdam has character were Amsterdam feels uninspired. I’ll focus my travels around The Netherlands this year, so who knows… Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it…

      I really need to visit Rotterdam! I’ve pretty much only heard good things.

    Haven’t been to Amsterdam yet, so I can’t comment on that aspect, but this is how I feel about New York City. I know, I know…I just don’t “click” with it – I have traveled there for fun, and for business. While it’s never a bad time, I would not choose it for leisure travel again. (In fact, I have a work trip there in March and will build in some free time, but I’d much rather visit on someone else’s dime!)

      And there’s nothing wrong with that! I feel like New York City is a place that a lot of people love – but I also know people who hate it. I’m kind of in the middle; it’s fun to visit, but after a few days, I’m done!

    As you know, I *love* Amsterdam, I am so excited to be spending a week (well, sort of) there at the end of April- incorporating Kings Day and visiting a friend who lives slightly outside the city. I’m hoping to fit a day trip to Rotterdam in, too, whilst I’m there that week.

    You’re totally right, not everyone likes the same places. And mine, like yours is a truly popular destination for tourists. My place I don’t have any desire to return to? Prague. I hate the bloody place. It is partly my own fault, I always end up there with BAB and staying in Plus Prague, which may as well be in Bratislava for how close to the city centre it is. But it’s not just that, it’s the fact that the Charles Bridge is so crowded with tourists that I’m convinced it’s going to crash into the river below from the weight it’s holding. The bronze statue that you rub for luck is massive hoax. It is quite literally “central” Europe- with more Starbucks, Costa’s, Macca’s and H&M’s than I have in a hundred mile radius crammed into one city centre. Mind you, I am a fan of the Lennon Wall and am always intrigued to see people’s photo’s of what it looks like now. I like the idea of ever changing art.

      I enjoyed Prague, but I didn’t fall in love with it as much as some other cities in that part of Europe, either. Have fun in Amsterdam, though! I can only imagine how crazy it is for King’s Day!

    I felt the same way about London. It’s a beautiful city with tons of history. But I was there for just under 48 hours on a stopover from warm and sunny Nepal, and it was a huge weather and culture shift all at once. While I loved having a reliable transportation system, it just felt kind of blah in comparison. Perhaps it deserves another chance too..

      Unless you absolutely hated a place, I think giving a city a second chance is worth it! (Though I’m biased in this case, because I LOVE London so much!)

    I absolutely LOVE Amsterdam and am glad you went back for a second time! I too, preferred wandering the canals and cycling over the tourist hotspots during my visit! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cycling in Amsterdam actually made me really nervous! People there take no prisoners in those bike lanes… haha.

    I felt the same way after visiting Bangkok for the first time in June 2014! At the time I would have cared less if I never made it back to Bangkok.

    But of course, I went back this time in October 2015. I left Bangkok after 4 days seeing the appeal that it could have and even liking the city. However, I still don’t just love it. If I am ever there again, I will happily explore and the city but if I don’t get back again, thats okay too!

    Thanks for sharing!

    XO,
    Sarah

      That’s exactly how I feel about Amsterdam! And I suppose I felt similarly about Bangkok. I *liked* it, but I don’t think it will ever make my list of my favorite cities in the world.

    Amsterdam and I have the same relationship as you. I just wasn’t a fan even though the Anne Frank Museum was one of the best museums I’ve visited and I loved the little take-away places that have the tiny doors you can grab croquettes from. We just didn’t get along. I also feel the same about Bangkok. Actually my relationship with Bangkok is probably worse. We had one back experience after another there that just turned our stay into a disaster. I’d love to give it another go though but maybe visiting next time with someone who loves the city and trying to see it through their eyes.

      I had a similar experience in Athens (and actually liked Athens even less) – but I agree that if I go back next time I need to hang out with someone who really loves the city to see if my mind can be changed!

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