Amsterdam Girls Weekend: Hits & Misses
When you’re a mom of three boys it’s important to grab any opportunity you get for some adult girl time. With Amsterdam just an hour away by train from Delft a girlfriend and I took advantage of a free hotel night to explore Amsterdam without our kids or husbands in tow. We mixed a few touristy Amsterdam experiences with some off-the-beaten-track finds for a weekend full of laughter and fun. I’m here to steer you in the right direction so you can repeat our hits without falling to our misses for your weekend trip to Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam Flower Market: A Miss
Although we’ve been to Amsterdam many times we’ve never checked out the Amsterdam Flower Market. It is billed as the only floating flower market in the world and has been open since 1862.
Unfortunately, we found this to be a huge miss. The stalls have mostly given way to souvenir shops, although some do have flowers and bulbs. You won’t get a good price here though. You’re better off heading to a local market in any Dutch town where you will be treated to an incredible display of flowers and plenty of bulb purchase options as well. We were really hoping the Amsterdam Flower Market would be like an epic market visit, but it just wasn’t.
Museum of Bags & Purses: A Hit
The Museum of Bags & Purses is nestled into an old canal house on one of Amsterdam’s quieter streets. Most Amsterdam canal tours actually float right by the museum, which is how I first discovered it. It is the largest museum of bags and purses in the world, and it is a Museumkaart member so our entrance was free.
We found the museum of bags and purses absolutely fascinating. The museum is small but it has a varied collection. An audio guide is included, although we often found it difficult to know exactly which bag in a case they were talking about.
We loved the variety of bags displayed in the museum as well as the range of time periods covered.
Many of the bags really serve to accentuate the larger art movements that were happening during a particular period.
A collection of school bags from around the world highlighting different time periods was incredibly interesting. The original school bags were made of wood.
The cupcake purse made famous by Sex in the City is on display, along with a video monitor showing the scene it stole.
Handbags that were given out on ship sailings and as part of other promotions also feature prominently in the 1920’s collection.
There were shelves of fun bags, that I loved to look at but couldn’t imagine carrying.
Other shelves were packed full of bags I could absolutely see myself carrying.
Overall the Museum of Bags and Purses was a fun visit lasting just over an hour. The gift shop feels like part of the museum itself and is fun to explore.
House of Bols: Hit
The House of Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience turned out to be fun and informative. It is touristy but in the best way possible. We spent an hour immersing our senses and learning about this popular liquor. An audio guide provides all the information you need in English.
One of our favorite parts of the museum was the collection of Delft Blue houses. These little houses are given away by KLM to business class flyers and are full of BOLS genever. Seeing the entire collection, complete with a computer that let us look up the location and detail of each house was really fun. We know many of the houses from Delft and other Dutch cities.
The best part of the tour comes at the end when you head into the mirror bar to “mix” your own Bols drink.
You use one of the computer screens to browse through ingredients and drink options. When you find one that sounds good to you then you select it and a receipt prints out.
You take your receipt, which is really a copy of the recipe, up to the bar and the bartender will make your drink of choice.
Then all you have to do is remember which drink was yours, because they all look so good! Then you take your drink to one of the many tables and relax with your drink in hand.
This was such a great way to end our visit. We would have stayed and enjoyed another drink (you can purchase more drinks if you want to hang out) but we knew we wanted to check out a few more things before our day was over.
Diamond Museum: Neutral
The Diamond Museum features over 400 years of diamond history and is situated on the Museumplein in a 17th Century Villa house. The museum claims to be Europe’s only diamond museum and highlights Amsterdam as a center for diamond trading. It is free for Museumkaart holders.
The museum is a bit random but has a variety of fun stuff to see, although most of it is replica. We enjoyed looking at all the jewelry and crows. There are special exhibitions about all the European royalty and their diamonds. I also enjoyed a section on cursed diamonds which included replicas of each along with the stories of what has happened to their wearers.
An entire room is dedicated to telling real diamonds and gems apart from fakes. It was fascinating to see how close synthetics have come to the real thing.
The highlight though is the Guinness Book of World Record’s certified Tiniest Diamond.
Xtra Cold Ice Bar Amsterdam: Miss
The Xtra Cold Ice Bar Amsterdam is billed as one of Amsterdam’s coolest experiences, but in reality it was just a bit weird. We checked in and got three tokens for drinks. There was little explanation of what to do and a lack of seating for us to sit in while we waited.
We used our tokens to order a mojito and take in the weird atmosphere. The inside of the bar has TV screens that are showing a strange pirate movie. There are parts of the bar that look like a pirate ship, but the pictures change into skeletons and lights flicker. Eventually a guy gets up and says we are all heading out on an expedition. We line up and are offered parkas and gloves that are a bit moist. It was not pleasant.
Then we head into the Icebar. They have attempted to make the ice bar look like it’s not inside a refrigerated cooler but it didn’t work. Your last two coins are used here. You can choose one of three types of flavored vodka or a beer.
We should have chosen the beer but instead tried some vodka, which was just so terribly sweet. We couldn’t even finish the second shot, making it a waste.
Honestly it wasn’t even that cold in there either. We did enjoy the shot glasses made of ice, but other than that this activity was a bust. It did result in lots of laughter at the whole ridiculous situation.
Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens: Miss
We had a free night at the recently opened Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens. Unfortunately our stay here was a miss from start to finish. I was well aware that the hotel was in an up-and-coming part of Amsterdam. It takes about 20 minutes by bus from central station to get to the hotel. The bus drops off a few blocks from the hotel, so plan on a bit of a walk. The sidewalks were not yet finished making it a bit of a trudge.
The Moxy’s decor is very hip and trendy. We loved the overall feel of the place but the polish was off. We were given a welcome drink upon entering and a coin to use for snacks, but the snacks that were set out all cost much more than the coin’s value.
The hotel gym and pool are cute, but small. We didn’t use either. We opted to spend most of our time in the city exploring and by the time we really got back to the hotel to settle in it was bed time.
The room was underwhelming and small. I expect a small room inside the city but when you are out on the docks, well outside the city I thought we would get a bit more room.
The most annoying feature of the rooms though were the motion sensor lights under the beds. Every time one of us rolled over the whole room would light up. I even got up in the middle of the night and tried to unplug the beds but I couldn’t find the plug. Pulling the key card to cut the electricity also did nothing to stop our light-up beds.
Breakfast at the hotel was fine, I’ve had better spreads at other places. They couldn’t restock things fast enough and then cleared everything right at 10:30 despite people still waiting in line for coffee and food. I have some hope that these issues have now been resolved and can be chocked up to our visit being so close to opening. I had Jeff phone the manager to tell them about the hotel’s shortcomings but he didn’t get a warm reception either.
Point 13: A Hit
The real benefit of staying out on the water was finding this amazing dinner option – Point 13.
We followed the path that runs along the water behind the Moxy. You get to walk past all sorts of house boats and new industrial properties. It was a really pretty walk on the evening we were there, although we didn’t see a single other person.
Point 13 is built on on old ferry boat that is permanently docked. This hip little place serves amazing food in a cozy and casual atmosphere.
We loved everything about this place and would highly recommend you work it into your itinerary. If you’re looking for something a little fancier the REM Eiland is right next door and is built into an old sea platform.
More Amsterdam Options
There is so much to be done in Amsterdam! There are a few other posts we’ve put together about our time in Amsterdam that might be worth checking out. We highly recommend you take a walk around the less crowded part of the city or go on a food tour. There are lots of interesting lodging options in and around Amsterdam to check out as well.