December stopover in Amsterdam

Nearherewayaway amsterdam lights

Some airports are nicely located within a reasonable distance from an interesting city. I’ve written about Reykjavik and Oslo before, but this time I am spending a couple of hours in Amsterdam.

Schiphol is a massive airport and walking between gates, passport control, and security checks can take time, and the train ride to the Amsterdam Centraal takes 15 minutes. That is why it is recommended to have at least four hours of transit time if you want to visit the city. I have about eight hours in total.

Walking along the canals

Usually, I end up walking miles and miles when I visit cities. This visit is not different. If I was a smart traveller, I would leave my bag (hand luggage) in a locker at the railway station. Unfortunately, I decide to head to the crowded streets with my full back bag.

Simply wandering around in Amsterdam is great. The streets are pedestrian-friendly although you do have to dodge bicycles which rule the city. The buildings by the canals are like gingerbread houses with their white window frames, and the pot plant gardens (No, I don’t mean cannabis this time) in front of the houses on the little alleys are charming. The side streets are especially lovely.


After walking a while, I take a break to visit a catboat. De Poezenboot is a floating cat sanctuary in a canal boat. Its history goes back to 1966, and it is a fairly well-known attraction in Amsterdam. Visitors can stop by the canal boat in the afternoon to play with the cats. It is free to enter but a donation is, of course, appreciated. Nowadays the catboat is so popular that people have to book time slots online to ensure they can visit when they want. Luckily I am traveling alone, and one person fits in without bookings quite easily. A short playdate with the cats is truly refreshing.

Flower market

I walk past the smallest house in Amsterdam, which looks like it’s trying to squeeze past the surrounding houses, and find myself from the flower market. Although it is December and flowers are not exactly thriving outside at the moment, the markets are happy and colourful. Flower shops are stacked with bulbs that make nice gifts, or maybe a Christmas presents, to keen gardeners…

Vegan café and City Archives

I have lunch at Delicious Decima, which is a lovely vegan café with a Japanese twist, and head to the City Archives. Instead of spending money at the nearby flea market, I choose to absorb some cultural information. Amsterdam City Archives Treasure Room has an exhibition that summarises the city’s history quite well. And you can browse things such as maps of Amsterdam from different centuries and decades. Not a number one visitor attraction, but interesting enough – and free.

Light Festival

In December Amsterdam hosts a little festival when a selection of light installations lit up the canals. I don’t have time to walk the whole circuit to see all of the installations, but I manage to fit in a few on my route when I am returning to the railway station. This year’s theme is Disrupt! and the artists have produced artwork that addresses, for example, climate change, the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities, and the disruption of private life. The light installations are a nice add-on, but the city is beautiful also without them. Strolling by the dark canals, when the lights from the surrounding windows flicker on the water, is peaceful.

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