Timeline: July 6-16, 2019
If you haven’t already, you can check out my previous posts on our trip timeline here:
- EuroTrip 2019: The Final Itinerary
- EuroTrip 2019: Kicking Off the Trip in Madrid, Spain!
- EuroTrip 2019: Our 2 weeks in Portugal!
- EuroTrip 2019: 2 weeks in Spain, with Whitney’s Mom!
- EuroTrip 2019: France and Luxembourg
- EuroTrip 2019: Belgium!
Den Haag, The Netherlands
After leaving Belgium, our next stop was the Netherlands! Culturally, we figured that Belgium and The Netherlands would be pretty similar, and they were. They speak Dutch in the northern part of Belgium where we had just left, so upon arrival in the Netherlands we were used to Dutch. They still used the Euro up to this point in every country we’d been to, so that’s always helpful.
We went to two cities in the Netherlands, Den Haag and then Amsterdam. Den Haag is a smaller city on the coast. We hadn’t really thought about beaches in the Netherlands, but sure enough there were beaches there. We stayed at an Airbnb within walking distance to the beach which was pretty cool! Unfortunately, the weather was kind of cold (for summer) and rainy while we were there, so not exactly “beach weather.” We did go walk on the beach at sunset one night, which was gorgeous, but we were definitely bundled up in clothes! We found out that this weather was pretty typical in the Netherlands, even in the summer. Of course this was quite the change from the heat wave we experienced just a week or two before in France and Luxembourg!
We enjoyed our time in Den Haag, as of course we tend to like the smaller cities. The only downfall was that the public transportation was pretty expensive in our opinion! We were staying a little ways out from the city center at an Airbnb, and one-way tickets were over 3 euros each. This was even more expensive than Paris! So we tried to use public transportation sparingly, and we took some scenic walks to/from the center a couple times.
While in Den Haag, we took a free walking tour of the city center, which wasn’t among the best tours we’ve had but was okay. I also tried a new type of waffle at a local market, the stroopwafel, which was delicious!
Also while we were there, the Women’s World Cup finals were on, and guess who was playing – The US vs The Netherlands! We really had such good timing with the World Cup, considering we previously had no idea it was going on, haha. We got to watch the US play live when we were in France (against Spain), then we got to see them play The Netherlands in the finals on TV, while in the Netherlands! It actually turned out not to be as fun as we thought being there though, because the US blew the Netherlands out of the water. So even though we were at a lively pub and everyone was decked out in their Netherlands gear, once their home team started losing, it was utter silence in the bar. We definitely didn’t want to cheer too much or appear too excited when the US won!
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Next up was the ‘main attraction,’ Amsterdam! We redeemed hotel points to stay at a Hilton hotel in Amsterdam, but because accommodations there are very expensive, we ended up at an airport hotel with a lower point redemption value. This wasn’t so convenient as far as getting into and out of the city center. The only perk of the location was we could take the free airport shuttle to/from the airport, which got us a little closer to the center everyday, then we could catch the bus from there. We also utilized the airport shuttle to get to/from our bus upon arrival from Den Haag, and on departure to Germany (which left from the airport bus station). Other than that, we definitely had to deal with a lot of hassle and a bit of extra money to try to get to the center.
We had 5 full days in Amsterdam, so we actually spent 2 of the days relaxing near the hotel and the suburban area surrounding it and catching up on computer work. The other 3 days we decided to invest in the “I-Amsterdam” City Card, which gave us access to public transport (within the city center, not from our hotel unfortunately) and lots of museums and attractions throughout the city.
Unfortunately, on our first day of having the I-Amsterdam Pass, I got sick with some type of food poisoning, which forced us to head back to the hotel very early and left me miserable for about 12 hours. Luckily by the next day I was “back in the land of the living,” as we like to say. So besides this setback, we had a lot of fun exploring Amsterdam, including taking our usual free walking tour, and visiting numerous museums including: the Van Gogh Museum, the Amsterdam History Museum, the Micropia Museum, the Tulip Museum, and some others. We explored the infamous Red Light District as well, which was quite the experience! We also took a nice day trip on the Zaans ferry to the quaint town of Zaandam where we saw some traditional windmills and a museum about the area (with an additional exhibit of an old biscuit and chocolate factory). Bonus: the entire town smelled like chocolate from another nearby chocolate factory! This was an awesome experience outside the big city that I would definitely recommend if you have a chance to go!
Overall, we really liked Amsterdam. Sometimes we don’t enjoy big cities as much, but Amsterdam had so much to offer! Yes it was busy, but it didn’t take away from our experience. There is so much to discover there, and the city is beautiful with all the canals and historic architecture. We would love to return to Amsterdam again in the future.
Our next stop was Hamburg, Germany. We were just going to be visiting one city in Germany this trip, since last year we went to Berlin and Munich. We were excited to check out a new part of Germany, and we’d heard good things about Hamburg.
Sadly, though, we did not leave with a good impression of Hamburg! There were lots of negatives that contributed to our poor experience there. One was our Airbnb, which was quite a ways from the city center, making transportation challenging yet again. Also our host and her son both smoked inside, and there was a loud barking dog. We also couldn’t lock our door from the inside, and one morning we awoke abruptly to the host’s son opening our door and yelling something about the cable being disconnected (which turns out was located behind our bed and a pillow had fallen on it). Needless to say, this was one Airbnb we couldn’t wait to get away from!
Another aspect that made for a bad visit was the weather. We had gone from a significant heat wave earlier in the trip, where we couldn’t get cooled down to save our lives, to a serious drop in temperatures and lots of wind, fog and rain! It was July and I had on every layer of clothing possible that I brought (a shirt, 2 cardigans, rain jacket, 2 scarves) and still couldn’t get warm! With no sun in sight, the dreary and cold weather really had us down.
On top of this, we found that everything was pretty expensive there for our budget. There weren’t really any attractions or activities that we felt were worthwhile for the price. We did our usual free walking tour, but even the tour guide sucked! We’ve had some so-so tour guides, but this was the first one we wanted to actually leave a BAD review for!
We did try to do some additional sightseeing on our own, which we always enjoy and comes for free. But, we just were not feeling this city. The “city center” is based around a harbor. So imagine it’s cold and rainy and windy, and the main attraction is a dreary harbor where the wind is blowing on you and making you colder, and there’s a bunch of industrial buildings and ships to stare at. This was not our idea of a cute historic city by any stretch of the imagination.
There are only a couple positive things I can think of during our stop in Hamburg. One was visiting the botanical gardens, which were a nice oasis in the middle of a concrete city. The second was a really good seafood meal we had. We learned that in Northern Germany, there are more seafaring people, so they don’t have the “Bavarian” type food (meat, potatoes, huge mugs of beer) like we imagine in the south. So, we did find a great local seafood restaurant at a reasonable price, and we got to sit next to some locals who were quite friendly! This made for an enjoyable dinner on our last night there.
Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be returning to Hamburg anytime soon! But, I don’t want to say it’s not a good place for everyone. It could just be the various factors that were stacked against us. We’ve definitely met other people that say they LOVE Hamburg! We’re just not them, ha.
Next up, we headed into central/eastern Europe which was a big change of pace! Stay tuned for more about those adventures!