New Year’s in Amsterdam

I’m about two weeks behind in blogging; the start of the new semester has kept me pretty busy!

After spending Christmas in Germany with my friend’s family, my parents and I took a two-hour train ride to Amsterdam. My mother’s high school friend lives on a houseboat that she runs a bed and a breakfast on. We’ve visited her several times before, and I just love Amsterdam!


The houseboat is not a boat that can be sailed down the canals; it’s on a cement foundation and attached to city plumbing, so it feels like a real house, except that when you look out the window, you see ducks and geese swimming by! Linda’s houseboat is the brown one with red windows in the photo below:


My parents and I each had our own room with its own bathroom. It was so cozy. This was my room:


We stayed in Amsterdam for a week, and the first few days were beautiful and sunny, even though they were cold. Just walking along the canals is so peaceful.




We re-visited a few museums we’d been to before, including the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt’s House. We also went to an exhibit commemorating what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday, with costumes and props and film clips.




The library at the Rijksmuseum


Rembrandt’s House


Socks that my German friend’s mother knitted me for Christmas, keeping me warm at Rembrandt’s House!

We also visited the Cheese Museum (which was actually just a cheese shop, with lots of delicious samples.)


It was very foggy for a few days, and the day that we went to the Rijksmuseum we could barely see the buildings around us. I took this picture standing on a bridge above the ice-skating rink in front of the Rijksmuseum, with the shadow of the museum in the background. Can you spot the “I amsterdam” sign? It’s covered in tourists climbing it!



A “potato twister” from a market by the Rijksmuseum


A Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling in a shopping mall by the Dam Square


Dam Square and the Royal Palace


Little Delft figurines are all over Amsterdam. How cute are these two?!

For the past five years, Amsterdam has put on a Light Festival in December and January, with art installations all along the canals that you can see by boat tour. We did one of the boat tours with my mom’s friend and her family, including her 5 year old granddaughter who was just adorable. She doesn’t speak any English but somehow we managed to communicate (with the help of her mother, father, or grandmother translating) and became best friends by the end of the evening.

The Light Festival viewed by boat tour was beautiful. Since it was so foggy out, some of the windows on the boat (including the ceiling, which was entirely made of glass) fogged up during the first half of the tour, but I still managed to get some decent pictures. They don’t come close to how beautiful it was in real life, though!

Ships draped in lights, that represented the Netherlands' shipping history.

Ships draped in lights, that represented the Netherlands’ important shipping history.




More tulips! These ones were floating in the canal and rocked as the boat sailed by. They also changed colors.

More tulips! These ones were floating in the canal and rocked in the water as the boat sailed by. They also changed colors.

A daytime picture showing the floating tulips in the water

A daytime picture showing the floating tulips in the water


Some of the installations were on the other side of the boat and I couldn’t get a good photo, so these are from the Light Festival website:

A rainbow representing Amsterdam’s support of the LGBTQ community

A huge suspended piece of lace that the boat sailed under. It represents a traditional Dutch woman’s cap, but Korean folding techniques were used, so it also is a nod to Amsterdam’s rich cultural mix.

This one was my favorite – bikes from the canal! There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, and every year more than 15,000 bikes are fished out of the canal. These are actual bikes from the canal that were strung with lights and hung up along the canal for the Light Festival.

The next day my friend Myriel, whose family we visited in Germany for Christmas, came to spend New Year’s Eve with us in Amsterdam since it’s just a two hour train ride from where she was in Germany.

The traditional Dutch New Year’s treat is oliebollen, which are fried balls of sweet dough with raisins, covered in powdered sugar. They also eat appelflappen, which are apple fritters. We made sure to have both!


Oliebollen for New Year’s

I also made sure to try a fresh stroopwaffel from a market. The packaged stroopwaffels you can find everywhere are delicious, but this was on a whole other level. It was crunchy and warm and gooey…


On New Year’s Eve, Myriel and I walked to a fireworks show along the canals right by the Westerkerk. If you’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank, that’s the church whose bells she writes about hearing. (The Anne Frank House Museum is right down the street.)
img_3724We weren’t sure what to expect with these fireworks, since they weren’t the big show that was in a different part of the city, and my mom’s friend was unable to find any information about it on the internet in Dutch. But we had seen signs warning bicyclists not to lock their bikes on the canal bridge across from the Westerkerk because of a fireworks show, so we decided to give it a try since it was close to the houseboat.

We ended up standing on the edge of the canal right across the water from the bridge, with no one blocking our view, although by five minutes to midnight there was a big crowd. We were expecting a short fireworks display (especially since it’s legal to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve and they had been going off all over the city since 5pm that evening) but instead we got one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen, right above our heads.

They started by lighting an archway on fire! Those feisty Dutch...

They started by lighting an archway on fire! Those feisty Dutch…

We kept thinking it was over, and then it would start up again. It lasted a full 30 minutes!




The next day, we slept in and took a lazy walk down to a nearby park with an old windmill. Then my parents and I headed back to London!




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5 thoughts on “New Year’s in Amsterdam

  1. Your photos are so gorgeous!! My husband actually has a business trip in Amsterdam this summer so I’m planning to join him and this post just got me so excited for it! I’ll have to pick your brain as we get closer to leaving.

    • Oh that’s so exciting, you’re going to love Amsterdam! Definitely get back in touch before you go and I’ll give you some recommendations. It’s going to be beautiful in the summer.

  2. Your photos are so skillfully taken and beautiful. And a narrative that is amazing to read. I could never have imagined lace suspended above the water or tulips that change colors. Or Rembrandt’s image on the ground.

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