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. 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.

    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!

    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!

    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. 🙂

    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!

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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 🙂

      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!

    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 🙂

      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! 🙂

    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! 🙂

      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!

    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!

    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 🙂

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

    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.

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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! 🙂

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

    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!)

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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!

    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!

    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.

    ‘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!

    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. 🙂

    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. 😉

    For me, the place I didn’t “click” was Edinburgh, but I think it was for external reasons rather than the city itself. We were there during the fringe festival and it was super crowded, trash was all over the street from all the performance flyers being handed out, and we had just come from the Lake District which was peaceful countryside. I also hadn’t planned much ahead of time for Edinburgh, so we ended up not doing much of anything. I want to go back some day in a less crowded season and give it a second chance!

      I loved Edinburgh during the Festival, but I can definitely understand the shock of coming in to that after the quiet Lake District! I would definitely recommend trying again sometime, though – maybe earlier in the summer before the Festival starts up. It’s such a pretty city!

    To be honest I had similar feelings about Amsterdam for my first couple of days. It wasn’t until I was about three days in that it really clicked. I really wish I hadn’t stayed in the Red Light District though, I think I would have had such a better time if I was staying near the Rijksmuseum- there were so many cute coffee shops and cafes around there.

    Amsterdam’s saving grace for me was the Rijksmuseum. I absolutely love Danish art and I spent a whole day there. It was amazing. But it still doesn’t make me say wow in the same ways cities like Lisbon and Budapest have done for me.

    But it’s not a city I hate either- I’d absolutely never go back to Cologne. We just did not click, even though the beautiful Christmas markets were on at the time.

      It’s always so interesting to see how different people connect (or don’t) with certain cities! I stayed near the Rijksmuseum on my first trip to Amsterdam, but since I’m not a big art museum fan, it didn’t make much of a difference for me! (Conversely, I LOVED Cologne at Christmas time!)

    I have exactly the same thoughts about Amsterdam! Been there few times, liked it but didn’t love it, we just didn’t click. I prefer so many other places in the Netherlands over Amsterdam, probably because I didn’t expect them to be that great! Have you visited other cities there too?

    There’re couple of cities I didn’t connect with: Barcelona, Paris or London to name just few. But that’s ok, we don’t have to love every single destination we visit!

      Other than the windmills at Kinderdijk, no, I haven’t been anywhere else in the Netherlands! I definitely need to, though – I have a feeling I would probably enjoy other cities more!

    The festival lights are so pretty! I felt a bit this way about Prague, it was so stunning and picturesque but I was there of a weekend and found the throngs of tourists difficult to handle, and it difficult to connect with the city in light of how many tourists there were. I still enjoyed it and I saw a lot, but I don’t know that I felt a lot of atmosphere.

      I felt kind of similarly about Prague! I also didn’t have the greatest weather there, though, so I know that didn’t help. I’ll definitely go back and give it a second chance someday, though.

    I have not been to Amsterdam yet, but plan to go one day. The first city I did not like on a second visit was Paris. Beautiful to look at, but the rudeness of the French was a turn off. I would go back however, especially to visit Montmartre once more. London, I hope to never return. Too crowded, felt like an American City with double decker busses. I loved Prague, magical at night, and the Charles Bridge in the morning at sunrise was amazing. I think a lot of Americans only travel abroad a few time in their life and Paris and London are probably a first choice for many. I hightly recommend Spain to people. Cities I loved and would return anytime…Barcelona, Sevilla, Kyoto, Krakow, Budapest, Florence, Rome, Prague, Bath, Dublin, Galway. Even in Avignon, the French were just rude. Especially Sevilla and Kyoto, true love. There is nothing like your first impressions of anywhere, it is just not quite the same on the second try. But London, no thanks.

    There’s one big Dutch secret. Rotterdam is by far the coolest city in Holland.

    Hi, perhaps some Amsterdammers would actually enjoy this post, because lately, they are often complaining that there are too many tourists in their streets. 😉 I can imagine that, although it may be a luxury problem: when I visit it (I live in another Dutch city), I am often amazed how crowded it. Spreading of tourism around the country could be a good idea.

    I get this. Even though Amsterdam is my personal “soul city,” the place I would live out my life if I could afford it, I completely understand that not every place suits every person. I had the same reaction to Stockholm. It just did not sing to me. I liked it all right. But I didn’t love it. It did whisper to me a little louder when I spent time wandering around Gamla Stan. I’d be willing to give it a second chance, but there are other places I’ll visit first. But Amsterdam! My three visits in the last three years has not been nearly enough. I’m sure it helps that I have good friends there, people I often hang out with.

      I think knowing people in a city always helps you go a little deeper and connect with it more. I’ve been to Amsterdam twice and still don’t love it – but I do think it’s a beautiful city!

    I’m totally in love with you and your blog, so I have to admit I was a little sad to see that the only posts about the Netherlands (my home country) are about not having a ‘click’ with Amsterdam! 😉 Totally get you, though. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be! If I may give you a little tip; visit Utrecht, Gouda, Nijmegen or Groningen the next time you’re in our little country. Maybe they’re more your thing! Once again, love your stuff and thank you for creating all this awesome content.

      Yes I definitely need to give other parts of the Netherlands a chance!!

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