Amsterdam: A Few Favorites, Old and New

One of the small pleasures for me, in revisiting a city, is going back to well-worn treasures, to places I already know and love. Of course I want to see new things – the latest gallery exhibit; the up-and-coming restaurant – but it’s comforting to be abroad and have some old standbys to rely on.

Heading to Amsterdam this time around, there were a few such places that fit that bill, old favorites I was each to return to. And of these, one stands out as my very favorite of all, the place I suspect I will revisit each and every time I’m lucky enough to return to the city: The Anne Frank House.

With a line that often winds around the block (be sure to book your tickets online in advance), it’s clear I’m not the only one who loves visiting this spot. However, even with a crush of tourists clamoring to gain entry, the Anne Frank House is well worthwhile. For me, every time I ascend the tiny and mildly treacherous staircase leading to the cramped rooms where the Frank family hid, I get chills. It’s incredibly powerful to see the space and to think about Anne Frank writing in her diary there.

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While perhaps less poignant than the Anne Frank House, I also count the Rijksmuseum among my Amsterdam favorites. The cool thing about visiting on this trip, however, was that the museum was completely different than the last time I saw it. In 2011, the Rijksmuseum was in the midst of renovations, so when I visited, the highlights of the museum’s collection had been condensed into a few tiny rooms.

This time around, the Rijksmuseum was on display in all its splendor, and seeing it now – several floors, and room after room of artwork – I finally understood that I had only seen a tiny fraction of its treasures the first time around. Still, even though I spotted tons of new works of art on this visit, my favorite remained a classic: Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.

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(And check out her getup: maize and blue. The milkmaid was, clearly, a Michigan fan.)

While visiting the Rijksmuseum – or the nearby Van Gogh Museum – a walk around Museumplein (and a peek at the ubiquitous “I amsterdam” sign) is all but mandatory. While I previously mentioned that my luck with the weather in Amsterdam was pretty spectacular overall, in Museumplein, that luck finally ran out. Still, even in the drizzle, I couldn’t deny that Museumplein was a beautiful public space, grey skies or not.

While old favorites like the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum are wonderful, it also wouldn’t feel like a proper trip without discovering a few new favorites to add to my Amsterdam rotation for future visits. This time around, the new additions to my Amsterdam love list were perusing the Floating Flower Market, snacking on frites and mayo from Vleminckx, and finding a café to call my own – the lovely Brasserie Bâton.

As he walked me to the apartment I was staying at in Amsterdam, the landlord pointed out Bâton to me. It was, he said, a great place to grab a sandwich, and being just a quick walk from my apartment, it couldn’t have been more convenient. I went for breakfast on my first morning in Amsterdam and quickly fell in love. The interior was bright and open, filled with people typing away on their laptops and sipping coffee. And the food? Top notch, in my opinion.

On my first visit, I ordered a cappuccino and an open-faced sandwich with goat cheese, walnuts, thyme, honey, and Balsamic vinegar. I loved the meal – the goat cheese sandwich particularly – so much that I returned and ordered it again the next day…and then the day after that, for good measure. Eating an identical breakfast three days in a row can only mean one of two things: either I am a creature of habit, or the breakfast was really that solid. In Bâton’s case, it was both.

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If my newfound love for Amsterdam taught me anything, it’s that, without a doubt, I will be back to visit the city again someday, and preferably soon. While I’m sure I will make plenty of new discoveries the next time around, I also suspect that returning to admire the Vermeers (not to mention snatching a goat cheese sandwich) is in my future, too.

What old favorites do you always return to, in Amsterdam or elsewhere?

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