[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Amsterdam are the miles upon miles of canals that weave their way through the city. It’s an adventure in itself to just wander through the city strolling up and down the endless canals. I think it’s incredible how many canals there are, but yet each one is still unique and so picturesque. The beauty of this extraordinary city is best conveyed through pictures so spend a few minutes and pretend you’re strolling through these stunning Dutch streets.

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

[Photo Essay] Canals of Amsterdam

Have you been to Amsterdam? What is your favorite thing to do there?

Discover Amsterdam’s Secret Garden

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

Amsterdam is a maze of bicycle paths, canals, and a never-ending stream of people all going about their daily activities. Amsterdam is a unique and exciting city that holds surprises and interesting adventures around every corner. The fast-paced lifestyle makes it easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

Unknown to many, Amsterdam hides a peaceful little oasis right in the middle of the city center. This beautiful oasis, known as the Begijnhof with the nickname of the Secret Garden of Amsterdam, is tricky to find but you’ll be glad you did as it gives a much needed break from the rush of people and city life.

The Begijnhof is a quiet courtyard that was originally a sanctuary for the “Beguines” sisterhood. Nowadays, the houses enclosing the Begijnhof are occupied by older single women. This courtyard is one of the oldest inner courts in the city of Amsterdam and holds a beautiful 15th century English Church on the south side of the courtyard.

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

The courtyard is lined with traditional Amsterdam-style town houses surrounding a peaceful green space hidden between Amsterdam’s busy streets. The Secret Garden is the perfect quiet spot to relax and enjoy the slow-paced side of Amsterdam.

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

The Begijnhof is a hidden gem in this city, literally, since it’s not easily found by travelers. It’s mentioned in many guidebooks, but often gets skipped because people can’t find it or don’t want to spend the time looking for it. Don’t make that mistake! You would be missing out on such an unexpected, peaceful little haven right in the heart of the city.

Discover Amsterdam's Secret Garden

Since the houses in the Begijnhof are still occupied, it’s customary to remain quiet and respect their privacy while exploring the courtyard. It’s free to enter and the main entrance is located off Gedempte Begijnensloot (see the map below to better help you find this hidden oasis).

Have you been to the Begijnhof in Amsterdam? What did you think? Is this somewhere you want to visit on your next trip to Amsterdam?

First Impressions of the Netherlands

After three flights and a day and a half of traveling, we were very excited to land in Amsterdam and make our way to the apartment we were staying at. Upon first impression, the streets in Amsterdam are a little intimidating with a lot going on- trams, buses, cars, bicycles and pedestrians going every which way.

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I knew Amsterdam was a city with an impressive bike system, but it takes some time to get used to the bike lanes everywhere. I’m from the suburbs and there aren’t many bike lanes so it definitely took a while to get used to making sure I was standing on the sidewalk and not in the bike lane. Luckily, I figured this out pretty quickly before I got hit by an angry local. Yes, they will hit you if you don’t move.

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One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing in the Netherlands was all the canals. For months, I’ve been looking at pictures of gorgeous canals on Pinterest and pictures just don’t do them justice. Amsterdam is a maze of canals, each one just as beautiful as the previous. Although every street looks virtually the same so I don’t know how anyone knows where they are going. I would probably spend the first few months constantly getting lost if I ever moved to Amsterdam.

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One of the first things we did after arriving in the Netherlands was take a trip to see Holland’s amazing flowers. We ventured about an hour away to Lisse to go to the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. Even at the end of tulip season, the park was incredibly gorgeous with extremely vibrant flowers in every color imaginable. I would definitely recommend Keukenhof to anyone that loves flowers or just loves to look at beautiful things! I’ll write a more detailed post about our time at Keukenhof when we return home from our trip.

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After a few days in Amsterdam, we decided we were ready for a change of pace so we took the train to Haarlem. Haarlem is a neighboring town about 15 minutes away so it’s a great, quick day trip to get out of the city for a while. Biking in Amsterdam is extremely intimidating and we had really been wanting to try biking in the Netherlands, so we decided to try it out in a smaller town. We rented bikes at a shop close to the train station and set off without a map or any idea where we were going. We played some impromptu games of follow the leader and began winding our way through the streets of Haarlem. If you want to bike in the Netherlands and it’s your first time, I suggest doing it in a smaller town or in the countryside because the Amsterdam locals have no mercy on tourists when it comes to biking. Haarlem was the perfect town to start biking in- it’s not too crowded or too big and the biking locals are much less intimidating. We had a great time biking up and down random side streets, although it’s quite possible we were just going around in circles. Biking around Haarlem has been one of my favorite things that we’ve done so far on our trip. I’m pretty sure I just had a stupid grin on my face the whole time! I could definitely get used to living in a city that has a better biking system, I think it’s awesome that so many people bike everywhere instead of using a car. It’s great exercise and is good for the environment.. win-win, right? Although it probably helps that the Netherlands is flat as a pancake (literally!) so it’s not necessarily as physically demanding as in other countries.

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We have done so many fun things during our time in the Netherlands, but I just hit some of our favorites. I will be writing much more detailed posts on all the different things we did in each country after the trip is over so stay tuned for those!

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So far, the Netherlands has set some pretty high expectations for the rest of the trip. Amsterdam is such a diverse city and you really can’t get tired of walking past endless canals. It’s hard to believe our time in the Netherlands is already coming to an end, but I’m excited to see what the other countries have in store for us. Next up is Belgium! Stay tuned for more updates on our adventures. For day-to-day updates, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.