We flew SAS Airlines from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. We'd purchased the tickets in advance, so we got them at a great price. SAS partners with United, so if you are a United Mileage Plus member and you fly with SAS, you will accumulate miles. From the airport, it was so easy to find the ticket counter and purchase a ticket for the train to Amsterdam Central station. In Amsterdam, you always have to get each ticket "validated," or as the Dutch say, “inchecken en uitchecken,” before you get on the train, and again after the ride and before you leave the station.
We stayed at the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel, which proved to be a wise choice and a perfect location, right across the street from the Central Station. Our room was beautiful and spacious, and the staff was warm and welcoming. We got the "Iamsterdam City Card" cards for this city, and were glad we did. I highly recommend this card. You can buy different cards depending on the length of your stay and the number of attractions you want to see. Except for Anne Frank's house, everywhere we went that is mentioned below was included with the price of this card, which allowed us to visit the many attractions and museums in this city and the canal cruise. Not only did the card include free admission to many places, it also includes free unlimited use of the GVB public transport. The trams were very easy to navigate.
We took the cruise down the canals on our first day. It was so beautiful and peaceful and the best way to see Amsterdam. After the cruise, we had a wonderful dinner at W36, where you can order several small dishes to share, or full entrees. The food was so different and so good. I enjoyed the lamb chops served with an aubergine puree, which was so good with truffle butter. The potato cream with truffle was amazing, and the sautéed mushrooms were the best I've ever had. I even ordered a second plate of them because they were that good. For dessert I had Choco Planet served with chocolate crumble, white chocolate mousse, and fresh berries. They then poured a hot sauce over this creation, which caused everything to melt together to form the most amazing yummy chocolate mixture.
The culture in Amsterdam is different than what I am used to. Marijuana is illegal, but tolerated under certain conditions, and prostitution is legal there. They have a "red light district" where woman stand around in the windows of buildings hoping to lure men in, and they have places that offer high quality and tasteful live sex shows such as Casa Rosso. There are also “coffee shops” that sell a variety of marijuana and hashish. It is permitted to smoke marijuana in most public places in Amsterdam as long as doing so does not create nuisance to others.
Our next morning we visited the Anne Frank House. I strongly suggest that you purchase your tickets for this museum well in advance, as they do sell out (we purchased our tickets online over 3 months prior to our visit). Also, if you don't have an advance ticket, expect to wait in line for approximately two hours. We heard that there is a line every day of the year. This was a very organized exhibit and we walked through the entire house, where we saw photos, artifacts, and videos depicting Anne Frank’s life. It was very emotional and gut wrenching to think about the many people who lived there for over two years, with hopes of freedom, only to get caught and sent to concentration camps and lose their lives just months before the end of WWII. Afterwards, we needed a break, so we stopped at a local neighborhood cafe for a light lunch. It was on the same street as Anne's house, facing the canal that borders it. Then we walked around Amsterdam and made our way to the park and museum complex, where we visited the Rijksmuseum. This museum houses beautiful Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages and Renaissance up to the 20th Century, and includes pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. You can rent a handheld device set for $5.00 that will explain the pieces, or you can download the app on your phone for free. In the same complex and only a short distance away is the fun Stedelijk Museum, dedicated to modern/contemporary art and design and which includes pieces by such artists as Van Gogh, Picasso, Chagall, and Roy Lichtenstein. We also visited the Van Gogh Museum, which is full of amazing, famous works by Van Gogh, as well as other Dutch artists who were influenced by Van Gogh.
After exploring the museums, we walked to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest city park. It was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of New York’s Central Park. Then we visited Leidseplein, a hip area where a lot of people hang out at restaurants and bars. We had a wonderful dinner there at Palladium Restaurant, where all of our dishes were delicious, notably the ravioli and their passion fruit Martini.