Postcards from… Amsterdam
This is the first in a new series of posts, “Postcards from…” brought to you in conjunction with Budget UK. In each post we’ll take you to a different European city and pick out five cool places to send a postcard from. I know, a postcard sounds old fashioned, so if you prefer you can post an image on Facebook or Instagram! Tag us (@familyadventureproject) and include #postcardfrom and we’ll even come check it out. Anyway to kick off this thoroughly modern, retro travel series we’ve five ideas for a postcard from Amsterdam….
1 At the Windmills of Old Amsterdam
Send a message home from “the house of the mouse” in a windmill in Old Amsterdam
Do you know the story of the little mouse who lived in a windmill in Old Amsterdam? If not, go listen to it now (and you’ll be singing it all day). Anyway, you can’t really come to Amsterdam and not go looking for the mouse’s house. Luckily, there are still eight windmills to spot in Amsterdam so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one to write your first postcard from. All have different stories to tell and some are open to visitors. This being Holland there is a National Windmill day each year in May when windmills throughout the country are decorated with flowers, flags and angels and open their doors to visitors.
For the biggest and best postcard moment we suggest a visit to the windmills at the Zaans Museum, an open air museum just a short drive or train ride north from central Amsterdam. The Zaanse Schans is free to wander around and boasts eight well preserved windmills, including some that are open for visiting (for a small fee). There are also some traditional Dutch houses, a clog factory, and a museum with a cafe and free wifi. Should you find yourself eager to learn more about windmills you could always visit the nearby Windmill Museum (Molenmuseum), a 15-minute walk away.
2 In the Van Gogh museum
Send a creative message inspired by the works of one of the great Dutch masters
The Van Gogh museum is one of the top three most visited museums in the Netherlands, set in an inspiring building on Museumplein. The museum itself is an interesting mix of angular architecture from the 1970′s and a softer elliptical wing from the late 1990′s. Inside, the museum is also a walk through time, telling the story of Vincent van Gogh through his dark sombre early works, to works inspired by time in Paris and Arles, then onto to abstract and expressionistic works from later years spent in the asylum in St Remy after the infamous ear incident. There’s a great audio tour you can take, including a version for kids age 6-12 and if you visiting with kids do ask about Vincent’s travelling case or the treasure hunt, all designed to make the experience engaging and educational. There are many famous paintings, landscapes, portraits and still life, including those famous sunflowers. For postcard number 2, find a painting that moves you and craft an inspiring message to send.
3 Pedalling on the canals
Inspire with an unusual angle of this city of canals
There is nothing more famous about Amsterdam than its canals. Well apart from the Anne Frank, Van Gogh and Rijkmuseums, the three most visited museums in the whole of the Netherlands. Or the citizens fondness for certain substances and practices which don’t really have a place in a family oriented blog. Oh and its world class cycling infrastructure and bike culture. Well, how about combining a few of these by renting a pedalo and pedalling around the canals to visit the museums? It’s a great way to experience the canals, see the city and get a little exercise all at the same time. Just make sure you know how to steer and watch out for the big cruise boats though; they show no mercy to human powered craft. For your third postcard, we suggest you rent a pedalo, pedal on water in the city that pedals everywhere and send a postcard from the canals. Don’t smudge it now.
4 Smelling the Cheese in Alkmaar
Send a cheesy message from the famous cheese market of Aklmaar
If you’ve been to the house of the mouse, you’ll probably be wanting cheese for tea. And there’s no better place to go for a cheese spectacle than the Alkmaar Cheese Market. Alkmaar is a pretty Dutch town a short drive from Amsterdam (approx 40km, under an hour North), also easily reached by train (four direct trains an hour from Amsterdam Centraal). It holds its famous cheese market every Friday morning from start of April to early September (check the Alkmaar Cheese Market website for details).
This is no ordinary cheese market though, it’s a colourful and historic spectacle that dates back to 1593. It still draws a large crowd today and fills the whole square with more bright yellow cakes of cheese than you can eat in a lifetime. Once the opening bell is rung at 10am, the cheese fathers and colourful hatted cheese carriers run around doing deals, carting and weighing cheese until everyone is thoroughly cheesed off. Your mission is to send a cheesy postcard that captures something of the occasion. After that you can buy some local cheese yourself, enjoy strolling around the pretty town and its canals, or relax with a coffee in one of the fine cafes around town.
5 Sending Tulips from Amsterdam
Capture the scent of the spring in the Keukenhof Gardens
Did you think we’d forgotten about the tulips of Amsterdam? No, never. Holland is a global trendsetter when it comes to flowers, plants and bulbs so you simply can’t come here and not smell the flowers. And one of the best places to do that near Amsterdam is at the Keukenhof Gardens, some 35km or 40 minutes drive south of the city. (Of course if you want to do something else typically Dutch, you can make the journey by bike on traffic free trails in a few healthy hours of cycling).
Now Keukenhof Gardens are open on a strictly seasonal basis so to send this postcard you’ll need to plan your visit to coincide with the eight weeks of springtime opening, usually between the end of March and middle of May. Keukenhof claims to be the most beautiful spring garden in the world, but we’ll leave you to judge that, although with over seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths you can be guaranteed quite a show. And smell. Despite the fact it’s a garden, it’s not all outside and not all flowers; there are pavilions to explore, works of art hidden amongst the gardens and events and activities for visitors of all ages every weekend. There’s also an annual flower parade in May, where flowery floats from the gardens trail their scent along a 40-km route from Noordwijk to Haarlem. Anyway for this fifth postcard your mission is to send a card that captures something of the season of your visit. If Keukenhof isn’t open we’ll leave you to find another horticultural delight to share.
A love letter from iAmsterdam
Tell us what you love about Amsterdam
We hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for postcards from around Amsterdam. It’s a wonderful, family friendly city to explore. If you’ve time and energy left you can literally climb all over Amsterdam in Museumplein before you leave. So if you want to send one last postcard, check out the iconic iAmsterdam sculpture and send a card home that says exactly where you are without you saying a word.
And if you’ve some other favourite places you’d like to send a postcard from in Amsterdam, do share them in a comment below.
Disclosure Note: This post was brought to you thanks to the support of Budget UK. All the research, ideas and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.