amsterdam // day 2

After a good night’s sleep and a much-needed shower, we head down for a complimentary breakfast downstairs. The hostel café is much nicer than we expected, and we are offered the choice between three options: French toast, bread with ham and cheese, or muesli with fruit. Laurel and I both pick the muesli with bananas, as well as a hot chocolate. While we eat, we watch the hostel cat eating its own breakfast from a can.

The weather is much nicer than what my iPhone had predicted – there’s not a cloud in sight. We enter the Oude Kerk, or Old Church, just as it opens. This means we are virtually the only visitors and can truly experience the monument’s grandeur in peace. As we walk around Oude Kerk, I quickly notice the many carvings on the paved floor (mostly because they nearly cause me to trip and fall on my face). Laurel suggests the church’s ceilings much resemble the hull of a ship, and I must agree.

Throughout the church are displayed a number of temporary installations (mostly projections accompanied by sound) by the artist Tony Oursler. Though a little unsettling and very conceptual in nature, the pieces provide an element of surprise to our visit.

Next, we stop by Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – Our Lord in the Attic. This museum is a unique 17th century canal house. “Why unique”, you ask? Because its top floor is actually a Roman Catholic church. Indeed, the house was built in 1663, at a time when it was forbidden to celebrate mass in public. Its owner would thus host mass in secret. The visit is guided by an informative audio tour, which takes us through the tight staircases, bedrooms, kitchens and church.

Upon leaving Our Lord in the Attic we attempt to visit the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, only to find out the latter is closed on Mondays. We then turn to the Anne Frank house, only to find ourselves at the very end of an hour-long line to its entrance. These two will have to wait until the following day, we decide.

We pop into a nearby concept store: By Popular Demand. From hip recipe books to Casio watches and washi tape, this shop sells everything you don’t need but absolutely lust to own. Laurel buys an adorable Tupperware for a friend (it always feels more reasonable when you spend money for someone else…). I look for a present for dad, but can’t seem to find anything he would really like.

Walking a little further along the canals, we pass by a large vintage store, Episode. The latter has an amazing stock of clothing and accessories – so whether you’re looking for that psychedelic Christmas sweater (or jumper, as they say back in Edinburgh) or a pair of broken in Doc Martens, this store is the way to go. I also think it deserves a special mention for selling leather ties, a clothing item I have never seen before in my life.

We have lunch at Bagels & Beans, a cute café in Jordaan. Laurel and I both order bagels – she an everything with chive cream cheese (3.95€) and I a classic buttered whole wheat (1.95€) – and we firmly agree they are some of the best bagels we’ve ever had.

FOAM, Amsterdam’s photography museum, is our next stop. It currently has a temporary exhibit dedicated to Nobuyoshi Araki, a Japanese artist whose work essentially features naked prostitutes, toy dinosaurs and his beloved cat. The latter went on to live over twenty years until he died of old age. In fact, Araki documents Chiro’s last moments in a series of photographs that nearly brings me to tears.


We sadly learn that the Van Loom museum, which we were looking forward to seeing, is closed for renovations, and instead head to the famous Rijksmuseum. It most closely equates to the Louvre in Paris or to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but is an impressive and unique piece of work. The main hall boasts incredibly high ceilings and a modern, open space that both contrasts and complements the more traditional exterior of the building. Our favorite gallery is the one containing 17th century dollhouses. Surprisingly, we learn that the latter were actually not used by children but rather by women, who most likely sought a way to distract themselves from the boredom of their everyday lives (I can very well imagine them living vicariously through the dolls, who they could use as avatars of sorts).

We have just enough time to explore the Van Gogh Museum, which is also included in our museum pass. The ground floor exhibits a collection of the artist’s famous self-portraits. Most date from 1887, a year where he actually painted himself twenty eight times. The first floor shows Van Gogh’s earlier works, as well as his various inspiration sources (which include, quite surprisingly, Japanese paintings). On the second floor, we learn a little more about the artist’s personal life, and more specifically, about his relationship with his brother and pension-payer Theo, as well as with other artists such as Emile Bernard and Anthon van Rappard. Finally, the last floor is dedicated to Van Gogh’s final works before his suicide in 1890.

The sun sets above the city’s famous buildings and canals – it is altogether a beautiful sight. We walk through the streets of Pijp, a quiet neighborhood compared to the saturated streets around the Museumplein. We end up in Circle of Trust, a concept store that has just opened. I give in to temptation and purchase a set of two beautiful, dark cups for my mom. We then turn into Gerard Doustraat, a small street flanked by a dozen independent boutiques. Not all of them are open, but we do pay a visit to Blond, All the Luck in the World and charlie + mary, all of which I highly recommend to all design and fashion lovers.

For dinner, we sit down at Café ‘t Loosje, the same place I had my sandwich on the first day. The place offers a different menu in the evening, composed of a dozen snack options. We both order kroketten, which turn out to be delicious (though very hot, so be careful!). For dessert, we indulge in some ice cream from Yscuypje next door. For 1.50€, my chocolate gelato is even more tasteful than the one I usually get from San Ambroeus!