Iceland/Amsterdam Adventures
May 22, 2015 3:35 PM   Subscribe

looking for itinerary help...

So as an update to this question I decided on 6 days in Iceland, with two days in Amsterdam tacked onto the end. Right after I booked my flight work got busier, so I haven't arranged much in terms of housing/activities and it's coming up in a month (eep! i know, i know...).

If you have visited--or live--there, what are your favorite things to do/see/eat in those places? If you had 6 days in Iceland and two in Amsterdam what would your ideal itinerary be? I've read through other threads and gotten some good ideas but a lot of them are a few years old and I figure an update would be nice.

So far I'm thinking:
- Iceland-- snorkeling at silfra, glacier climb, blue lagoon or other geothermal pool, vik, Jökulsárlón, Tapas barinn..
- Amsterdam-- Van gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, bike tour, canal tour, trying stroopwafel/Rijsttafel, maybe de Kas?

1) Where should I go to meet some people? I'm female, late 20s, traveling solo. I'm not the crazy party type but I feel like it'd be nice to mingle and socialize a bit with locals/other travelers (secretly hoping I can make some friends and go exploring by car for Iceland, in particular). I know the easy answer is to stay at a hostel but I'm leaning towards airbnb so that might not be an option. Anyone interested in a meetup?

2) I think it'd be nice to pack some little gifts to give to people I might meet. Are there any foods or trinkets that are rare/nonexistent over there that people might appreciate?

Thanks in advance! :)
posted by sprezzy to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Amsterdam hop on a tram and go away from the center of town, delightful.
posted by Freedomboy at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2015

Response by poster: Also, I don't know why the location says New York, NY. whoops.
posted by sprezzy at 3:50 PM on May 22, 2015

Mod note: Location field doesn't support multiple locations, and "Iceland, Amsterdam" apparently broke the geolocation API's brains. I changed it to just Iceland to amek ti at least more useful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:57 PM on May 22, 2015

Best answer: Do you like beer? Cheese? In Amsterdam go to De Bierkoning and then De Kaaskamer to load up your suitcase before heading back. You can get Westvletern for reasonable prices here.

The Van Gogh museum was really transformative of how I think about Van Gogh. Truly amazing.

I'd prioritize the Stedelijk Museum over Rijksmuseum if you like 20th century and contemporary art, and pop over to Den Haag and the Maritshuis if you like the old stuff. The Rijks will suck all of your time, though Stedelijk can too but less so.

If you go to de Kas, don't dress down. You'll get the stink eye. There's also The Seafood Bar for something high end, but less stuffy.

Note, this is basically my itinerary when I was there for two days, but I had an amazing time. I've been trying to muster reasons to move ever since.
posted by cmoj at 4:05 PM on May 22, 2015

Walk behind this waterfall
posted by pink_gorilla at 4:09 PM on May 22, 2015

I had a fabulous Indonesian meal at Blauw when I was in Amsterdam last fall.

The works in the Rijksmuseum Gallery of Honor are incredible, along with the ship models, and it would be a shame to miss them if you will be in Amsterdam.

The canal tours are nice, but keep in mind you will be below the level of the sidewalks since you are in a boat, so I found it hard to see all the buildings. I had a better time walking along the canals (especially the Princengracht and the Herengracht). Amsterdam is very small and very walkable.
posted by Lycaste at 4:42 PM on May 22, 2015

Of course you have to do the Blue Lagoon, but I personally found the Blue Lagoon overpriced and a bit underwhelming compared to the awesome warm public thermal pools in Reykjavik (I think this is it, but it's been a while so you should do your own poking around online of course). Those are where the locals hang out, and I found it to be a great way to meet people who are friendly and really know the city. (No locals invited me on a spontaneous roadtrip around Iceland, but you never know, right...?! :-) ) It appeared that not all that many tourists visited the public pools, as people seemed pleased and a little bit surprised to see me (or perhaps it was just the time of year). You do have to pay to get in, but it wasn't outrageous - definitely much cheaper than the Blue Lagoon (I think you might have even been able to get a multipack of tickets if you're planning on going a few times?). I'd recommend doing the Blue Lagoon either right after you land, on your way into the city, or on your way to the airport when you depart. It's not particularly convenient from Reykjavik itself, and makes more sense to do on your way to/from the airport. Unless you're booking spa services there, I found a few hours was more than enough.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, personally and in retrospect, I'd allot one day for a brisk tour of Reykjavik, and then head out on the Ring Road (or whatever other non-Reykjavik things are on your list). I thought Reykjavik was a really cute little town, and was glad for the chance to have seen it, but I think I allotted too many days - it's quite small, and to me the beauty of Iceland was really in its wilder parts. You could easily spend a few days in Reykjavik, but if you're spending six days in Iceland I wouldn't spend more than one or two in the city itself if you have a way to get into the countryside. I especially enjoyed Thingvellir National Park (partly because of the natural beauty and especially because I'm a history geek): you might want to allow some time to see the park, particularly if you're already planning to scuba dive in Silfra. I also really enjoyed seeing the Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal area (where the English word "geyser" actually comes from, apparently), and also Kerith, which I found really exceptionally beautiful and uncanny. You could see all of those in one day, I think (they're part of the "Golden Circle" route, which is one of the most popular tourist routes, for good reason). For me, what I found most striking about Iceland compared to other places I have visited is the landscapes and colors. They're of a different color palette than anywhere else I had been - everything outside is a smokey coal color or a startling luminous green. It felt unearthly to me, like I had been dropped on a different planet, and I never tired of looking at the landscape. If I were to return, I'd want to prioritize outdoor things that let me soak in the scenery, rather than packing in too many days in Reykjavik or too many activities.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:28 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I live in the Netherlands, and your itinerary is pretty much exactly what I do with my "first time in Amsterdam" guests. For the museums, try to buy tickets online beforehand so you can skip the lines (especially at Van Gogh). Also, don't miss Dam Square; it's easy to pass by if you take the tram straight from Centraal Station to Museumplein.

If you do the museums and bike tour in one day, I recommend going to Utrecht on your second day (30 minutes by train) and doing a canal tour there instead. The canals are a different style from Amsterdam's; here's a video. If you go to Utrecht, don't miss Cafe Olivier.

If you're looking for a slightly more casual place to eat in Amsterdam than De Kas, I can recommend Burger's Patio. It's in the Jordaan near the Anne Frank House, but on a totally un-tourist-y street. The cafe across the street is a great place to hang out and meet locals. Also, Amsterdam Foodie is a good site to check for recommendations in different cuisine and price categories.

I can't think of any foods or trinkets that would be unavailable here, unless you have some interesting regional foods or candies in your area. Maybe something like maple syrup candy? American craft beer and liquor can be nice, but that's not very small or portable.

I initially misread your question and thought you were looking for souvenirs to take back, so here's some info on that for posterity!

For souvenirs, I normally take stroopwafels, speculaas (another type of cookie), and boterwafel candies. You can get baggies of boterwafels (and other old-fashioned Dutch hard candy) at HEMA, and cookies at Albert Heijn. (Albert Heijn's stroopwafels aren't The Best, but they're probably better than the packs at souvenir shops, and probably cheaper.)

HEMA is also a nice place to get things that don't scream "Dutch Tourism!", but that you won't find in the States. For example, my parents like to get greeting cards with Dutch phrases on them. Also, you can get onesies, t-shirts, and inexpensive toys there, for any children or expecting parents you know.

Delfts Blauw is another gift idea. There's a shop just across the canal from the Anne Frank House that has a big collection, ranging from high-end Royal Delft pieces to less expensive ones. If you know anyone who's into Christmas decorations, Delfts Blauw ornaments might be a good option.

And even if you end up skipping the Rijskmuseum, drop by the museum shop; they expanded it a lot when they finished the renovations, and it has a lot of cool stuff now. My favorite so far: a block of soap that looks exactly like a piece of Gouda cheese.
posted by neushoorn at 12:16 AM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

My advice for Iceland:

Definitely do the Golden Circle. If you're anything like me, definitely do not take a tour bus, rent a car instead. It's so much more fun to see things at your own pace, and leave or detour or give into whims and impulses, which are options that are not available to you on the more guided tour.

Have the hotdogs (pylsur). Get them with everything possible on them. Delicious!

I've been to Iceland a few times, and I'll second ClaireBear's advice that the gorgeous, unearthly scenery is endlessly fascinating and amazing.

That said - Hallgrimskirkja is well worth a visit if you like brutalist architecture, and the view from the top is a good one.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:35 PM on May 23, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you guys so much for the advice (especially that cheese shop, cmoj...uh, it might be my new favorite place). I'm especially heartened by suggestions to drive around Iceland myself, since I just booked a car rental. I'll be putting all this to good use!
posted by sprezzy at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Before you go to the Rijksmuseum, see the 3-D version of The Night Watch on Rembrandtplein. I happened to go to the Van Gogh museum on a free night so it was very crowded. If you can afford it or have a pass, try to avoid that night.
posted by soelo at 2:36 PM on May 27, 2015

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