Diversity, tolerance and charm abound in the Netherlands
Photo: Amsterdam Bridge, http://atlassian.com
Everyone knows Amsterdam is a city that knows how to have a good time, but beyond the red-light district and coffee houses, honeymooners will find an Amsterdam full of charisma and overflowing with culture. Amsterdam beautifully balances being one of the most forward-thinking cities in the world while still holding tightly to its rich history and old-world charm.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Spring and summer are the most popular times to visit, although Amsterdam enjoys a fairly mild climate with no real extremes. If you want to see the tulips, you’ll need to go in between early April and May.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a friendlier city for gays and lesbians in Europe or maybe the world. The Netherlands was the first country to legally recognize gay marriage in 2001. It allowed registered partnerships as early as 1998 and erected the first-ever monument dedicated to eradicating the oppression and discrimination of homosexuals in 1987.
Hotel Pulitzer Located just minutes from Dam Square, the 5-star luxurious Hotel Pulitzer is actually comprised of 25 canal houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Laden with history, the hotel’s rooms have been recently updated and offer luxury and comfort at every turn. Dining can be done at the hotel’s own Restaurant Keizersgracht 238, known for its delicious grilled meats and seafood, and in warm months, tables are open in the hotel’s own private gardens. No need to find a tourist boat as the hotel’s own beautiful jetty leaves daily for a slow and relaxed tour of the canals. Hotel Pulitzer’s uniqueness is purely Amsterdam, and its location is prime for exploring the city’s many attractions.
WINE & DINE:
Dining at Restaurant Greetje is like visiting the home of the Dutch grandmother you never had and probably didn’t even realize you wanted. The restaurant is located in one of Amsterdam’s most attractive old districts with tables that look out over the canal. Although traditional Dutch cuisine may not be for everyone, couples who love a little culinary adventure will not be disappointed with the fresh ingredients in the beautifully prepared dishes.
The Dutch love their pancakes and so will you. Sweet or savory and as big as a pizza, they are perfect for breakfast, lunch or even a late night snack. If you’re planning a trip to the Heineken Brewery, be sure to stop in at the nearby Carousel Pancake House for one of these tasty local treats.
Once a colony of the Netherlands, Indonesia has left an indelible and delicious mark on Amsterdam’s restaurant scene. Make reservations and be ready to squeeze in with locals and tourists alike at the popular Sama Sebo. For a truly Indonesian dining experience order the rijsttafel (rice table) for a varied and large sampling of yummy veggie and meat dishes.
Photo: Renting bikes in Amsterdam makes for easy transport around the city.
SEE & DO:
Canals: Amsterdam’s canals historically enabled the city to grow and prosper. Today only half of the original canals remain after years of filling them in to make way for modern transportation, but they still cover about a quarter of the city’s area. They are both a functional part of the city as well as its most beloved characteristic. You can take to the waterways on your own by renting a paddleboat or sloop (sailboat), or for a more leisurely excursion, you can hop on any one of the many boat tours offered around the canals.
Bicycle built for two: Bicycling through Amsterdam is the quintessential Dutch experience. Almost 250 miles of bike paths and very conscious drivers make it a wonderfully bike-friendly city. You really can rent a tandem bicycle for two or if you’re feeling really cutesy you can just do as Amsterdammers do and have your sweetheart ride up on the bars. Mac Bikes is a great rental company with numerous locations around the city.
Photo: Homomonument, http://www.homomonument.nl
Homomonument: The first of its kind, the Homomonument consists of three pink granite triangles symbolizing the past, present and future of the gay rights struggle. It’s located on the Keizersgracht canal, just steps from the Anne Frank House.
|Photo: Rijksmuseum, www.amsterdam.info|
Museums: Art-loving couples will have a difficult time narrowing down what to see in the city’s dizzying array of museums and galleries. Topping most lists will be the Van Gogh Museum with the largest collection of the artist’s work, the Rijksmuseum with its unrivaled showcase of Dutch art and the modern art found at the Stedelijk. All three along with many others are located in the Museum Quarter.
Anne Frank House: One of the city’s most visited sites, the Anne Frank House is a place of somber remembrance for Anne, her family and the other victims of the Holocausts. It also is the home of the Anne Frank Foundation that continues to fight against discrimination for all minorities around the world. Buy tickets online to avoid long lines and wait times.
Bloembollenstreek: If your honeymoon is in late April or May, you can tiptoe through the tulips or ride a bike through the magnificent flower fields just outside of the city in the Dutch countryside. If your timing is off, don’t despair. You can still see other flowers in bloom starting as early as late January. If you don’t make it outside of the city, you can still visit the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market to see oodles of bulbs, plants and brilliantly hued cut flowers.
Red-light District: Not exactly romantic, but a trip to Amsterdam doesn’t seem complete without at least a stroll through this infamous neighborhood in Amsterdam. During the daylight hours, it’s easy to look past the red-trimmed windows and enjoy the 14th century Dutch architecture and quaint tree-lined canals. Thanks to a lot of pushing from city officials over the past few years, you can even find a smattering of smart boutiques and shops that allow for the kind of window shopping that doesn’t make you blush.
Heineken Tour: The Heineken Experience is much more than just a beer museum. Four floors of interactive exhibits allow you to see, touch and taste Amsterdam’s most famous pilsner from start to finish. You’ll need well over an hour to see and do everything before ending your tour with a couple of glasses of the main attraction.
PERFECT FOR COUPLES LOOKING FOR:
Art, culture, history and European charm.
DAYS TO STAY:
You’ll need at least 3 to 4 to even scratch the surface of all Amsterdam has to offer.
OH, AND BY THE WAY:
The name Holland in actuality refers to just 2 of the 12 provinces that make up the Netherlands. Without much ado, tourists tend to use Holland and Netherlands interchangeably though, and even the Dutch scream “Holland!” when rooting on their football (soccer) team.