Playing tourist in Amsterdam with my cousin

Horse-drawn carriages in front of the Royal Palace

Horse-drawn carriages in front of the Royal Palace

A cousin of mine who works in Qatar made a lightning visit to Holland this weekend. Being a first time visitor to this country, it comes as no surprise that Amsterdam should be on top of our itinerary. And so here I am playing tourist guide as we explore this city which has fascinated the imagination of many for its reputation of liberalism when it comes to soft drugs, prostitution, same-sex relationships, abortion, euthanasia, etc.

Before your imagination runs wild as to what I’ve exposed my dear cousin who just jetted in from a country where even holding hands with her boyfriend in public is already considered scandalous, we went to see the Royal Palace. A first for me too as I’ve never been inside this palace in the past. With a few royal events that took place here recently such as the abdication of Queen (now princess) Beatrix in favor of her son King Willem Alexander last April 30, I deemed it high time to see how this palace looks from inside.

Official opening time last Saturday was 11am and as we were there 10 minutes before, the queue was still not that long. Entrance fee was € 10 per person and for the many amazing things to see inside, definitely worth every cent. The palace from the outside may look grim and gray but inside is a completely different story. We wandered from room to room admiring the many wonderful royal collections from paintings to furnitures and even the chandeliers. Great time to spend the dreary spring morning inside such a very elegant surrounding. Some weeks ago, this palace was teeming with royals from all over the world for the reception that followed the installation of Willem-Alexander as king in the Nieuwe Kerk just beside the palace. With that in mind, it is funny to think that for a moment in time, we were tracing royal footsteps. ;-)

From the palace we proceeded to the direction of Leidseplein, passing through the many lovely canals for the usual photo shoot of Amsterdam. Because it was already past 12pm, we decided to have a very Dutch lunch of “broodje haring” which is just a soft bun with raw herring, chopped onions and pickles. I thought my dear cousin would freak out but instead became an instant fan of the raw herring.

Another wonderful place to see in Amsterdam is the Begijnhof, a calm oasis in the very centre of the city. This place which houses women traces its history back to 1150 when a group of women came together to live in a religious community to tend to the sick. These days, this place is a haven for single women who can rent apartments here from the city for very modest amounts. In this little enclave of picturesque houses are two churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic. We went inside the Catholic Church for a little prayer.

Fun outing for the girls. We checked out a few shops and made a few purchases. We also discovered that some cheese shops offer free tasting so how fun was that!

Of course, a visit to Amsterdam is never complete without a little stroll through its famous (or infamous) Red Light District. My cousin had a bit of a culture shock upon seeing the openness of the approach to prostitution from those ladies behind the glass windows to the soft drugs that can just be bought from the coffee shops. As we inched our way out of the Red Light District, another funny incident that further shocked my cousin was a guy in blond wig doing “mooning” by the window of a restaurant. It was time to head home after this incident. ;-)

My cousin in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

My cousin in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

Impressive interior.

Impressive interior.

This is the room where Queen Beatrix signed the Act of Abdication in favor of her son last April 30.

This is the room where Queen Beatrix signed the Act of Abdication in favor of her son last April 30.

Coat of arms of the Dutch provinces and territories

Coat of arms of the Dutch provinces and territories

Impressive interior of the royal palace

Impressive interior of the royal palace

Inside the royal palace

Inside the royal palace

Inside the royal palace

Inside the royal palace

A painting of Queen Wilhelmina

A painting of Queen Wilhelmina

Royal bedroom -  wouldn't mind staying overnight here.  ;-)

Royal bedroom – wouldn’t mind staying overnight here. ;-)

Impressive chandeliers

Impressive chandeliers

High ceiling and chandelier

High ceiling and chandelier

Inside the royal palace

Inside the royal palace

The Amsterdam Central train station

The Amsterdam Central train station

Inside a Delft blue souvenir shop

Inside a Delft blue souvenir shop

With a huge wooden "klompen" outside a souvenir shop

With a huge wooden “klompen” outside a souvenir shop

Among wooden "klompen"

Among wooden “klompen”

Flower shop

Flower shop

My cousin at one of the many canals in Amsterdam

My cousin at one of the many canals in Amsterdam

Trying out the raw herring sandwich

Trying out the raw herring sandwich

"Broodje harring"

“Broodje harring”

A very typical Dutch "bakfiets"

A very typical Dutch “bakfiets”

One of the many Amsterdam canals

One of the many Amsterdam canals

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

My cousin in Amsterdam

My cousin in Amsterdam

The Begijnhof

The Begijnhof

Inside the Roman Catholic Church at the Begijnhof

Inside the Roman Catholic Church at the Begijnhof

Going Medieval???

Going Medieval???

A bit of retail therapy

A bit of retail therapy

Trying out the different types of cheeses

Trying out the different types of cheeses

Different types of cheeses at the souvenir shop

Different types of cheeses at the souvenir shop

(In)famous Dutch coffee shops

(In)famous Dutch coffee shops

Red Light District

Red Light District

Strangely enough, there are several huge churches at the Red Light District

Strangely enough, there are several huge churches at the Red Light District

Everything goes in Amsterdam -- not a surprise to see a stunt what this guy pulled for onlookers -- a moony.

Everything goes in Amsterdam — not a surprise to see a stunt what this guy pulled for onlookers — a moony.

About Malou
I'm a mom to a five-year old little girl with interest in cooking, baking, traveling and photography. Castles and palaces are special favorites so when weather permits for a good walk on weekends, me, hubby and little girl are always out for a bit of adventure.

88 Responses to Playing tourist in Amsterdam with my cousin

  1. Sometimes it takes a visitor to appreciate your own town/country. Thanks for the tour!

    • Malou says:

      So true. I work in Amsterdam South where the financial district is. It just doesn’t appeal to me to still go to Amsterdam during the weekend. A good excuse to see the city is when a visitor comes over. ;-)

  2. RDoug says:

    Your cousin looks charming, and it appears that she had a wonderful time. But, then, who wouldn’t while visiting such great sights?

    Marvellous pictures as always, Malou. Thanks again for sharing (I really do have to make it to Amsterdam one day).

  3. I could imagine your cousin feelings, because even for me, when I was first in Amsterdam and I was 20, red light street in the evening was too much!:)

  4. That looked like smoked herring – if I remember when I used to eat meat, fish etc it was very tasty. I admit I would not be interested in the Red Light area, or the ‘coffee’ shops – so much else to see. The palace looked wonderful.
    And it looks as though the rain kept off for your day!

    • Malou says:

      This is raw herring, Michael. This is herring caught in the North Sea, preserved in barrels with salt.

      There are plenty of things to see and do in Amsterdam yet for a first time visitor, the curiosity over the Red Light District and the coffee shops is always there.

      The Rijksmuseum for instance, has just opened its doors after almost 10 years of renovation. Definitely worth a visit as well as the Stedelijk Museum which also just opened up again after a major renovation. ;-)

  5. The pictures are wonderful. Love roaming through old castles.

  6. Michael Zoll says:

    Schöner Beitrag wieder!

    Grüße
    Michael

  7. sillyliss says:

    Whoa. Red light district. Live Porno! That’s telling it like it is.

    How do you pedal the basket bike? Does it have pedals or is it motorized?

    I enjoyed this post very much!

    • Malou says:

      Thank you. Amsterdam is not such a dull place, huh!

      You cycle with this “bakfiets” in the same way as the normal bike. It is quite tough especially going uphill because it is not motorized so this is not my kind of bike. ;-)

  8. mylifeinfocusblog says:

    Loved visiting your city. Thanks for the great photos.

  9. Beautiful time with your cousin! I love Amsterdam – it’s such a beautiful city :-)
    As always – your photos are a treat, Malou!

  10. I love Amsterdam… everything about it except maybe the pickpockets. (grin) Looks like your cousin was having a lot of fun. It’s hard not to. I’ll have to put the palace on my to-do list for the next time I visit. Thanks for a fun blog. Curt

  11. Hi,
    Nice photos, but yes, that was the tourist version. Your cousin is very pretty.
    As a former resident, I will post some photos of Amsterdam soon as well that might show the other parts of Amsterdam. There is so much to see in the areas of fine arts and modern architecture as well. I will keep you posted.
    Johanna

    • Malou says:

      Thank you, Johanna. You are right, Amsterdam has so much to offer but on a limited time, the touristic route is always the easy way. I would love to also do a leisurely trip to the city on a weekend, see the museums and places like the Artis or the Botanical Garden. ;-)

  12. Amsterdam is high on my list of places I want to visit, and this just made it more so (except maybe for the guy’s rear end :). Your cousin is beautiful.

    • Malou says:

      You must see this city which is like a living museum itself with the lovely buildings and its canals. While its reputation is preceded by the Red Light District and the coffee shops, there are many interesting places to see from renowned museums to surprising places like the Begijnhof. ;-)

  13. Lucid Gypsy says:

    A lovely tour thanks and what a pretty cousin you have.

  14. A very nice tour of Amsterdam – I’m glad that your cousin survived the trip
    David
    PS Thank you for visiting me at http://ja2da.com

  15. kitastrophie says:

    I love the herring without the bread, so damn good! Also, if I remember correctly they are just in season! Jealousy.

    You must must must try the ‘filet american’. THey have it at AH. Spread that on a warm baguette with some fresh ground black pepper and you are in heaven! :) Or you can buy broodje american!

    Beautiful pics! Makes me miss the Netherlands!

    • Malou says:

      Wow, glad to know that you like the herring. Did you also eat it by holding it up by the tail like the way Dutch people do? The new herring will be arriving next month so many are already anxious for the new arrival.

      I learned to appreciate “filet Americain” from the hubby who is a big fan. I used to freak out at the mere idea of raw beef but over time, I adapted well. ;-)

  16. dkzody says:

    Beautiful photos. Thanks for the tour of your city. I have a friend who lives at the Hague so this is quite interesting to see.

    • Malou says:

      Thank you. The Hague is also lovely, actually more my favorite city because that was the first place I lived in when I just arrived here in Holland. The Hague is more quite compared to busy and touristic Amsterdam. ;-)

  17. Thanks so for this glorious tour, Malou…and every place looks wonderful, now that Spring has finally arrived, especially the palace interior! To. Die. For!!! So warm and inviting, and i’d wager the Dutch are very pleased with their new king?

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you enjoyed the tour. I was so curious of this palace and finally I found the excuse to check it out. There are 2 other royal palaces which I have explored in the past but this one where many royal events take place has been on my must-see list for sometime. The Dutch were in earlier years, not so keen on this new king taking over his mother. Good that he married a very charismatic commoner (Argentine-born Maxima), his approval rating went higher. ;-)

  18. Loved the palace, cheese, and especially the wooden shoes! your cousin is adorable and posed for so many pictures! I would really enjoy the red light district because it looks to me like New Orleans/Mardi Gras on Steroids! :)

    Raw herring sandwich? Not so much……sorry! Great post as always!

    • Malou says:

      Thank you, Kelli. Amsterdam has many nice surprises. Then there are also the absurd ones especially in the Red Light District. Strangely enough, regular Dutch people never go there like my husband, ha, ha, ha! They would not want to be seen there while I enjoy playing tourist guide when we have guests. ;-)

      Raw herring sounds gross but it is actually very delicious, not fishy at all. Can you imagine Francesca eating it when she was nine-month old? ;-)

  19. Mike Sinnott says:

    That brought back some memories. As a young man I was working in Germany and used to spend my weekends and time off in Amsterdam. Used to stay in a small hotel at the beginning of Warmoesstraat when you come from the Central Station. Happy days back in the swinging 60’s !

    • Malou says:

      What nice memories from those years! Way back then, there must have been border controls too, not like now where you hardly feel that you are crossing national borders because of the Schengen treaty. ;-)

      • Mike says:

        Yes but when we crossed into NL it was very relaxed and the atmosphere on the train changed. We used to open up a bottle and share a few drinks with the people on the train. That was how happy we were to arrive in NL. The favourite tune on the jukebox in Amsterdam was “A place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder.

  20. Kitty says:

    How wonderful to have such a lovely time with your cousin: her beautiful spirit shines through these photos. What fun, Malou! I loved vicariously traveling with you through your adventures. I would treasure the stop in the church, unsure about the herring sandwich, but would try a bite, and loved the “retail therapy.” The red light district, I suppose, has to be part of the tour. :) Thank you for this; really brightened my weekend!

    • Malou says:

      Thank you, Kitty. We did what we can in a few hours in Amsterdam but of course, there is more to see and do that will require another visit. I always love making a little stop at the Begijnhof because the difference in atmosphere inside and outside it is like night and day. You must come and visit and I’d be happy to show you a bit of this country. ;-)

  21. chrisstov says:

    Lovely pictures and story from Amsterdam. That shoe your cousin is holding sure looks heavy. Ha ha!

    • Malou says:

      You must visit Amsterdam and I’m sure that there will be plenty that will keep you entertained. ;-)

      Wooden shoes are made from very light wood so even one this huge is not that heavy. ;-)

  22. Wonderful and beautiful photographs here :)

  23. It must have been wonderful to have family visiting. I always like taking people around when they come to New York for the first time. Sometimes, it’s fun to be a tourist in your own town!

  24. bebs1 says:

    No wonder your cousin got a shock at the Red Light Dist. I was too when I happened to stumble in the place. Your cousin is beautiful. I’ve heard how good the pickled herring is but I still have to gather enough courage to try it. I guess it is different when you have a cousin to assure you.

    • Malou says:

      I know that this whole “openness” of the Dutch can be at times unnerving to foreigners the first time they come here. Strangely enough, the Dutch themselves are not that liberated, contrary to the popular belief. My husband for instance, would prefer not to be seen in the Red Light District. ;-)

      This herring is not pickled but just salted and stored in barrels when caught in the North Sea. Once these herrings are brought to Holland, they are just cleaned up (head, bones and scales are removed) and then eaten as it is.

      We also have pickled herring but the raw one is still the preferred way.

  25. Where I grew up I had some neighbors who ate pickled herring on a regular basis – not fresh, but from a jar. I was always too afraid to try it until later in life when someone gave it to me on a Christmas platter – it was delicious. I especially like the warm colors of the palace. Beautiful hues of golds and oranges!

    • Malou says:

      In many ways, it is just the idea that the herring is raw that sounds gross but taste-wise, it is really lovely.

      It was not allowed to use the flash in taking pictures inside the palace so the pictures came out this way. Not bad, at least I could still take pictures. In other palaces, taking pictures is strictly prohibited. ;-)

  26. I feel like I just spent the whole day with you guys! Really fun and gorgeous shots! I love that place so much :D

  27. Fun, fun, fun. I’m going to London with my wife and son this Summer. I hope I have time to see this beautiful place in person. Perhaps ride the boat that goes on those canals. It feels great to be a tourist, even in a place that is already part of your home.

    • Malou says:

      Amsterdam is just a short flight from London. Or you can even take the high speed train. Amsterdam is very lively in summer. I hope you find the time to visit here. ;-)

  28. viveka says:

    You two ladies had a busy day …. and you manage to get everything in. Great to see the Royal home from the inside – amazed that how much they really have open for the public. Even bedroom. *smile – Herring Sandwich I had .. like it very much – they do that in Germany too. Pannekoeken is something I need with I visit Amsterdam … one of my favorite things about Holland. Even in the Red Light district – good for you, girls …
    Fantastic post and it was great to spend a day with you, girls .. hope we can do it again.

    • Malou says:

      We tried to see as much as we can cover till our feet started to kill us. Walking through cobbled stone streets is such a pain especially when not wearing thick-soled rubber shoes. We had fun exploring the royal palace and yes, eating the herring sandwich.

      Pancakes are nice and so are the “poffertjes” or the mini-pancakes served with creamy butter and powdered sugar. Something that I will introduce to you if you come for a visit. ;-)

      • viveka says:

        I would will be trying poffertjes *smile
        Malou, it was a truly great and pleasant walk I had with you girls, I think I would had soar feet too – have big problems with them after my chemo without walking.
        To be a true tourist is hard work. *smile

  29. I loved Amsterdam when I visited. Never had the time to do a tour of the Royal Palace. Is it on Dam Square? I would love to go back again someday.

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that Amsterdam made a good impression on you. You must visit again. Yes, this is that grey palace building on the Dam Square. Pretty surprising on the inside. ;-)

  30. Thanks for this wonderful tour of Amsterdam you took us for. Loved the pictures and yes, I would’ve been horrified too , being inside the red light area. Guess that’s one thing that travel does…removes many of our “holier than thou” stances that we take upon ourselves:-) And the raw herring….well love fish , being part of our staple diet in my home state. But I’ve never had it raw. Food taste is something that one gradually develops , but one eventually begins to like much of it after the strangeness has worn off. I never used to like the pungent strong smell of mustard oil, which was used for cooking in North India. But after having stayed there for many long years now, I have become used to it.

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you enjoyed this virtual tour of Amsterdam, Nadira. You know what, the Dutch are just practical traders so the approach to soft drugs and prostitution is from a very practical point of view. It does not mean though that the Dutch are the number one patrons. You would be surprised that it is the foreigners who are the ones that seek out the coffee shops and the Red Light District.

      Raw herring is not that gross in taste. Pretty nice actually if one will just let go of prejudices. ;-)

  31. And your cousin looks charming:-)

  32. ksbeth says:

    what a lovely blog and i look forward to reading more. thanks for reading mine too ) beth

  33. Wingclipped says:

    Great post – we’ll be first timers in Amsterdam in August so thank you for the pointers!

  34. I visited Amsterdam when I was 25 and was totally in love with the flowers, the wooden clogs, all of it was so pretty. Now that red light district, it was a shocker for me back then, now I think I would laugh:)

  35. Thanks for all these gorgeous photos, which brought back so many fond memories of this lovely city. I never tire of Amsterdam – such a beautiful, livable city.

  36. Such a beautiful city – and thank you for the snoop inside the palace, it’s breathtaking. I hope your cousin has recovered from the Red Light District.

    • Malou says:

      Amsterdam is like a living museum, Diane. I always enjoy a visit to the city though I hardly do it unless we have guests over. I work in the financial district part called Amsterdam South so I guess the urge to still go to the city centre is somehow diminished. ;-)

  37. ehb259 says:

    Lovely photographs!

  38. foodicity says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have had fun reading yours!

  39. Nina says:

    It looks like your beautiful cuz enjoyed her visit in Amsterdam. :) Great photos!

    • Malou says:

      Yes, she enjoyed the trip to Amsterdam and we went to Keukenhof the day after. I’m looking forward to showing you these places too, Nina. ;-)

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