I recently found myself back in the picturesque city of Amsterdam for just a day-and-a-half, intrigued by the question of what to do from the seemingly endless possibilities! After much thought, my top picks for 36 perfect hours in Amsterdam are:
2:30 p.m.: Arrive in Amsterdam, check into your hotel.
3:00 p.m.: Head to the Van Gogh Museum for a bright and hearty dose of this tragic painter's vivid, post-Impressionist, swirling pieces and a taste of the events composing his short life. Venture into the airy, light Gift Shop -my favorite museum gift shop anywhere - and splurge on Van Gogh themed post cards, pencils, charms, scarves, books, and much, much more! Allow approximately 1.5 hours for this charming museum.
Hint: Buy tickets online to skip ahead of block-long (or more) lines. Children under 18 are free.
4:45 p.m.: Visit the Anne Frank House (http://www.annefrank.org) for a true taste of a hidden life during the Holocaust. This moving museum stands testament to the terrors of being Jewish during World War II and shows the days and dreams of a normal girl who lived there, wrote her famous journal, and died in Auschwitz just before the Liberation. Allow 1.5 hours for this museum and reserve tickets online beforehand to avoid the very long lines.
A Note: This museum has extraordinarily small spaces and winding, steep staircases.
6:15 p.m.: Stroll to the nearby Vondelpark for an early-evening promenade; this is prime people-watching space from the teens blasting rap to the young couples reclining and picnicking to the older couples leisurely biking or walking to the giggling groups of students perching in lopsided circles on the grass, enjoying a drink and a smoke.
8:30 p.m.: Enjoy a traditional Dutch dinner at The Pantry. While many Dutch meals may seem buttery and carb-laden, this restaurant hosts a delightfully broad selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options to appeal to everybody as well as prix fix and a la carte alternatives. I ate the warm goat cheese salad with two generous rounded goat cheese slabs, lettuce, a lovely honey-mustard dressing, white cabbage with divine spices, various veggies, and a few slices of bread - it was absolutely delicious! For dessert enjoy the poffertjes - mini half-moon shaped pancakes with powdered sugar; this is a very traditional, and truly tasty, Dutch delicacy.
10:00 p.m.: Stroll the canal streets of the old town, watch the revelers stream through the streets, enjoy a drink at a local bar for an even better view of the lit-up streets and laughing youths.
9:30 a.m.: Try breakfast at Greenwoods - a British themed restaurant with all-day breakfast, melting goat cheese croquettes, heavenly soda bread, and melt in your mouth carrot cake. I ate the Eggs Greenwood (2 poached eggs, soda bread, avocado, and cottage cheese), and enjoyed every bite!
11:00 a.m.: Become entranced by the Rijksmuseum with the torrent of dark, Dutch art - the utter foil to Van Gogh's frantic, colorful flowers and landscapes. Allow approximately 2 hours for this cavernous museum containing every Trompe La Mort, storm-tossed sea, mysterious woman, and quintessential Dutch scene that you could ever wish to see.
1:30 p.m.: Visit the House Boat Museum to see how many people of Amsterdam reside in their floating homes.
2:15 p.m.: Walk over to the Old Town and explore the winding streets, glimpsing lovely palaces and churches of times long-gone. See: the Royal Palace, the towering obelisk, the looming Oude Kerk - or Old Church, and - if you care to - the Red Light District, brimming with women of the "Oldest Profession." Stop for a light lunch in the Old Town, where restaurants are bountiful.
4:15 p.m.: Visit Rembrandt van Rijn's house to see the famous painter's cramped quarters, painting rooms, and many of his possessions. These quaint apartments are interesting and the backdrop to many of the painter's quintessential works. Allow approximately 45 minutes for this petite museum.
5:15 p.m.: Take a Canal Tour of this water-laced city while seeing the sights that lie alongside the canals. These boat rides are fantastic for getting a quick taste of the city and its marvelous history.
7:30 p.m.: Dine at the In de Buurt for fabulous, healthy, and modern food. Try Cassis - a blackcurrant flavored soda unique to the Netherlands, and their delicious and unique takes on salads and pastas.
10:00 a.m.: Breakfast at De Vier Pilaren - a traditional Dutch pancake house in a quaint hut shaded by the towering trees of the surrounding park.
And you've done it! 36 hours in Amsterdam, while gaining a fantastic understanding of the city's rich artistic and architectural history! Pat yourself on the back as you wave goodbye until next time from your plane, train, or automobile.